If you have been following along for the last couple of days here and here, I have been writing about Marie Kondo’s new Netflix show Tidying Up. In the first post, I acknowledged that her KonMari method of decluttering seems to be resonating with a lot of people in America, especially those who were inspired to at least binge watch all 8 episodes of the show. In the second post, I looked at the background of her philosophy, the Shinto religion.
Finally, in this post, I will propose some lessons to be gathered from considering Ms. Kondo and her methodologies. I would like to state again my purpose for writing these articles: to promote discernment for my Christian readers. I applaud clean houses and orderly living, but I am concerned that in the attention lavished on Ms. Kondo’s methods, many have traded in the idolatry of materialism for the idolatry of controlled order (or minimalism–or both, perhaps).
So what can we learn from Tidying Up, and how can we think Biblically about the content of this show and Ms. Kondo’s writings?
Order is beautiful. We read in the first lines of the Bible, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” and continuing on, “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31) The Creator of the Universe crafted an orderly world. Just check out all the math involved in seashells and gravity and the aesthetics of symmetry. The world is a beautiful place, full of color and order and patterns that point to an orderly, beautiful Maker.
Spending time together focused on a common goal benefits relationship. As with any story, these episodes tell tales of heroes and villains, roadblocks and success. The episodes contain the same archetypes of any reality show: harried parents, the disconnected retired couple, a struggling mom, the grieving widow, and each family is shown to grow over the weeks spent cleaning their houses. As Ms. Kondo states in her wrap-up of Episode 1, “I reaffirmed my feelings that indeed couples can deepen their ties through tidying.” Time and shared experience are two of the most significant factors in building friendships (and in this case, skilled editing helps, too.) No surprise here.
Transitional seasons offer significant opportunities to evaluate and reaffirm direction about the future. Our world (especially in LA) moves fast, and our culture has forgotten how to reflect and think deeply. For a month this summer, after 20 years in one job, I began another job and overlapped the two responsibilities. I missed a great opportunity to pour over what I learned from one experience before I stepped into the next. Each of Ms. Kondo’s families is using the vehicle of their clutter to take time to think about what comes next in the transitions of their lives. What Ms. Kondo misses, however, is the reality of a grander eternity. How do the things that we possess equip us to love and serve the God we will spend all of eternity adoring?
Listening is a powerful tool in influencing and caring for people. Ms. Kondo seems to listen well to her clients, asking questions that bring them to moments of self-awareness regarding why they are in the situation they are. I pray for God’s grace to enable me to listen well. The simple effect of paying attention demonstrates care even when words fail in a hard situation.
Gratitude must be directed to the Gift-Giver. A colleague gave me a jar of smoked granola for Christmas (awesome, right?) If I had opened the package and said, “Thank you little oats for giving yourself on the fire,” that would have been, frankly, a little silly. The oats and nuts had no choice in the matter. But my colleague and her husband put in many hours preparing their thoughtful gifts, and my thanks goes to them. Likewise with our belongings, our house, and even our relationships, we need to recognize where these things comes from and give thanks to our God who has given us all things richly to enjoy. We do not need to greet our house, stroke our clothes with gratitude while folding our jeans, or give thanks to an old flannel shirt for keeping us warm. Our God gave us that house and those clothes, and told us not to worry about where we would live or what we would wear or what we would eat because He, the Good Father, knows that we need these things. He delights to supply His children with what they need. All thanks goes to Him.
Contentment cannot be found possessions. Put another way, people with many possessions can be just as discontent as people who have very little. In 1 Timothy, Paul writes that “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Contentment is an attitude of (appropriately directed) thankfulness for what you have–whether it is a lot or nothing. (I participated in an extended discussion on contentment on a podcast a few years back.)
Joy is strength. One of the first songs I remember singing as a child quoted from Nehemiah 8:10: “The Jo–y of the Lo–rd is my strength.” Solid theology, that! Ms. Kondo says to only keep things that spark joy, and you will know what that is when you hold something that gives you like the feeling like when you hold a puppy. (Spark of joy? If that’s what it really is, Honey, that’s why I have 50 times the books you recommend keeping–also because a book never chewed my screen door or dragged a full 30 gallon trash can around the yard.) But joy is more than a warm fuzzy feeling about a possession (or connection with a spirit). Joy is granted by God; it is the fruit of faithfulness in serving God; it is the result of God’s people recognizing the work of God in their lives.
Is there more that could be said? Absolutely–from many angles. We could talk about the negative impact of massive quantities of people’s junk ending up in landfills or on boats to be sold in African markets. We could talk about the connection of order and efficiency, or about clutter and hospitality. But this is enough for now.
In reality, you don’t need Ms. Kondo or her techniques to sort your tupperware and throw out old makeup. Maybe we should just listen to the voice of our mothers still ringing in our heads.
Got to jet. I have some socks I need to ball up and throw in a drawer.
May the beauty in life around you point to the Ultimate Maker. May the joy in your heart overflow day by day as you trust the provision of a good God. And may you never find yourself serving another master, whether materialism or minimalism, all the days of your life!
For the King!