Image: Apartment Therapy

Who says home-making doesn’t sell?

For months now a book about tidying up has been in the top five of the Amazon best-seller list.

Last week a new book, by the same author, received rave write-ups across the world.

The scribe in question, Marie Kondo, has now sold 4.8 million books worldwide. She is 30 years old.

Last year’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, does what it says on the tin. It helps home-makers systemise the way they go about cleaning house.

The new book, the far more opaque-sounding Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up repackages that advice around a central idea.

When tidying up and deciding whether to throw something away, we should ask ourselves whether it ‘sparks joy’ in our hearts. If it does, find a space for it, if not, out it goes.

Space your mind 2

Marie can sound like a zealot. “I never tidy my room because it is already tidy”, she announces. Folding clothes is, for instance, “a form of dialogue with your wardrobe”. We should “think of tidying like a bento box.”

Unlike her first book, Spark Joy also answers the biggest criticism of her original best-seller – that it didn’t contain any pictures to illustrate the ideas.

So the new book offers diagrams on how to fold socks, bras (“treat them like royalty”), shirts, hoodies, and the rest. The key thing is not to scrunch or ball “a cruel practise”.

Sometimes Kondo’s methods can look like origami. She folds and stows clothes without stacking them because this would be “unfair on the objects at the bottom”. Instead clothes are placed in a drawer standing, rather than flat, and stored in square compartments, within their correct category.

And this is where you begin to realise that, as the HRF often points out, running a home proficiently is easier if home-makers work to a coherent plan, and often a procedure which requires serious study and thought.

So Kondo advises her home-making readers to tidy by category, not room by room, and to leave sorting sentimental possessions until last, because we will, inevitably, take longer over that as we muse on their value to us.

For all the saccharine language, there is a hard-edged logic at work here.

But what does this publishing phenomenon tell us?

How did a self-styled ‘cleaning consultant’ end up being used as a verb (look on the internet and you will hear her readers and fans – ‘Konverts’ – talk about ‘Kondoing’ their home).

Perhaps it is a function of smaller and less permanent living spaces. New-build homes are getting smaller. With less room in which to keep things, residents can either pay for storage or start chucking away.

And, as people move addresses more regularly, in search of work or companionship, it behoves them to keep their logistics train short.

And, of course, we have much more ‘stuff’ to slough off. Clothing, toys, furniture, electronic goods. all of it more affordable and deliverable than ever before. Little wonder people often talk of ‘drowning’ in belongings.

So three cheers for Kondo. Whether you are a hoarder or a declutterer, a minimalist or a maximalist, her books prove that there is a market for theories and practical advice rooted in the domestic space.

Reproduced with permission from BeHome the blog of the Home Renaissance Foundation

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is a New Zealand journalist with a special interest in family issues. She began her working life as a secondary school teacher but always fancied the life of the scribe. Too late, she...