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If Marie Kondo is selling $200 tea containers, I’m going to declutter my social media feeds instead

Marie Kondo joins Mrs Hinch, Clean Mama and the Queen of Clean among the most popular 'cleanfluencers': Rex
Marie Kondo joins Mrs Hinch, Clean Mama and the Queen of Clean among the most popular 'cleanfluencers': Rex

Pick up something you own. It can be anything: a mug, a framed photograph, a tattered old copy of your favourite novel… your boyfriend. Hold it, feel it, look at it. Does it spark joy? If not, cast it out.

That’s the advice of tidying guru Marie Kondo, whose book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and follow-up Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, caused us to declutter en masse.

I’ve never felt “sheer joy” sparked by a mug unless it has recently been topped up with a strong batch of builder’s, so I always figured that, if I applied the “KonMari” method to my kitchen, I’d be constantly throwing away empty receptacles and end up in a vicious cycle of trips to the local charity shop and with nothing to eat out of.

I am an unashamed clutter-collector, a proud maximalist; Kondo’s book was one of the few things I decided would spark more anxiety than joy.

And I’m glad I made that call, because now that everyone has cleared their homes of everything sentimental (which, according to charity shops nationwide and the John Lewis annual sales report, was a widespread phenomenon in 2019) the canny influencer has launched her own online store – presumably so we can replace all that stuff we once decided we could do without with her own-brand products, and she can walk away with some tidy revenue.

Among the items on sale from the KonMari shop is a $200 tea container, a $275 kitchen utensil pot and crystals with tuning forks for $75. At those prices, you’d damn hope they spark joy.

It would have been some serious long game had Kondo really been so shrewd as to spend years planning an international tidying frenzy, only to later infiltrate our houses with her homeware. I don’t doubt that lifestyle guru genuinely believes that the less we buy, the less we rely on material possessions and learn to be happy with what we have.

But what she has apparently learned from this process is that she can’t go on making money selling that singular idea forever – or, rather, she can’t make as much money as she’d like selling that idea forever. Kondo is worth a reported $8m; that, it seems, is not quite enough for her to be happy with.

What makes this latest digital store opening a little darker than is who, rather than what, it relies upon. The recent rise of tidying influencers – women on Instagram (for it is almost exclusively women) who tell other women how to clean their houses – has marked a bleak social media regression. Now, between the “empowering” naked selfies and the guilt-inducing “clean eating” organic bowl food, we scroll past videos of sparkling U-bends being cleaned by perfect women whose husbands (we might presume by inference) are out at work while they tend to the home.

Kondo joins Mrs Hinch, Clean Mama and the Queen of Clean among the most popular “cleanfluencers”. Hinch’s book, Hinch Yourself Happy: All The Best Cleaning Tips to Shine Your Sink and Soothe Your Soul, is a glossy white hardback with the silhouette of a feather duster embossed in silver on the cover. It is undoubtedly marketed at women – who else is (still) doing the cleaning? According to a study by University College London this year, women do an average of 16 hours of domestic work each week; men, by contrast, do six.

With the arrival of KonMari, not only are women encouraged to be clean, lean, tidying machines, they are now expected to spend most of their proportionately lower earnings on overpriced organising pots – and to be excited about it. And it’s working, of course.

Mrs Hinch is a marketeer’s dream: once she gives a product the stamp of approval it flies off shelves. It’s no wonder Kondo wants a slice. Why lend yourself to other brands when you could launch your own?

Kondo sells decluttering as an anxiety reducer: a tidy home is a tidy mind, and the less we rely on material possessions, the more we can enjoy our lives free from capitalist constraint. But we know that the mental load women shoulder of having to keep across all the domestic tasks is a real source of stress, so how does that factor in?

Kondo’s new line of products has just served to remind us how we should challenge everything, whether product of lifestyle, promoted to us by “influencers” like these. And maybe we should stick to decluttering our social feeds instead of ridding our homes of anything useful and affordable.

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