Here's Why I Got Marie Kondo All Wrong
A tidy person but not one to fetishize organizing, our editor in chief didn't immediately jump on the KonMari bandwagon. But his opinion of Marie Kondo's methods quickly changed.
At first I resisted Marie Kondo. Last January when millions of people were inspired by her Netflix surprise hit, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, to purge their wardrobes, tackle their komono, and fold their underwear in a new way, I was happily curled up under a blanket watching some other streaming show. My problem wasn’t Marie, who seems perfectly lovely. The truth is: I really don’t like organizing—or more accurately, I am almost completely uninterested in it.
I know many people who love organizing. (Hello to our home editor Amy Panos!) They almost fetishize the concept of tackling a junk drawer or positioning every item in a pantry to be available at a glance. I myself like things to be tidy but will never be the first one to jump on an organizing guru’s bandwagon. I could tell, however, something different was going on with Marie. Last winter in an Instagram post that showed a shelf in my house filled with books, vases, and collectibles, I joked that I wouldn’t allow my knickknacks to be Kondo’d. The comments from Marie’s defenders were swift, most of them pointing out that I was misunderstanding her. Several people aptly asked if I had ever even watched her show. I had to admit I hadn’t. Shamed a bit, I did, and my opinion of Marie and her KonMari method changed.
What Marie does so well is this: She doesn’t judge. Speaking through a Japanese interpreter, she greets her subjects as she enters their home, finds several things to compliment, then does something remarkable. She kneels down in their foyer or living room, closes her eyes, and opens her arms with hands upward in a relaxed gesture. She is greeting their house. It’s an immediate transformation for the homeowners, who are obviously nervous and excited. Each person, couple, or family has the same shocked reaction to her actions: They pause as well, becoming calm as they watch this stranger emotionally tap into their lives. Some even cry. Even I teared up. I watched all eight episodes, and every time, I had to dab my eyes at that surprisingly weighty moment when Marie inspired even the most hectic, attention-strapped homeowner to stop…breathe…and think. I was sold.
What Marie is selling is not merely an orderly closet. She’s promoting calm and peace in a society that seems intent on swirling faster and faster. Whether you have 30 or 3,000 books you love, she encourages you not only to keep them but also to display each volume in a way that “sparks joy” (her signature phrase). The word intentionality is used a lot these days, and Marie is asking us to have our houses filled with only those items that we love—that we intend to have there—and not just because they ended up in a nagging pile.
Nothing says style to me like this ethereal woman who pops in and out of people’s lives and gives them the tools they need to finally ditch the clutter filling their rooms and their brains. Each person on the show seemed transformed by the end of their segment. Each had an emotional journey. Marie Kondo helped me recognize that our homes are mirrors of our souls, and, following her example, I want mine to reflect how I would like my spirit to be: clear, calm, and full of joy.