So Marie Kondo opens a shop …

… and shit hits the fan – in quite opposite directions.
Die-hard fans and design aficionados appreciate the forthcoming sparks of joy they expect from ordering a $200 tea container or a $75 tuning fork with rose quartz – things every home obviously needs to have. Haters meanwhile have a field day; Twitter and Instagram are abuzz with hilarious comments regarding Kondo’s new business venture.

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“She is never without a crystal” – Marie probably is on rather intimate terms with Airport security personnel … 

I get it. The woman who preaches freedom from all clutter and empty surfaces now sells stuff no one needs at quite hefty prices. Marie Kondo is this cute little Japanese lady who likes to jump around whenever she sees boxes of clutter on Netflix. She has already sold us three books when one would have been enough (who really needs The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying up or Spark Joy when The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up contains all the main information?)  – and will try to sell you two more, one children’s book on friendship (Kiki & Jax – the Life-Changing Magic of Friendship) and one on organizing your workspace/workplace (Joy at Work – The Life-Changing Magic of Organizing your Working Life) – in 2020. I’m not sure I want someone who sends her socks on vacation every time she puts them in the drawer explain to me how I should streamline my workflow. Imagine explaining to your boss that you won’t be able to make it to the afternoon meeting because it may take a while to thank every individual key on your keyboard for its excellent service today … Well, at least we are already used to Marie writing books. And it’s not the first time someone uses the same ‘story’ over and over again to make more money (just look at Allen Carr’s “Easy Way” books).

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Brace yourself, there are new books on the way.

But a shop? Consumer capitalism tells us that this is OF COURSE the next thing in line. People not only want to read about and implement the KonMari method, they want to live KonMari. And what does ‘living KonMari’ mean? Buying it, of course. That’s also what all the fuzz regarding ‘Hygge’ is about. People in Denmark aren’t just happy because they live in a world full of cozy blankets and lovely interpersonal relations, they also live in a country that provides government welfare, a high wage level, and what Americans like to call ‘free health care’ –  long story short: when you can afford to lose your job or get sick, you can also sell cheap shit like scented candles and polyester blankets under the label ‘hygge’ – and apart from the label this concept does not necessarily include anyone or anything from Denmark at all.

Same goes for Marie. The goods she sells are elegant, well-designed, and nice to look at. She opened her own online store and did not start a partnership with Walmart or H&M to sell tons of junk but instead offers high-quality design items. Of course a tea container also serves a certain purpose; more so than a computer brush or a flower bouquet tote, at least in my personal opinion. Still, nothing in Marie’s shop is important OR something we may not already have (EXCEPT for the computer brush, maybe?). But hey, no one has to buy it. There are people out there buying overpriced stuff from a mediocre blond actress who made an empire out of selling shit no one needs – and I’m not just talking about Goop for that matter. So why should Marie, with her well-thought-out concept of sparking joy not at least try? No one has to watch her show. No one has to buy her books. No one has to feed the money monster.

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Groceries and other things one could carry around in a tote will vanish into thin air the moment they come in contact with this Flower Bouquet ONLY Tote …

Also, while we’re at it, what about all those influencers who promote slow fashion, conscious living/consumerism, and minimalism and still regularly present new stuff? Yes they get free samples from mainly independent companies and small labels that are more often than not worth mentioning and promoting BUT what is slow, conscious or minimalist about presenting new skin care, clothes, bags or the like every other week on Instagram? We are all trying our best to live up to the ideals we cherish, but this might not be as easy or consistent as we would like it to be. Life is full of inconsistencies and gray areas. Is it possible to withdraw from classic consumer capitalism in a way of not constantly wanting new things and being content with what one already has? I guess so. I hope so. I’m sure as hell trying my best. Because I don’t want to KonMari my shit every few years. But I fail quite frequently and there’s much room for improvement.

I’m still following slow/fair fashion, minimalist, eco friendly influencers on Instagram – in some instances the same ones who lost their rather self-righteous shit about Marie Kondo’s shop … whilst promoting new stuff they ‘received for free’ even though they are on a shopping ban right now or so (oh my, what a coincidence!). Because I like their posts, need my daily dose of procrastination, and it’s actually just 4 or 5 people so their ‘influence’ is manageable … 😀

BTW: there’s an interesting article on VICE regarding Marie’s new shop; the NYT too writes about the dubious nature of the backlash Marie is receiving for her new online store. As I said: gray areas everywhere …

Reading Marie Kondo and so much more … “The life-changing magic of tidying up”

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Being the aspiring minimalist that I am, I only got the ebook version of Marie’s masterpiece.

My oh my – the world is my oyster and I am allergic to seafood … I have to change. Or: I have to change something.

Over the last few years and months I’ve read tons of books about ADHD, anxiety disorders and mindfulness. One thing I’ve learned is that I can focus and work better in a clean and organized environment. Moreover, I’ve learned that I should streamline as much as possible – what to cook and eat, what to wear, what music to listen to when working/writing/feeling blue, what to read … – and eliminate unnecessary choices so as to save time and energy.  I’m also practicing my own version of mindfulness, using the App Insight timer for meditation and following advices from authors like Ruby Wax and Mark Williams, Matt Haig and Aaron Gillies (to name just a few).

