Marie Kondo and the Ruthless War on Stuff
Joy points upward, according to Marie Kondo, whose name is now a verb and whose nickname is being trademarked and whose life has become a philosophy. In April at the Japan Society in New York, she mounted a stage in an ivory dress and silver heels, made namaste hands at the audience and took her place beneath the display of a PowerPoint presentation. Now that she has sold nearly 6 million copies of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and has been on The New York Times best-seller list for 86 weeks and counting, she was taking the next logical step: a formal training program for her KonMari method, certifying her acolytes to bring the joy and weightlessness and upward-pointing trajectory of a clutter-free life to others. The humble hashtag that attended this event was #organizetheworld.
据近藤麻理惠(Marie Kondo)讲，愉悦是向上的力量。她的名字现在成了一个动词，她的昵称正被注册成商标，她的生活方式变成了一种哲学。今年4月，在纽约的日本协会(Japan Society)，她穿着象牙白的裙子，脚着银色高跟鞋，走上舞台，向观众做合十礼，在PPT展示屏幕下站好。她已经卖出近600万册《怦然心动的人生整理魔法》(The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up)，此书跻身《纽约时报》畅销书排行榜长达86周且仍然在榜，因此她开始迈出符合逻辑的下一步：为她的近藤麻里惠法(KonMari)提供正式的培训项目，确保她的追随者将整洁生活的快乐、飘逸和向上的人生轨迹带给其他人。伴随这一活动出现的低调的话题标签是#让世界变得有条理#(#organizetheworld)。
Upon entering the Japan Society, the 93 Konverts in attendance (and me) were given lanyards that contained our information: our names, where we live and an option of either the proud “Tidying Completed!” or the shameful “Tidying Not Yet Completed!” In order to be considered tidy, you must have completed the method outlined in Kondo’s book. It includes something called a “once-in-a-lifetime tidying marathon,” which means piling five categories of material possessions — clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous items and sentimental items, including photos, in that order — one at a time, surveying how much of each you have, seeing that it’s way too much and then holding each item to see if it sparks joy in your body. The ones that spark joy get to stay. The ones that don’t get a heartfelt and generous goodbye, via actual verbal communication, and are then sent on their way to their next life. This is the crux of the KonMari — that soon-to-be-trademarked nickname — and it is detailed in “The Life-Changing Magic” and her more recent book, “Spark Joy.” She is often mistaken for someone who thinks you shouldn’t own anything, but that’s wrong. Rather, she thinks you can own as much or as little as you like, as long as every possession brings you true joy.
Her book was published in the United States in 2014, quietly and to zero fanfare and acclaim. Kondo’s inability to speak English made promotional radio and talk-show appearances hard sells. But one day, a New York Times Home section reporter happened upon the book and wrote an article discussing her own attempt at KonMari-ing her closets; the book caught fire.
People in America had an unnaturally strong reaction to the arrival of this woman and her promises of life-changing magic. There were people who had been doing home organizing for years by then, and they sniffed at her severe methods. But then there were the women who knew that Kondo was speaking directly to them. They called themselves Konverts, and they say their lives have truly changed as a result of using her decluttering methods: They could see their way out of the stuff by aiming upward.
During her Japan Society lecture, Marie demonstrated how the body feels when it finds tidying joy. Her right arm pointed upward, her left leg bent in a display of glee or flying or something aerial and upright, her body arranged I’m-a-little-teacup-style, and a tiny hand gesture accompanied by a noise that sounded like “kyong.” Joy isn’t just happy; joy is efficient and adorable. A lack of joy, on the other hand, she represented with a different pose, planting both feet and slumping her frame downward with a sudden visible depletion of energy. When Kondo enacted the lack of joy, she appeared grayer and instantly older. There isn’t a specific enough name for the absence of joy; it is every emotion that isn’t pure happiness, and maybe it doesn’t deserve a name, so quickly must it be expunged from your life. It does, however, have a sound effect: “zmmp.”
