The Netflix TV show “Tidying Up” with Marie Kondo is taking the nation by storm.
This woman’s gentle, joyful method of tidying up has shop-happy Americans cleaning up their acts one trash bag at a time.
Marie Kondo’s show demonstrates her using the Konmari method (a name she made up based on her first and last name, but I say kudos!) to several families in need of help. She arrives, with a massive sweet smile and sweet intention. She helps the family to see what they DO have – love, a safe home, family – and then gets to work training them to get rid of what they do NOT need.
Yet, when it comes to books, several book-advocates draw the line.
Turning a Page on Marie Kondo
In a recent episode, books were on her chopping block. And that lit up a firestorm (which I suppose is better than a, he-hem, bonfire).
Ron Charles of the Washington Post boldly declared books were off limits in his piece called “Keep Your Tidy, Spark-Joy Hands off my Book Piles, Marie Kondo.” Now typically, titles are no more than 6 words, but I suppose that to demonstrate he is so adamantly against purging books, he splurged on words themselves.
I was so taken by his article I made this graphic to remember its bite.
Another article from The Guardian was titled, “Why We Gain from Keeping Books – and Why It Doesn’t Need to Be Joy.” The author, Anakana Schofield begs readers to see Marie Kondo’s method as an insidious way to discourage reading.
In a flat refusal of Marie’s trending joy-centered purging, Schofield explains why books should be exempt: “Literature does not exist only to provoke feelings of happiness or to placate us with its pleasure; art should also challenge and perturb us” (The Guardian, Schofield, 2019).
Sirens At Work Unbinding Culture
And it’s this statement which blew my eyes open to the reality that not every scourge against reading in our day has to be among the bonfire likes of “Fahrenheit 451.” To be sure, Ray Bradbury’s book has helped us to train our eyes to see the threat to culture to come in the form of a police state and outright censorship.
The First Siren
But the threat evermore becomes one of beauty, a siren that beckons. For the last 10 years, it’s been the onslaught and expectation of being entertained at every moment by bright lights flickering on portable screens (I know many people benefit from reading books on screens – that comment is not addressed to you). A flashy screen is hard to resist. Endless games, apps…
Which – commercial break – is why I make these for my kids. They love crossing off the boxes as they complete 20 minutes. Here’s one for winter! My daughter reminds me I am to share it with you here! For a PDF version, click on the download box – you’ll start to get news and deals in your email box if so! I want you to have the very best 😉
The Second Siren
Getting back to the issue at hand, another threat to culture lately has been the trend toward emulating home-decor-perfection. Bookshelves are messy? Turn the bindings backward so all you see are pages. Or, simply take most of the books off the shelves to show 3 at a time with a plant and a mirror. After all, aren’t books just for show?
Just think of all the fun conversations we are missing out on by keeping titles hidden.
The Third Siren
And then we have this most recent siren – the one of simplicity. Make no mistake, this trend is important to heed, especially in America. Nothing has had a better effect on my mental health and cleaning schedule like downsizing our home!
But like Charles and Schofield, I draw the line at books. I feel it’s a threat to an open mind. Who can resist having an impossibly sweet organizer whisper “you don’t need anything that doesn’t make you happy” in my ear when all those challenges to my thoughts, embodied in titles and pictures, and sometimes cringe-worthy reads, have indeed made me who I am today.
In fact, I can’t imagine a more superficial threading of books on my shelf than whether it gives me joy.
Indeed, if I could quote the artful Schofield one last time, “Unread books are imagined reading futures, not an indication of failure.”
See your shelves for what they are: your imagination’s future.
And Marie Kondo, I thank YOU.