The Wisdom of Tidying Up: Marie Kondo & St. Thomas Aquinas on Order

Marie Kondo wrote a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. The book is about tidying your house and your life.

The method is called KonMari. (That's from the names Kondo and Marie abbreviated and rearranged.)

I Like KonMari

In June and July 2015, for reasons I won't go into in this post, I implemented the KonMari method as much as I was able.

My main accomplishment was to remove 8 bookcases of books (and the bookcases themselves) from our garage. Clearing out those books was good, it felt good while doing it, and, once it was done, it felt really good to have done it.

KonMari deserves much credit for making it possible for me to have cleared out that space in the garage.

Some People Don't Like KonMari

I know some people don't like KonMari and think that Marie Kondo's book has a faulty logic or a bad spirituality. It certainly isn't perfect. Not much is.

But I would urge anyone who feels the need to tidy or who is curious about KonMari to read the book and to try the method. I think there's some solid wisdom in the book and in the method.

What's Good in KonMari

Marie Kondo remarks that her clients' tidying often has a large effect: it changes their approach and attitude toward life. They find a certain peace they lacked before. She asks why that happens.

Here is her basic answer:

Basically, when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don't, and what you should and shouldn't do.

Marie Kondo is connecting physical ordering of material conditions (tidying) with a spiritual ordering (seeing what you truly need and what you truly ought to do).

What is that "seeing" of one's true needs? What is that "seeing" of what one ought to do. To me, it sounds like prudentia — prudence — the virtue by which a human being orders his or her affairs. It sounds like practical wisdom.

I propose that the KonMari method is a means by which you can exercise prudence and practical wisdom. And by exercising those virtues, they increase in you.

Order and Peace

Is Marie Kondo correct when she connects physical order with an experience of peace? I think she is on to something.

In an article on the gift of wisdom, St. Thomas explains why the seventh beatitude — "Blessed are the peacemakers." — corresponds to wisdom.

Now a peacemaker is one who makes peace, either in himself, or in others: and in both cases this is the result of setting in due order those things in which peace is established, for "peace is the tranquillity of order," according to Augustine (De Civ. Dei xix, 13).

Now it belongs to wisdom to set things in order, as the Philosopher declares (Metaph. i, 2), wherefore peaceableness is fittingly ascribed to wisdom.

St. Thomas connects wisdom and order and peace. And to me, it makes sense to say with Marie Kondo that if you wisely set your physical house in order (i.e., tidy), then you will experience peace and a peaceful clarity of vision about what really matters.

Conclusion

This is a rough sketch of one reason I think you might want to pay some attention to Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and KonMari.

Let me stress: KonMari isn't perfect and the book has some stuff that needs ignoring or tempering. But there's a solid, sensible core from which one can begin to tidy.