What Is A “Christian Minimalist?”
( + Will Marie Kondo-Style Decluttering Actually Radically Change Your Life?)
At some point over the past several years, you’ve likely heard of Marie Kondo. Or the “KonMari” method of organization. Or The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.
Maybe, like me, you read the book several years ago in hopes of finally getting your home organization act together. Or perhaps you’ve seen all of the recent hype about the 2019 Netflix original show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. It could even be as simple as overhearing conversations among coworkers about decluttering and determining if their possessions “spark joy”. Possibly you’ve even seen your friends’ social media posts about how they finally learned to fold their clothes the right way or how they’re about to take 20 garbage bags of stuff for donation to a local charity.
Marie Kondo’s Decluttering Methods
Marie Kondo has a way of stirring something within all of us. After watching just one episode of her show, one must say that she exudes beauty, joy, and peace. It is easy to assume that she has it all figured out when you first “meet” her on the show.
When I read the book several years ago, I came away with a similar feeling. However, it’s amazing how much the Netflix series has brought her persona to life. She seems like a kind and gentle soul, full of helpful information and encouragement. And Marie Kondo knows exactly where to gently poke at us to make us uncomfortable enough to sit up and listen.
The KonMari method of organizing is different than others, in that she teaches you to organize by category and not by room. This is counterintuitive to me (and apparently many others), but if you stick with her, you will begin to understand the method to her madness.
Marie Kondo also teaches you to organize by category in a specific order, clothing being the first. My theory is that she has you start with clothes because this is the easiest way to see just how overly indulgent we are in our spending and how enslaved we have become to our possessions.
And this is really the whole point, right? Kondo has you take EVERY.SINGLE.CLOTHING.ITEM and place them all in a pile. A towering pile of “stuff” that produces shame and maybe even disbelief at how much we truly possess (or at least how we managed to squeeze it all into closets and dresser drawers).
This is a powerful moment. Decision time. When you see how much junk you’ve accumulated over the years, it is meant to evoke emotion. Or probably conviction. Possibly disgust. This is the moment that we should all feel compelled to live differently.
We should all walk away ready to purge our homes of all of the excess, stop accumulating more stuff, and live a lighter, freer existence. And if you left it at that, what an amazing concept this would be!
Christian Response to the KonMari Method
However, there has been a bit of controversy among the Christian community about her methods. Here’s the rub for most Christians: as you sort through this towering pile for what to keep, donate, or throw away, Kondo instructs you to thank each item for their service to you.
Hmmm… that was a new one for me. I’m sure I talk to myself out loud all of the time. I certainly speak to my dog like she’s a person. But I have NEVER looked at a top from Old Navy and said “Thanks girl! It’s been real!” before tossing it into a donate pile.
I understand the sentiment that we should be more aware of our footprint in the world and stop living such excessive, indulgent lives; however, I don’t get down with animism. Neither do the many other Christians I’ve heard speak out against this.
I’ve read several articles about how Christians should not read Kondo’s books or watch her show. When I read these articles, I always scroll to the bottom to see the comments. It is usually a combination of thank you’s for the thought-provoking article and lots of “That’s why I’ll never read it! I’ve heard this was anti-Christian. I keep telling so-and-so to stop reading it, but they won’t listen.”.
Now here’s the rub for this particular Christian: we don’t have to demonize Marie Kondo and her methods of decluttering and organization just because we believe differently than her. We don’t have to ban her or boycott her.
While I understand that others could be misled into practicing animism (or whatever you want to call talking to your stuff), I’ve never heard her profess to be a Christian. Why should we be surprised that she adheres to different religious, or even life, practices? Should we fault her for that?
And to take it a step further, should we throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater because of it? Instead, I’d prefer to use the conversation Kondo has started as a jumping off point to address why Kondo might be resonating with so many.
