Tidying Up With Marie Kondo is a Netflix show is about a woman (Marie Kondo) who wants to free people from the physical and emotional trash prisons in which they have trapped themselves. She works with people to declutter their homes, urging them to go through all of their belongings and get rid of anything that does not “spark joy,” including books.
If, upon reading that sentence, you screamed at the top of your lungs and flung whatever device you’re reading this on across the room, shouting, “DON’T TAKE MY BOOOOOKS,” then you’re in good company. As people began binging Kondo’s show in early January, many bristled at the thought of having to toss out their books in the same way they would their half-melted candles and 2007 Turkey Trot T-shirts.
“Do NOT listen to Marie Kondo or Konmari in relation to books,” tweeted novelist Anakana Schofield. “Fill your apartment & world with them. I don’t give a shite if you throw out your knickers and Tupperware but the woman is very misguided about BOOKS. Every human needs a v extensive library not clean, boring shelves.”
In an essay for The Guardian, Schofield added that the idea that books should “spark joy” is ludicrous. “Literature does not exist only to provoke feelings of happiness or to placate us with its pleasure; art should also challenge and perturb us.”
For the Washington Post, critic Ron Charles wrote, “We’re not after sparks of joy — we want to swim in wonder.”
And then, in another cluttered trash prison (Twitter) there was the backlash to the backlash.
Just when you thought the discourse had become as overstuffed and messy as a pre-Kondo’d home, the woman herself spoke out. Kondo told IndieWire through her interpreter, Marie Iida, that her message is not to throw out all of your books, it is to “think about what you have and about the discovery of your sense of value, what you value that is important.”
“So it’s not so much what I personally think about books. The question you should be asking is what do you think about books. If the image of someone getting rid of books or having only a few books makes you angry, that should tell you how passionate you are about books, what’s clearly so important in your life. If that riles you up, that tells you something you about that. That in itself is a very important benefit of this process.”
When struggling to decide whether to get rid of an item in your home, Kondo advises thanking it, and then letting it go. And so, with that, thank you, Marie Kondo book drama. I am now letting you go.