Tidying up
Erin Phelps

Erin Phelps is an honors student at Seattle University studying Strategic Communications and Arts Leadership. She is originally from Baton Rouge, LA but now lives and works in Seattle, WA.

Marie Kondo is a Japanese consultant and author whose new Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” shows people how to declutter their homes and ultimately challenge the perils of American consumerism. In the series, Kondo and her interpreter Marie Iida venture to Los Angeles homes in hopes of helping each family get rid of items that no longer “spark joy.” Each family has unique clutter and unique reasons for the clutter, but Kondo uses the same process in each episode to help her clients. In her books, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and Spark Joy Kondo describes the principles of her KonMari method.

When I first began watching the Netflix series, I thought it was going to be similar to TLC’s “Hoarders” in which people are shamed for the things they accumulate and teams are hired to simply shove everything in the trash without a second thought. I was completely wrong. Kondo begins each episode by introducing herself to the home and encourages her clients to express gratitude toward their home and to picture their home as they imagine it after decluttering. Each step in the KonMari method asks the client to only keep items that spark joy. Kondo never shames her clients about what they choose or how much they chose. Usually, the clients will remark that they cannot believe how much stuff they own and will get rid of a significant amount of clothing, books and even sentimental items. Consumerism in the United States thrives as people fill their homes with more things. By allowing her clients to choose for themselves exactly what and how much they keep, Kondo is actually confronting consumerism at its very core. The excess stuff in our homes is not things we need for our “ideal life.” Kondo’s philosophy teaches people that it’s not more things but joy that you need, and if we apply this philosophy to shopping, we’re inclined to buy less.

Of course, some object to Kondo’s decluttering method. After the release of the Netflix series, many people took to Twitter to criticize Kondo claiming that minimalism is boring and people should not have to feel guilty about what they have. Twitter users were especially agitated by Kondo’s recommendation of owning about 30 books. What these Twitter users fail to realize is that Kondo’s philosophy allows each person to choose for themselves what sparks joy. If keeping 200 books sparks joy, then Kondo suggests that you make room for 200 books. As well, Kondo’s philosophy never suggests minimalism, but only suggests that we purge the items in our home that do not spark joy. Her philosophy asks us to consider if our excess items truly make us happy or perhaps represent a deeper problem, but it seems that some of the American public is not ready to grapple with consumerism just yet.

What makes Kondo’s KonMari method special is its emphasis on gratitude. So often in our lives we forget that the clothes on our back keep us warm, the cups in our cabinet allow us to drink, and the photos in our albums allow us to reminisce. We all want our homes to truly feel like a home and as Marie Kondo would agree, to accomplish a happy home each item in it must truly spark joy.

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