The Rise of Kon-Mari and the Fall of… Capitalism?

How Marie Kondo and her “sparking joy” method of minimalism and de-cluttering directly challenge our consumerist and capitalist way of life in the United States.


Buzzfeed News recently reported on a huge surge of donations to thrift stores nationwide. While some outlets say they can’t necessarily predict the source of this surge, others have their own idea. Two words: Marie Kondo.

Ever since “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” dropped on Netflix January 1st, viewers have been drawn to Kondo’s gentleness, playfulness, and passion for tidying.  People around the country have been caught up in purging their homes with things that don’t bring them joy and storing their precious items in special ways. It appears that Kondo’s message of self-love, family, minimalism, and joy resonates deeply. But is there perhaps a deeper meaning to the Kon-Mari method?

Not only does Marie Kondo “spark joy” for viewers and practitioners of tidying, but her methods of minimalism and de-cluttering directly challenge our consumerist and capitalist way of life in the United States. Easily the most quotable of Kondo’s tenets is the phrase, “spark joy.” While sifting through the piles of stuff you’ve accumulated, you are meant to handle each item individually and determine whether or not it sparks joy for you. Only the items that fill you with a joyful feeling should be kept.

Within this message of only keeping certain belongings is the idea of owning less overall—the logical conclusion of which is that we should be buying less, too. If you are constantly thinking about what sparks joy, you are probably less likely to go on weekly shopping sprees in the $3 bin at Target (yes, I’m looking at you!). You only purchase things that bring you joy, not what society and its marketers say you need. You resist those Facebook ads for dresses and skincare products, because you actively check-in in with yourself and your body (that “ching!” feeling she describes) instead of purchasing to fill holes within you, to keep up with the next trends, and allowing your brain and thoughts to be invaded by the ear-worms of advertising.

Capitalism relies on the pull of consumerism, assuming that people will—and should—always be buying more stuff; capitalism makes things disposable.

Kon-Mari encourages the opposite: that we should love and respect each item in our homes, empowering us to maintain a few things that bring us joy, rather than getting caught in the cycle of purchasing, replacing, and upgrading that fuels capitalism.

This cycle of consumption is about having more, yes—but what’s the purpose of all this acquisition? Capitalism tells us that the more stuff we have, the happier we will be, because obviously having fifty different pairs of shoes to choose from in your closet is better than having two. This tenet applies to the market, as well, and we’ve become so used to it we don’t even notice. For example, wouldn’t it be strange to walk into a grocery store and only have three different kinds of cereal to choose from? As it is, all we really have is an illusion of choice—the options we have aren’t that different, and many of them are made by the same parent companies.

I suspect that Marie Kondo would prefer a near-empty store because it’s easier to tell if something sparks joy if you only have to differentiate between a few things. For her, having a few things you adore is more than enough. Her method almost views freedom as freedom from choice—having too many options and too much stuff confuses our direction and keeps us from pursuing our true joys. Rather than narrowing our worlds, if we clear the physical junk and focus our decision-making on bigger endeavors (than what kind of soap to buy or what outfit to wear in the morning) our potential exponentializes.

Author Derrick Jensen poses the question, “Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?” Fewer choices = less mud. Marie Kondo is much more interested in what you see through that clear water.

The manipulative tactics of the market also muddy our choices. Too often, we allow ourselves to be driven by the wants and needs of the owning class—millionaires, stock market tycoons, and Jeff Bezos. The sundry messages we get on a daily basis from commercials, billboards, and celebrity endorsements cloud our true desires.

Capitalism doesn’t encourage us to follow what sparks joy, but rather drives us by the demands of the market.

It wants us to meet the needs of industry, and to measure our personal success by the size of our paychecks. Kondo assumes that if we clear our lives of clutter, of extra weight, then we will have more clarity in our hearts and minds as well, that we will have more space to pursue our deepest, most pressing goals. She wants us to explore our full potential—she wants us to dream and pursue our fantasies. Only in this way will we be the people we are meant to be and live the lives we want to live.

To be sure, the Kon-Mari method isn’t an economic system, and as such can’t truly be a replacement for capitalism. Kondo herself is making a profit off of her own minimalism, and perhaps that fact feeds back into the same system and the same problems she tries to speak out against. But the deepest challenges to systems of imbalanced power and oppression are unrestrained ideas—ideas that inspire change, action, and yes, revolutions.

So, while you’re clearing your home of clothes, books, papers, and komodo—consider purging capitalism from that list as well. Who knows what we will discover in the space that is left?

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Robin grew up in St. Louis, MO and is now a professional school counselor in Houston, TX where they live with their wife and a menagerie of animals. Robin identifies as queer and gender non-binary. Their work has appeared in The Coe Review, on the stage of The Red-Eye Theatre Project, and on Mic.com.

