This Marie Kondo person has become quite a sensation. In case you haven’t seen her Netflix show or read her book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up , the Japanese author has made closet-cleaning cool. The idea is to consider whether any of your possessions “spark joy”. If so, fold it neatly and return it to your wardrobe. If not, you give ceremonial thanks for its life, then part ways with it in the bin. It’s all quite Zen. Maybe that’s why I assumed everyone in Japan was like her. Somewhere in the country, there’s probably a Shinto shrine dedicated to clean underwear. In the old days, we would just call Kondo a neat freak. Now, she’s a declutter specialist and media phenomenon. You can’t deny it’s good to tidy up and organise oneself. An argument can be made that personal minimalism is a worthy eco-mandate and good for the environment. I suspect people connect with Kondo because we all feel a little guilty about excessive consumerism. We’ve all bought clothes we don’t wear and stuff we don’t need. Over-shopping isn’t limited to our wardrobe. The pantry and fridge are also stocked with things whose gastronomic spark has faded longer than the expiration date. Go through any kitchen and you’ll be amazed at how much junk we own. Just count how many jars of sauces and condiments you rarely use. I bet there’s a fermented bean curd you like in restaurants but never eat at home. Above that is a block of shrimp paste you don’t know what to do with. Let’s not forget the tube of anchovy paste suggested for an Italian recipe that you still haven’t tried. I might streamline my closet but I don’t necessarily want a streamlined, bare-bones fridge with just a carton of milk and a jar of jam Worse are the products picked up because we thought someone else would eat them, like the chilli oil we thought a friend from Sichuan in China would want when he came over for dinner. Then there are all the spices racked up on the shelf for years. I bet a small pinch was used only once for an ambitious Indian or South Asian dish. Personally, my cupboard has more tea then I could ever drink. Some were bought on trips; others were gifts. All of them I (wrongly) assumed would last forever because it’s dried. Speaking of souvenirs, how many of us have regrettably picked up candy and snacks while waiting around at airports, or bottles of novelty booze we wished we didn’t lug back in our suitcase? We should just Marie Kondo these things out of our lives, but I, for one, likely won’t. I promised myself I will use that shrimp paste next time I make Malaysian-Singaporean spicy noodle soup laksa from scratch. Problem is, I’ve never made laksa from scratch because I would need to buy a bunch of other ingredients that will then take up permanent occupancy in the cupboard. This is my dilemma. Maybe Kondo’s minimalism and my kitchen are just not compatible. I might streamline my closet but I don’t necessarily want a streamlined, bare-bones fridge with just a carton of milk and a jar of jam. In the movies, only losers, loners and emotionally disconnected hitmen have empty fridges. One of life’s joys is glorious food. That means a spectrum of flavours and dishes. A plentiful kitchen is a sign of prosperity and well-being. On the other hand, I’m not Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson, whipping up different recipes 365 days a year. Nobody wants to eat the same thing every day but, like most people, I have a limited repertoire of dishes. The reality is most of us cook the same foods over and over. The conundrum is we reject Marie Kondo minimalism in our kitchen but end up cooking the same five dishes every week. So how do we spark joy at meal time? My guess is that’s why we eat out. This is the life-changing magic of ordering takeout.