Today’s blog is from Stephanie Anderson, who is part of our staff at Eternal Perspective Ministries. —Randy Alcorn
She’s petite and soft-spoken, but Marie Kondo is a force to be reckoned with. Her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has sold over 1.5 million copies in the U.S., and worldwide her books have sold more than 11 million copies in 40 countries. Most recently, she’s at the center of the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. It seems most everyone is talking about or at least familiar with the KonMari method of organizing a home.
I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and my husband and I have watched a few episodes from the series. My interest was personal: we have two young daughters and a smaller house (at least, for American standards) and struggle to keep our home as neat and organized as we’d like.
I enjoyed much of Marie’s book. I found her ideas useful, and my bookshelves, closets, and kitchen drawers are much improved because of her advice. In fact, as I read, I was reminded of what Randy Alcorn has written about possessions in The Treasure Principle: “The greater the mass, the greater the hold that mass exerts. The more things we own—the greater their total mass—the more they pull us into orbit around them. Finally, like a black hole, they suck us in.” How freeing to reduce our possessions and to have organized homes that serve our families well!
The KonMari Method can be a helpful tool for many people—including followers of Jesus. It can help us simplify and free us to appreciate what we already own. It can help us say “no” to buying unnecessary items. It can be a good way to start conversations with our neighbors and friends.
But we can share something even greater than the KonMari method. It’s not a stopping place, but rather, a starting one.
Most of us have way too much stuff. The solution might include drastically reducing the amount of things we own using the KonMari method, but it definitely should include an examination of our hearts.
Marie writes in The Magic Art of Tidying Up, “Rebound occurs because people mistakenly believe they have tidied thoroughly, when in fact they have only sorted and stored things halfway. If you put your house in order properly, you’ll be able to keep your room tidy, even if you are lazy or sloppy by nature” (p. 14). She encourages readers to change their habits by first changing their way of thinking (p. 15) and says that “Anyone who experiences this process, no matter who they are, will vow never to revert to clutter again” (p. 17).
But given human nature, we need to go a step further. Unless we examine the role our possessions (and our shopping habits!) play in our hearts, we can sort our closets and cabinets all we like, but end up in the same position (or worse) years or even just months later. Or we truly can have the neatest house on our block but be proud of it and just as materialistic as someone whose house is filled to the brim with possessions.
We’re often blind to our materialism, and our culture’s obsession with stuff makes it hard for us to see where the love of things might be encroaching on our hearts. Randy writes this in Money, Possessions, and Eternity:
The hardest part of dealing with our materialism is that it has become so much a part of us. Like people who have lived in darkness for years, we have been removed from the light so long that we don’t know how dark it really is. Many of us have never known what it is not to be materialistic. This is why we need so desperately to read the Scriptures, to grapple with these issues, bring them to God in prayer, discuss them with our brothers and sisters, and look for and learn from those rare models of nonmaterialistic living in our Christian communities.
Jesus reminds us, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24, NIV). Let’s be willing to continually ask God to show us where our possessions (whether we have a lot or a little) have taken a place that should be His alone.
We should be grateful for the things we own, but our gratitude should extend to the Giver.
Read Marie’s book or watch the show, and it’s obvious she’s coming from a worldview and religion that is very different from Christianity. One of the first things she does when she enters someone’s home to help them tidy is introduce herself to the house and thank it for taking care of its occupants.
This extends to items, too. Marie writes, “One of the homework assignments I give my clients is to appreciate their belongings. For example, I urge them to try saying, ‘Thank you for keeping me warm all day,’ when they hang up their clothes after returning home” (p. 168).
Although I haven’t started talking to my clothes (and it saddens me to see someone talking to a house, when we are invited to come directly to the Creator of the universe), I actually found this oddly convicting. How often have I been thankful for the small things I use every day, like my water bottle, my hairbrush, or the spatula that helps me make breakfast? But instead of thanking inanimate objects for their service, as Christians we can thank God for His generous provision, as the Giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). This can increase our happiness as our eyes are opened to the countless ways God abundantly provides for us.
Figuring out what items “spark joy” can be helpful in determining what we keep. But our greatest happiness isn’t found in keeping certain things for ourselves, but first in knowing Jesus, and then in giving generously to others.
One of the cornerstones of the KonMari method is sorting items by determining which ones bring you the most happiness. Marie writes, “My criterion for deciding to keep an item is that we should feel a thrill of joy when we touch it” (p. 59). This has encouraged me to ask, “Am I keeping this shirt because I really like it, or just because I got it for a good deal and hate to admit it just doesn’t fit?” and “Am I keeping this gift I was given out of guilt, or because I do like it?”
This is helpful—as long as we remember that the ultimate source of our joy isn’t the things we keep, but Jesus Himself. Having our sins forgiven and being reconciled to God is the greatest cause of celebration: “May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful” (Psalm 68:3).
Marie claims, “Putting your house in order is the magic that creates a vibrant and happy life” (p. 127). But as Megan Hill writes for The Gospel Coalition, “Minimalism is not the gospel.”
Tidying can bring joy, but it can’t give human hearts lasting satisfaction. Only Jesus can.
And there’s more. Because Jesus has transformed our hearts, we can follow His call to generously give away our money and possessions. Christ told us there’s more happiness in giving than receiving (Acts 20:35) and commanded us to store up our treasures in Heaven, not our homes (see Matthew 6:20). When we do, we’ll grow more excited over what we give rather than just what we keep.
So being aware of its limitations, go ahead and purge, sort, and tidy using the KonMari method.
But remember that we have something far better than a human system for organizing. May we rejoice that because of knowing Christ, we can be free from the love of things, our best possessions are eternal, our joy in the Lord is boundless, and our greatest happiness comes in giving to glorify Him.
This article also appeared in EPM's latest issue of Eternal Perspectives magazine.
Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.