At this point I am probably the last person on the planet to read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. But I did finally read it, today. I am not sure I am the intended audience for this book–I don’t own a lot of things, and my main tidying problem is the heaps of junk mail I get that lie around unopened on my floor. I probably need a book about how to position your garbage cans so you actually use them.
But I did find the book interesting. What struck me the most was the idea that our purpose in life is to seek happiness, and owning gobs of junk gets in the way of that happiness. Yet for some reason we can become more loyal to our gobs of junk than to our own happiness. In other words, it becomes an idol! Probably not a very conscious one for most people, since no one in their right mind would make that choice if it were presented as such. But aren’t a lot of idols like that?
Ms. Kondo explains that proper tidying up is meant to be a major life-changing undertaking, and maybe even a little painful (in a good way). Ineffective tidying up is tepid and surface-level only. Again, this is true of any spiritual revolution, and seems to be an especially fitting metaphor for our times, in which boldness is often encouraged in every area except spirituality.
Ms. Kondo makes no secret of the fact that she considers tidying up to be a spiritual pursuit. As she is a Shintoist, much of her advice supposes that inanimate objects have feelings, and that people can communicate with their houses as if they were alive. On these points, of course, I don’t agree. But I found it fascinating that we had had similar life experiences of rejecting materialism simply because we were both listening to reality and heard the same thing: that our possessions are meant to serve us, and not the other way around.
(Interestingly, as a child I was very much convinced that inanimate objects had feelings, and it was only after returning to the Catholic Church that I found an intellectual basis for rejecting that belief in the idea that human beings are stewards of the earth and its resources, and not their friends or equals.)
So while Ms. Kondo and I might not describe the spiritual significance of tidying up using the same terms, or agree on the particulars, it seems to me that broadly speaking, we have moved in the same direction throughout our lives. In her book I found one more example of my spiritual journey back to the Catholic Church being reflected in Japanese culture.