Marie Kondo and her Blasphemies about Books


So I caved to public pressure and was prepared to hold a cheese grater and ask myself, sincerely, if it sparked joy. I willingly piled all of my crap onto my bed and then audibly thanked cardigans and asymmetrical hemlines for their service, as I stuffed them into bin bags. I even went so far as to tell people that Marie Kondo was right about the fact that ‘storage is a booby trap’.

But about a third of the way through The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo went off the rails. Really, seriously bloody berserk. And my willingness to play along ground to a halt. Why? Because of her abominable attitude toward books*. And I quote:

“Books are essentially paper – sheets of paper printed with letters and bound together. Their true purpose is to be read, to convey the information to their readers. It’s the information they contain that has meaning. There is no meaning in them just being on your shelves.” WRONG.

“Unread books – ‘sometime’ means ‘never’.
You may have wanted to read it when you bought it, but if you haven’t read it by now, the book’s purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it.” WHAT THE ACTUAL?


“I don’t need a bookcase because I store my books and papers on one of the shelves in the shoe cupboard.” WHERE’S THE RESPECT? *DROPS MIC*

2/5 Yes, I got rid of a lot of clothes. But no to the rest.

*appreciate the irony here, given that she’s written a best-selling book. To her credit, she clearly states that she is happy for you to chuck her book in the bin** once you’ve finished.
**don’t even get me started on the landfill issues associated with a #KondoMar lifestyle.


29 responses

  1. I started browsing this in the bookshop having heard s much about this woman with her wonder cure for our clutter problems. There was some good basic advice but oh dear when we got to the part about talking to my skirts and plates about whether. I Loved them I flipped. She and I would not get along I decided s put the book down, now I know her attitude to books I am pleased I did.

    • I have most certainly ‘failed’ – I did clear out clothes according to to her principles (but haven’t stored them in the way she suggested, so fail) and I began on my bookshelves… But all it resulted in was dusting and putting the books back! So, I guess it was good to dust 😉

      • there is a whole tv series now on UK tv devoted to helping people de clutter their homes. yesterday’s solution for a family with too much stuff was to spend £10,000 on bespoke storage furniture.

  2. If I read a moderate non- library sort of book I pass it on to a friend or our Village library. If it is a very fine beautifully written book it goes on my shelf and will live there for ever. But even the most awful book will never be demolished, simply passed on in the hope that someone else might find it worthwhile. And I will NEVER rip out any pages. The woman is an idiot.

    • A very fine and sensible approach. I pass on probably 90% of the books I read – either to someone else with the instruction “I don’t need it back, keep passing it on.” or I give them to charity. The 10% that make it to my shelves get a permanent position there. I do write in the margins of books (I know this upsets some people) but, when I know I’m going to keep a book, I like to mark significant passages. I can’t even imagine ripping pages out… What’s going though her head? She’s a vandal (and an idiot).

  3. Hmm. By the sound of things it’s not just the books. Yesterday my neighbour came over to try some of my just-baked friands and we ended up in front of my china cabinet while I told her the stories that go with each item: gifts, memories, souvenirs of holidays, an ancient photo of me that proves my family did once own a family tiara, a bronzed toothbrush that’s a love story, and so on.
    I bet she also doesn’t treasure photos and scrapbooks and the wonky table cloth her granny made as a wedding present when she was half blind and couldn’t see what she was doing.
    What would be the point of giving this person a gift, knowing that it was going to be chucked out once the decree was made that it had passed its use-by date?

  4. She obviously doesn’t know about TBR bookshelves, poor soul. She sounds mad as a spoon to me. Perhaps I will pick up her book (from the library – wouldn’t want it cluttering my shelves!) when I am indeed of a good giggle. 😀

  5. Kondo sounds like those organizers who say, “Get rid of your books!! You can now get EVERYTHING in ebook format ( untrue BTW)!” I hate these people almost as much as designers who tell you to organize your books by the colors of their spines so that they have a “more cohesive look.” We live in a dying culture.

