I Don't Believe You, Marie Kondo
Rich moms don't clean their own houses
Professional tidier Marie Kondo has written four bestsellers that have been published in more than two dozen countries, has two Netflix series to her name, owns her own media company (of which her husband is the president), an online store that hawks her own brand of home organizing supplies, and has a lucrative collaboration with The Container Store. Her name is so synonymous with cleaning that it’s sometimes used as a verb (eg: “I’m going to Marie Kondo my closet this weekend and throw away all the shit I haven’t worn since 2018.”) She also has three children, the youngest of whom was born in 2021.
Recently, at an event, she admitted that because of the kids, her house is now “messy.” She went on, “Up until now, I was a professional tidier, so I did my best to keep my home tidy at all times. I have kind of given up on that in a good way for me. Now I realize what is important to me is enjoying spending time with my children at home.”
Discourse ensued, as discourse does. On social media, there was a chorus of “I Knew Its” and “WELL WELL WELL”s. People love it when perfection is unmasked as actually not perfect after all. There are few things we love more, culturally, than throwing the virgin into the volcano.
And then, of course, comes the backlash to the backlash.
Over on CNN in a piece entitled “Our frustration with Marie Kondo’s evolution is quite telling,” Holly Thomas writes,
In a culture that’s inherently suspicious of the unknown, change is often misread either as an aberration or as a tacit acknowledgment that we’d underperformed until that point. But as the queen of clean has demonstrated, change is often a sign of growth, of recognizing that the limits you once set for yourself were false.
Marie Kondo may have shifted her priorities from tidying to playtime, but that’s because she’s done what she always has: pay attention to what sparks joy. Tidying was good because it rid her space of unnecessary debris and made room for the things that mattered most. Now that her children are what matter most, tidying is the clutter that she needs to siphon off. It’s not an idealistic U-turn. It’s evolution.
Marie Kondo isn’t letting anybody down, she’s just evolving, and the fact that we have no room for that in the way we see public figures reflects a sort of toxic rigidity. Okay. Fair enough.
At the Los Angeles Times, Tracy Moore notes that many people have been waiting for a new reason to find Kondo annoying, because a lot of people already did, because of their relationship with their own belongings.
What’s resonant about Kondo’s latest revelation is that she’s reprioritizing her tidy-first mantra in favor of time with her children, which means she’s willing to continue examining her relationship to things, too. She’s just trying to make it work like the rest of us.
Every time a new lifestyle guru comes around to suggest a new approach, perhaps we should ask ourselves why it’s so enraging to consider our relationship to things — or what it is about who is doing the suggesting that rankles. My advice? Try taking what you like from their ideas and leave the rest to the donation bin. The choice is, and has always been, yours to make.
All well and good. No disagreement there.
I like Marie Kondo. I think she’s charming, sweet, and smart. Every time I see KonMari stuff at The Container Store I sigh wistfully and envision how much better my life would be if I were organized. I’m not opposed to anything about her writing or her philosophy. I think she’s fine. In fact, I’ve never been even mildly annoyed by Marie Kondo. Until now— and I’m more annoyed by our own collective gullibility than I am by Kondo herself.
I’m glad that Marie Kondo has spoken up about how difficult it is to maintain a clean house while raising children, and the importance of prioritizing your relationship with them over domestic appearances.
Children are agents of chaos. I spend more time cleaning now than I ever did before I had a child, and, even though I feel as though every extra second of my life is devoted to cleaning something up or wiping something down or putting something away, my house feels more chaotic than it ever did when there was one fewer person living here. One thing my daughter loves to do is take large containers that contain many smaller objects and dump all of those objects onto the floor, or use a blunt object to smash a soft object. Yesterday, smeared banana into all of the crevaces of her high chair. I can’t even get to half of it. The chair is going to smell like old banana until I’m able to physically hose it down. If there was a Mensa for messmaking, every toddler would be a member.
But can we please take a moment to acknowledge the absurity of the idea that a woman who launched and is the face of a mega-successful worldwide brand, whose husband helps run the day to day operations of one arm of that brand has nobody around to help her keep her house clean? Do we honestly believe that Marie Kondo is raising three little kids and cleaning her own house without any outside help whatsoever? Do we think she’s doing this herself, just like the average woman who bought her book or watched her Netflix shows-plural?
Come on, guys.
Marie Kondo isn’t cleaning her house because somebody else probably cleans her house.
I’m not knocking Marie Kondo’s skills as a parent or questioning her love for her children, nor am I questioning her acumen as a professional tidier. Good for her for wanting to spend time with her kids. I’m merely pointing out that rich people are never doing all of the work themselves. Why would they if they can afford help to do the things that they don’t want to do or don’t have the bandwidth for?
Lots of people bristled at Kondo’s decluttering philosophy before this admission, citing the impossible standard it set for their own homes and complicated lives. But isn’t it even more unrealistic to believe that a woman is raising three kids (one of whom is a toddler) and trying to keep her house in a livable state has time to organize her scrapbooks by color? (Even if she does live in a place that has better structural support for parents and children!)
This reminds me of a time years back when I saw Jerry Seinfeld perform a stand up set before a sold-out crowd in a massive casino, a show for which he probably made more money than the cost of four years’ tuition at Columbia, and he had a joke in there where he talked about working in the garage and his wife needing him to run an errand a person as rich as Jerry Seinfeld would never ever run for himself.
No you weren’t, Jerry, and no she didn’t.
Very wealthy people might mean well when they pretend they experience the same struggles that the rest of us do. They might want to use their platform to normalize a problem that doesn’t get talked about enough. But they also might want to cosplay as regular for the purposes of marketing themselves. And we fall for it, every time.