Marie Kondo, whose book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up helped her achieve guru status as a paragon of minimalism and organization, has apparently decided that she’s tired of tidying up.
She revealed that with three young children, “tidying up” all the time is just too much effort. It’s too exhausting.
As you might imagine, some corners of the internet are reacting quite strongly to this news. Especially in parent circles: many moms long ago worn out from fighting with their young children about giving up toys and clothes and cleaning up the clutter.
Some people are angry — not necessarily at Kondo, but perhaps at the broader standard she set for decluttered homes that may feel impossible when you’ve got young kids who like to play with things.
Or even if you don’t have young kids.
In over 15 years as a real estate broker, I’ve helped many clients declutter. I’ve also fought my own battles with the process. Decluttering is often an emotional process. We can get attached to our things as markers of identity. It’s not as easy as she made it out to be.
What’s really going on here?
That this revelation made news and sparked a suite of analysis articles about Marie Kondo’s change of direction says a lot about our culture.
It’s not like Kondo ever forced anyone to adopt her process.
She wrote a book about her approach to something that worked for her, at that time.
And now she’s saying that, while she still prefers a clutter-free home, she is finding that other things — like spending time with her kids — spark more joy for her.
Everyone is human. And everyone is allowed to change their values and priorities.
What’s really going on here?
Anger, outrage, and schadenfreude often mask a deeper emotion that we don’t like to discuss:
Kondo became a guru of minimalism. She promoted a standard of perfection in home cleanliness that many of us aspired to.
To learn that this may not be realistic takes something away from us — even if we never really had it in the first place.
In admitting that other things may take priority over tidying up, she’s shattered the illusion that we can prioritize everything equally.
Depending on your stage of life, the age of your kids, and what else you have going on, the images you see on Instagram and on her website may not be possible for you.
The idea that we can do everything at the highest level — at the same time — is a myth. It’s unrealistic.
For those of us who aspire to that type of standard — whether in the cleanliness of our homes or in any other area of life — the shattering of this illusion of perfectionism can come as a hard blow.
There’s a loss to grieve here. The loss of the illusion. The loss of a standard that we may have aspired to.
And there’s an emptiness:
If a clutter-free home isn’t going to make us happy, now what do we aspire to?
What becomes our north star?
Who Sets Your Aspirations?
Related to this loss of the aspiration is the loss of the “guru” who set that aspiration.
It’s human nature to seek out aspirational mentors: to put people on a pedestal and hold ourselves to their standards and their processes.
We often do this without considering whether their outcomes actually align with our values and whether their process fits with how we work best and what we need.
When we outsource our decisions about how to guide our lives to any “expert” or “guru,” we risk feeling abandoned when they move on or shift their values.
The lesson is to never put anyone on a pedestal.
Don’t outsource your own knowing.
The Real Life-Changing Magic
It’s natural to seek inspiration from others. It can be helpful to learn about a process that others use to get results.
But ultimately we need to set our own course for our life’s direction and run our own tests for how to best navigate the path.
Nothing works the same for everyone.
Take what works for you. Find your own way to do it.
And keep in mind that what works well for you in one circumstance may not work in another.
Your needs and capabilities may change over time.
Defining your own values, setting your own path, and finding the methods that work best for you — that’s where the real life-changing magic is found.