  6. I am a huge book lover who hasn’t romanticized books like most people I know (or on this thread!). I’ve discovered that when I keep every book I’ve read/bought, the shelves start to bend in the middle, the book cases take up so much space there isn’t room for anything else, and that it’s ridiculous trying to move all those books. Plus, I’ve realized that if I’ve read a book — even if I loved it — but have no intention of reading it again, I’m denying someone else the chance to feel love for that book. As a result, I donate books to the Little Free Library. I ask myself, “Am I going to use this book in the future when I teach a lit class? Am I going to read it again? Can I get it at the library?” Sometimes I’m not sure if I’ll read a book again, but I know it came from a small press and thus won’t be at the library, so I keep it. Why not, I paid for it. But if it’s at the library and I’m not going to teach from it (I need my own copies when I teach), then I want to share my book’s life with another. They also make excellent gifts at family gatherings where you have a White Elephant gift. OR, another great idea: book parties. I just learned about these. You throw a party and everyone brings 2-3 books they want to pass on. The books all go on a table, and you can take home new books (equal to however many you brought). People at the party often seek out the original owner and chat about books, or find people who also read the book and get to know each other. Much better than “So, what do you do for a living? You got kids?” Ugh. So, as a person with three lit/creative writing degrees who is a composition/lit professor, I say let some books go. A house load of dusty books doesn’t make you a proper book worm.

    • I certainly don’t keep every book I’ve ever read – my house would like an episode of Hoarders if I did! Most physical books I pass on to other people and I’m clear with them that I don’t need it back. I do use my e-reader for at least half my reading these days, which has made a big difference to the space required for books!

      Regardless of my book storage situation, I find Kondo’s approach to books (ie. ripping pages out) really quite sad – the book can’t be shared then or passed on to someone else. It seems so wasteful. And also to be sticking her five precious books with her shoes?! I don’t know, books to me are part of the decor and a wall of books ‘sparks joy’ in my heart.

      I have been meaning to throw a book swap party (although my monthly book group meetings are almost like this anyway!) but I’ve got so many books in my TBR stack I just want to off-load them, not get more!

      • I was surprised she ripped out pages, too. I wonder if she was thinking about how many books are pulped each year anyway, though I can’t remember if the concern with pulping is producing too many books that no one buys and pulping them, or the number of books we throw away…

      • I’m fairly certain Kondo doesn’t think about waste issues at all – there was no mention of passing things on, recycling or charity (in fact, some bits discouraged passing things on to others). Yes, people may have too many things but I do think that Kondo’s ‘throw it out and if you need it but another’ approach is wasteful.

      • Why no passing things on? I’m obsessed with waste. I’m the kind of person who still has her roller blades from 1995 because her feet haven’t grown since then. If they work, use them! The fact that clothes go “in” and “out” of style is a horribly ludicrous idea to me.

  7. Someone else mentioned her attitude toward books and I decided I’ll let this specific “tidying up” book pass along to others. This is one I do not need to read! 🙂 Thanks for your reaction. I’m sure I would echo it! This book would be the first to go! 🙂

  8. WHAT?! Ripped a page out of a book? Enough said. I was not terribly inclined to read this anyway, but this kind of lunacy is not what I need in my life. And all sarcasm aside, her definition of the value of books is ignorant. Completely, unequivocally, ignorant.

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  11. Aahhh! No no no no no!! Ripping the pages out? Throwing them away?? Well, she’d hate our house. Between our extended family, we have well over 2000 books in the house, and an equal amount in storage. They get rotated out. And if I buy a book, I plan on reading it. It may be a year or two but I’ll get there…

  12. Aah! The unforgivable crime of tearing pages out of books!! And the arrogance of her stupidity!! Mind you, I wouldnt mind using a pile of her publications for cat-litter, not that I would buy such trash in the first place. My indignation is about her suggestion of vandalizing of real books. But I guess she has no idea what those are, or of their pupose.

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