Streamlining mundane tasks and eliminating choices goes hand in hand with decluttering, at least in my little corner of this world. I’ve already started decluttering and discarding months (years?) ago, and though I read Francine Jay’s The Joy of Less early on, in the beginning I didn’t have a system regarding how and what to discard. I just knew I had too much and I wanted to change that. For further inspiration I read Fumio Sasaki’s Goodbye Things as well as a German book by Lina Jachmann, Einfach leben. Finally, somewhere along the way to ADHD-reducing minimalism I encountered Marie Kondo and let me tell you: I was not impressed.

Marie and me: no love at first sight

To be more precise: the first time I read The life-changing magic of tidying up I was rather disappointed and a bit irritated. Because when Marie Kondo explained that

The socks and stockings stored in your drawer are essentially on holiday. They take a brutal beating in their daily work, trapped between your foot and your shoe, enduring pressure and friction to protect your precious feet. The time they spend in your drawer is their only chance to rest.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this. I felt terribly sorry for my socks which was NOT helpful for someone like me who tends to a) feel guilty for pretty much everything (thanks gran!) and b) anthropomorphize A LOT of things which makes discarding stuff even more difficult. But apart from that all these sparks of joy she was talking about did not resonate with me. Therefore I decided that Kondo was not for me and put it aside. Several months later I discovered the wonderful and hilarious podcast By the book in which the hosts Kristen and Jolenta did an episode on Marie Kondo and her bestseller. Listening to it I realized that I may have missed some important points and decided to give her another chance. I even watched an episode of Mario Kondo’s show on Netflix –and finally I saw the light … once I saw this tiny lady jumping through pure chaos while staying happy-go-lucky I finally understood why she was taking her socks on a lovely little holiday every time she puts them in a drawer. She lives in her very own little world, all tidy and organized and full of joy, which seemes strange but wonderful. I decided to give her book another go.

Oh the (sparks of) joy!

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The ebook from a different angle – taking photos of a ‘real’ book is a bit more inspiring …

The second time around it worked MUCH better! I ignored the cheesy bits and adapted Marie’s plan to my needs. After all, I live in a medium-sized European apartment and not a Japanese single flat; it was also not the first time I started a decluttering tour de force, so I focused on my weak spots and paid less attention to those areas that are already well organized.

Following Marie’s plan I started with my clothing. I imagined I would be left with a few T-shirts, some pants and two skirts but it was actually not THAT bad (or good). Since I’ve applied the ‘one in, one out’ rule long before Kondo-ing the shit out of my stuff, looking for the sparks of joy in my drawers and closet was not as fulfilling as I had imagined it to be. I had already discarded a lot of clothes, shoes, and bags before so this time around it was mainly about the spark of joy and nothing more. Still even the second time around it took me more than one round to eliminate all the items that didn’t spark enough joy. I guess I overlooked some less sparkier items and mistook them for great bearers of joy, love, peace, and happiness.
I still have a hard time figuring out what the spark says about my bags and backpacks – I’m not that much into fashion and shoes but I do love me a good handbag (or backpack for that matter). So I decided to disagree with Marie in that life-changing can be seen as a relative term and also describes a “life-long” process of figuring out which bag to keep and which to let go of. After all everything in life is a process, so why hurry?

A few weeks after the big closet decluttering bash I kondo-ed my books. This was a bit easier as I discovered quite quickly whether there was a spark or not. ‘Professional’ books (mainly academic books) did not offer the option of joyous sparks – Foucault very probably wouldn’t give a shit about his potential on the spark-of-joy-o-meter and that’s fine with me – so they were out of bounds. Regarding most of my other books I realized that I have very ‘sparkly’ bookshelves and still prefer books over pretty much everything else – even bags.

Books were the last category I’ve Kondo-ed thus far. I got a list somewhere which tells me exactly what I should declutter next (bathroom items, maybe?) but my main concern was clothes and books. Since I got these done I feel no urgency to tackle any other category soon. I’m not a fan of relying solely on digitalized photos and documents, so while I like to have a digital backup ’somewhere’ (beware of the ADHD brain’s ‘somewhere’), I don’t intend to throw away all my photos or important documents just because Marie or any other minimalist say so.
Furthermore, for me decluttering and discarding has a calming and cathartic effect so I’m in no hurry to empty our apartment in record speed. To me a certain form of decluttering, discarding, and rearranging is a life-long process that changes the way I myself and my life (our life) changes. So while I appreciate Marie’s efficiency, I see no reason to emulate her. I still stick to my ‘one in, one out’-rule, not with books but with everything else, and I apply Marie’s spark joy approach whenever I’m not sure if I should keep or toss a certain item. Both methods are very useful and give me good results.

However, decluttering is not my main issue anymore. I progressed to a more urgent problem I’ve developed over the last couple of months: digital thrifting.
I invest hours in searching for the right piece only to wait several more days or weeks until the price drops so I can finally make my bid. I get a sort of adrenalin rush when days and weeks of observing an offer finally pay off. On a bad day checking my apps and wishlists is the perfect diversion and also leads me to believe that I’m achieving something even though all I actually do is planning to accumulate stuff I don’t need. What was a nice little pasttime became a nasty habit. While in the past I would have had a few beers to drown a shitty day or smoked more ciggies than I should to calm my nerves, I now found a different crutch to help me calm down when I feel a bit blue – cheaper than drinking or smoking, but only slightly healthier. Also totally irritating for someone who is actually all about REDUCING the stuff she owns …. 

But that’s a different story.