Dear friends, I am here to talk to you today about something that is driving me crazy and I am going to get up on my soap box just a bit.
Some of you may have already guessed based on the title, but yes, I’m talking about the KonMari method found in Marie Kondo’s books and Netflix series. There are multiple things about it that bother me. You have probably heard some of them from other places: the animism, how counter it is to Christian theology, the wastefulness, and the “only keep 30 books” thing (Um…WHAT?!?). Can I just point out the irony of the fact that she’s advocating getting rid of books in her book, which I guarantee she wants you to buy?
Even the actual source of this idea is being criticized. This method is touted as being based in Japanese minimalism. In his podcast, The Briefing, Al Mohler analyzes her approach from a theological standpoint and nails it, but he also shares a quote from Adam Minter, found in his Bloomberg article, “What’s in Marie Kondo’s Closet?”
“Yet, far from being a new phenomenon, many of ideas associated with the “Japanese art of de-cluttering,” as Kondo calls it, date back to an early 20th century Japanese enthusiasm for the “scientific management” methods of Frederick Winslow Taylor, which were designed to improve efficiency by reducing waste. After World War II, followers began advocating Taylor’s ideas as a means of household management and modernization.”
Mohler goes on to tell us,
“Frederick Winslow Taylor wasn’t Japanese, he was American. He actually was one of the primary theorists of the Industrial Revolution and the practice of efficiency. It became the very foundation of the American factory, producing all of those consumer products Marie Kondo wants us to get rid of, but of course, not to get rid of without saying thanks.”
While I definitely see the value in decluttering and simplifying and would be the first to admit my life could use some tidying up “magic,” I tend to agree with a lot of the criticism of Kondo and the KonMari method that I have read and heard, both from a theological and historical standpoint. However the one piece I haven’t really heard criticized is the one little word on which her method seems to be based: joy.
Were it not for the use of that word, I might not have noticed a lot of the other issues I have with it quite as quickly. I have really struggled with this idea of determining what we keep or discard based on whether or not it brings me joy.
First of all, the pragmatist in me is thinking, “Well this is ridiculous. How wasteful.” I’ll be honest, folks, my son’s diaper pail does NOT bring me joy, but it is necessary and serves a purpose in our home. The W2s we got in the mail do not bring me joy, so perhaps I should pitch them. I’m sure the IRS would understand. Our broom brings me no joy, but I cannot imagine what our floors would look like or what my son would have eaten if I chose to get rid of it. Not everything in life will bring you joy and that is okay. And how wasteful to get rid of a perfectly good item that you spent money on simply because you don’t like it in that moment. I may not like this shirt much anymore, but I need to wear clothes. I mean, hello, it was seven degrees when I left the house this morning. I need clothes. And so many things can impact how we feel: mood, hormones, depression, anxiety, how much sleep we got, etc. I think of the episode of “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” where Emily, after reading Kondo’s book, gets rid of everything in the depths of grief over the loss of her husband and a bout of depression. As stuff is being carted out of her home, she talks with Lorelai and realizes that her decision was foolish and has to go try to get her mattress back. Joy was not tied to her stuff, but she kinda needed a place to sleep.
That said, secondly, and perhaps more importantly, as believers we should not be finding joy in things. I would go so far as to argue that true joy cannot be found in things, but rather through a working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. Joy is listed in Galatians 5:22 as a fruit of the Spirit. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
If those things which “spark joy” are taken from us, are we then permitted to be without joy? By no means. God never promises that we will always be happy or that we will get to live our best life now (and if so, how depressing), yet we are admonished to have joy over and over again in scripture.
“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
“And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b
I do find enjoyment in the gifts I have been given, but dear ones, we should be finding joy in the Giver of those gifts and, should the time come to get rid of those items, we should be thanking Him for His provision and kindness to us, not thanking the object.