Tuesday 29 January 2019

Heart Flutter Things

I had never heard of Marie Kondo until I recently heard a news story to the effect that her popular decluttering programme was having such an impact that charity shops were overwhelmed by donations and having to turn them away. I haven't observed this phenomenon in the charity shops around here, but no doubt there is something in it.
  Marie Kondo's decluttering vocation cam to her very early, at junior school, where she preferred tidying the bookshelves to all other activities and would clamour to be named class bookshelf organiser. It was while shelf-tidying at school that she had a kind of revelation. As she relates it, 'I was obsessed with what I could throw away. One day, I had a kind of nervous breakdown and fainted. I was unconscious for two hours. When I came to, I heard a mysterious voice, like some god of tidying, telling me to look at my things more closely. And I realised my mistake: I was only looking for things to throw out. What I should be doing is finding the things I want to keep. Identifying the things that make you happy: that is the work of tidying.'
  This insight is, it seems, closely related to Shinto thinking (Kondo spent five years as a miko [attendant maiden] at a Shinto shrine). The aim of Kondo-style decluttering is to get rid of all but the things that truly give you pleasure, the
kokoro tokimeku mono (literally 'heart flutter things'). This seems sound enough, in its minimalist way – but Marie Kondo has, I understand, decreed that we should have no more than 30 books in our homes. Thirty books! I suppose, if pushed, some of us might be able to come up with a list of 30 books that we particularly treasure, that we reread often and that seem essential to who we are – but to throw out all the rest and have no other books around us is unthinkable.
 Most homes these days have few books anyway (and those mostly bad). I was delighted last night, half-watching Grand Designs, to see that, in the finished house, there was a substantial (and movable) bookcase, holding a few hundred books, many of them apparently classics. A rare sighting in the open-plan glass boxes that Grand Designs specialises in. 


  1. I think that one hears of Ms. Kondo now because of the widespread taste for seeing "unscripted" bits of life on TV. Her clients may not be Kardashians or deeply tanned, but at least they initially live in clutter.

    Her thoughts on books must make sense to her, but I don't see why they should for everyone: https://dc20011.blogspot.com/2016/01/magic-or-not.html .

  2. Thanks George – there are indeed gaping holes in Ms Kondo's philosophy, especially when it comes to books. Actually I think Wm Morris's 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful' is perhaps nearer the mark, though even that can barely be applied to books...

  3. If something doesn’t make your heart flutter on tidying day, there is no knowing whether it might cause a flutter on some future day. I have discarded numerous items I subsequently yearned for, including my battered old collection of Raymond Chandler. Once, I threw out all our Christmas decorations, lights and all because I hated the sight of them in July (I was pregnant at the time and about to deliver the spring. That was my excuse). Ms Kondo is maybe less mercurial than me.

  4. Good point, Karen – another weakness in the Kondo system. It assumes a static world, but things change, including our tastes...

  5. Dear Sir N, you are damned right! on the TV, all those houses and you never see a book in them!! Surely there should be a place in a house for at least half a dozen Agatha Chrispie or similar? Have you Brits stopped reading? As for objects a person loves to keep, I have a small stuffed animal that I will never part with. I can't name the breed because I kinda guess its maybe on some endrangered species list, but it sure is cute and I get a warm glow every time I pass by and stroke his little head. Books, ok - but a cute animal, even if stuffed, can be a real friend. Who would throw out a friend? I rest my case.