The Minimalists’ opinion of Marie Kondo

I’ve been interested in Minimalism. I’ve been reading and listening to content about minimalism. The first book I read on the subject was Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizational consultant. I learned a lot from her book. Not only did I learn better ways of organizing the things I have. I learned to get rid of the things that do not spark joy.

Get rid of things that do not spark joy

Why have things if they don’t bring you happiness? After reading her book, I took a large plastic tote and put a sign on it that read, “Things That Do Not Spark Joy.” I then put things in the box that, well, didn’t spark joy. I took a lot of these items to Goodwill. As it turned out, taking things over to Goodwill sparked joy. The guys who run the Goodwill intake drop off are always so nice, pleasant, and thankful.

The Minimalists: Joshua Fields Millburn (left) and Ryan Nicodemus.

In my pursuit of living a more minimal life, one of the things I did was to subscribe to The Minimalists podcast. They were the subjects of a documentary with the same name that’s now available on Netflix.

I’m working my way back through The Minimalists’ back catalog of podcast episodes. Yesterday I was listening to episode 53: Organizing. Something I heard in this episode astounded me. A listener, Greg in Denver, called in and left a voice message asking what they thought of Marie Kondo and her books. I expected to hear them talk about how great her books are. I expected to hear them talk about how beneficial her books are to anyone who wants to declutter their lives.

What I heard was something much different.

Jealous much?

Joshua Fields Millburn sounded completely dismissive of Marie Kondo and her books. Unlike Marie Kondo, The Minimalists don’t teach you a better way of folding socks. He told her books are how-to books, while their books are more why-to books.


Marie Kondo

I took this to mean it’s more important to know why to let things go than it is how to let things go. This seemed silly because Marie Kondo was quite clear why it’s important to let go of things.

Joshua Fields Millburn then spoke about Marie Kondo’s “supposedly” most famous tip, the advice to rid your life of things that do not spark joy. In 2011, he and Ryan wrote an essay (they refer to their blog posts as essays) about how they make sure everything they own serves a purpose or brings them joy. He said in 2014, Marie Kondo “echoed” the sentiment in her book. She said everything you own should spark joy.

It sounded as though Joshua Fields Millburn was implying Marie Kondo ripped him off. He seemed to suggest her tip about not holding onto things that do not spark joy was something he crafted years earlier. Why point out when he wrote about it compared to when her book was published?

I found Ryan Nicodemus’s comments about Marie Kondo’s books even more troublesome. He said he has never read her books. How can anyone who makes a living teaching the value of minimalism not have read the world’s most accomplished author on the subject?

That makes absolutely no sense to me.

Hearing The Minimalists speak this way about Marie Kondo and her work makes me question everything they say. For now, I’ll still listen to this podcast, but I’ll listen with a more critical ear.

1 thought on “The Minimalists’ opinion of Marie Kondo”

  1. Hi,

    I’ve liked reading your post. Two days ago I watched the The minimalists documentary and I couldn’t believe they didn’t mention Marie Kondo at all. Not because they don’t talk about her, her work will disappear.

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