Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story by Marie Kondo

Reading this book actually high key stressed me out because I am just as messy as Chiaki in this book, and I haven't done a damn thing about it. Get rid of my books? NO THANK YOU. But Marie Kondo was really getting pushed hard by pop culture outlets like BuzzFeed and social media influencers, so when the manga version of her popular book showed up in the library, I thought, "Why not? Perhaps this will be the impetus to change my slovenly ways and discover cleaning magic!"

Well... no.

I like Marie Kondo. She seems adorable and I hope she's as nice as she seems on TV because it would be a shame if it was all actually an act. I don't think it is, though. She seems sincere, which makes it harder to criticize her tried and true method. I'm glad it works for her and so many others but this system really does not work for me for a wide variety of reasons.

First, I don't really like how the book talks down to the audience. Marie Kondo talks to her would-be disciples the way a preschool teacher instructions their children. She has you "clap" to wake the books up after you set them down on the floor because they've been sleeping, or something like that. Then you have to thank everything as you get rid of it, because it brought you joy at some point in your life (enough so to buy it, anyway). This felt really silly to me and I could never in a million years see myself doing any of these things without feeling like a fool. Maybe that says more about me than it does about Marie Kondo, but still--

Second, I'm not really sure I agree with her method of getting rid of books. Instead of reading through them (which she discourages), she suggests putting your hand on the cover and seeing how it makes you feel. Honestly, the best method (for me) has been to read the first 50 pages and then toss it if you're not feeling it. Maybe if you're just going off of cover appeal and nostalgic value of books you've actually read this might work, but I'm not sure how productive this exercise is if you're not allowed to read the inside pages or look at the book jacket in the decision process.

Third, there is a definite privilege element to this book. Getting rid of things you don't need now with the argument that you can always get them again later is a very upper middle class sentiment. I remember seeing an article which I wish I could remember now which was picking apart the class disparity between the people on Marie Kondo's show and the show Hoarders. Hoarding is an element of OCD, but I think there is a tendency for people who don't have as much to want to keep what they have, because they can't afford to just give away and re-buy things. You want to keep things around "just in case," because you never know when they might become necessary. Reusable, repurposeable, and replacement things are a necessity when you don't know if you'll be able to buy another one of the things you had, and it might be cheaper to fix. The luxury of getting rid of everything you own for aesthetic purposes is a very privileged concept that not everyone can share or appreciate.

Rather than the straightforward instructional format of her book, this one is told in narrative format with Marie befriending the aforementioned Chiaki, a bit of a compulsive hoarder. Her home is a mess and when her cute neighbor sees it, and complains about the garbage on her balcony, she is humiliated. Marie gives Chiaki "tidying lessons" taking her through the Konmari method step by step. At the end, people are praising her for looking cuter, she gets compliments on her home, and the neighbor guy next door asks her out and then brings her a housewarming pie. This too, can all be yours, if you buy in to the Konmari method. The emotional manipulation!! I lol'd. It reminded me of this self-help book I had in high school called THE FABULOUS GIRL'S GUIDE TO GRACE UNDER PRESSURE, which portrayed this highly idealized aspirational life of a specific socioeconomic status with all these rules. Clearly it made an impression; I remembered it over ten years later, because I remember reading it and thinking, "I have to do ALL THIS??"

The manga is cute and if Konmari's method works for you then that's great. But I can also see why so many of my friends disliked this book (especially for the section on books, lmao). It's not for everyone and I think it's important to keep that in mind when making the purchase.

3 out of 5 stars

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