“Life only begins after you have put your house in order,” writes tidying expert Marie Kondo on the first page of her new book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. If that’s true, then the devoted readers of Kondo’s first book, which sold three million copies, are only toddlers. At this point, just over a year after learning about Kondo’s life-changing magic, has that army of Konverts remained steadfast? Or has their joy-spark been snuffed out by the temptations of high capitalism, a system designed specifically to incite perpetual longing for more things?
After all, humankind has had a long, complicated relationship to stuff. Even as recently as the ’70s, people just didn’t own that much. But with the rise of the megamall in the ’80s, shopping became a legitimate leisure activity for the middle class, and people started to accumulate lots of junk. By the ’90s, thanks to low overseas-manufacturing costs, the struggle to avoid getting crushed under your mountains of cheap crap was real. That’s when storing and organizing started to look like the key to happiness. (Enter the Container Store, Hold Everything, and the rise of the professional organizer.) The early ’00s ushered in the decluttering movement: You couldn’t just store your stuff; you had to whisk everything out of sight. Closets were all the rage. The rich hired closet designers and bought houses based on how many closets they had; the non-rich stuffed their gigantic CD towers into their closets with the rest of their unsightly possessions.