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The Rise of Kon-Mari and the Fall of… Capitalism?

How Marie Kondo and her “sparking joy” method of minimalism and de-cluttering directly challenge our consumerist and capitalist way of life in the United States.


Buzzfeed News recently reported on a huge surge of donations to thrift stores nationwide. While some outlets say they can’t necessarily predict the source of this surge, others have their own idea. Two words: Marie Kondo.

Ever since “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” dropped on Netflix January 1st, viewers have been drawn to Kondo’s gentleness, playfulness, and passion for tidying.  People around the country have been caught up in purging their homes with things that don’t bring them joy and storing their precious items in special ways. It appears that Kondo’s message of self-love, family, minimalism, and joy resonates deeply. But is there perhaps a deeper meaning to the Kon-Mari method?

Not only does Marie Kondo “spark joy” for viewers and practitioners of tidying, but her methods of minimalism and de-cluttering directly challenge our consumerist and capitalist way of life in the United States. Easily the most quotable of Kondo’s tenets is the phrase, “spark joy.” While sifting through the piles of stuff you’ve accumulated, you are meant to handle each item individually and determine whether or not it sparks joy for you. Only the items that fill you with a joyful feeling should be kept.

Within this message of only keeping certain belongings is the idea of owning less overall—the logical conclusion of which is that we should be buying less, too. If you are constantly thinking about what sparks joy, you are probably less likely to go on weekly shopping sprees in the $3 bin at Target (yes, I’m looking at you!). You only purchase things that bring you joy, not what society and its marketers say you need. You resist those Facebook ads for dresses and skincare products, because you actively check-in in with yourself and your body (that “ching!” feeling she describes) instead of purchasing to fill holes within you, to keep up with the next trends, and allowing your brain and thoughts to be invaded by the ear-worms of advertising.

Capitalism relies on the pull of consumerism, assuming that people will—and should—always be buying more stuff; capitalism makes things disposable.

Kon-Mari encourages the opposite: that we should love and respect each item in our homes, empowering us to maintain a few things that bring us joy, rather than getting caught in the cycle of purchasing, replacing, and upgrading that fuels capitalism.

This cycle of consumption is about having more, yes—but what’s the purpose of all this acquisition? Capitalism tells us that the more stuff we have, the happier we will be, because obviously having fifty different pairs of shoes to choose from in your closet is better than having two. This tenet applies to the market, as well, and we’ve become so used to it we don’t even notice. For example, wouldn’t it be strange to walk into a grocery store and only have three different kinds of cereal to choose from? As it is, all we really have is an illusion of choice—the options we have aren’t that different, and many of them are made by the same parent companies.

I suspect that Marie Kondo would prefer a near-empty store because it’s easier to tell if something sparks joy if you only have to differentiate between a few things. For her, having a few things you adore is more than enough. Her method almost views freedom as freedom from choice—having too many options and too much stuff confuses our direction and keeps us from pursuing our true joys. Rather than narrowing our worlds, if we clear the physical junk and focus our decision-making on bigger endeavors (than what kind of soap to buy or what outfit to wear in the morning) our potential exponentializes.

Author Derrick Jensen poses the question, “Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?” Fewer choices = less mud. Marie Kondo is much more interested in what you see through that clear water.

The manipulative tactics of the market also muddy our choices. Too often, we allow ourselves to be driven by the wants and needs of the owning class—millionaires, stock market tycoons, and Jeff Bezos. The sundry messages we get on a daily basis from commercials, billboards, and celebrity endorsements cloud our true desires.

Capitalism doesn’t encourage us to follow what sparks joy, but rather drives us by the demands of the market.

It wants us to meet the needs of industry, and to measure our personal success by the size of our paychecks. Kondo assumes that if we clear our lives of clutter, of extra weight, then we will have more clarity in our hearts and minds as well, that we will have more space to pursue our deepest, most pressing goals. She wants us to explore our full potential—she wants us to dream and pursue our fantasies. Only in this way will we be the people we are meant to be and live the lives we want to live.

To be sure, the Kon-Mari method isn’t an economic system, and as such can’t truly be a replacement for capitalism. Kondo herself is making a profit off of her own minimalism, and perhaps that fact feeds back into the same system and the same problems she tries to speak out against. But the deepest challenges to systems of imbalanced power and oppression are unrestrained ideas—ideas that inspire change, action, and yes, revolutions.

So, while you’re clearing your home of clothes, books, papers, and komodo—consider purging capitalism from that list as well. Who knows what we will discover in the space that is left?

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