Raise your hand if you’re bothered by the amount of clutter in your house.
I think that’s most of us. We have so much more stuff than we need and even more than we want, but we just can’t seem to get it under control. We buy and buy far faster than the rate at which we get rid of things, and the clutter monster grows and grows.
One woman has trademarked a method for dealing with this problem and it has exploded in popularity. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo has sold nearly six million copies worldwide and has sat on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year and a half, still going strong. The “KonMari Method” has drawn thousands of adherents who swear by it, claiming the book truly has changed their lives for the better. I’d been wanting to read it for some time not only to glean some practical tips for reducing clutter but also to satisfy my curiosity. What was it about this little book on cleaning that has connected with so many people?
After finishing the book last week, I can absolutely see why it’s such a hit. There is some phenomenal insight and advice on decluttering your space and purging your possessions that alone makes the book worth anyone’s time. But it’s the philosophy, the glittering promise it holds out, that (coupled with the practical wisdom) makes the method so compelling.
Put simply, it is selling personal happiness. (Hence, the “life-changing” claim in the title.)
The book promises that the relief and thrill of completely decluttering your home in one dramatic fell swoop is only the beginning. You are now surrounded only by the few things you truly love (or that “spark joy” as Ms. Kondo has coined the phrase) and this radiates out to every part of your life. You are free from the mental and emotional drain of keeping the ever-growing clutter monster at bay, and therefore have the time and energy to discern what you really want to be doing and what will truly make you happiest. She recounts anecdotes of past clients who, after implementing her method and tidying their homes, have gone on to quit their current jobs for other more impassioned pursuits. Others have broken off relationships or gotten divorces because they now feel “free” to build a life filled only with things and people who “spark joy.”
If you’re a Christian, you should be seeing some major red flags and flaws in the argument just from the little I’ve described above. These, along with a significant infusion of Eastern spirituality into the method were the obvious downsides of the book for me. Nonetheless, I would highly recommend it. Why?
The first reason is actually because of the negatives I mentioned. It’s important for us as Christians to better understand both ourselves and the people we are trying to reach with the Good News. It’s helpful to have a cultural phenomenon like this book because it gives us a few indications of what makes people tick. What do we want from life? What are our hearts really after? What is the why behind a practical method? How can we learn something about Japanese culture or Eastern belief systems through this?
The second reason is because I truly found the practical advice incredibly helpful and insightful. While I don’t plan to be a strict “KonMari” practitioner, I’ve already put some of it into use and yes, been amazed at the results (said in a TV infomercial voice). I won’t go into all the specifics of the book’s advice here – I wrote a separate post for that; but it really has in many ways changed how I view and interact with my stuff for the better. And by better, I mean it has helped me live into the command to “not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 6) as I let go of my possessions. It has reminded me that part of stewarding the money and things God gives means not being encumbered by and wasteful with them. When we buy things we don’t truly need or even want and they sit in a closet or a box, piling up, never being enjoyed as a blessing from God or used to serve others, that is a waste of the resources God has entrusted to us, plain and simple.
So go read the book. Read it through the lenses of your Christian worldview. Understand its popularity as it relates to the yearnings of the human heart for happiness and comfort. And get some really great advice and insight for simplifying your life and possessions, not merely for your personal happiness (which Ms. Konko would want you to believe is the paramount goal), but to help you steward and enjoy and not be ensnared by the money and things God has blessed you with.