Conspiracy to destroy civilization 'Tidying up'

Opinion: Columns

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By Alan Brouilette

Would it surprise you at all if Marie Kondo were revealed to be a supervillain?

We all know who she is, right? The woman who wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the book of the moment, wherein she suggested we all look at every single item already present in our lives and ask ourselves, "Does it spark joy?"

Like all the best evil plans, it seems like a good idea on the surface: Go through your house and shed any possession that does not make you happy, hoping that possession might bring joy to another and in so doing find its purpose on this Earth. 

It seems reasonable, even insightful. Go forth and de-clutter thy home, and live a free life unencumbered by old textbooks and back issues of National Geographic and worn-out gym shoes and broken Christmas ornaments! Who could argue with this delightful Japanese pixie who has come to free us from the tyranny of too much stuff? Her gospel combines a minimalist aesthetic with the vaguely animist concept that objects have souls, and who could argue with the idea that if you have outgrown your teddy bear, you should give Buster one final hug and send him off to make some other child happy.  

Marie has you right where she wants you. 

Her real plan is to destroy the social fabric of America. 

I invite you to imagine Marie describing her plan not as a cheerful Japanese woman, but as Boris and Natasha: "We make them go through overstuffed American houses filled with crap. Fight with spouses and childrens. Throw everything out window. Put so many thing on eBay that in one year all lazy greedy Americans busy trading their great-grandmother things for other Americans' great-grandmother things. No more buying new things because convinced old things better. No more keeping old things because no joy. Capitalist system stop like clogged toilet. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA."

It's working, Marie. 

Even if you and your spouse can agree on what sparks joy and what does not — which you won't — decluttering is still not completely unlike getting divorced: Half your stuff disappears. Some of it you don't miss. Some of it you do. Some of it was not parted with voluntarily. I assure you, however happily married you are, you do not want to risk an honest assessment of the differences between what sparks joy in you and what sparks joy in your partner, and you should be especially interested in avoiding conversations about prized old sentimental possessions. 

All of this controversy will come before the Main Event, which is the first time one of you says something like "I thought we were trying to have less stuff" upon the arrival of the first wave of "new" joyful items "needed" to plug the holes left by the old joyless items.  Oh, did you think you were going to have all this space forever? The human brain does not work that way, my friends. You cannot think about what things you own that do not spark joy for a solid couple months without working out some things that surely would spark joy and also would just happen to fit perfectly into the space recently vacated by an item that was deemed garbage by a family vote split 3-1. The caster of the single vote in favor of the departed item will not welcome the new item graciously — or ever.

As to why Marie is doing all this? If you're paying attention, she reveals her plan in her signature catchphrase: Those sparks of joy are there to light the world on fire, and Marie Kondo will sit on a single cushion in an empty room, smugly watching the world burn.

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