Marie Kondo

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Marie Kondo Photograph courtesy of Sunmark Publishing, Inc.

Kondo Your Condo and Keep the Things That Spark Joy

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis described Marie Kondo as a modern-day “Marie Poppins” in TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2015. Kondo “has turned decluttering . . . into shelf help, an art form with a legion of newly neat devotees,” Curtis wrote. The popularity of Kondo’s organizing techniques has caused her name to become a verb. If you have kondoed your house, you’ve removed the unnecessary belongings. Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing consultant and her most recent book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has been published in 16 countries. Tokyo Journal Executive Editor Anthony Al-Jamie spoke with Marie Kondo about her career.

TJ: Can you tell us about what you do?
KONDO: I work as an organizing consultant. I gave individual lessons at my clients’ homes for over 10 years. But since I released my newest book, I’ve been busy visiting many different countries for promotion or training organizing consultants rather than working as a consultant myself.

TJ: What makes your service unique?
KONDO: My cleaning or tidying methods consist of many different techniques. One technique is to tidy everything all at once. For example, when you organize your clothes, you gather all the clothes you have, put them in one place and from there you choose the ones you need. My organizing method focuses on how you choose things that are necessary for you – if it makes your heart sparkle or not. You choose things to keep instead of choosing things to throw away, which people conventionally do.

TJ: So you throw things away that don’t make your heart sparkle. Do companies use a different approach?
KONDO: First of all, I recommend that you clean your house before starting your office. If the expression “makes your heart sparkle” isn’t suitable at your workplace, then you can choose depending on whether it improves the company’s operations, brings benefits or not, and so on. In any case, the important thing is to have a clear standard for choosing.

TJ: How did you originally learn how to clean?
KONDO: I was already interested in tidying up when I was ve. I was reading lifestyle magazines that my mother and I were subscribed to back then. By the time I was in junior high, I had nished reading all the publications on tidying up published in Japan, so I went home or to my friends’ places to clean up and practice various methods every single day after school. I spent my entire youth like that.

TJ: How did your career start?
KONDO: It started when I was 19 years old during my sophomore year of college. I would tidy my friend’s house near me. Then a rumor started that every time I went to somebody’s home, his or her house got all tidied up, and I started getting job offers from all over the place.

TJ: When was the first break in your career?
KONDO: The media coverage for my book. Many people started to read my book after it was covered by The New York Times and the famous Japanese TV show Kin Suma. I cleaned up some celebrities’ places a couple of times and that caught a lot of people’s attention.

TJ: Have you gotten any jobs from celebrities overseas?
KONDO: Not yet, but when I was chosen as one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most In uential People in the World, Jamie Lee Curtis wrote the article about me.

TJ: How do you study English?
KONDO: I have a private English teacher. Also, I study by listening to the English audio book version of my book.

TJ: Have you found any differences between the U.S. and Japan when it comes to organizing?
KONDO: They are basically the same, but what I found interesting was that Americans have many more children’s toys in their homes compared to Japanese people, and they are having a hard time keeping them tidy.

TJ: What is the hardest project you have ever had so far?
KONDO: I did an individual lesson for a client who lived in a three-story house, where I couldn’t see the oors or walls at all. It took me two years to nish.

TJ: Can you apply your theory to other things besides cleaning?
KONDO: Yes, you can. My method is based on something very spiritual. In the process of choosing things that really spark joy – the things that are necessary – you sharpen your judgment. You learn to choose what’s best for you at work or in relationships with other people.

TJ: I understand that you spent a lot of time working as an attendant in a Shinto shrine. Did that experience influence your philosophy?
KONDO: Yes. I believe the way I think about appreciating things one by one is connected with Shinto. I suggest that people say, “Thank you” to their things one by one when they throw them away.

TJ: What do you think about recycling?
KONDO: I think it is a good idea. Even if something didn’t make your heart sparkle, it may be useful for others. I think we should recycle and reuse more for the global environment. tj

The complete article is available in Issue #277. Click here to order from Amazon.

Written By:

Anthony Al-Jamie

Anthony Al-Jamie lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years. His in-depth understanding of Japanese language and culture has allowed him to carry out interviews with many of the most renowned individuals in Japan. He first began writing for the Tokyo Journal in the 1990s as Education Editor, later he was promoted to Senior Editor, and eventually International Editor and Executive Editor. He currently serves the Tokyo Journal as Editor-in-Chief.


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