At this point, you’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo. Her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up became extremely popular in 2014, spawning more books, TV shows, a patented tidying up system, a branded organizational line at the Container Store, and a self-branded online store so that folks could buy things that “sparked joy.”
When her first Netflix show came out in early 2019, I wrote a blog post called “Why Marie Kondo Didn’t Work For Me,” highlighting the differences between her method and Christian minimalism. That blog post went viral, and in the years following its posting has never left the “Popular Posts” category on the Christian Minimalism blog. It’s clear that Kondo has continued to strike a nerve with people all over the world.
Recently, Kondo made headlines yet again. Headlines screamed about how she had given up on her tidying up system after having three children.
It’s easy to point fingers at Kondo and laugh, ridicule, or criticize. Many people have called her a quitter, a fraud, or even a full-blown con-artist.
But rather than shame her, I think we can actually learn from her acknowledgement that her lifestyle has changed. Here are three major things we can learn from Marie Kondo’s shift from “tidying up“:
1) Extremism is not sustainable.
If you happened to read Kondo’s first book, it was very clear that her chosen lifestyle was extreme. She lived extremely simply, only keeping those things that “sparked joy.” She encouraged people to only own beautiful clothes, and not own any “around the house clothes.” She famously said that she keeps her book collection to only 30 books (though she later acknowledged that others can own more, she affirmed that she wanted to keep her 30-book-system in place for herself).
When I read Kondo’s book when it first came out, I was stunned by one of her daily practices: she emptied the contents of her purse/bag, every day when she came home. I don’t mean she cleaned it out to get rid of excess stuff (which is, I think, a needed periodic practice, if not every day!)– she literally took out everything she carries with in her bag and put it away, every day when she got home. Then, she’d re-pack her bag every morning before she left the house.
Though she did not impress her extreme lifestyle practices when using her tidying-up method with others (called the KonMari Method), it’s clear that for herself she preferred a very extreme and often Spartan lifestyle.
It’s no surprise that this lifestyle was not sustainable. Life is full of changes and surprises, and we can never sustain an extreme way of living forever. We were not created to live in an extreme lifestyle for our whole lives.
In Ecclesiastes, we read that lifestyle extremes are to be avoided:
Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.Ecclesiastes 7:16-18
God knows that we are unable to sustain living by extremes forever. We are invited by God to live a simpler life, without succumbing to extremism.
2) Our context changes how we live simply.
The main reason Kondo states that she has abandoned her previous way of living is because of her three children. We can conclude that her extreme simplicity did not translate well into raising three little humans.
In shifting her lifestyle, Kondo highlights a core component of Christian minimalism: how we live out God’s invitation to simplicity is going to look different at different stages of our lives. Minimalism for someone living alone will look different than minimalism for someone who lives with others— and that’s perfectly OK!
Because minimalism avoids extremes, it is flexible and able to be adjusted when someone has a change in their lives. For example, how my husband Will and I live as Christian minimalists changed for us when we moved from suburbs to city. How we live simply also changed after we adopted our son. Focusing on what matters most doesn’t change, but how we focus on what matters most has changed throughout the years, depending on our life context.
Kondo has recognized this need to change due to the joyful additions to her family, and has adopted a less extreme simplicity. Which brings us to our third learning:
3) Kondo is now living a lifestyle much closer to minimalism.
Since announcing that she has moved away from her previous way of living out her own KonMari Method, Kondo has embraced a Japanese concept called kurashi, often translated as “way of life” or “the ideal way of spending our time.”
Kondo expands on her understanding of kurashi:
The concept of kurashi takes [the KonMari Method] one step further: by seeing the world through the lens of what matters most, we begin living our best lives.Marie Kondo, “What is Kurashi?“
Here at Christian Minimalism, we define minimalism as a focus on the aspects of life that matter most, and intentionally removing everything else. We hear minimalism echoed in Kondo’s statement about “seeing the world through the lens of what matters most.”
Basically, Kondo has accepted a lifestyle much more consistent with minimalism, rather than struggling to live the previous extreme version of her own KonMari Method.
Christian minimalists aim to live the abundant life Jesus wants for us (John 10:10) by focusing on what’s most important, and removing everything that keeps us from that focus. How is God inviting YOU to live more simply by avoiding extremes, being flexible as your life changes, and embracing Christian minimalism?
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