Time for spring cleaning, Marie Kondo’s magic, Acts of God and The Less is more future.
I had the gain up to high on my mic this week. Sorry for the room noise, it is every podcasters nemesis.
1818: Mise En Place: https://permanentlymoved.libsyn.com/301-1818-mise-en-place
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Spring is trying to sprung here in London. So feeling the rhythm of the year we turn our minds towards renewal and refreshment. I’m sure it’s not just me that’s starting to get that ‘time to spring clean’ vibe. Open the windows, blow away the stale air, take a look at the dust ON TOP of your books, not the shelf itself. And decide which friendly spiders can stay and who can move on.
I’ve never been a particularly tidy person. Infact Mr Messy was probably my Mr Man of choice until I morphed into Mr Grumble. For ALL of my teenage years through my early twenties not a single surface could be free for a second without something ending up on them. Including the floor. As an adult I’ve wondered if a lot of that was a protracted period of unrecognised depression. Neither have ever been particularly organised in my personal life. Those behaviours that I get hired and paid to help other people with are all learnt in the professional environment.
I’m also really bad at catching hype cycles. I’m a year late on this one but this week I wanted to talk about everyone’s favourite domestic exorcist Mari Kondo and the “ life changing magic of tidying up”. I can honestly say her book also changed my life back in 2012. Right now as I speak. All my clothes draws are folded with the Mari Kondo method. I even have the cut down shoe boxes to keep things organised.
When the TV show aired last Jan and the internet got mad about books. The whole episode is shameful. The outrage (as with many internet shitstorms) was fueled mostly by a willful misunderstanding of what Kondo says in her book. The idea of sparking joy does not come from a books content, rather the connection you have to the book as an object. She isn’t saying to only keep books whose stories make you happy, but objects that make you happy. I would also go as far to say there was a considerable current of racism involved in that whole affair.
Way way back in episode 1818 i spoke about Mise en place and the spirit of places informing the use of a space. It comes as no surprise to me that Kondo encourages us ‘to greet the house’. A communion with the house spirit-s plural to ask them to help us tidy. These scenes in the TV show somewhat orientalised, but I was glad for their inclusion.
A truer experience of more than human life ways is the decolonial project for us in the west during the next century. Her book brings a light animism into your life in a way that isn’t scary. If a pair of socks spark joy in you, then the feeling is reciprocal
Most western publications on her animism smuggling lead with the fact she worked as an assistant at a Shinto shrine. But this quote from Kondo disabuses us of that saying “(Shintoism) influences me, but not as strongly as you might think”.
For me the magical part of Kondo’s story is in 2010 when she takes a course called ‘How to write bestsellers that will be loved for ten years.” At the end of that process she gets a publishing deal for the book that will become life changing magic without having written a single word. One of the editors and judges of the course Tomohiro Takahashi said in an interview: “I felt a mysterious energy around her that I had never experienced around other people”…“She’s going to be on TV and become famous.”.
And here we are.
If I ever met her it would be that period of her life that I ask her about. But between her selling her book to the publisher and becoming a worldwide phenomenon was an act of god. The 2011 earthquake had a huge impact on Japanese culture. Questions around what was important in life, and what was the true value of sentimental items? And what was the meaning of the items they’d lost? Was widespread. The magical answer that is contained in Kondo’s book of course is to ask them. Sales exploded and we are where we are.
The key magic in the book is without a doubt identifying items in your house that ‘spark joy’, a term that is difficult to grasp. For Westerners I think spark joy’s cousin “Oh, what a waste!” is useful. The guilt or sadness you experience when disposing of something before its potential utility has been exhausted. Spark joy then is its opposite. The joyous feeling you experience when you use an item in your life. Honestly, if you haven’t given her book ago i really recommend it.
The book however isn’t a one off process. It’s always ongoing. Kondo I think suggests honing one’s skills towards a strategic investment in goods. Which is antithetical to the consumerist culture we live in. it’s also worth remembering that it rose to prominence after a natural disaster.
With the uncertain climate futures we are facing, and the urgent process of decolonisation that is required in our culture. We are going to need strategies for de-growth and re-enchantment.
Yes the future can be defined by less is more, but it’s also a future far mare alive than the present reality we live in. Surrounded by mournful plastic that will inhabit the earth for 100,000 years. I think her book is a fantastic and important book not just of today but for the future. If you didn’t get it last year, maybe try it this spring and get a jump on the future.
The above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.
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