It’s rare, even among celebrities and mega-influencers, that a person manages to carve out a niche so well-defined that their name becomes a symbol of their singular ideology. Think Gwyneth Paltrow, Sophia Amoruso, or unfortunate as it is, Donald Trump. Perhaps Marie Kondo isn’t a household name of that magnitude, but she certainly belongs on the same list. Since releasing her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, in 2012, the Japanese organization guru and her KonMari method have changed the way people approach material possessions. Her name is sometimes used as a verb: As in, “I’m totally going to Marie Kondo the shit out of my apartment this weekend.” If that’s not proof of an icon, what is?
Both the book and her new Netflix show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, which premiered on January 1 (prime time for New Year’s Resolutions) espouse Kondo’s deep belief in the art of decluttering. She’s big on getting rid of stuff, and her suggestion that one should toss anything that does not “spark joy” is the most widely-known facet of her ideology. It’s also the most misunderstood.
If you’ve only read about KonMari without examining the original source material, it may seem like yet another gimmick marketed to a generation (or is it a whole nation?) of people forever flitting between different means of shallow, ineffective self-improvement. It even scored a passing mention in Anne Helen Peterson’s now-infamous Buzzfeed piece on millennial burnout. And like all things that reach a critical mass of popularity, KonMari has become the butt of a few (objectively quite joy-sparking) internet memes and tweets like: “marie kondo is holding me hostage until i fold the clothes piled on my designated clothes holding chair.”
But on the show, as well as in real life, Kondo really isn’t some hard-liner who barges into people’s homes and demands they rid themselves of half their possessions. She’s also not an idealistic flake who thinks no one should own practical objects.
Instead, Kondo, who is 34, soft-spoken, and charismatic (she couldn’t even walk down a short hallway at the Refinery29 office without being gushed over), challenges her clients to be hard on themselves. One could argue that what the Queer Eye reboot did for fashion and grooming, Tidying Up aims to do for organization. But whereas the Queer Eye cast encourages their proteges to worship at the altar of consumerism, KonMari is all about appreciating what you have, parting with what you don’t need, and coming up with a plan for how to properly store it all (Kondo urges clients to sort things into specific categories, as opposed to approaching things room-by-room). All you have to do is watch Kondo’s wizard-like techniques for folding and storing everything from bras to boiler suits to see that the woman knows what she’s talking about.
We caught up with Kondo to ask her all our most burning questions, including whether or not Americans are the biggest …read more