The Booklover’s Guide To Marie Kondo Hate

The Booklover’s Guide To Marie Kondo Hate

The new Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo is a reality-show version of tidying guru’s best-selling book. Something as innocuous as reducing clutter finds itself at the center of a backlash from booklovers.

As our colleagues at Jezebel pointed out in 2015, the backlash against Marie Kondo and decluttering is not new. Years later, the hate remains rather bizarre. She’s not telling anyone what to do, but merely providing a systematic way of decluttering.

The Netflix show has brought the animus roaring back, this time among book lovers. Earlier this month, novelist Anakana Schofield’s tweet regarding Kondo went viral.

In the program (and her book), Kondo asks people to go through their stuff and keep what sparks joy. That’s for each person to decide, not Marie Kondo. The show is sweet-natured and upbeat as is its host. Yet the image below has been circulating on Twitter, with Kondo being called a “monster.”

ImageImage: Twitter

I don’t know if the person who initially made the “monster” remark was doing it in jest, but it’s a misrepresentation.

Some English-language commentary on Kondo misses obvious cultural nuances. For example, in The Guardian, the aforementioned Schofield writes:

Kondo helps a woman declutter her books by ‘waking them up’. Surely the way to wake up any book is to open it up and read it aloud, not tap it with fairy finger motions – but this is the woo-woo, nonsense territory we are in.

Less “woo-woo nonsense” and more Japanese-style animism that comes out of the country’s indigenous Shinto beliefs. This is why Kondo asks people to thank each item before discarding. In Japan, objects can have souls (which is why I once had a Shinto priest bless my phone!) In my experience, it is not uncommon for people to thank a discarded object after being used for many years. So much of Kondo—and Japan—can be filtered through animism.

This doesn’t mean Kondo and her method are beyond reproach. Kondo has said she tried tearing out parts of books to see if that helped her declutter. It didn’t, so she doesn’t recommend it. Honestly, I do shudder at the notion of ripping parts out of books! The idea of pairing down one’s library isn’t intrinsically Japanese, either. There’s even a word for buying books and not reading them (積ん読 or tsundoku, literally meaning “reading pile”). Also, the country is filled with people who collect old books! If you are ever in Tokyo, visit Jinbocho, which is filled with old bookshops.

Kondo keeps about thirty books. That’s her ideal number. It’s not mine. I have hundreds and hundreds of books. They all spark joy and are stacked neatly in shelves. The ones that are not are stacked neatly on the floor. I don’t plan on weeding them out, because they bring me great happiness, which by Kondo’s standards is the question one should ask.

Does something spark joy? If so, keep it. She’s helping people ask the question, but it’s us who does the answering.

But most importantly…


  • It mostly just comes down to good old racist “I’m going to take this person who speaks English as a second language completely literally rather than looking for some nuance in what she’s saying” and honestly you’re not going to read those books so give them to someone who will, you fucking angry nerds.

      • Of course it’s racist to treat someone that speaks English as their second language badly for how they speak English. Which is what this is.

        • I hate to break it to you but race and language are 2 different things.
          This might blow your mind but us white people alone speak dozens of different lanuages. Some of us might even god forbid.. Have english as a second lanuage.
          The way a person speaks has nothing to do with their race.

      • Oh, it baffles me, too. You’d think they’d distance themselves from a website that so obviously enrages them. I’m convinced it’s an addiction to the downvote button and a borderline sense of masochism for a bunch of them at this point.

        That said, I don’t think the reaction to this is necessarily one born from underlying racism. If they were laughing at her accent or broken English, that definitely comes from a place of cultural intolerance and racism. But you can be guaranteed that Kondo’s script and translation thereof have been passed through numerous levels of drafting and editing that any ambiguity is not due to English being a foreign language to Kondo. More likely it’s from people’s insistence on taking anything with slightly ambiguity very literally and reacting to things at face value. If they perceive that it attacks a closely held belief, people will flex their Twitter thumbs.

      • Huh. What was said that was so right wing?
        This comment thread has gone out of control.
        They were jokes people wouldn’t give up their books.
        What is happening in this world

        • I’m not sure what it is about destroying books, but it does seem to draw a right wing crowd 😛

    • *looks at your comment*
      *Re reads the article*
      Some people do see racism everywhere dont they.

  • I’ll help you out Brian.
    The people on twitter are ‘joking’.
    The joke is to descend into hyperbole over small things to convey passion for a topic. People then either Smirk, laugh or ignore it.

