Marie Kondo KonMari Netflix
(Image: Tidying Up with Marie Kondo/Netflix)

Marie Kondo, celebrity de-cluttering expert, changed my life. Although, since her TV sensation Tidying Up with Marie Kondo appeared on January 1, such a declaration is unacceptable. Per media opinion, Marie Kondo and her virtuosic storage methods will not change your life.

In the minutes before we dashed all hope of Personal Growth™ for another year, Netflix released this new resolution. From the first day of the year, critics have continued to worry in public that a reality TV show about better housekeeping is not destined to meaningfully reform people. This presupposes that popular media of any sort has the capacity to meaningfully reform people, which it does not. No, Marie Kondo did not entirely change my life. She was, however, present with her handy hints at the time of transformation.

I received Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, as a gift two years ago, I did not expect it to re-order my internal life; much less a lifetime’s accumulation of mess, filth and pointless household rot. It happened to do a little of both. Re-ordering my cupboards, most of which had served no other function but to mask evidence of behavioural fiasco, was a healthy mental exercise.

Perhaps this is because I am the type of disorderly slob to approach life with low expectations. Or perhaps others’ expectations were simply too high; perhaps Kondo’s Shinto faith predisposed some Western critics to believe that messy persons could be redeemed by the Mystic East.  

As things turned out, the KonMari Method (the name applied by Kondo to her techniques) fuelled more Personal Growth™ than I dared dream. This is due, in part, to my incapacity to dream about ideal circumstances. It was also due to a coincidence that produced a written document of my KonMari Method attempts: a “Therapy Journal”, insights from which I shall reproduce for the benefit of other human jumble sales. The psychologically functional reader will likely find no useful example from me, or from Ms Kondo.

Around the time the Kondo book appeared in my (now categorised) shelves, I’d been a bit bonkers. My GP filled out one of those Better Access forms that unlock state subsidy for 10 psychology sessions. I wasn’t keen on this mind-cleaning method; eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) first struck me as hippy nonsense. Quite soon, however, it began to ease the worst of my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. I gave in to the pen waving in front of my face and the advice of the guy waving it to keep a “Therapy Journal”.

I am no more comfortable disclosing the fact of having a “Therapy Journal” than I am scribbling in the stupid thing. The prescription is to draw pictures of my “feelings” and write “intuitively” (i.e. with little recourse to English grammar). To cut a long and hideous Therapy Journal story short, among my most persistent symptoms are forgetfulness, impulsivity and inattention to detail. Items like “checked bus timetable before leaving house!” are decorated as milestones in this, the record of a toddler attempting mindfulness.

The journal, the eye-movement in the psychologist’s office, the conversations I am persuaded to have with my infant self are all, out of the psychotherapeutic context, a bit of a laugh. Inside it, however, they have been pretty handy conceits. One is moved from the disorder of being human by the idea of order itself.

Walter Benjamin is likely seeking the “mild boredom of order” described in his 1931 essay, “Unpacking My Library“. Faced with the rise of Nazism and the recent failure of his marriage, the German philosopher sought peace in the chaos of memories contained in the crates of his books. The passion of the collector, he says from within the pile of 2000 books, borders on madness; the brief essay borders on greatness.

Benjamin is far more sure of his style than the producers of Tidying Up, a tatty and routine reality “journey” with quite unlikeable Americans. Still, Kondo and Benjamin both agree “I love mess”.

The KonMari Method requires us to upturn all the objects, or memories, of a particular household category onto the floor. It was then, when I saw the chaos, that the mild boredom of order presented itself as a possibility. To sort through things and measure the “joy spark” they contain appeared to me as proof of my capacity to move beyond disorder.

There may be no true spark, or joy, in objects. There is hope for the hopelessly chaotic mind, however, that objects can be interpreters of the past.

Have you tried the KonMari method? Let us know what you think of the hype and backlash by emailing [email protected].