Books

Marie Kondo’s advice about getting rid of books fails to spark joy in some readers

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Decluttering advocate Marie Kondo in “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” on Netflix.
(Denise Crew / Netflix)

Japanese author Marie Kondo has made a career out of urging people to get rid of clutter in their homes. But when the author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” recently suggested that books can be clutter, literary lovers were having none of it.

The internet controversy came courtesy of Kondo’s new Netflix show,"Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” which features the writer visiting the homes of Americans who have a problem getting rid of junk. She introduces them to her “KonMari method,” which has people dispose of objects that don’t “spark joy.”

One episode showed Kondo advising a woman to part with books that she had already read or likely never would. That drew the ire of Irish Canadian author Anakana Schofield, who challenged Kondo’s advice on Twitter, writing, “Do NOT listen to Marie Kondo or Konmari in relation to books. Fill your apartment & world with them. ... Every human needs a v extensive library not clean, boring shelves.”

The tweet went viral, and Schofield expanded upon it in an editorial for the Guardian, writing, “The metric of objects only ‘sparking joy’ is deeply problematic when applied to books. ... Literature does not exist only to provoke feelings of happiness or to placate us with its pleasure; art should also challenge and perturb us.”

In the New Statesman, Sarah Manavis defended Kondo, accusing her critics of “humble-bragging” and “classism.”

“The idea that Marie Kondo thinks people shouldn’t have lots of books is also a misconception,” Manavis wrote. “Marie Kondo isn’t suggesting everyone throw away their book collection. ... She is simply advising the people who have asked for her help to pick and choose what they value most. And if that means every ... book in their house, she’ll happily encourage them to keep each one.”

At O: The Oprah Magazine, Arianna Davis declared that she wouldn’t be following Kondo’s advice, despite living in a tiny New York City studio apartment.

“I know it’s not possible or practical to hold on to every single physical copy you’ve ever owned,” Davis wrote. “But Kondo’s method simply won’t work for me because every single one of the books in my library have ‘sparked joy’ in me. My books are not clutter. They are my escape, my teachers, and my friends.”

The controversy sparked joy on Twitter, with users offering varying takes on Kondo’s advice: