A decade after publishing her first guide to tidying up, the writer and TV presenter has a new book about creating living spaces that ‘foster conversation’. But can she help me clear up the disaster that is my desk? And will it spark joy?
How do you tidy up before Marie Kondo arrives at your house? The 38-year-old queen of domestic serenity has been bossing chaos since 2011, when she published The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Then in 2016 came Spark Joy, an illustrated follow-up, and pretty soon the entire world – I’m not exaggerating – was familiar with her principles: separate your belongings into categories: clothes, books, papers, miscellany, sentimental items. Go through, in that order, and pick up each item, hold it in your hands, ask yourself if it sparks joy. If it doesn’t, discard it. “For the things that you decide to let go, you thank it for having sparked joy in the past,” she tells me later, through an interpreter. “Out loud?” I ask, appalled. “Silently is fine.” All that remains is to decide where to put your joy-sparking items.
Pause for a second, here: I have been scoffing at the notion of thanking objects since I read Kondo’s handbag advice (you’re meant to thank it at the end of each day), but that is cloth-eared. The Shinto religion – Kondo isn’t incredibly observant, but was a miko (shrine maiden) in her late teens – is animist, and holds that some inanimate objects can gain a soul after 100 years of service. So there is nothing ridiculous about feeling gratitude to a thing; ridiculous is clinging on to a thing that plainly doesn’t have a soul.