Minimalism Reveals Our Need for Spiritual Peace
Minimalism has been trending for a hot minute now. And with good reason. Deep down we all feel the tug of our “stuff” on our souls. Internally, we recognize that our stuff tends to possess us more than we possess it. The typical cycle runs like this: We need more stuff. We want more stuff. We buy more stuff. We have nowhere to put all of this stuff. Enter organizing experts and container stores. Once we realize those may only serve as Band-aids, we turn to minimalism and Marie Kondo.
It is a vicious cycle, but I personally don’t believe the ultimate solution is less stuff. While decluttering and getting rid of extra stuff may be a helpful part of the journey, this is not the ultimate answer.
I believe our affinity for more and more stuff and the management of said stuff is just one way we choose to evade our starving souls. It keeps us busy enough to avoid thinking about our real issue. Our souls are crying out for God, but that cry has become white noise amidst all of our sound-muffling distractions and addictive behaviors. We would rather declutter our homes than our hearts, and we are willing to take that to an absolute extreme if it means we get to avoid actually spending some honest time between God and ourselves.
WHAT WE ARE ACTUALLY DESPERATE FOR IS PEACE. SPIRITUAL PEACE.
Even Marie Kondo touches on this in her book:
“If you can’t feel relaxed in a clean and tidy room, try confronting your feeling of anxiety. It may shed light on what is really bothering you. When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state… From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result your life will change. That’s why the task of putting your house in order should be done quickly.” (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, page 19)
Marie Kondo and I may not agree on everything but we do agree on this- your relationship with your stuff provides a window to your soul. As much as I love when my house is clean, I do not believe that our ultimate goal should be having our homes perfectly decluttered and organized. Again, if that happens along the way that is a wonderful benefit. We probably all function best in tidy spaces, where we aren’t forced to step over the messes that we’ve made and left for cleaning up later.
However, I believe our ultimate goal should be finding true peace with God through Jesus. Only He can give us true peace in our daily lives. God can and will give us this peace amidst any mess, including our messy homes.
Biblical Answer to Finding the Spiritual Peace We All Seek
I am a part of a small group Bible study and we just finished Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God. Her study focuses on Ephesians 6:10-19, which speaks of spiritual warfare and the importance of putting on the armor of God. This passage speaks of the peace I believe we are all so desperate for. Ephesians 6:15 says, “…and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Shirer refers to this peace throughout her study, but specifically focuses on it during Week 4 of the study.
Through several passages of Scripture, Shirer makes the connection that our trust in and thankfulness towards God are what bring us ultimate peace. Shirer says:
“When God sees this type of prayerful, grateful faith, when our mind is squared on Him, the peace of God expands within us. It stabilizes our runaway emotions, centers our minds, guides our footsteps and even overflows into our experience with others. It cools our sharp tongue, dismantles our emotional walls, and keeps us from being so difficult to be around.” (The Armor of God, page 111)
Here are some verses that she refers to:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
The Christian Minimalist
Let’s take these words to heart and seek God before all else, specifically before trying to get our homes in perfect order. Let’s trust in Him, and not in our stuff or the perfect system we use to manage our stuff. Let’s pray to Him and thank Him for all of the good things in our lives, including all of the “stuff” He has provided for us to care for.
God’s lavish grace never ceases to amaze me.
While Marie Kondo espouses that we must first work hard to get our homes perfectly clean and decluttered before we can address our internal issues, the Bible tells us otherwise. God tells us to come to Him just as we are and He will give us rest and peace for our weary souls. Then, with renewed minds and spirits, we can tackle this whole decluttering thing… doesn’t that sound better?
That, my friends, is the better way to approach the question of what or who is a Christian minimalist (and why you might consider becoming one yourself). And who knows? Once you’ve found peace for your soul, you may just find that Marie Kondo’s folding methods spark joy…
***One great way to begin this process of renewing your mind is through worship. This is one of my favorite ways to redirect my focus back to God and He is always faithful to restore His peace in me. If you have an extra minute (3:34 to be exact), pause and listen to this song: