What you didn’t know about Marie Kondo
At this point, I'm shocked that anyone in the world still owns a single possession, such has been the veracity with which we all have embraced Netflix's Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.
The pint-sized Japanese decluttering guru is making the world a cleaner, happier place - one folded pair of socks at a time. And for that we are all truly grateful. But how much do we know about the life of this 34-year-old sensation? A surprisingly little amount, in fact. And what we do know is remarkable.
She has always loved to clean
Kondo is the middle child of a middle class Tokyo family: her father is a doctor and her mother a housewife. She has one younger sister and an older brother. And she was born with a thirst for cleaning.
Even as a five-year-old, Kondo would abscond with her mother's home magazines and read them on her own. She would look through them and cut out pictures that she would stick to her bedroom walls, in lieu of having any windows. "A beautiful sky, a forest, and then a picture of a window with a flower box," Kondo has recalled.
She was obsessed, by her own admission, with making things clean. Her hobbies as a young girl were organising bookshelves and wiping down the kitchen. But despite her best efforts, the family household was always full of clutter. "Cleaning, washing, sewing, I could do it," Kondo has said. "The only thing I couldn't do was tidying up."
She once fainted from a desire to tidy up
The cleaning obsession reached a climax in Kondo's teenage years. After a few too many days spent marching around the house, picking up things to be thrown away and gotten rid of, her parents took action and banned her from tidying.
The moratorium on decluttering had the opposite reaction to its intended effect, because Kondo focused all her efforts on her own room. She has recalled coming home from school and staring at her bedroom - the books on their shelves, the clothes hanging up in the wardrobe, the shoes, the everything - and she would feel possessed with the desire to "throw out everything in it".
"That was the climax of my stress," Kondo has recalled. "And at that moment I collapsed unconscious."
Kondo was prostrate on the floor for two long hours before she woke up, at which point a vision appeared in her mind neatly summing up what would become her KonMari method. This divine inspiration suggested that rather than labouring over what could be thrown out, Kondo should focus instead on what she wanted to keep. "I believe it was the god of tidying," Kondo has said.
Kondo has never done any other job than this
As a 19-year-old university student, Kondo earned some pocket money by helping her friends tidying their rooms and houses. "At college, I tidied my friends' homes whenever I visited them, soon it became a rumour that when I visit a room, it magically becomes tidy. As the rumour spread, I started getting requests for tidying sessions from people I didn't know."
She started making serious coin by expanding the decluttering client group beyond her fellow students. Soon, Kondo was travelling across Tokyo to help others tidy their houses, all while studying sociology at Tokyo Women's Christian University and writing her thesis on - you guessed it - decluttering. She also started giving lectures on how to tidy.
The idea for her first book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, came when Kondo realised there was a waitlist of six months worth of people trying to get into one of her sessions. When groups of clients began to beg Kondo to write a book so they could continue the KonMari method at home on their own, Kondo capitulated and wrote her first title, which immediately became a bestseller.
To date, Kondo has sold more than four million books around the world, with 215 people signed up to teach her KonMari method around the world and many, many more watching her Netflix show.
Her book won awards before she had even written a word
Of all the mystical stories that swirl around Kondo's rise to prominence, this one is perhaps the most fantastical.
The story goes: In 2010, Kondo penned a book proposal, which she submitted into a competition looking for "bestsellers that will be loved for 10 years". On the judging panel was Tomohiro Takahashi, a savvy editor from a Japanese imprint who saw something in Kondo, even though she hadn't written a single word of her book yet.
"She's going to be on TV and become famous," Takahashi has recalled thinking of Kondo. "I felt a mysterious energy around her that I had never experienced around other people." The pair worked together for eight months to produce Kondo's first book, and everything Takahashi predicted came true.
Her 18th birthday party was in a very Marie Kondo location
Where did the tidying guru go to celebrate her big 1-8? The Japanese national library, where she spent a day reading about tidying. Fun!
Her family is involved in the business
Kondo is married to Takumi Kawahara, whom she met at university and they have two daughters Satsuki and Miko. Kawahara is chief executive of the KonMari company, whose main involvement is in social media. (He runs Kondo's Instagram account.)
In 2018, the family moved to Los Angeles, where they live in a turn-of-the-century bungalow in West Hollywood. The company's headquarters are in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, the same district that Tesla and Hewlett Packard call home.
She does have one dirty habit
Kondo is good at decluttering her home, her wardrobe, her bookshelves - she famously keeps just 30 books, much to the derision of the virtue signalling internet - and her mind. But there's bad habit that Kondo just can't shake.
"I love wearing slippers," she has said. "But I take them off in random places around the house. I can't keep them on for long, so they're scattered."
An absolute crime against cleanliness. Kondo should be ashamed of herself.
This story originally appeared on Whimn.com.au and is republished with permission.