Don’t panic: Marie Kondo says you don’t have to throw away all of your books

Marie Kondo, decluttering expert and host of the Netflix series Tidying Up, inspired us to do some early spring cleaning. Even celebrities are using the “KonMari method” of organizing. But Kondo’s newfound popularity in the U.S. has come with backlash—specifically from bibliophiles who (incorrectly) assume that she wants them to toss out all of their books. So, in a January 16th interview with IndieWire, Kondo clarified her position on home libraries.

Speaking to the website through her interpreter Marie Iida, Kondo said she doesn’t actually want viewers to purge their entire book collections. She noted that her method of decluttering is meant to help individuals discover what’s important to them.

“So it’s not so much what I personally think about books,” she said. “The question you should be asking is what do you think about books. If the image of someone getting rid of books or having only a few books makes you angry, that should tell you how passionate you are about books, what’s clearly so important in your life.”

Kondo also clarified that viewers who get rid of books should not throw them away.

"I do think there is a misunderstanding of the process, that I’m recommending that we throw away books in the trash or burn them or something," she continued. "I always recommend donating them, so if that’s part of the misunderstanding, then that’s certainly being mixed up."

Kondo also acknowledged that cultural differences between her native Japan and the U.S. could have contributed to the backlash.

In Japan, she pointed out, the humid climate causes books to become damaged. She also noted that Americans typically have more space in their homes than Japanese people do.

Part of the outrage over Kondo’s methods came from the misunderstanding that she advocates only keeping 30 books. But as Vox notes, that number is her preference for her own book collection.

In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo writes, “I now keep my collection of books to about thirty volumes at any one time.” She does recommend that you get rid of books wallowing in your to-be-read pile, but nowhere does she say you must limit yourself to 30 tomes.

Basically, Kondo’s method of decluttering focuses on figuring out what you value above all else. That sounds like something worth thinking about. And to be honest, we could probably all part with a few of our books.

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