Eden Chen

My Issues with the Kondo Method

Eden Chen January 23, 2019

Marie Kondo’s book and new series about tidying up have taken the world by storm and in so doing there have been both detractors and supporters. Anything that finds popularity at scale will inevitably receive both support and criticism. I spoke to the social media influencer Ninja at a party last week about ignoring criticism because the nature of large numbers means there will always be undeserved criticism. Yet he countered that a great content creator has to listen to the criticism in order to be great. The more I thought about it, he has a point. One benefit of putting my ideas out there is the opportunity for them to be criticized and for my thinking to be challenged.

I want to be able to look at a current cultural phenomena (like Kondo) and think about what its popularity says about us that is redemptive, and what it says about us that is depraved. Moreover, I think it’s important to think about the good reasons why something became popular and the reasons why that “guru’s” advice is wrong at the same time. When I read a book, I try to read it critically, not just by accepting all the information to be true, but to try to think through the arguments for why what the author is saying is not true.

Kondo’s philosophy can be summed up in the following:
1. Everything should have its proper place
2. We should throw away everything that doesn’t “spark joy”

First off, I’m blown away with how she took something that we all do: organization, cleaning and tidiness and did it so excellently. Similarly, Arianna Huffington focused on sleep (something that we all do) and made a book out of it. I think there’s something to taking a common thing that we all do and figuring out a way to do it well.

Kondo loves tidying. If I could love anything with half as much passion as she tidies, I’d be in a good spot. She thanks a house when she walks in, she talks to her clothes and treats them like people (she says goodbye to them when she throws them away). It’s almost cultish and weird how much she likes tidying.

Finally, Kondo has shown the world that the outward appearance of people’s lifestyle (their work desks, the tidiness of their homes, etc.) reflects and contributes to the inside of their hearts. When my house is a mess and my desk is a mess, it generally reflects a heart that is filled with anxiety and a life that is undisciplined.

Now to the negatives. The premise that everything should have its proper place assumes that finding things efficiently is of utmost importance. Organization doesn’t always allow for creativity. I imagine an artist’s workshop and the chaos that is there. I think about my brother (a musicians) bedroom and the inspiration of random trinkets everywhere. There is beauty in chaos. There are priorities that are more important than efficiency, such as curating an environment that sparks creativity, not just an environment that is decluttered.

Secondly, the premise that we should throw away everything that doesn’t “spark joy” presumes that at that particular moment, we can make a decision about how that particular item will spark joy in the future as well. In the Netflix series, Kondo has kids make decisions on whether to throw away items based on if that thing sparks joy for them. How is it that a child should know what could spark joy 10 years from now? Some of the most beautiful paintings, relics, and memories 10 years from now, are the things that today we may not attribute any value to. The obvious example is a book (which has already been talked about at length) but it goes beyond that. In last week’s post I talked about how it’s very difficult for us to incorporate long term thinking into our mindsets. We therefore can’t expect to always make decisions on what to keep based on what sparks joy right now.

There’s a lot I learned from Kondo’s book and philosophy, but it’s really important to think through what you are trying to achieve and the why behind how it applies to me, rather than follow someone’s methodology blindly.

God is good,

Eden

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