Culture · Fashion and Beauty · Food and Lifestyle · Reviews · Tara Jane

KonMari vs God

by Tara Jane

wardrobe cleaning

I want my house to be tidy with zero effort. Is this too much to ask? Marie Kondo doesn’t think so. I recently read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo because this book promises that the impossible can be possible, we can have a tidy house and it will change our lives. In this short and aestetically pleasing read, Marie Kondo explains the benefits and delights of tidying up, decluttering, and owning less. And there’s lots I can relate to. I’m fighting a never-ending battle with clutter, so if someone says they know how I can spend less time cleaning I’m all ears. And overall, it’s an enjoyable little read and my wardrobe is now very neat.

But I want to explore two philosophies that shape Marie Kondo’s approach to tidying up and to life in general that I don’t think Christians can agree with.

Taming the chaos of clutter

There is the false promise in this book, and in the minimalism movement, that once you tame the chaos of clutter, you will be able to tame the chaos of life. It’s easy to understand why people might want to tame the chaos of life. Every day there are new hurdles to face, new challenges, nothing is stable and things can change within a second.

“From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change. That’s why the task of putting your house in order should be done quickly. It allows you to confront the issues that are really important. Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.” – Marie Kondo

Cleaning your wardrobe may provide temporary relief, but it cannot fulfill the deep longing of the heart for a world of order rather than unpredictable chaos. It is a band-aid solution. We don’t feel hurt and out of control because we have seventeen jumpers, sixteen of which we haven’t worn in years. We feel hurt and out of control because this world is broken and out of control due to sin. The world is the way it is because everyone has rejected God’s design for the world, thinking that we know better. We inherently know that the world is not right, we only need to watch the news to feel the weight of chaos. Jesus is the only one who can make the world right and “tidy up” the chaos, because Jesus is the only one who offers a solution for sin. When Jesus dies on the cross, he doesn’t simply “declutter” the world, or “tidy up” the world, he removes sin completely. When Jesus rises from the dead, he brings the hope of a new, eternal, perfect life, where sin and death and decay can no longer reign.

While it feels so good to toss the excess shoes and clothes that have made it impossible to close the wardrobe doors, that feeling won’t last. And cleaning our closets can’t control the chaos of our lives. This world is sinful and broken, and no amount of decluttering can tame the chaos. Only Jesus can truly remove sin and restore the world.

The mind-set change is not consistent with the gospel

“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! – Proverbs 6:6

Proverbs teaches us that there are things we can learn from the world around us, but this doesn’t mean that everything we learn is compatible with the gospel. Marie Kondo constantly talks about the mindset behind the tidying-up.

“From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change. That’s why the task of putting your house in order should be done quickly. It allows you to confront the issues that are really important. Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.” – Marie Kondo

The gospel doesn’t care how you fold your T-shirts, it’s the mindset and attitude behind why you’re decluttering that the gospel cares about. This attitude will flow over into other parts of your life, and that’s exactly how Marie Kondo insists it should be. Our attitude to the objects in our home eventually becomes our attitude to how we approach all areas of life. In the very first chapter of her book, she speaks of clients who have lost weight, gained promotions at work and even gotten divorced as a result of taking her advice and course, because they have not simply cleaned out their wardrobes, but they have cleaned out their lives.

There is a big push in the book to consider items in light of the joy they bring. If the items bring you joy, keep them. If they don’t, then their purpose was to teach you which items do bring you joy, and you can thank them for teaching you this lesson and throw them away. However, the gospel changes how we view joy, and therefore we find ourselves defining joy as much more than ‘what makes me happy’. In light of the gospel, we find our joy in Christ alone, he is our deep delight and he enables us to experience a much deeper and permanent joy than the joy of tidying-up.

“It is the same with people. Not every person you meet in life will become a close friend or lover. Some you will find hard to get along with or impossible to like. But these people, too, teach you the precious lesson of who you do like, so that you will appreciate those”– Marie Kondo

Here is where we can be tempted to apply our wardrobe cleaning philosophies to the rest of our lives. Isn’t it tempting to want to declutter our friends, and discard the friendships that no longer satisfy us or bring us joy? However, in light of the gospel, we know we can’t declutter people because they’re difficult or impossible to like. Knowing who Jesus is actually spurs us on to make decisions for the benefit of others, not ourselves. We don’t give up on going to church when church stops being a joy, and we don’t give up on people because they are hard to get along with. Instead, knowing how Jesus has saved us from our sins, knowing how God has brought us into his family means that we actually need to consider it a joy to serve our church as Christ served us. We don’t stop serving or sharing the gospel because it brings us hardships, awkwardness, or danger. Instead we consider it pure joy when we face all kinds of trials for the sake of Jesus’ name.

It can be tempting after reading a book so captivating to rush into cleaning out our wardrobes, our houses and our lives. However, as with everything in life, even “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” must be read in light of who Jesus is and who he has made us to be as his people. Even a book about how to fold socks can have a worldview that clashes with the cross. Read it, learn from it, get a clean wardrobe, but be wary. This book promises joy, but as Christians we know that the only true source of joy is Jesus Christ.

I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
Luke 2:11-12

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