Marie Kondo’s Tidying Method Sparks Controversy About Books

What is the ideal number of books to have at home? This question has recently been on the minds of many people after watching "Tidying Up With Marie Kondo," a Netflix series inspired by the Japanese organizing consultant's booksThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has been resonating with global audiences since it was published years ago and continues to inspire readers to organize and simplify their lives. 

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying up

At the heart of the book is a practice that involves holding an object, asking yourself if it sparks joy and if the answer is no, thanking it for the role it played in your life before discarding it. Kondo has also expressed her personal preference to limit her home collection to 30 books. She encourages others to use her method to determine which books might stay or go. 

The backlash to this advice among some book lovers was swift. There were people who were very upset at the idea of parting with their many stacks of books. Others argued that joy is not the only emotion books can or should make readers feel. 

Kondo clarified her position about books in a conversation with Katie Rosman from The New York Times, which you can watch in the video clip above. "The point of the KonMari method is to figure out your sense of value. What do you hold most important? So, if you're angered, if your reaction is anger that you have to let go of books, then that's great, that means for you, books are invaluable." Bibliophiles can rest easy knowing that they have Kondo's blessing to keep the books they so passionately enjoy having at home.

Some of the criticisms of Kondo and her methods could be rooted in misunderstanding, cultural differences, and unfamiliarity with Shinto concepts like animism. Even those who do understand her philosophy might still find it challenging to incorporate into daily life though. By the Book is a podcast co-hosted by two friends who attempt to live the lifestyles espoused in popular self-help books. In one episode dedicated to The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, they explore the pleasures and perils of trying to live the tidy life. The episode could be an entertaining listen for anyone interested in the subject, no matter how you might feel about Kondo's philosophy. 

Some people also see the controversy as having classist and racist undertones. Bustle reported that Ellen Oh, author and co-founder of We Need Diverse Books, opens a new window characterized the backlash as "Elitism in that if you don't have lots of books you can't possibly be very smart. And financial classism because I remember being young and poor and owning less than ten books. It was why the library was my sanctuary." Here Oh makes the point that having a home, particularly one with a large book collection and the personal/storage space required to keep it, is not something everyone can enjoy. 

Whether you prefer a home with just a few books on the shelf or stacks piled high, your public library is here to help make access to books (and lots of other cool stuff!) more equitable. Your library card unlocks an infinite personal library and we hope you'll use yours to check out all the things that spark joy in your life. You can even save space by using our digital collections to download eBooks and audiobooks. If you're looking for organization inspiration, try one of these:

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Have you read Kondo's book or tried her techniques? Let us know about your experience in the comments.