What I Learnt About Being a Mess From Marie Kondo, the Queen of Tidying Up

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What I Learnt About Being a Mess From Marie Kondo, the Queen of Tidying Up

Illustration: Akshita Monga


On the first day of the new year, I morosely lay in bed, watching the adorable Marie Kondo teach Americans how to clean on her new Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Based on her bestselling book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the Netflix self-help show follows our eponymous heroine as she teaches clueless adults how to declutter and organise their lives using her signature “KonMari Method”. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the KonMari method involves separating one’s possessions in predefined categories and then holding each item, looking it in the eye, and evaluating its expiry date based on whether it “sparked joy” for you.

The timing of a show that encouraged Americans to be better (just at cleaning – don’t get too excited) wasn’t a coincidence: Being more organised seems to be a popular New Year’s resolution, if sales for calendars, organisers, and bullet journals are anything to go by. Traditionally, annual resolutions have always stemmed from a searing bout of self-hate after we realise that something is terribly lacking in us: Losing weight. Scoring higher marks. Getting that raise. Getting abs. Dropping a banger album. Writing the great Indian novel. Each of these resolutions focuses on the things that remain unaccomplished – year after year – invariably determined by an unrealistic desire to keep up with the Sharmas. But more than anything, these are the kind of resolutions that exist to make us feel bad about ourselves.

I’m no stranger to the seductive draw of the #noexcuses, #hustlehard grind. It’s basically how I found myself watching the first episode, where Bret scream-asks his wife if 200 hangers sparked joy in her life. The calm that Kondo promised with her presence and cute organisational innovations, was nowhere to be found. I began to wonder whether these resolutions – aimed only to cement our public reputations rather than fulfill our personal growth – were just a big fat scam.

Look, I don’t want to sound like this is a case of sour grapes, but here’s my main grouse with these grand resolutions: Everyone around us makes it seem as if they can be fulfilled overnight. We become so busy and impatient chasing an ideal of perfection, that we end up believing that the only things that need a limelight are our glaring flaws.

But more than anything, these are the kind of resolutions that exist to make us feel bad about ourselves.

It wasn’t like being cleaner hadn’t been a resolution of mine before. I’d secretly harbour that desire every year, regularly inviting friends over so that I would be forced to shed my “grime girl” aesthetic. And 2019 seemed no different – I started the year by decaying in a sea of my own filth all morning during my Netflix marathon. I’d done more than enough to guarantee that I’d feel bad about myself for the next 30 years.

But as I began to pay more attention to Kondo herself, who gleefully exclaimed “I love mess,” before tackling folding, I wondered whether all of us should be less hard on ourselves. I stared at the pile of clothes at the end of my bed that had yet to be put away: I was a hot mess. But if Kondo loved mess, who am I not to?

“When you are folding, it is important to convey love to your clothes from the palms of your hands. Folding your clothes is not just an opportunity to make your clothes small, but it is actually an important opportunity to talk to your clothes and thank them,” Kondo gently explained as she smoothed down a tank top. If that sagging grey rag could be accorded that much love, what is stopping us from directing some appreciation toward ourselves? I know #NewYearNewMe is the perfect Instagram aesthetic but how about pulling a Snoop Dogg and thanking #OldMe for all the hard work, for never quitting, and for just being a bad motherfucker this past year?

But if Kondo loved mess, who am I not to?

I’ll keep it real with you: My own shame-pile of clothes might have reduced in height, but it still hasn’t completely migrated to my closet. It’s currently hanging out on that one convenient catch-all chair in my room. But I’m appreciating myself for all the little healthy habits I’ve subconsciously managed to sneak in, like going to bed at a decent hour one weekend, drinking a bottle of water for a whole week, and being kinder to my filthy flaws.

It’s hard, but it seems to have been more helpful than any resolution I’ve made so far. If it takes KonMari-ing my emotional well-being to be able to thrive this year, I’ll do it.