No Kondo, no thanks

Don’t jump on the purging train without carefully considering the consequences

I first heard about Japanese organizational maven Marie Kondo when I interviewed a local decluttering consultant for a piece in the CN&R back in January 2018. The story was included in a package meant to help readers embark on the new year with self-improvement in mind.

Kondo has become increasingly popular since then, thanks in large part to a new Netflix series—Tidying Up with Marie Kondo—in which she helps Americans clear out their homes. I haven’t watched it, nor have I picked up any of her books—four on the same subject, ahem—but I have read enough stories about her purging technique to know that she ought to stay out of my way.

There’s something offensive to me about a person who believes the only possessions worth keeping are those that “spark joy.”

Kondo calls it the KonMari method. I call it a gimmick. I’m not about to throw out a single tchotchke or knickknack simply to keep up with the latest minimalist fad. The antique typewriter I’ll never use: Ain’t giving it up. The hundreds of novels collecting dust in my study: Don’t even think about it. A mid-century, cymbal-holding monkey: Not going anywhere. Those are but a few of the belongings Kondo could never compel me to part with.

As for sparking joy, that’s subjective. The old Woodstock typewriter came from a woman who called me out of the blue when I was a young reporter. She said she wanted to give it to me, but then asked for money. I gave her 20 bucks, and in return received a hunk of metal and a weird story to boot.

Do I need two copies of Larry McMurtry’s novels? Of course not, but I like to pass along a good book now and again, and I dare not part with my original.

That musical monkey—which doesn’t even work these days—sat on the bar in my grandparents’ house when I was a little kid. I remember being startled by its squawk when I’d walk by. I rescued it from an estate sale—passing over items of value for this sentimental one. Now that I think about it, maybe that toy sparks a little joy.

But what about the things that don’t? I’m talking about the practical stuff—clothing, for example. Aside from my wedding dress, I can’t think of a single garment in my closet that elates me. But I’m not about to embark on a massive purge, because that seems awfully wasteful.

Spoken like a pack-rat, I know. There’s truth to that. I recently went through a dozen years’ worth of documents in my office. It was difficult to get rid of old correspondence, especially the many heartfelt, funny and scandalous notes CN&R readers took the time to compose and send to me. I’m not nearly finished with that task.

As for our collective clutter, it seems to me Americans ought to consume less in the first place. To that end, I’ve made a conscious effort to refrain from impulse buys over the past couple of years. I feel like the same philosophy applies to purging. Take your time, so you’re less likely to regret it. That’s some sound advice—I’ll call it the Daugherty method.