Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard of Marie Kondo and her KonMari method of “tidying up.”
It all started with her best-seller The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Then her second book was born, Spark Joy. Now, Marie Kondo’s tidying method has reached even more people through her Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
There are some great things about this pop culture phenomenon:
- Kondo– and her KonMari method– shed light on society’s need to simplify our possessions. In a world where we constantly hear more is better, she shows a different way of living.
- Both in her books and in the Netflix show, it’s obvious that decluttering and simplifying is WORK– but it’s WORTH IT. Kondo is clear that life can get better through simplification.
- Kondo has some extremely helpful tips on how to fold and store things, once one simplifies one’s possessions. I kid you not, her way of folding clothes is life-changing.
- Last, and certainly not least, Kondo shows that young women can be enthusiastic, passionate about their work, and experts in their field.
Even with these great things, the KonMari method still did not work for me.
I was an early KonMari attempter, when her first book came out. I read her book, and followed her method to the letter (minus talking to my possessions). I got rid of a ton of stuff at the time, which was great. But…. it didn’t stick. I still fell back into bad habits and kept accumulating stuff.
It wasn’t until I discovered minimalism and connected it to my Christian faith that simplifying and focusing on what truly matters worked. The KonMari method is not minimalism. KonMari is a method for decluttering things. Minimalism is a lifestyle for decluttering one’s life.
Here are three major reasons why the KonMari method didn’t work for me:
1) The basis of the KonMari method is in the Shinto religion.
When I first realized that Marie Kondo’s system wasn’t working for me, I did some research on her background. I found out that she used to work in a Shinto temple. Shintoism is a Japanese religion that is based in rituals and recognizing the divine in the natural world. Margaret Dilloway wrote this helpful article explaining Kondo’s Shinto background and how Westerners react to it.
Once you know about Kondo’s background and her Shinto faith, it’s obvious that the KonMari method is suffused with Shintoism. She greets the living space, thanks inanimate objects for their labor, and taps on books to wake them up. These are not the actions of a crazy women– this is a woman living out her religious faith. And she encourages those who follow her method to do the same.
The problem becomes when those trying to follow the KonMari method are Christian. I am not of the impression that as Christians, we can only do Christian things– but it starts to get worrisome if we begin to follow the tenants of another religion (even without knowing it!) when Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Since those of the Shinto faith believe that multiple deities exist in things, much of Shintosim is incompatible with Christianity. In Christianity, we have one God whom we worship. Followers of the Shinto faith worship millions of spirits/gods. Put simply, Shintoism is not Christianity.
For Christians, the decluttering part of KonMari is fine; the Shinto aspects of KonMari are not. If Christians want to use Marie Kondo’s method, they must figure out what aspects are compatible with their own Christian faith, and which can be ignored and/or altered.
2) The KonMari method inadvertently encourages an emotional attachment to stuff.
When I started my Christian minimalism journey, I found out very quickly that my emotional attachment to my material possessions was out of control. I knew that I had to lessen my emotional attachment to stuff or I would continue to keep things around that weren’t adding value to my life.
Knowing that Kondo bases her method in her religious tradition of Shintoism, it’s obvious that her method of touching each object to see if it “sparks joy” is a spiritual moment for her. For Kondo, this moment of joy is a spiritual experience, one that helps people decide whether to keep something or not based on if that object brings them joy.
But here’s the problem– for Americans who do not share the Shinto religion, touching an object to see if it “sparks joy” becomes making our decisions based on emotion. Because of the cultural and religious differences, the KonMari method encourages Americans to ascribe emotion (“joy”) to their material possessions. And not only that, by only keeping those objects that “spark joy,” one’s objects are infused with an even larger scale of emotion– when most of us would do much better by trying to detach our emotions from our possessions.
Sadly, basing our decluttering decisions on our emotions can cause what Jesus warned us against– we end up placing our treasure in things that “moth and rust consume.” As followers of Jesus, we are called to “store up our treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:19-20). Our joy does not come from our possessions. Our joy comes from Jesus.
3) The KonMari method is a one and done process.
Both in her books and in her show, Kondo says over and over that her method should be a one time event, and then after that big change, the person is done. In the show, she even congratulates her clients and tells them that they have “graduated the KonMari tidying method.” Graduation means one has finished.
It’s important to note that the show ends right after the big change of decluttering, and we don’t get to see what happens afterwards. This pinpoints a major problem in the KonMari method, which I mentioned earlier– KonMari is a method for decluttering things. Minimalism is a lifestyle for decluttering one’s life.
The KonMari method focuses on simplifying personal possessions, with the assumption that doing so will automatically simplify one’s life. But by only focusing on possessions, those following the KonMari method miss out on what minimalism tries to actually do– an intentional simplification of ALL aspects of life.
The KonMari method does not address a busy schedule, nor does it directly help someone figure out what aspects of life are most important. The method sometimes does this inadvertently, but it is not something that is dealt with directly in the way that minimalism does.
In addition, the KonMari method does not address how to continue to grow and improve in a new simplified lifestyle. Unhelpful consumer habits that got one into the cluttered mess in the first place are not addressed. How to continue the process of living more simply is not addressed. In fact, there is no follow-up for how living a minimal life is an ongoing process– not something that’s done once and you’re good to go.
Living the Christian minimalist lifestyle is a constant journey of spiritual growth with Jesus. It is a continual path of discipleship and growing into who God wants us to be. We are called to “run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus as the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1). Christian minimalism is a marathon, not a sprint.
When in doubt, Christian minimalism!
Marie Kondo has shown us that having too much stuff hinders us, and that’s a good thing. But the Christian minimalist lifestyle is a much more all-encompassing way to simplify and focus on what’s most important. How is God calling you to a more Christian minimalist lifestyle?