Love Sparks Joy

Marie Kondo and the Search for Rest.

Chris Wachter / 2.15.23

Marie Kondo, the star of the hit show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, recently made the news for a surprising shift in priorities. Her show — a Netflix #1 non-fiction release earning seven award nominations — made a name for itself by encouraging a fairly extreme organizational and minimalistic strategy, keeping only what “sparks joy” in your life and discarding the rest. The show zeroes in on the initial purge of borderline hoarders, but the point is to foster a way of being that helps you live a cleaner and more streamlined lifestyle. Book deals, speaking engagements, and many kinds of humorous sparking joy memes later, Kondo is now a household name, whether you love or dismiss her ideology.

But, at a recent media webinar, the now-38-year-old said (confessed?) that messes are now ok, due to a reshaping of priorities in her life. 

Pressed further as to the reason for the shift, she says on her website, “Just after my older daughter was born, I felt unable to forgive myself for not being able to manage my life as I had before. But, with time, I eased up on myself; then, after I gave birth to my second daughter, I let go of my need for perfection altogether.”

Wait. What? Just like that?

This is quite the left turn (maybe more, a disheveling ransack) for the Instagram-perfect and house-tidying world. But it’s not just Kondo’s shift in values, it’s the fact that this way of living was perceived, at least for some, as a deeply spiritual way to live. The one right way, in fact. Kondo was even known for “greeting” each house she tidied up, which looked like a prayer thanking the house for the chance to address the space.

What strikes me the most about all of this is the rationale behind the shift. The reason for the interruption of this religious lifestyle is her kids! You can almost hear the collective sigh of parents all around the world, saying, “No surprise here.” But for Kondo, this change didn’t just occur out of necessity. It came with a heart check. She saw her kids as a new spark of joy — more than that, an enduring flame — even though it made staying ahead of cleaning more difficult. Relationship broke the back of the rules. Love overcame her need for perfection. 

The story of redemptive history, as the Bible unpacks it, is remarkably similar. In the macro sense, it moves us from the vanity of work, as Ecclesiastes puts it, and the constant call to tidy up our lives, to a new place of rest in a relationship with God. We might also call this a movement from law to grace, from hurrying to stillness. In the micro sense, we see this theme in stories such as the two sisters, Mary and Martha. When Jesus was coming for a visit, Martha was concerned about the preparations and the work (Lk 10:40), but Mary simply sat at Jesus’s feet. His response was telling: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Maybe this is the type of minimalism that the Bible can actually get behind: the “one thing” of Jesus Christ and him crucified. A relationship with God through his son outpacing and rendering passé the old covenant of “Clean this up and then you will live.” And therein lies the hope, for all of us, no matter how tidy we like to keep our homes: life is better when we own our messes at the foot of the cross, when it’s by the never-ending, always-increasing grace of God that we live and find acceptance with our Creator.

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