Christian Minimalism

Why Marie Kondo Didn’t Work For Me

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard of Marie Kondo and her KonMari method of “tidying up.”

It all started with her best-seller The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Then her second book was born, Spark Joy. Now, Marie Kondo’s tidying method has reached even more people through her Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

There are some great things about this pop culture phenomenon:

  • Kondo– and her KonMari method– shed light on society’s need to simplify our possessions. In a world where we constantly hear more is better, she shows a different way of living.
  • Both in her books and in the Netflix show, it’s obvious that decluttering and simplifying is WORK– but it’s WORTH IT. Kondo is clear that life can get better through simplification.
  • Kondo has some extremely helpful tips on how to fold and store things, once one simplifies one’s possessions. I kid you not, her way of folding clothes is life-changing.
  • Last, and certainly not least, Kondo shows that young women can be enthusiastic, passionate about their work, and experts in their field.

Even with these great things, the KonMari method still did not work for me.

I was an early KonMari attempter, when her first book came out. I read her book, and followed her method to the letter (minus talking to my possessions). I got rid of a ton of stuff at the time, which was great. But…. it didn’t stick. I still fell back into bad habits and kept accumulating stuff.

It wasn’t until I discovered minimalism and connected it to my Christian faith that simplifying and focusing on what truly matters worked. The KonMari method is not minimalism. KonMari is a method for decluttering things. Minimalism is a lifestyle for decluttering one’s life.

Here are three major reasons why the KonMari method didn’t work for me:

 

1) The basis of the KonMari method is in the Shinto religion.

When I first realized that Marie Kondo’s system wasn’t working for me, I did some research on her background. I found out that she used to work in a Shinto temple. Shintoism is a Japanese religion that is based in rituals and recognizing the divine in the natural world. Margaret Dilloway wrote this helpful article explaining Kondo’s Shinto background and how Westerners react to it.

Once you know about Kondo’s background and her Shinto faith, it’s obvious that the KonMari method is suffused with Shintoism. She greets the living space, thanks inanimate objects for their labor, and taps on books to wake them up. These are not the actions of a crazy women– this is a woman living out her religious faith. And she encourages those who follow her method to do the same.

The problem becomes when those trying to follow the KonMari method are Christian. I am not of the impression that as Christians, we can only do Christian things– but it starts to get worrisome if we begin to follow the tenants of another religion (even without knowing it!) when Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Since those of the Shinto faith believe that multiple deities exist in things, much of Shintosim is incompatible with Christianity. In Christianity, we have one God whom we worship. Followers of the Shinto faith worship millions of spirits/gods.

For Christians, the decluttering part of KonMari is fine; the Shinto aspects of KonMari are not.

 

2) The KonMari method inadvertently encourages an emotional attachment to stuff.

When I started my Christian minimalism journey, I found out very quickly that my emotional attachment to my material possessions was out of control. I knew that I had to lessen my emotional attachment to stuff or I would continue to keep things around that weren’t adding value to my life.

Knowing that Kondo bases her method in her religious tradition of Shintoism, it’s obvious that her method of touching each object to see if it “sparks joy” is a spiritual moment for her. For Kondo, this moment of joy is a spiritual experience, one that helps people decide whether to keep something or not based on if that object brings them joy.

But here’s the problem– for Americans who do not share the Shinto religion, touching an object to see if it “sparks joy” becomes making our decisions based on emotion. Because of the cultural and religious differences, the KonMari method encourages Americans to ascribe emotion (“joy”) to their material possessions. And not only that, by only keeping those objects that “spark joy,”  one’s objects are infused with an even larger scale of emotion– when most of us would do much better by trying to detach our emotions from our possessions.

Sadly, basing our decluttering decisions on our emotions can cause what Jesus warned us against– we end up placing our treasure in things that “moth and rust consume.” As followers of Jesus, we are called to “store up our treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:19-20). Our joy does not come from our possessions. Our joy comes from Jesus.

 

3) The KonMari method is a one and done process.

Both in her books and in her show, Kondo says over and over that her method should be a one time event, and then after that big change, the person is done. In the show, she even congratulates her clients and tells them that they have “graduated the KonMari tidying method.” Graduation means one has finished.

It’s important to note that the show ends right after the big change of decluttering, and we don’t get to see what happens afterwards. This pinpoints a major problem in the KonMari method, which I mentioned earlier– KonMari is a method for decluttering things. Minimalism is a lifestyle for decluttering one’s life.

The KonMari method focuses on simplifying personal possessions, with the assumption that doing so will automatically simplify one’s life. But by only focusing on possessions, those following the KonMari method miss out on what minimalism tries to actually do– an intentional simplification of ALL aspects of life.

The KonMari method does not address a busy schedule, nor does it directly help someone figure out what aspects of life are most important. The method sometimes does this inadvertently, but it is not something that is dealt with directly in the way that minimalism does.

In addition, the KonMari method does not address how to continue to grow and improve in a new simplified lifestyle. Unhelpful consumer habits that got one into the cluttered mess in the first place are not addressed. How to continue the process of living more simply is not addressed. In fact, there is no follow-up for how living a minimal life is an ongoing process– not something that’s done once and you’re good to go.

Living the Christian minimalist lifestyle is a constant journey of spiritual growth with Jesus. It is a continual path of discipleship and growing into who God wants us to be. We are called to “run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus as the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1). Christian minimalism is a marathon, not a sprint.

 

When in doubt, Christian minimalism!

Marie Kondo has shown us that having too much stuff hinders us, and that’s a good thing. But the Christian minimalist lifestyle is a much more all-encompassing way to simplify and focus on what’s most important. How is God calling you to a more Christian minimalist lifestyle?

