Big news. Huge. The Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo appears to have thrown in her perfectly folded towel on tidying up. “Up until now, I was a professional tidier, so I did my best to keep my home tidy at all times,” she has reportedly said. “I have kind of given up on that in a good way for me.”
You could have knocked me down with a feather duster, that’s how shocked I was to hear that Kondo had “kind of” given up keeping on top of her household mess. Kondo, child-free when she began her lucrative career as a guru of getting rid of things that didn’t “spark joy”, is now a mother of three small children which, when you think about it, explains a lot about her recent revelation.
“Now I realise what is important to me is enjoying spending time with my children at home,” she said through an interpreter. All parents or people who spend any time with small children will easily decode this statement. Clearly, what Kondo was really saying is “there is NO END to the mess the feckers make, IT IS AN INFINITY OF MESS so what is the point any more of any of it? My entire life’s work is in tatters. Argh.”
Kondo was speaking recently at a media webinar which, naturally, also incorporated a virtual tea ceremony. “My house is messy,” she allegedly told attendees. For those of us who have worshipped with varying levels of success at her pristine altar, hearing Kondo has a messy house is a bit like hearing that the Happy Pear lads were spotted at a drive-thru McDonald’s ploughing through a large Big Mac meal.
I tend to keep a close eye on Kondo, being somewhat invested ever since she visited my home in 2016 to sort out a particularly messy “cupboard of doom” full of miscellaneous rubbish. We all have one of those cupboards or drawers. Even Kondo probably. My friend calls his the “nervous breakdown drawer”.
My memory of that visit is mainly clouded by mortification. As you’d expect Kondo – small, soft-spoken, sweet-smelling – was basically the neatest-looking person I’d ever seen in my life. I felt like an overcooked cabbage standing next to her. She arrived with her husband, Takumi Kawahara, president of her company KonMari Media, and an assistant and an interpreter. If you are looking for parenting tips, rumour has it that Kawahara goes to bed at the same time as the Kondo kids and rises every morning at 4am.
As soon as Marie Kondo arrived that fateful day I was raging that I hadn’t tidied up before she and her entourage arrived, the way people do before their cleaners. Failing to properly prepare meant that as she followed me around my house I found myself kicking things – a Rolf Harris CD? What the heck? – under the sofa and wishing I wasn’t temporarily storing a bike in my bedroom.
She wanted to sort through my wardrobe but I steered her away from that disaster zone to a particularly disorganised press in my house. I took a photo of her beside the resulting detritus of the cupboard. In it, she appears dwarfed by the mountain of crap. Some of it included: a bottle of six-year-old calendula oil, one of those contraptions for hanging Christmas cards, temporary tattoos, out-of-date throat lozenges and an empty bottle of headlice shampoo. (That’s how I found myself in my kitchen explaining nits to Marie Kondo because apparently nits are not a thing in Japan.)
Instead of just tidying up she is encouraging us to bring serenity into our lives by identifying the small things that give us joy and meaning
Kondo’s first book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, sold millions all over the world and led to more books and two Netflix television specials. As us devotees know, she is the queen not just of order, but of animism, the belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence.
Her ultimate triumph was in convincing much of the world to treat objects and belongings as though they had feelings. So following her philosophy, the piles of crap around your/my house were imbued with deeper meaning. You start to consider how your good scarf might feel abandoned underneath a pile of old newspapers. You say “thank you” to objects before you pass them on to the charity shop or the dump.
Sadly, Kondo hasn’t had a lasting impact on my life but I remain intrigued and now that she has “given up” tidying, we have an awful lot more in common. In her new book, Marie Kondo’s Kurashi at Home: How to Organise Your Space and Achieve Your Ideal Life, she has refined her philosophy somewhat. Kurashi means lifestyle, so instead of just tidying up she is encouraging us to bring serenity into our lives by identifying the small things that give us joy and meaning. So less cleaning and decluttering, more figuring out a way of life that is filled with activities that bring us calm.
She’d be pleased, I reckon, with my new habit of sticking on a bit of Mozart when tempers fray in my house. Kondo finds her Kurashi by sleeping in 100 per cent silk or organic cotton pyjamas, gazing at her perfectly ordered childhood sewing box and flicking through her tea-leaf drawer.
I’m sceptical about how anyone with three small children can maintain a “tea leaf drawer” but I’m still easily led by Kondo. I’m told she talks to her bath. “It’s amazing how you’re always so clean and free of mould,” she tells her bath while she’s wiping it down. Like a true Konvert, I just went into my bathroom just now and had a very different chat with my own bath: “It’s amazing how certain people seem to treat you like you are a laundry basket and you are full of dirty clothes that certain people think will end up being washed and dried and put away like some kind of magic trick that is nothing to do with them. And anyway, when is the last time you were actually used as a bath?”
In conclusion, come back Marie Kondo. I have lots of (probably out-of-date) chamomile tea.