Decluttered subdivided Hong Kong flats no path to spirituality

  • There is nothing wrong about having a tidy home, but if you live in a 100 sq ft unit as a family of four, keeping it clean is a matter of survival
PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 February, 2019, 5:05pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 February, 2019, 10:37pm

Tidying your home has suddenly become a worldwide spiritual movement. It would be hard to think of two people more different than Japan’s “decluttering” queen, Marie Kondo, and Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist and heavyweight public intellectual.

Yet, both have legions of fans worldwide and both have been spreading the gospel of the importance of a clean, tidy home for the health of your soul.

Kondo may be all kawaii, and Peterson is usually enlightening, but this is getting ridiculous. She is world-famous for advising people to thank the house they live in and the objects inside. Then you have to feel whether or not they “spark joy”. If not, throw them away.

So, after anthropomorphising things you own, you toss them out. That’s not nice. But for that, she has launched a worldwide personality cult and an industry. There are now decluttering consultants everywhere, even in Hong Kong, to help you clean up as a spiritual service – for a fee.

Suddenly, Kondo is everywhere. She was recently a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Netflix is now streaming Tidying Up, season one. In eight episodes, she visits homes, helps their occupants clean up and renews their souls.

Hong Kong’s Marie Kondo will teach you how to declutter your life

If it all sounds a bit mumbo jumbo, I suspect that it is. Canadian media critic John Doyle has called her the “most annoying” person on TV. American progressive activist Barbara Ehrenreich thinks her being so popular but unable to speak English signals the decline of America.

That sounded racist and she got into hot water for it. Perhaps she should have said the decline of civilisation. That would have been culturally acceptable and may be even true. People go to churches, study philosophy or meditate over a lifetime to achieve spiritual balance and well-being. Now you just have to clean up – how convenient!

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against keeping tidy homes. If you live in a 100 sq ft subdivided flat as a family of four, decluttering is not a spiritual endeavour but a matter of survival. Against Kondo, I am a complete materialist: whether your need to declutter – or not – is purely a function of the size of your home.

Meanwhile, in a few widely viewed online clips, Peterson teaches young people “to clean up your room”. As a parent of two teenagers, I perfectly agree. But whether that would launch them on their spiritual journey, I have my doubts.