Joy is the only goal, Kondo said, and the room nodded, yes, yes, in emphatic agreement, heads bobbing and mouths agape in wonder that something so simple needed to be taught to them. “My dream is to organize the world,” Kondo said as she wrapped up her talk. The crowd cheered, and Kondo raised her arms into the air like Rocky.
SHE DID NOT set out to become a superpower in the already booming world of professional organization. It just sort of happened to her, a natural outgrowth of a lifelong obsession with carefully curating her belongings. When she was a little girl, she read all of her mother’s homemaking magazines, and as early as elementary school began researching various tidying methods, so disquieted was her brain by her family’s possessions.
When she was 19, her friends began offering her money for her tidying services. At the time, she was enrolled at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University, studying sociology, with a concentration on gender. She happened upon a book called “Women With Attention Deficit Disorder,” by Siri Solden, and in it there was a discussion over women who are too distracted to clean their homes. Kondo was disturbed that there was little consideration that a man might pick up the slack in this regard, that a woman with ADD was somehow broken because she couldn’t tidy. But, she conceded, buried in this outrageous notion was a core truth: that women have a closer connection to their surroundings than men do. She realized that the work she was doing as a tidying consultant was far more psychological than practical. Tidying wasn’t just a function of your physical space; it was a function of your soul. After college she found work at a staffing agency but continued to take tidying jobs in the early mornings and late evenings, initially charging $100 per five-hour block. Eventually she quit her job, and soon the wait list for her services reached six months.
到19岁的时候，她的朋友开始给她钱让她帮忙整理屋子。当时，她正在东京女子大学(Tokyo Woman’s Christian University)就读，研习社会学，专注于性别研究。她偶然看到了由西里·索尔登(Siri Solden)撰写的《有注意力缺陷多动障碍的女性》(Women With Attention Deficit Disorder)。书中谈到有些女性注意力太过分散，无法收拾屋子。几乎没人考虑过，在这种情况下，男人应该接过这项任务，也没人想过从某种程度上讲，患有注意力缺陷多动障碍的女人是有缺失的，无法做整理工作，近藤为此感到不安。不过，她也承认，这种可耻的观念深处存在一个核心的事实：与男性相比，女性与周围的环境有更密切的联系。她意识到，自己在做的整理顾问的工作其实远远更偏向于心理层面，而非实践。整理不只是你的物理空间在起作用；也是你灵魂的一个功能。大学毕业后，她在一家人力中介公司找到了工作，但继续在清早和晚间兼职做收拾房间的工作。她一开始的收费标准是5小时100美元。最终她辞掉了正职，很快她的服务已经预约到了六个月以后。
When she enters a new home, Kondo says, she sits down in the middle of the floor to greet the space. She says that to fold a shirt the way everyone folds a shirt (a floppy rectangle) instead of the way she thinks you should (a tight mass of dignified envelope-shaped fabric so tensile that it could stand upright) is to deprive that shirt of the dignity it requires to continue its work, i.e. hanging off your shoulders until bedtime. She would like your socks to rest. She would like your coins to be treated with respect. She thinks your tights are choking when you tie them off in the middle. She would like you to thank your clothes for how hard they work and ensure that they get adequate relaxation between wearings. Before you throw them out, she wants you to thank them for their service. She wants you to override the instinct to keep a certain thing because a shopping-network show or a home-design magazine or a Pinterest page said it would brighten up your room or make your life better. She wants you to possess your possessions on your own terms, not theirs.
She is tiny — just 4-foot-8. When I interviewed her, not only did her feet not touch the ground when we were sitting, but her knees didn’t even bend over the side of the couch. When she speaks, she remains pleasant-faced and smiling. The only visible possessions in her hotel room for a two-week trip from Tokyo were her husband’s laptop and a small silver suitcase the size of a typical man’s briefcase.
Her success has taken her by surprise. She never thought someone could become so famous for tidying that it would be hard to walk down the street in Tokyo. “I feel I am busy all the time and I work all the time,” she said, and she did not seem so happy about this, though her faint smile never wavered.