BY NINA LARBI ’22
“Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” has taken the world by storm. In the series, Marie Kondo, a Japanese author and organizing consultant, travels to the homes of disorganized Americans and aids them in cleaning their homes using her Shinto-inspired Kon-Mari method. Kondo has faced backlash for her methods, and this negative reaction is not only incurred from random individuals on the internet; prominent figures like Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen DeGeneres are also treating her with disrespect. The hatred directed towards Kondo is rooted in racism and a sense of American superiority, and this prejudice is coming from both sides of the political spectrum.
Her method consists of dumping all possessions out on the floor and going through each item, asking if it sparks joy. If it does, the person keeps it. If not, they throw it away. Minimalism has been prominent since the 1950s. It counteracts American consumerist values and promotes a return to simplicity. White minimalists have consistently been hailed for their beliefs, from Tyler Durden, the “Fight Club” character who is commonly read as a minimalist, to author David Thoreau. Kondo’s method is inspired by Shintoism, the traditional religion of Japan, which is also anti-materialist. So why has it not been equally lauded? Many people are portraying Kondo as a witch who goes through people’s houses and trashes their precious belongings, or ridiculing her methods as un- realistic and unhelpful. The fact that Kondo’s methods are rooted in Japanese beliefs has played a key role in how others treat her technique. Foreign belief systems, especially those belonging to non-Western countries, are often treated as inferior, explaining the backlash she is facing.
Talk show hosts like Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen DeGeneres invited Kondo to declutter their offices on camera, but instead of respecting her methods and knowledge, they dismissed and mocked her advice. They looked into the camera like they were on “The Office,” with pointed glances when Kondo asked them to thank their of ce spaces, and mocked her use of a translator. Prominent writers and critics have also aimed rude comments at Kondo. Author Jennifer Wright tweeted “this woman is a monster.” Barbara Ehrenreich, another author, tweeted “I will be convinced that America is not in decline only when our decluttering guru Marie Kondo learns to speak English” and Ron Charles, a book critic, wrote an article telling Kondo “Keep your tidy, spark-joy hands off my book piles, Marie Kondo.” Kondo’s methods are being treated as some bizarre foreign spiritual- ity, in comparison to the praise white minimalism has historically received.
It is important to note that many of the aforementioned public figures are Trump-hating, card-carrying liberals. Especially with our current political cli- mate, I feel that the label “liberal” has been deemed an absolute, unquestionable statement of moral pu- rity. In reality, the hatred coming from these liberals comes from the same place of privilege as the racism that Trump supporters display. If you place yourself on the left of the political spectrum, it does not mean that all of your socially ingrained prejudice disappears. Kondo’s critics should examine why they were silent about Durden and Thoreau promoting anti-materialist values but critiqued the KonMari method.
It is possible to be respectful to Kondo. Hosts like Stephen Colbert and Hasan Minhaj were respectful of her techniques and language, regardless of whether they agree with her method. The KonMari method is not the end-all be-all of minimalism. It is okay to disagree with her. However, hurling racist remarks at her and treating her genuine attempts to share her method as peculiar rituals is simply rude.