The joy of clutter

In an announcement guaranteed to spark joy in the hearts of everybody suffering guilt over their messy house, de-cluttering guru Marie Kondo has announced she’s given up the battle against clutter after having three children.

“I have kind of given up on that in a good way for me,” Kondo said. “Now I realize what is important to me is enjoying spending time with my children at home.”

Kondo, 38, is the author of four books on organizing. Her 2011 book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has been published in 30 countries.

In 2019 she hosted the Netflix series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo which won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program. In 2021 Netflix released a follow-up series Sparking Joy With Marie Kondo.

In 2015 Kondo was listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and in 2019 she opened her own online store KonMari.

The irony of a decluttering advocate opening a store selling well… stuff, did not pass unnoticed. But really, a lot of it is kind of cool stuff. Or as the website says, “Joy-sparking goods.”

Along with utilitarian things like storage containers there are luxury items such as scented bath oils and coolest of all, a kintsugi kit with which you can practice the Japanese art of repairing broken cups and bowls with gold-dusted lacquer to produce objects of great beauty.

I think I may get one for my artistic daughter, which of course will add to the clutter in her room.

It’s easy to make fun of Kondo’s relentlessly cheerful approach to life but there’s an edge of despair in the humor. Face it, we’re a cluttered people.

The desk I am sitting at now has, aside from the computer and accessories, no less than four drink coasters, two mouse pads, my wallet and keys, three juggling bags, and one of those meditation singing bowls like the ones you can buy on her website. Not to mention all the way out-of-date mail underneath everything.

In the recesses of my closet there are clothes I’ve forgotten I own. If a doorway to Narnia opened up in there I’d never notice it.

On my bedside table books are piled in abundance. I don’t actually know how many and I’m afraid to count but certainly more than the 20 books Kondo recommends as a limit and that’s not even counting those on my Kindle.

And speaking of books, the bookshelves in my living room have plenty of usable space because the books seldom protrude all the way to the front of the shelf.

Clutter expands to fill the space available for it.

The fact is, I’ve been a single dad for more than a decade now and I’ve been raising my children in what’s basically a bachelor pad. And I do feel a bit guilty I haven’t given my children a better example of how to keep more tidy living quarters.

Not guilty enough to actually do anything about it you understand, but sometimes I think maybe I should take one of those courses Kondo advertises.

You could do worse than learn from the Japanese philosophy of kurashi, literally “living,” that evolved in minimalist apartments where families occupy space about equal to my living room.

Still I note that Kondo and her family now live in Los Angeles where living space is substantially cheaper than Tokyo.

And deep down inside something in me is chuckling maniacally and thinking, “Wait till her kids want a puppy!”

— Steve Browne is a longtime reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent


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