Maybe the word of the year, or at least of January, is Kondo. Have you Kondofied your home by any chance?
I had no intention of watching Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. I hadn’t so much as picked up her book to judge the cover. But curiosity got the better of me (and I needed a break from The Great British Baking Show).
Here are my own random thoughts to throw (un-ironically!) into the clutter that is the Internet. (Could we declutter the Internet? Not sure how much if it actually sparks joy.)
A clean, decluttered home will not make you a better person. I lived with a clean fanatic for a few years. She had a place for everything and she kept everything in its place, and if she thought you belonged in the trash, she’d do her best to put you there. Her obsession with cleanliness (“It burns? Good. That means it’s cleaning.”)has given me a lifelong suspicion of extremely neat people. Have you ever had someone question your existence because the sheets weren’t perfectly even on your bed? If it happens enough, that voice will follow you around for years. So, a clean home is not necessarily a sign of a calm mind.
And yet, I do appreciate sitting down to draw or write on a cleared off desk and I like walking in to a clean kitchen. Waking up to a tidy space is a nice thing. As long as I feel as if I can live in the space. Have you ever been in a home that is so nice, you feel you can’t do anything other than sit quietly? I don’t want to live in a magazine spread.
I don’t like minimalism much. My eyes are very greedy. They want a hundred pictures on the wall and charms and treasures on the shelves. For me, everything I have on my shelves reminds me of someone I care about, feels magical (or sparks joy if you prefer), and is useful. But if we all decorated the same way, the world would be a boring place. Even my ever-hungry eyes need a rest, and being somewhere simple and sparse is refreshing.
I was wrong about Kondo’s show in some ways. Who knows how she is in real life, but on the show, she isn’t judgmental or hectoring. Keep what you want. She’s just about helping you see what you really want and what is simply in your way. She isn’t actually preaching about minimalism. You can maximize as much as you like. Could your stuff be better organized? Probably yes. She has some ideas that may help.
It isn’t all or nothing. I’m not going full Kondo. Not even half Kondo. But she did motivate me to do things I’ve been needing to for ages–clean out a bathroom cabinet and reorganize my workspace. Most of us need this kick in the pants to get this crap done.
The need for this show may say a lot about certain segments of America. We have too much junk. In plenty of places people aren’t buying junk they do not need to fill houses bigger than commonsense. Perhaps after cleaning out their garages and closets and spare rooms, people should move forward with the does-this-spark-joy question when they go shopping again, though I’m not convinced that is the best question to ask. Spending money and getting that shiny new thing often sparks joy. Will that joy last? Or will that joy end up in the back of the closet? It’s one thing to organize the mess you currently have. It’s another thing to prevent the next mess from coming along.
When I can afford nifty boxes, maybe my closet will be tidier too.
Having junk and clothes one can just give or toss away says something, doesn’t it? Plenty of people are in no position to care if something sparks joy. Yet people will, if they can, always keep something, at least one small thing, that makes them happy. What is the evolutionary value of keeping things?
We give power to things. I heard about a study in which people were shown a sweater and told the sweater belonged to a serial killer. Did they want to then wear the sweater? Most people didn’t. And people were given duplicate copies of photos of loved ones. Would they tear the photo up? Often they wouldn’t. We give things power. Why else would Kondo greet a house and tell you to thank the things for their time with you?
To be clear, I love the idea of greeting the house, and I have, in fact, said goodbye to objects before. For whatever reason, it helps.
Is all joy equal? How much joy should come from things? What does joy mean to you?
I liked Kondo’s show. I liked her nonjudgmental approach. In spite of headlines screaming otherwise, she really doesn’t insist you keep only 30 books. She is not horrified (outwardly anyway) by your mess. I’m sure people hide things before she and the cameras came into their house. Reality TV is not that real.
One more things that struck me watching the show was how people in any given house looked at their stuff and their responsibility for it. My son walked into the room while I was watching and he heard this kid on the show say something about why he wasn’t good about keeping things tidy or learning where things even were. The boy said it was because he was a procrastinator. My said laughed. “No it isn’t,” he said. “It’s because you’re selfish and someone else does it for you.” Well, that’s one way of looking at it.
So, what is next to you right now that sparks joy? What could you say goodbye to? Do you need to tidy up?
Thanks for reading!