Cleaning Up: The Marie Kondo Story

Or: "How to make a tidy sum." (Or some other horrible pun.) Plus 7 other things worth reading.

In late 2015, I went full KonMari.

I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I put it into action.

The results were positive, but not quite “life-changing.” I got rid of about eight big bags of stuff, but sadly, I later returned to my natural, non-tidy state.

Occasionally, I’ll give it another shot.

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$200 Tea Container…

On Wednesday, I took a quick look back at The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up — still on my Kindle—in light of something I’ll get to in a minute.

I was drawn to a few chapters in particular:

  • “Start by discarding, all at once, intensely and completely,”

  • “Discard first, store later,”

  • “Reduce until you reach the point where something clicks,”

  • “Learning that you can do without,” and perhaps my favorite—

  • “$200 Tea container is handcrafted from hardy Japanese elm”

Wait. That last one doesn’t seem to fit, right? That’s because (sorry), it’s a little slight of hand on my part.

It’s actually not from the book, but instead from Kondo’s incongruous new ecommerce site.

‘Even Marie Kondo…’

If I went full KonMari, it seems Kondo has gone full Gwyneth Paltrow.

Go to konmari.com, and you’ll find a GOOP-like assortment of products you don’t really need, like:

  • a $98 Balance Gem Water Bottle,

  • a $52 Tea Scoop,

  • the double-Benjamin “tea container” above,

—and 122 other items, to start.

Let me turn this over to Amanda Mull of The Atlantic:

Despite the profound irony … Kondo’s pivot from decluttering Svengali to tchotchke retailer isn’t particularly surprising. She has muscled her way to legitimate celebrity status in America, and in 2019 the end game of fame is always sales. …

Stars used to rely on third parties such as movie studios and record labels to connect them with their adoring publics and the cash flow they bring.

Now everyone—famous or not—can find an audience in their iPhone, and anyone with an audience can be a merchant. Apparently even Marie Kondo.

Sell with pride

So much to unpack. First, I disagree that those were really the good old days, as Mull seems to imply.

Before the rise of the independent, commercial creator, people who could reach fans and build an audience had to market and distribute what they sold through middlemen—people like say, Harvey Weinstein(?).

Not so great.

However, while I have sincere empathy for almost anyone trying to be an entrepreneur, there are at least two big two exceptions to my mind.

  1. Where your cash grab hurts other people.

  2. Where it contradicts your core.

So, when Tom Brady sells fitness stuff like say, TB12 Focus, a $48-a-bottle “acetyl-l-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, and biotin” supplement, it’s a little skeevy — but if you know anything about Brady’s brand, it still sort of fits.

When Martha Stewart gets into cannabis, starting with an advisory position with a Canadian cannabis company and her own line of CBD-infused products (she’s starting with dog treats), it’s a bit weird.

But given her friendship with Snoop Dogg and the fact that she’s actually a straight-up felon herself, it’s less of a stretch.

(If Ina Garten did something similar, you might bat more of an eye.)

That’s where we land with Kondo, it pains me to say. It’s a mess.

(Breaking … “Woman Who Preached DeCluttering Starts Company to Sell Clutter.”)

Today’s lesson, therefore: Figure out who you are. Own your connection with the audience. Stay 100 percent true to it.

And, proudly, sell that instead.


7 other things worth your time

  1. The Navy should stop naming aircraft carriers after presidents, because it’s super-divisive, otherwise, we’ll wind up with a USS Bill Clinton, a USS George W. Bush, a USS Barack Obama, and a USS Donald Trump. Discuss. (U.S. Naval Institute)

  2. For want of some horseradish, the zeisty sauce was lost, for want of the zeisty sauce, the spicy Burger King order was lost. (Business Insider)

  3. In the future, sizes won’t exist because all your clothes will be bespoke, says the CEO of Levi Strauss. (CNBC)

  4. Mike Bloomberg will spend between $15 and $20 million to register voters in five battleground states, in order to weaken Donald Trump’s hand no matter who the Democratic nominee is, according to a report. (Associated Press)

  5. Lots of action in Congress yesterday, but be sure to catch this compendium of all the arguably witty things Ambassador Gordon Sondland said as he grew a bit punchy toward the end of his testimony yesterday. By the way, his $1 million donation to become an ambassador now works out to $62,500 per hour of testimony. (The Daily Mail)

  6. Inside the bloody cartel war for Mexico’s multibillion-dollar avocado industry. (Los Angeles Times)

  7. A teenager was arrested for allegedly bringing 50 pounds of meth across the border from Mexico using a remote controlled car. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

    Photo credit: Risconf. Story ideas and feedback actively solicited. Find me anytime at billmurphyjr@understandably.com, or on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter.