Panic and the KonMari Method

Have any of you read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo?

I haven’t either.

The title is enough to induce an immediate panic of the type usually requiring medication.

For those of you who don’t know, Marie Kondo is the Japanese guru encouraging all of us Americans with hoarding tendencies to loosen our grip on all of our tchotchkes via her KonMari method. She has a reality show where she goes in to someone’s home, teaches them how to tidy up, and in the process both their house and their lives benefit. Her website proclaims, “Tidy Your Space and Transform Your Life.” She has two best-selling books, and a business training others to share the glad tidings of paring it all down. (

I think if Kondo-san were to come to my house, she’d do what all my other Japanese friends do when they arrive. Scratch their heads and wonder why I’d bought all the junk they’d thrown out. Japanese people have a very unique way of getting rid of the things they no longer need or want. It all goes to a shrine sale.

And then we ExPats fight over it.

Most neighborhoods in Japan have a shrine. Many of them have a sort of garage sale or flea market every so often where vendors sell everything from toys, to furniture, to kimono. The monthly Kawagoe shrine sale just outside Tokyo was the mecca to which we all bowed. (YokotaTravel does a great job describing many of the sales and giving directions in the blog here: )

I can tell you what you won’t see in the home of a Japanese person. A bunch of glass fish floats, old sake jugs, cake molds, or old obi (kimono belts) made in to table runners. Visit the house of an ExPat who’s lived in Japan? We’ve got every surface covered with them.

One thing is guaranteed at a shrine sale: a feeding frenzy of ExPats looking for glass fish floats. I clearly have sharp elbows based on my stash of fishing items.eei16yjcqkafulgqhwmeyq

I’ve got more. And when Spouse finally retires all we’ll need is a boat to start our commercial fishing venture.

We also liked the kokeshi dolls— a lot. These were children’s dolls 150 years ago. We ExPats have recycled them beyond recognition. I’ve seen a Christmas tree with nothing decorating it but Kokeshi dolls and lights. One friend had them displayed in a giant glass bowl, piled high one on top of the other, as the entry way decor, or as I have them, staring at us while we watch tv.


If any of my Japanese friends had seen my bedroom decorated with blue and white sake bottles, they’d think I’d lost my mind. I would think the same of them if they used empty Kentucky Bourbon bottles as the major player in a design scheme.

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 4.11.25 pm


If someone was getting rid of a sign I was standing there by the garbage when they brought it down. (It’s currently behind too many boxes of old pictures for me to take a photo)

In my case it certainly is true that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

When you have the opportunity to visit the home of a Japanese person, one thing is  clear. The decorations are usually carefully chosen and presented in a manner which highlights that particular object. For instance, an ikebana type display of flowers. It stands alone, not competing for attention with ten other nick nacks around it. The lack of clutter makes the display pop. Some find it serene while others find it stark.

People in Japan are interested in Kondo-san because she’s made such an impact doing things they’ve been taught from birth. First, keep it all clean. School children clean their classrooms every day. Complete with mops, dusters,and the like. Secondly, their houses and apartments are much smaller than ours making every purchase carefully considered because it has to go somewhere. Before living in Japan, I thought if we could fit our cars in to the garage I had whittled our junk down to the absolute necessities. After living in Japan, I know how much storage capacity is under the bed.

Don’t get me wrong. Anything that helps people better manage their lives in a healthy manner I’m all behind. My impression is that Kondo-san is accepting of what brings another person joy without passing judgement. (Her bench mark for what gets tossed- Doesn’t bring you joy? It’s gone)

Even though many don’t understand the love an ExPat has for decorating with their cast off kitchen clutter, it all brings me great joy.

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 4.01.27 pm

Ok gang, I know many of you are overseas and doing the exact same thing. Please share with the rest of us what brings you joy from your adopted home!


Articles about Marie Kondo

New York Times

Martha Stewart’s Web site




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17 Responses to Panic and the KonMari Method

  1. librown50 says:

    I love your Kondo-Mari post. I began following you since we lived for 3 months in Japan. I can identify with what you say in your post. I know we have decorative items in our house that no self-respecting Japanese would have in their house. It’s a good thing I didn’t know about the sale you mentioned or we’d probably have a lot more! I’m in the process of decluttering now (5 years and counting!) I can’t Kondo-Mari because I don’t have the space to lay out every single item in any category so that I can see all that I own, touch it, and decide what gives me joy. I’ve decided that what gives me joy is to be able to sleep in my bed at night and I can’t do that if it’s covered in clothing! Keep posting…I am a fan!


    • Oh so nice of you! Thanks! I of course totally get it. I fooled myself by thinking I was living very Japanese. All of our stuff fit so neatly in to our tiny apartment. Meanwhile, back at home, three storage rooms were bursting at the seams in a temperature controlled facility!


  2. Ann Marie says:

    Always love reading your posts!! So glad to see you back in action!! Sending you a hug from Seattle!


  3. This post made me laugh! During my many years of international travels and a career in international education, I’ve certainly collected things from all over the world. My place used to look like a museum of worldly things – lol. I did read her book when it came out but didn’t really do her technique. However, I did get rid of most of my things recently when I moved back to Iowa after living in NYC for 17 1/2 years. Now, I’ve started over in collecting things! Ha! I enjoy your posts very much!


    • I bet you do have some goodies to show off! Any pics you’d like to share? A friend posted a pic of her ema covered Christmas tree on my FB page which was an absolute gem. Cheers to more where they came from! So glad you’re enjoying it! And thanks for stopping in!


  4. my852life says:

    Love the kokeshi dolls


  5. Paul Gannan says:

    G’day Emily. I had never heard of the lady you mentioned but a day after I read your story Panic and the KonMari Method I was reading the Sunday paper and there was a story about Panic and the KonMari Method and that night there was a story on TV about her. I have been trying to declutter my house for nearly 4 years now but after 20 years in the one place stuff just appears and I really do not think a garage sale will get rid of much, but apart from that everything has some great memories attached. Love your stories, keep them coming.


    • I know! I feel like I’m in the same situation. The clutter multiplies during the night somehow. And Marie is everywhere in the US now. She’s supposedly behind the 30% increase in donations to Good Will in Jan here in the US. She even went to the Oscars. I wish she’d do some decluttering there….


  6. Jane Lurie says:

    Your post made me smile, Emily, especially the glass fish floats. 🙂 I could use some KonMari in my life.


  7. dalegreenearts says:

    After my husband died, I went through the entire home and did as she suggested. It helped me get through a difficult time and now my house is so beautiful and peaceful.


  8. parkashpencia says:

    Beautiful piece of art and images


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