With five kids fluttering in and out of our front door, clutter is definitely an issue at my house. In fact I couldn’t write that sentence without getting up to clear a coffee table and put away some books. Now, I feel compelled to fire up a load of laundry. Some of that may be the result of having just watched Netflix’s new series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
I’d never read Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or any other books by the bestselling author. But I do like a clean house. So, when my kids had a day off from school this week, I poured a mug of herbal tea and plonked down on the couch with my teenage daughter and two little boys to see what the buzz was all about.
The first episode—about the Friend family and their two young children—struck close to home. Oh, the stress of getting everyone to clean up! But then, before tackling the clutter, Kondo knelt on the family’s floor and asked whether she could greet their house and thank it for protecting them. Say what?
I’ve tried plenty of tricks to encourage my kids to pick up, but thanking my house has never been one of them. Neither has another Kondo exercise: thanking each no-longer-needed item before getting rid of it. Based on their reactions, it seemed that neither had the family Kondo was helping, although the parents gamely went along, praying to their house and talking to their clothes.
Curious, I hopped on the Internet to see what would inspire such a practice and learned that Kondo’s custom of speaking to objects is based in Shintoism—the traditional religion of Japan, where Kondo is from. From what I read, Shintoism is based on rituals designed to help people connect with divine spirits that inhabit animals, nature, people and their possessions and belongings.
In contrast, Christianity teaches that while creation includes angelic and demonic spirits, there is only one God and we are his people. Creation is his gift. That’s why we should take care of it. And because everything we have comes from God, we are to thank and worship only him. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” James 1:17 (NASB).
I’d planned to watch only one episode of Kondo’s show but ended up watching three. My kids, however, quickly tired. “Why don’t you clean your room?” I suggested to my boys, ages 8 and 5. My expectations weren’t high, but at least they’d be busy.
“Are you ready to see our room?” The youngest bounced downstairs soon after.
When I followed him upstairs, I was impressed. “Wow!” Everything was in its place, and the boys had even made their beds. Kondo is charming, and some of her practices clearly work (I just went upstairs to fetch my vacuum), as long as we remember who to thank.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. The Backward Easter Egg Hunt, the second book in her Lantern Hill Farm picture-book series, is available for preorder now. Connect at www.meadowrue.com