Tidying Up Lives with Marie Kondo
Holly Price, Publications Editor, Navigators UK
24 January 2019
The first craze of 2019 seems to be… tidying. When friends recommended a book with instructions on folding socks, I figured it wasn’t for a “messy” like me. But after binge-watching the bestselling author’s new Nexflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, I found myself grasping for more tidy-up time!
Each episode opens the door on a family at a different life stage. They pile up all their belongings, category by category (clothes first, then books, papers, etc.) and choose only what “sparks joy” and is necessary for their ideal life. After discarding the rest, Marie Kondo shows them the “KonMari Method” of storing the things they love.
The desire to change our consumerist mindset has long been building, but perhaps the key to this form of minimalism is that “banishing clutter forever” feels achievable, shame-free and even fun. As each home is organised, we see residents find freedom in letting go, freedom in being content, freedom in being thankful.
In her bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (2014), Kondo details the physical, mental and emotional benefits of decluttering for good. “Putting your house in order,” she writes, “is the magic that creates a vibrant and happy life” (p.148).
For Kondo, this is a spiritual journey as well as a domestic one. When she enters a house, she takes a couple of minutes’ silence to “greet” it, treating it like the Shinto shrines that are commonplace in Japan. Possessions are thanked for their service, even relied on for help.
I experienced the thrill of bringing order to chaos, creating beauty out of mess, making a home that helps people rest and relate well with each other.
Jesus gave decluttering advice too: “Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own” (Luke 12:15).
At first, I experienced the thrill of bringing order to chaos, creating beauty out of mess, making a home that helps people rest and relate well with each other.
But after blitzing my clothes and kitchen, I reached a point of feeling overwhelmed again. Not just by the intricate folding process (which takes twice the time and for which only I am now trained) but by this new standard I was setting. I started measuring my life not by wealth, memories or hobbies, but by a picture-perfect underwear drawer… Had I just found another way to box myself?
The “what sparks joy” test would be ideal if it weren’t for the fact that my heart is messy. I don’t always know what will bring me true joy and even when I do, my selfishness often stops me from choosing it.
Kondo largely omits the joys involved in thoughtful giving and creative repurposing (although they would make a natural extension to her philosophy) and sometimes my laziness blinds me to the potential for joy there. What if as well as being made to create order, beauty and a home, we are wired to spark joy in others?
There is joy in living the life we were made for. Decluttering our home helps us reflect on what fills our lives. But things do not contain life, and our life is much more than the sum of them, or the sorting of them.
“To tell the truth,” Kondo acknowledges, “I still don’t have a lot of self-confidence. There are times when I am quite discouraged by my inadequacies” (p.208). We need a deeper clear out than we can handle alone. We need a deeper joy than a wardrobe that thrills.
Jesus gave up everything he owned, even his life, to offer us the ultimate joy: being defined by God’s joy in us. He empowers us to choose joy over selfishness, freedom over shame, to enjoy being at home with God now.
“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
I plan to keep kondo-ing in conversation with God (I can’t put off the books category forever). God is able to declutter our lives and hearts, so we can spark joy in others the way he does in us.
 Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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