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Jan 14, 2019 16:10:45

Marie Kondo isn't about tidying up but our relationship to material things

by @jasonleow | 520 words | 367🔥 | 405💌

Jason Leow

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So I watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix. For those who had yet to watch it, the show format is like Cesar Milan's Dog Whisperer (where he goes around helping dog owners with their dog problems), but for home clutter. Marie Kondo is a renowned tidying expert helping people clear out clutter in their home, and each episode focuses on the human stories behind people's homes and their stuff. 


One of my favourite scenes is the home-owner's shock of a big pile of clothes reaching high up to the ceiling after Marie asks them to take out all their clothes and pile them up on the bed. Love it. After that she makes the home-owner hold the clothing and ask if it "sparks joy". If it does, they get to keep it. If not, they have to thank the piece of clothing and discard it gently (not slam dunk the piece into the bin). She also invites them to do other weird rituals like thanking the house (yes, the big inanimate object called a house) for providing shelter and protection. 


It feels weird at first for sure, but going beyond the surface, I can see why it's a nice practice for life and living. In our age of rampant consumerism, everything had become disposable. We crave for more and more, often discontented with the thing we have now in our hands. Always looking out for the newer, faster, better, cheaper. Our relationship to material things is broken, and we have developed an unhealthy disconnect to things we own. 


That's why I thought the 'weird' practices of saying thanks to your house and keeping joyful stuff is pretty ingenious. They are simply practices of gratitude and joy disguised as decluttering and tidying up. Practising gratitude had been shown to improve our mental wellbeing, contentedness and overall happiness. And what better way to change our relationship to the stuff we own than through acknowledging its presence, expressing gratitude and choosing joy.


After the series debuted, there were some articles that argued that tidying up is pointless if it doesn't stop us from buying more crap after that. Marie Kondo is silent about consumerism on the series. She doesn't explicitly tell the home-owners to shop less. But that doesn't mean she supports it. In fact, I'll venture to say that through her practices, it subtly (in classic Japanese humility and restraint) hopes that by nurturing a healthier relationship with material things, we learn to moderate our consumption habits. By feeling more thankful and contented with our things, perhaps we'll buy less. By choosing to keep things that bring us joy, perhaps we'll start buying only things that bring us joy and stop buying things that don't.


Marie Kondo isn't about tidying up and decluttering. She's about nurturing a healthier relationship with material things and a more wholesome materialism. A more conscious consumerism with a tinge of minimalist. You don't have to agree with her techniques, or do her 'weird' rituals, but there's certainly something worth trying out in terms of practicing gratitude and joy for our material things.





From Jason Leow's collection:

  • 1

    @jasonleow - I watched one episode of that show that other day too. I totally agree with your conclusion. I decided to do the whole experience in my own place after watching it (Minus the weird stuff :))
    Nice piece. Thanks for sharing.

    Keni avatar Keni | Jan 14, 2019 10:41:50
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      @keni thanks! Let us know how it goes after you kondo-ed your house!

      Jason Leow avatar Jason Leow | Jan 15, 2019 11:32:56
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    @jasonleow <<Cesar Milan's Dog Whisperer (where he goes around helping dog owners with their dog problems), but for home clutter>> love your phrase and.. Cesar Milan :-)
    <<That's why I thought the 'weird' practices of saying thanks to your house... (...) Practising gratitude had been shown to improve our mental wellbeing, contentedness and overall happiness.>> That's where my thoughts run when I heard about my friend's 2 months old baby being in a hospital in induced coma on ER (actually after... contracting pneumonia in the same hospital - that's sheer horror). I realised how many things I should be grateful for every day or even every minute of my life... We grow spoiled and arrogant so easily... When I gave it a thought, I actually have everything what is important in life and... so so so much more.
    Thank you for the post!

    Lucjah avatar Lucjah | Jan 14, 2019 15:48:51
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      @lucjah thank you for reading it, and for practising gratitude! ?

      Jason Leow avatar Jason Leow | Jan 14, 2019 23:00:00
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    @jasonleow cool. When I read her book, it changed my life. It happened a few days after my father's death, so I was willing to change and transform, maybe to heal myself, but when I tried applying her techniques with my clothes and excessive stuff, it completely shifted the angle. One of the most powerful thing that happened in a while. I think that your text captured that. Behind the naive tone of the book (and probably the show as well), it has a fantastic life-changing message.

    Rico avatar Rico | Jan 14, 2019 11:12:02
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      @rico_t Wow nice story! Thanks for sharing your experience. Happy for you! ? You're right about the somewhat naive tone...that seems to trigger the hell of out the internet haha

      Jason Leow avatar Jason Leow | Jan 14, 2019 21:11:37
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    @jasonleow Love the message. It's a huge step forward to make minimalism more mainstream. It doesn't have to get political by telling people to consume less, they can make this conclusion by themselves after going through the same cleaning process several times.

    Basile Samel avatar Basile Samel | Jan 14, 2019 16:38:37
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      @basilesamel yeah exactly. therefore the ingenuity of it. people coming to their own conclusions is the best way for change, not the in-your-face methods that often comes with such tv series

      Jason Leow avatar Jason Leow | Jan 14, 2019 16:44:42
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