    • Many of them aren’t joking. If you only see the satire it’s because you’re twitter feed is well curated.

    • Schofield wasn’t joking, and a lot of the people who latched on to her original tweet weren’t either.

  • *Crying* And then, and then… *sniff* she said that… Anime was a mistake! *bawls his eyes out*

  • I just went through a book cull myself. Had over a hundred that just sat there for years. I was never going to reread them, no matter how much I told myself I would.

    Was kind of liberating when I donated them.

    • I have started re-reading some of my old books and reading some that I have never read before but which have been sitting on my shelves for years. It’s a great feeling.

      If you have the space and/or the clutter doesn’t bother you, I’d recommend keeping all your books forever.

  • Articles like this is why I stopped reading If I wanted to read Twitter grabs, I’d use Twitter.

    • Interesting. You consider Steam a ‘trash heap’ that’s impossible to navigate and would prefer it be curated, but rather than a curated subset of tweets relevant to the topic (as articles like this provide) you’d prefer to just have the unfiltered entirety of Twitter? That doesn’t seem consistent.

      • Re-reading my tone sounds like I’m having a go too, but I’m not. I’m genuinely curious why your view on curation is different across the two platforms.

      • Who me? Ummm. I just don’t use twitter. Kinda ditto for steam actually. I only really look at what’s on special.

        But you’re right. I think there’s waaaaay too much on steam (good memory there man) but I’d actually prefer just not to read twitter grabs at all. I don’t think it’s actually real, twitter is it’s own thing, exclusive to people who use twitter. I never see positive tweets, it’s all just horribleness and hating on things and it’s totally not news. I know it takes more time but you can’t get a real, nuanced idea of people’s view by selectively screen grabbing tweets. You have to actually interview people.

  • When I finish a book I give it too someone not wanting it returned, or donate it to the local library, that’s mainly because I read a lot of sci-fi and most of my local library’s don’t have a good selection.

    I would have a hundred or more books if I kept all those I’ve read and a hundred more if I bought all the ones I intend/want to read, it takes up way to much space I never have more than ten I’ve read and five I intend on reading at any given time.

    I despise Kindles as well much prefer the feel of a real book in my hands otherwise a lot of people could have all there books digital, but honestly I think it half people being pretentious book snobs and half just liking the way books look on a shelf artistically.

    • Big sci-fi lover here too – if you have time, what are your favourites? Mine would be Hyperion by Dan Simmons. Absolutely loved it.

      • At the moment the Expanse series started reading before the show and thought hey this would make a great TV series, almost all of Arthur C Clarks books I’ve read I enjoyed,
        “The Fountains of Paradise”
        “The City and the Stars”
        They are both really good, short but there is very little filler and there is always some sort of major plot twist as well which I love in his writing.

        I would also say Kim Stanley Robinson as well but I’ve only read the Mars series and 2312 they have a bit of “filler” but the world that he created was really amazing.

      • I have this book. I think I read it almost 25 years ago, although I may never have read it, for all I can remember. Must pull it off the shelf soon.

    • No point donating them to a local library. As someone who worked in them for years we were instructed to accept them with a smile and then bin 99% of them.

      The sad unspoken truth of libraries these days is that they have to constantly downsize and that means throwing out so many books.

      • That’s not true of all libraries. In the past few years I’ve lived in a few different places and the local libraries will take books in good condition and will either add them to the collection or sell them off during their monthly book sale to make some money for the library to purchase other new books.

        Check with your local library on their policy if you’re interested in donating books. Most will have an outline of the rules on their website.

  • Whenever there’s more than 10 comments and it’s not “talk-amongst-yourself” you just know someone has said something controversial.
    Also, e-books my dudes! Though I do like the idea of a hall of fame. My would just be the entire catalogues of China Miéville and William Gibson really. Maybe we could talk about books instead of the racism?
    Top 2 favourite authors of all time – go! Make it 3 if you want.

    • I couldn’t really give an ‘all time’ score, but for personal influence I have to rate Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. Dragonlance and the Deathgate Cycle were instrumental to developing my love of fantasy. For similar reasons I’d also have to rate Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, and H.P. Lovecraft.

    • Well you got mine before but Arthur C Clark (Sci-fi) and Dj Molles (post apocalyptic)

  • I have heard about far too many things today that I would have otherwise never had to know about if the people I knew didn’t use social media either.

  • That’s nothing. Imagine the backlash if she told Americans to limit themselves to thirty firearms! :0

  • Not watching dopey self-help shows on television and picking up a damn book brings me great joy.

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