 

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About 
Becca Ehrlich, AKA The Christian Minimalist, is striving to be a Christian minimalist in a consumer society. She currently lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband Will. You can read more about her story and how her blog came to exist by clicking the website link above.

10 Comments

  1. Rebecca Armstrong

    January 31, 2019 - 8:40 am
    Reply

    I completely agree. About the only thing I got from Kondo was an amazing way of folding my clothes. 🙂 The more I watched the show, the more unsettled I became with her Shinto beliefs infusing her methodology. Thankful for the Holy Spirit’s prompting!

  2. Anneke Ieda

    January 31, 2019 - 8:50 am
    Reply

    Thanks, Becca! I never thought of it from the Christian Minimalist perspective– I have enjoyed watching the Netflix show. It’s been good to “go through” our possessions lately. You are so right, though!

  3. Donna

    January 31, 2019 - 9:05 am
    Reply

    I agree completely. It’s stuff. I don’t want to thank it or worship it.ni want to reduce it and focus on my Lord and Savior and what He expects of me. Thank you.

  4. Maria Deignan

    January 31, 2019 - 9:45 am
    Reply

    Thank you for pin pointing what bothered me so much about the – if it doesn’t bring you joy then get rid of it- means of de-cluttering. My joy cannot be found in material items. Yes- how to fold clothes is altering my dresser space!

  5. Brittany

    January 31, 2019 - 10:09 am
    Reply

    I agree! I loved that you pointed out the positives in the show. I found the folding to be a great time saver with my kids clothes, and I loved that she addressed sentimental items. However, I felt cautious when she addressed the house. When my kids asked me about it, I told them that we should pray & thank God for providing us with a warm home- even if it is a little cluttered. As far as possessions go, we could pray that God blesses the person that finds it at the thrift store or shelter. When we go through our stuff, we ask questions like…Do I really like it? Can I fit in it now? Do I already have something similar that I like better? Is it broken? As far as books & movies go…Can we easily get these at the library or does it stream often?

  6. Diane Luderman

    January 31, 2019 - 10:19 am
    Reply

    I got the “uh oh” feeling when delving into her method of decluttering. I learned how to fold clothes, but can’t and don’t touch my possessions to wake them or talk to them. I have learned through self development that attaching emotions to possessions usually means there is a deeper seeded issue in my personal life which I need to confront.

  7. Tanya

    January 31, 2019 - 10:25 am
    Reply

    Hello – I have decided to be thoughtful and share my thoughts and feelings, instead of just unsubscribing from your newsletter, which has been supportive of my journey to reduce reliance on things outside of myself for validation. Your expressed view that Shintoism is in conflict with the Christian faith is triggering me. I do not believe that the values of Shintoism are in conflict with our Christian ideals.

    Having spent time in Japan and witnessing how Shintoism infuses the culture with gentleness, compassion, grace, and honoring of all things, I am so grateful to witnessing Shinto practitioners and how that has influenced my own spirituality and rooting in my Christian faith. I believe that Christianity teaches us to delight in our humanness – to recognize and honor that we are spiritual beings having a human experience – not to worship or create more emotional attachment to possessions, but instead to enjoy the natural wonder of creation, the inherent good in all, the value of our relationship to people, places, and things, and how our humanness influences our presence and awareness to God being everywhere, in all things. Don’t we subscribe to the idea of God being with us always, of residing within each human, of loving every living thing on this earth? I don’t see how that is so far from the way that another culture has gotten in touch with the Divine.

    I don’t believe that by creating more divisions between organized religions we are living out our mission to demonstrate our faith in a loving, inclusive, forgiving, compassionate God. I think that by embracing the beauty and deep truth that coalesces in Buddhism, Shintoism, Islam, and other orientations of faith and spirituality fulfills God’s calling for us to be His hands, feet, eyes, and heart in the world.

    I hope that I have given you and those who read this something to reflect on – not react to – but to use more as a journaling or sharing exercise – I don’t really want to engage in further conversation here as I don’t want to fall into being defensive or further triggered, but thank you for creating the space for me to share my heartfelt thoughts.

    I believe we should open our arms with love, the way Jesus opened his arms on the hard wood of the cross to be a mentor, guide, example to all humans. Peace be upon you and may our collective heart be softened and expanded to include all of God’s children, whom He loves equally.

    • Sheri

      January 31, 2019 - 11:39 am
      Reply

      Thank you , Tanya. You put the words to my thoughts as well, as I read this blog post. Beautifully written in love.

  8. Brenda

    January 31, 2019 - 9:27 pm
    Reply

    Thanks for the very concise article. I have been troubled by this fad of minimalism that seems to prevail among certain people. It’s as if it is almost a pride issue, how little they can do without shows how righteous they are. On the other side of the road is the ditch of people following KonMari which is completely un-biblical based on the fact that Jesus is the only way to heaven and those that worship the creation and do obeisance to it instead of the Creator will be lost.

  9. Amber

    February 12, 2019 - 6:32 am
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing this. We were actually working on moving to a new house when I found her show. I love everything about the show the tiding part except the greeting the house and waking the books up and so on. She does have a peace about her. But honestly being a Christian watching her show. I know my true JOY AND PEACE come only from JESUS! When I do some of her methods I use Scripture from the Holy Bible our instruction manual for life. Verses like- 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
    Matthew 23:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” The word of God will never pass away!
    We keep our focus on Jesus while decluttering our lives and he has also been decluttering my heart. In the end Jesus is our only hope. Her religion will not save her soul or her followers no matter how peaceful and graceful it is. God is love and we love God and others but have to be honest too. Thank you so much for sharing this. Love it. ♥️♥️♥️♥️

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