Why declutter queen Marie Kondo giving up on tidying is a good thing
Decluttering queen Marie Kondo has said that she’s “kind of given up” tidying at home, due to the birth of her third child.
According to Britain's Guardian newspaper, the mum of three says that since her third child came along, her need to clean is not as intense as it was before, and has stated how “my home is messy, but the way I am spending my time is the right way for me at this time at this stage of my life.”
Before I unleash holy hell, let’s rewind a bit.
For those who have been living in blissful ignorance, Kondo has made her name and built a brand through books and a Netflix show by channelling Shintoist belief to better teach people how to fold clothes and transform their lives through a simple equation: Do the items you possess spark joy? If not, get rid. It’s the KonMari Method.
She’s done well from it, as the Japanese author’s 2014 book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ has been translated into 44 languages and sold more than 13 million copies worldwide. In a Guardian interview last year, Kondo was asked what her greatest achievement was. She answered: “Organising the world.” An answer which made my blood boil.
I won’t mince my words, and will no longer bottle my simmering rage – I think Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method is a force for evil in this already very fragile and chaotic world.
I have read her books and seen the Netflix show. (Rule number 1: never bash something you haven’t tried.) And nothing sparked joy. It was all very aspirational and never once relatable, and the “news” that she’s now finally reached her limit for tidiness has, I can’t deny, sparked a sizeable amount of schadenfreude.
She seems to have understood that her insufferably smug take has its very real and practical limits. I don’t personally have any children, but just seeing how my sister deals with the delightful agent of chaos that is my nephew speaks volumes: tidy minimalism is completely unrealistic with scamps around.
Granted, in Japan, minimalism is a way of life, and at no point do I shame anyone wishing to embrace that: minimalist, maximalist, or a happy curated mess somewhere in between, let your neat or chaotic flag fly. Whether an excess or a dearth of stuff calms you is your business and yours alone. But don’t – DON’T – state that your very specific set of steps and instructions are the way forward or peddle your extreme views on what not to do when tidying, especially when they reek of financial elitism and have seemed to willingly ignore the daily struggles of many who have busy lives.
I never meant to willfully misunderstand her position, and there’s a crumb of good advice in there somewhere. Mindfulness is a worthy pursuit, as is thinking about what makes you happy and could alleviate stress. Donating items is also sound advice, and her philosophy does reveal the elephant in the cluttered room: we should be buying less and consumerism is at the heart of a great many problems.
However, those who can and have the financial and emotional means to do so should be allowed to be magpies without being met with judgement. Clutter can spark joy and creativity. Plus, in Kondo's world, clutter is not synonymous with lunatically sanitized beige interiors which make me seriously crave the Nietzschean abyss.
So that's something.
And who’s to say what doesn’t spark joy one moment won’t later on? I for one am glad I didn’t chuck out some old band t-shirts, only to rediscover them later on and wear them with pride. I’m also chuffed beyond words not to have discarded certain books, so that I may dig them out later on in life and experience immense gratitude that the queen of clean didn’t get her self-righteous mitts on my shelf, telling me that these things either didn’t spark joy in the moment or help me out in my day-to-day life.
And don’t get me started on the frankly dogmatic advice that, in the name of looking to the future, all getting rid of photographs is a good idea, or that nostalgia should be avoided at all costs. Getting rid of almost everything related to your past or the people who belong to your past is extremely unhealthy. Balance is key, and to quote André Aciman: “Right now, there’s sorrow, pain – don’t kill and with it the joy you’ve felt.”
My ranting may seem disproportionate considering the news resumes itself to: "Someone with kids is now prioritizing parenting." Stop the press! I am glad that she’s admitted “defeat” and finally become relatable in saying that juggling family and cleanliness is a struggle. Priorities do and should change. But what Kondo’s admission reveals once and for all is that she was never offering tidying tips – she was selling a fantasy not truly based on mindfulness but on imposed control.
Congrats on joining the real world, Marie, and just so you know, I have kept my copy of ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’. It may not spark any joy, but who knows where my priorities will lay in a few years’ time?
I now leave you in the capable hands of my esteemed colleague, Amber Bryce, who will doubtlessly be less ranty and far more eloquent in her views. David Mouriquand
Can we stop feeling bad about our homes now?
The 2010s were obsessed with the clean, clutter-free, crushed-velvet aesthetic of Instagram interiors.
I’d spend hours on the social media platform, scrolling past people filling their toilet bowls with Pepto-Bismol-coloured chlorine gas cocktails; cleaning influencers sharing their tips for hoovering a rug in perfectly straight lines, followed by a ‘tap to tidy’ story where the before and after barely look any different - aside from a plumped pillow and bouquet of flowers placed on top of an oven hob (that can’t be safe).
This type of content still exists, of course.
#Cleaningtok, the cleaning fanatics space on TikTok, has 1.2B views, with people sharing everything from decluttering their messy bedrooms, to “hacks” that result in your kitchen sink flooding and your step-dad having to come over at 1am to fix the plug you pulled out after seeing a video that said you should be scrubbing yet another thing you otherwise would have remained blissfully unaware of.
It’s all so exhausting, especially when there’s more than enough to worry about in the world without adding ‘antibac my windowsills’ to the list. Perhaps this is why there’s been a noticeable shift in the popularity of clean, minimalist spaces - online at least.
Marie Kondo is not alone in saying she’s "kind of given up" on keeping a tidy space. More and more influencers are being honest about their messiness in an attempt to normalise conversations around cleanliness, and the expectations (put on women especially) to keep a tidy home at all times.
One such influencer is 30-year-old mum of two, Remi, who uploads cleaning videos to TikTok, adding humorous yet eloquent voice overs about the mental health aspects of keeping on top of clutter when you’re a working mum.
@remiclog A little Sunday speed clean for you all 😊 . . . . . #cleantok #speedclean #cleanwithme #cleanuptime #tidytok #cleaningwithadhd #cleaningvideo ♬ original sound - Remi
Watching Remi’s repeated cycles of cleaning up a space just to see it get messy a few minutes later is incredibly comforting. Instead of seeing somebody spritz and polish a show home to near-impossible standards, we're getting a reflection of real life; limescale, crumbs, sticky fingerprints and all.
This kind of relatable content not only makes people feel less alone in tackling the day-to-day mess in their lives, but also offers motivation for those struggling to keep on top of things. It's never condescending or judgemental, just honest.
It's also a stark reminder that real life is chaotic, and constantly fighting against it can take us away from the things that truly matter.
A well-worn armchair. Dusty ornaments on a sideboard. Your children’s lego scattered across the carpet. These are signs of a lived-in house - expressions of you and your family living in the present - not things to be ashamed of. And while there is of course happiness to be found in creating a comfortable, organised space, it’s often fleeting in the face of entropy.
The joy of accepting, and even embracing the messiness of being human? More than a spark. Amber Bryce