17 Dec How Marie Kondo ruined Christmas
First of all, if you don’t know about the (arguably slightly bonkers) Japanese tidying guru that is Marie Kondo, click here for a very quick summary of her method, and then come back. Don’t worry – I’ll wait.
Ready now? Read on.
As you may or may not be aware (although goodness knows I bang on about it enough), a couple of years ago I gave my flat its first Japanese minimalist make-under, doing away with about 19 binbags worth of assorted items that didn’t ‘spark joy’.
I initially did this because having a massive throw-out session sounded like a good way to waste some time while I was temporarily unemployed, and also because I’d got a bit jealous of my friend Becca’s newly zen-ified Barcelona flat after helping her Kon-Mari it a few days earlier, as she’d recently read Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying.
When I started rummaging through my stuff for things to chuck, I wasn’t taking the whole ‘sparking joy’ thing particularly seriously, but it’s incredible what halving your earthly belongings in the space of 12 hours can do, and soon enough I was a full-on convert to the tidy, joyful, Japanese way, and had become someone who obsessively questioned if every item they owned really deserved a place in their home.
While some parts of ole Marie’s approach do seem one step too nutty, even for me (exhibit A: rolling socks together rather than balling them up, because they’re “happier” that way…), and while I definitely don’t have the time or desire to always store my belongings how she suggests, I do now buy into the core theory that if items don’t bring you joy, you probably just shouldn’t have them.
The KonMari method really does make a lot of things much easier, and it’s certainly true that having a slightly more minimal home makes your whole life feel a bit less cluttered. I personally feel very smug knowing exactly where everything is in my flat and can find whatever I’m looking for in no time at all (truly life changing MK tip: store everything in each “category” together – all your books in one place, all your electrical cables in another, all your photos in another, and so on), and I have almost eliminated spontaneous purchases too.
But what Marie Kondo has kind of ruined is Christmas presents.
If you’re interested, Ms Kondo has quite an interesting approach to gifts. Basically, the joy is not (necessarily) to be found in the object itself, but in the act of giving/receiving it. And – most importantly – you shouldn’t hang on to gifts you don’t like just because of those pangs of guilt if you ever got rid. So as long as you’re genuinely grateful at the time, you should feel fine about “letting it go” if something just doesn’t spark joy. For example, if your nan knits you some horrible socks, you should thank her for the effort that she’s gone to, but not necessarily for the socks themselves (but don’t forget to thank those too before you do chuck them out).
However, this way of thinking does create a bit of a dilemma once you’ve fully jumped on Marie’s joy-wagon, because while you will accept that appreciating and then re-gifting/getting rid of unwanted offerings is all fine and dandy, you will undoubtedly begin to wonder whether there’s any point in receiving presents in the first place, potentially creating stress for a gift-giver who might just be getting you a present because they feel like they have to, when you most likely won’t get any joy from it anyway.
A couple of months ago, I got the usual “what do you want from Santa?” message from my mum, and actually didn’t really have anything to tell her. I didn’t have anything in mind, and didn’t want to send her out on a wild goose chase to find something for me which I might not even like. In the end, after a lot of thinking, I did manage to come up with one item (a nice, cheap, slow cooker, if you’re wondering), but I only gave her this clue because she seemed quite perturbed by the idea that I otherwise wouldn’t have anything under the tree, and because getting me a present would obviously have brought her joy.
You see? It’s a minefield.
Buying other people’s gifts is also tricky. Finding something for friends or family should be a nice experience for the giver, and when you put some thought into the process and find something you’re sure will bring the receiver (even short-term) joy, it definitely is. But when you’re getting someone a gift because you feel obliged to, or are desperately trying to find something they’ll like but are totally without inspiration, finally having to settle on something that’s fine but not great and which you know has brought very little joy to either party, it is a bit soul destroying.
The solution? Oh, who knows. I’m just continuing with my KonMari evangelism in the hope of converting all of my family and friends; maybe next year we can all just skip the painful Christmas shopping experience in favour of spending some more time together, perhaps all gathered around the laundry room, quietly rolling up our happy socks.