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Marie Kondo: How to Clean Your Home

September 30, 2020


For some time now I have been reading items in the media about Marie Kondo, the “tidying consultant” and I must admit, I’m completely baffled by the whole subject. She has been in the public eye since 2011, when her book The Life-Changing, Pulsing Magic of Tidying Up in Japan.

I am not surprised by the topic of this book – people write about all sorts of things these days – but what leaves me absolutely flabbergasted is the reaction to it. Full disclosure: no I have not read the book, nor do I intend to, but the popularity of it and the lucrative results of this topic absolutely amaze me.

According to an in-depth and detailed nine-page article written by Elizabeth Segran, a senior staff writer at Fast Company that appeared in the June 2020 issue, Kondo was fascinated with home organization as a five-year-old. (Well, this is proof positive that it’s a good idea to get an early start on a career.)

As she got older, she felt a spiritual connection to certain objects that spurred tokimeku, a Japanese word that refers to the flutter you feel in your body when something delights you. In college, Kondo studied sociology, took a day job and also worked nights and weekends to build a business that focused on helping people clear their homes of accumulated goods.

During this time she also took a six-month writing course and wrote her first book that she pitched to publishers. When it hit the shelves in 2011 it was a hit in Japan. Then she met and married Kawahara, her husband in 2014, the year of her book’s U.S. debut and in 2016 they moved to San Francisco. Kondo doesn’t waste time – ever! Or, as she relates, “We came to the United States because it had the strongest reaction to my book.”

That Kondo’s philosophy caught on anywhere outside of Japan still baffles Kondo and Kawahara (it baffles me, too). Two million copies were sold in the U.S. “The sheer volume of readers was just shocking,” Kawahara says.

Along with the attention came a spate of new business opportunities. The couple launched (1) a premium mobile experience in Japan in 2015, then a year later it was (2) a free iPhone app and (3) in Australia KonMari trademarked the term “spark joy” for computer software that related to guidance about personal lifestyle – a TurboTax for tidying, if you will. “It was an explosion,” Kawahara recalls.

Kawahara is CEO of KonMari Media, which he cofounded with his wife in 2015. “We both love to work,” he says. “She is an author who is good at sending a message to the world. I’m good at creating businesses and establishing networks.”

By far, the most effective conduit for spreading the KonMari method has been TV. Kondo’s book was made into a Japanese drama in 2013. In 2016, Kondo starred in an English language special for the Japanese network NHK, in which she helped New Yorkers straighten things up. Full disclosure: I watch Chanel 1279 or News Hong Kong (NHK) in Manhattan all the time – and think it’s absolutely terrific. It appears in 18 languages all over the world. In particular, I find their  “Lifestyle” programs absolutely riveting.

Moving on, Kondo and Netflix joined up in an eight-part series on New Year’s Day in 2019. The response was staggering. Google searches for “Marie Kondo” were 100 times what they were when the book went on sale in the U.S. By the end of 2019, she had established an e-commerce site, a blog and a newsletter and had increased her consultant network to 40 countries.

NOW WE’RE UP TO A NEW BOOK titled Joy at Work that Kondo sold at an auction in the spring of 2018 to a division of Little Brown. This expansion into the workplace means an emphasis on content and products related to work life. And did we mention that during all of this drama and hyper activity Kondo also gave birth to two girls? These little charmers are now three-and four-years-old.

This has led to flash cards that helps youngsters clean up before returning to school plus a picture book for preschoolers that tells the story of a squirrel and an owl whose friendship is put to the test because of the squirrel’s hoarding tendencies.

I can’t help wondering: what’s next? I’m exhausted just editing/writing this but I know that Kondo is still going full steam ahead.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick

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