A week ago, I had no idea who Marie Kondo was. Then, after rushing past yet one more article about her now-viral KonMari Method of decluttering a home, I slowed and took a closer look.
Marie Kondo is a professional tidier-upper. The star of several books, a ton of videos, and as of January 1 of this year, a Netflix show, she is teaching the world not only to fold clothes in a way that they can be found, but to toss out any and every piece of clothing that does not ‘bring joy.’
And hey, I’m all for getting rid of unwanted stuff. I’m also all for folding clean laundry, though my kids might call me neurotic about that. Where I disagree with Marie Kondo is when she applies her method to books.
The KonMari method tells us to toss any book that doesn’t give us a rush of pleasure when we put a hand on its spine. Ms. Kondo believes that the only books we should keep in our homes should be ones that “spark joy.”
There Is More To Books Than Reading
I disagree. Here’s why.
- Joy is only one reason to read. A biography teaches. A memoir enlightens. A mystery intrigues. A horror novel, well, is horrifying. And a romance can alternately warm the heart or bring us to tears of wanting. A book like Elie Wiesel’s Night brings no joy at all. But would you toss it?
- Books don’t go out of style. We can’t compare them to a pair of shoes that, four years later, looks old. Every book has something new to say, regardless of when we read it, which brings me to my next point.
- We have reading moods. Sometimes we want a mystery, sometimes a dissertation on Colonial America, sometimes a dystopian novel. How often have you bought a book one year, only to put it aside and then read it three or four years later? If we’ve tossed it out, we can’t read it.
- Books don’t need folding. They aren’t tee shirts, but can be put on shelves, even crammed on shelves, even stood in tall piles on the floor with their spines out and visible. Yes, to organizing titles, whether by genre or TBR or date bought or even spine color. But no, to removing them. Oh, and yes, to donating them to a library sale that will benefit both the library and the new buyer. But then, when we reach for a book that isn’t there, what do we do?
- Rereading. The Konmari method suggests we don’t do that. But I do. You? Have you ever read a book a second time and only then found its meaning. There is certainly joy in that. But if you deep-six it after the first reading, an opportunity is lost.
- The collective factor. A collection of books is like a wall of family photos. They remind us where we were at a particular time and paint a picture of who we are now. The book collection itself “sparks joy” – or, said differently, a home without books is a cold thing indeed.
Do you agree? Disagree? All comment welcome!
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