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The Origin Story of Marie Kondo’s Decluttering Empire

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Was the KonMari method inspired by Shinto, tsunami, or Muji?

Perhaps it was inspired by all three. 

As a recovering clutterbug myself—though not a minimalist and not a fan generally of the how-to genre’s Manichean, one-size-fits-all prescriptions—I admit I find aspects of the so-called KonMari Method (a contraction of Kondo Mariko, her name in the Japanese style) compelling, if not altogether original. The method’s anchoring principle, that we hang onto only what “sparks joy,” deftly reconfigures the notion of tidying and decluttering as mere throwing away: transformative existential keeping seems to be Kondo’s lesson. There are echoes, too, of Joseph Campbell’s dictum, “Follow your bliss.” Kondo’s other main strategy finesses the pangs of letting go by calling for a considered, thankful hail and farewell—a ceremony, not a ham-fisted trash-bagging. Clutter, the English psychoanalyst and design teacher Jane Graves wrote in “The Secret Life of Objects,” is always about memory, and so emotion and sentiment. Tidying, then, is intimate work, and therefore sensitive to conceptualizing and to the subtleties of slogans. A veteran New York design journalist told me that her daughter was a KonMari convert because she felt not reproach but rather an embracing, cheery respect. This conspicuous respect extends to the clutterer, the cluttered premises, and the clutter-objects themselves. It brings a light animism to even your old socks.

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