The Internet Is Divided Over Marie Kondo’s Approach To Books

Some book lovers are reacting as though Kondo told them to burn down the Great Library of Alexandria.

Marie Kondo

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New Netflix series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo has inspired a legion of viewers to question whether their possessions spark joy. But some book lovers are taking objection to her suggestion that maybe the mountain of unread literature clogging their bookshelves is less a joy tinder than actual tinder.

In Kondo’s KonMari cleaning method, she encourages people to examine whether an item “sparks joy” in them, and to let it go if it doesn’t. Since her new Netflix series premiered, social media has been flooded with photographs of carefully organised sock drawers as people extol the virtues of our new cleaning queen, long may she reign.

One of the categories she uses to divide the task of tidying is simply “books” — not insignificant considering that “komono” covers the kitchen, bathroom, garage and all miscellaneous items. However, it turns out that many people are incredibly attached to their books, as well as what they feel having books says about them as a person.

Many book enthusiasts have not taken kindly to the suggestion that books are objects that can be culled, reacting as though Marie Kondo’s opinion on how people can declutter their lives — advice that nobody is under any obligation to follow — is akin to her burning down the Great Library of Alexandria.

Some of it appears to come down to a misunderstanding of what sparking joy means, as though Kondo is demanding people throw out intellectually challenging books and any novel with a sad ending. (Spoiler: She isn’t.) Some are repelled by the idea of giving up on reading all those books that they are definitely going to get to some day eventually.

And some seem to think that having pillars of dusty tomes towering around you is just an enriching life choice, even though open access to a wide variety of literature is literally what libraries are for.

Others have been quick to point out that stacks of untouched books are good only for preserving their owner’s self-image, or for pressing flowers. Further, getting rid of some books you don’t love makes room on your overburdened shelves for books that you do.

Marie Kondo’s KonMari method is a mere suggestion to help people get their living space in order, not a militant demand that we burn our books. It’s fine if you want to donate all your books in favour of becoming a frequent library patron. It’s also fine if you are happy sleeping atop a dragon’s horde of printed pages. Nobody is making you throw out that strange French novel you found on the train (which you are definitely going to read once you learn French).

But maybe it’s something to consider.