Lighten Up by Agnes R. Howard

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Lighten Up

Agnes R. Howard Says, Marie Kondo Does Not Spark My Joy

Japanese de-cluttering expert Marie Kondo, avatar of the neatly packed suitcase and the well-folded shirt, refreshes Americans’ resolutions for a better life with her Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. In the show, the heroine knocks on doors of personages drowning in stuff and helps them to banish it. By mid-January, thrift shops were reporting themselves drowned in donations inspired by Kondo’s clean-outs. Yet despite her whimsy and cheer, Kondo has never appealed to me. I am not immune to the charms of the organized life, but living fruitfully with a loose hand on worldly goods calls for a different sort of approach.

To be fair, in the show Kondo is respectful of the neatness-needy persons she assists. She doesn’t just fling everything in the trash. She recognizes the complex status of possessions as carriers of emotion and memory. And she is right that some things deserve to be cherished, mostly because of the associations they carry with beloved people or pivotal experiences.

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Agnes R. Howard is adjunct assistant professor of humanities in Christ College, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana, and author of Showing: What Pregnancy Tells Us about Being Human (Eerdmans, 2020).

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