Racist backlashes to Marie Kondo’s new store: if Gwyneth Paltrow can do it, why can’t Marie Kondo?

Photo: Web Summit – Sportsfile (Web Summit)

Marie Kondo is kawaii AF. But don’t let her cuteness fool you. She is a bold business woman who dares to build a global empire (or maybe she has built one already?)

The Japanese organizational guru has rocketed to international fame by showing people how to declutter items that don’t “spark joy”. Now, she has an online store (https://konmari.com/konmari-shop/) selling indoor shoes for $206 US and dish soap that costs $9 US, which is causing an immediate backlash mostly coming from Americans.

The netizens are tossing around the words “scam” and “hypocritical”, implying that the KonMari method was a long game plan to make people empty their shelves to make room in order to purchase goods from Kondo herself. But seriously, c’mon guys. if Gwyneth Paltrow can sell overpriced crystal-infused water bottles, why can’t Marie Kondo?

Internalized Orientalism doesn’t spark too much joy in Japan

As a Japanese person who grew up in Japan, nobody except the gaikokujins to catch up in the hype of “KonMari” method. In early 2019, she started a commotion on the internet after her Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo premiered. Seemingly, everybody in North America started talking about this cute little Japanese woman infused with a quasi-mystical oriental aura, throwing away items that fail to “spark joy.”

Exploring the Japanese Twitterverse at the time, the reactions to Kondo’s global fame in Japan was only showing confused surprise. Take this Twitter user for example, who had a visceral reaction promptly turning off the show after Kondo said she would “greet the house” to her client. I agree with you, no Japanese person I have ever met in my entire life have ever done anything like it and house greeting. It is complete BS.

As Amy Olberding, the Presidential Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma said, “Kondo is, in several ways, a Mr. Miyagi for the anxious, late-capitalist, consumerist age” and her “tidying up is not joyful but another misuse of Eastern ideas.” I guess she doesn’t spark that much joy in Japan.

It’s all about keeping items that “spark joy”

On her website, Kondo says the items were chosen for their “ability to enhance your daily rituals and inspire a joyful lifestyle.”

“Many people have asked what I use in my everyday life. This online shop is a collection of my favorite things and items that spark joy,” said Kondo in an online statement, noting people can still acquire “meaningful objects” after tidying.

“My tidying method isn’t about getting rid of things — it’s about heightening your sensitivity to what brings you joy.”

People are sympathetic to Kondo’s suggestion that critics have misinterpreted Kondo’s message. In Toronto, some certified Kondo experts, referred to as “KonMari consultants”, say this shop could seem like a contradiction; however, they don’t necessarily think it’s a hypocritical move (CBC). They point out that the KonMari method isn’t about tossing everything out, but her ethos is to keep only items that “spark joy”.

As a Japanese woman who grew up in Japan, I don’t see the list of items that the netizens criticized as “non-essential”, such as indoor shoes and dish soap odd at all. Yes, they are expensive but using quality items for a long time align with her method. Although decluttering and anything Japanese are considered “minimalist”, Kondo was never about minimalism and KonMari is all about things that “spark joy”.