Lifestyle & Human Interest

What 'Tidying Up' Star Marie Kondo Gets Wrong About the Word 'Joy'


Ever since Marie Kondo’s new show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” premiered on Netflix at the beginning of the year, people have become obsessed with “Marie Kondo-ing” their homes.

The resurgence of focusing on tidying up feels very similar to the hype around her #1 New York Times best-selling book outlining the same tidying up processes when it was released in 2014. For those who have not seen the show or read the book, let me catch you up.

Kondo created and teaches something called The KonMari Method™. In this method of tidying up, people are encouraged to simplify the belongings in their home by category (clothes, books, papers, etc).

There are six basic rules for this method: “commit yourself to tidying up,” “imagine your ideal lifestyle,” “finish discarding first,” “tidy by category, not location,” “follow the right order” and “ask yourself if it sparks joy.”

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That last rule, “ask yourself if it sparks joy,” has become the most popular reference to Kondo’s method. Many hilarious memes have been born as a result and many of my friends have worked it into everyday conversations.

Since this new show has brought the use of the word “joy” back to the forefront of society’s mind, I want to take a moment to really explore what this word means to me and millions of other Christians across the world.

You see, in the Bible, there is a recurring theme of joy. Every time it is mentioned, there is only one source of great joy: the Lord.

To see examples of this you can read James 1:2-4, Galatians 5:22-23, John 15:11, 1 Peter 1:6-9 and so many others.

While Kondo teaches that physical items can spark joy, the Bible teaches that the fullness of joy can only come from God.

While I don’t think Kondo was talking about the same kind of joy as is described in the Bible, I do think it’s important for followers of Christ to take a step back and recognize the difference. Sometimes the weight of the word can be lost when used too much or in too many different scenarios.

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But what exactly is the difference? Surely the kind of joy that comes from an old shirt from my senior year homecoming week is different than the kind of joy that comes from an all-knowing, everlasting God.

I think the answer can be found in the other part of the phrase Marie Kondo so often says — more specifically the word “spark.”

Think about a spark. It is a tiny particle launched from a larger fire or two surfaces hitting each other with immense force, but the spark itself only lasts for a millisecond. In other words, its existence is fleeting.

I think this context is important to keep in mind as we think about what emotion Marie Kondo is describing while helping people tidy up. Yes, maybe that beloved shirt from high school sparks joy but that emotion is fleeting because, according to the Bible, all things in the world, including its desires, are also fleeting.

The joy that comes from the Lord, however, is described in complete contrast. The Bible describes it as a fullness of joy or as a great joy.

In Psalm 16:11 David wrote, “In your presence there is fullness of joy.” And later in Luke 2:10-11, an angel told shepherds that baby Jesus was the reason for “great joy.”

This is a joy that we as believers have access to now. According to John Piper, the joy that comes from the Lord is so full and so great that it leaves us fully satisfied, despite the ups and downs of sin and pain.

As we look forward to the promises that God has made — that He is actively working to fully restore the world and everything in it, including those who love Him — the only natural response can be joy.

So yes, maybe your well-loved t-shirt from high school brings back fond memories and makes you feel like you’re 18 all over again, but I can promise you that it doesn’t bring you joy, or at least the same kind of joy that the Bible speaks of. That kind of joy can only come from the Lord.

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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