I first read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo a year ago, right after we moved into our new apartment. It struck me as revolutionary genius. Then, like many things I care about, I implemented the parts of the philosophy that were easiest for me, evangelically espoused its ideals to my friends and family, and never actually became a “Konvert.”
There were two parts to her philosophy that were so astonishingly simple that even I, a recovering shopping addict with a hoarding tendency, did not find especially challenging:
- Keep only the things that bring you joy
- Give everything you keep its own place in your home
Last year when we first moved into our new apartment I went through a period I now refer to as “The Purge,” where I measured all of the items I owned against the first tenant of the philosophy.
Many items were donated, mostly clothing items that I still had from high school, or items that hadn’t fit me in years. I realized that by hanging on to these old items, I was fat-shaming myself. I would enter my closet feeling guilty that a large portion of my clothes did not fit me, and in fact had not fit me since I was in my teenage years. Getting rid of these clothes lifted a huge weight off of me, and ironically inspired me to truly make my health a priority. But I did not actually prescribe to the method, where I take out all my clothes and go through each one for the “joy check.”
I mercilessly threw away old papers and went through my books. I realized that of the hundreds of books I had, I read maybe a quarter of them. In the KonMari method, she encourages you to donate all of the books you have never read, as it means you will continue to not read them. I couldn’t bear the guilt of spending so much money on books only to not read them. I got rid of many but kept the majority of them. I told myself I would spend the next year systematically reading through these books. To this day, I have barely made a dent. KonMari was right.
When KonMari’s second book came out, Spark Joy, I eagerly snatched it up and obsessively read it over my vacation on the beach. It was full of wonderful pieces of advice, but mostly I knew that I needed to really commit to the first book in order to fully appreciate her style.
I have recently reread her first book. I have absorbed as much of her philosophy that I feel confident that I can truly live simply, minimally, and surrounded by joy.
In light of my faith
Marie Kondo is Japanese, and much of her writing revolves around her experiences in a vastly different culture. I find it beautiful to learn how the Japanese think in terms of space and style. The first time I read the book, I hurried on past the sections where she discusses animism, her time in the Shinto temple, and her references to “the god of tidying.” I figured it didn’t apply to me, or honestly — the first time I read parts of the book I thought it was a bit strange.
But now that I’ve read it a second time, I have come to appreciate her style and her culture. In modern Christianity (at least in the South) we do not use terms like “energy” or ascribe feelings to inanimate objects. To many, this might be off-putting because it suggests that objects can be imbued with the characteristics of Christ.
If you get past the initial reservations you might have, you will realize that her sense of emotional attachment to objects is quite practical. KonMari gives an example of her horror at seeing her client’s socks rolled into a ball:
I pointed to the balled-up socks. “Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?”
That’s right. The socks and stocking store in your drawer are essentially on holiday. They take a brutal beating in their daily work, trapped between your foot and your shoe, enduring pressure and friction to protect your precious feet. The time they spent in your drawer is their only chance to rest.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Despite how strange you feel about imparting your energy into your clothes by stroking them lovingly or giving your clothes or house a cheerful “hello,” the fact is that you will treat them better if you think about their “feelings.” I have found personally that I am much more aware of my items and all that they do for me, which I then attempt to channel into thankfulness to God for His provision.
I suppose the danger in all of this is that you could begin to focus on and value your objects so much that you consider them your proverbial “treasure” rather than the living treasure in Heaven we all aspire to. Or, as many women in particular experience, that “perfect home” becomes the idol to which we often find ourselves striving.
As with all things, there is a point in which you can take things too far with your intentions in your heart and cease acknowledging God.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Some may be concerned with the emphasis on finding joy in our belongings rather than in Christ, but I have not found it to be spiritually irresponsible to treat my belongings with care and tidy up my house. Like many wives and mature adults, I strive to make my home a haven of hospitality for others and a warm place of relaxation and contentment for myself and my husband.
I do not find my faith to be shattered by her reference to shrines, Shinto temples, and the god of tidying. I do not find her methodology to be at all unholy or contrary to Scripture, despite what she adopts as her personal spiritual practices. Certainly she believes in powers that I do not adopt as my own, but in my personal opinion this is not a good enough reason to avoid this book.
Lessons of Faith I gleaned from this method
I have found that KonMari has much to teach me about contentment and joy. Her heart is clearly expressed in her work, and she seems like a lovely person. I think this is one of the major draws of her style; she cares and she is not condescending.
These are some of the lessons I have learned since I truly embarked on this Tidying Journey. Each lesson rings true in my heart. While KonMari does not pair her lessons with Scripture, I have found ways to make these lessons meaningful to me with a reminder Bible verse.
Learn to be content with what I own
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5 NIV
Treat the things I own with care and respect
And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.
Be thankful for the belongings I do have
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Cheerfully give away unneeded items
Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7
Revealing the magnitude of sin in my life
When I dumped the masses of clothes out of my closet and dresser and onto my bed per the initial wave of the KonMari tidying method, I immediately heard myself praying to Jesus for forgiveness. How could I consume so much, so needlessly, without finding it a problem? How could I spend hours wasting time finding new ways to adorn myself with cheap labor clothing when I have all I need already?
I think I’ve realized for a long time that consumerism is a problem in my life, but when confronted with it so obviously, I could not hide behind my ignorance and denial. While I do not believe that shopping is inherently a sin, I must take greater care in valuing my resources and learn instead to be content in God.
It also does not escape me that my half-heartedness in pursuing her methodology the first time around is a stark reflection of my general attitude and spiritual patterns. This was must humbling to understand.
I have a great deal of respect for KonMari and her method of cleaning. I highly recommend this book to all who ask, and I hope that you learn as much as I did and have a wonderful time tidying. I have recently committed myself to the KonMari method as a true Konvert. This time, I am doing all she asks of me, with grace in my heart and joy as my guide.
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