Marie Kondo in the Garden, and Life


I couldn’t agree more with what this Washington Post reviewer wrote about Marie Kondo’s approach to “tidying up” in her new show on Netflix.

Unlike her TV predecessors, Kondo brings a calming influence to the surroundings — even asking the owners if she may take a moment to kneel in a particular spot and silently greet their homes.

This is a noble and overdue concept for the home makeover and real estate genre — a chance to express gratitude for any home, rather than the perfect home. Years of HGTV’s programming have placed homeowners and home-seekers on a narcissistic pedestal of entitled complaint (our house is too small, too ugly, too outdated) and criticisms.

That got me thinking about my attitude toward the gardens I create and then care for. Am I one of those “entitled” complainers on HGTV?

It took mere seconds of reflection for me to conclude that no, I’m not. Real gardeners like me just don’t see their gardens that way. Sure, I notice the tasks that need to be done but overall, I love being in my garden and appreciate the hell out of it, whatever condition it’s in.

But what about when my garden gets crowded, when plants start encroaching on pathways, when maybe something has to go? Here’s where a super-declutterer like Marie has useful advice for me.

The WaPo review continues, “She saves sentimental objects for last, and it’s here where the owners must really buckle down and assess whether they are keeping something out of a sense of duty or true joy.”

So the next time I’m making one of those yank-or-keep decisions about an unhappy or overgrown plant, I’ll try asking myself if the plant is “sparking joy” for me. That’s her favorite phrase and a really great one, I think.

Marie demonstrates thanking a sweather

I’ll also try following her advice and “thank” each plant before sending it to the compost (or to a plant swap or whatever). The sight of Marie holding a small piece of clothing reverently in her grasp and then quietly thanking it inspires me to give that a try.

Beyond the Garden

All this makes me wonder – is there anything else in my life that I need to thank and discard because it’s not sparking joy for me? Certainly my constant checking for emails and Facebook responses comes to mind.

And how about this: Do all my relationships spark joy or are some of them more joy-draining?

Tidying Up on Netflix

Back to the show for a quick reaction. The very notion of this tiny nonEnglish-speaking woman having her own show on American television (or whatever Netflix is) seems crazy! And in a good way. But then so is the astonishing success of her book.

Naturally I’m all for decluttering and to Marie’s fans I say “Go for it!” But I’m more of a minimalist than a clutterer, so I’ll leave to others a real review of her advice. I also don’t watch reality TV, so the super-scripted artificiality and the constant promoting of Marie and her method honestly drove me nuts.

But on a final note, I love that two of the seven homes featured in the show are inhabited by gay couples. I try to notice and enjoy examples like that of things getting better in this country, because, you know.

For our Feedblitz subscribers, the author is Susan Harris


  1. I’ve decided to downsize my yard and garden. It had not occurred to me to apply Marie Kondo’s principles to that effort. This gives me a framework for approaching this daunting task. Thank you!

  2. I like Marie Kondo, but the decluttering thing has become a bit cultish. That’s the nature of lifestyle fads. I also certainly hope we don’t start applying the same standards to people that we do to our clutter. I hope my friends, family, and co-workers won’t discard me if I fail to spark enough joy in them! 🙂

  3. Marie Kondo does share good advice and over the years she has become less harsh and dogmatic. A lot of good tips in her books. Susan, Thanks for connecting her strategy to gardens! (yep, I am a professional home organizer and a former community garden organizer.)

  4. Thanks for this Susan. So true! Marie Kondo is like a darling Christmas tree ornament. At a more macro level, clearly Netflix is starting a very small revolution — first Roma where non-English speaking Mexicans (and non-professional actors) are the stars of this big Hollywood movie which was financed by Netflix. At the same time, Marie Kondo, a Chinese non-professional is starring in what looks to be another Netflix hit.

    Also: a wonderful way to think about our gardens – which plants spark joy and which don’t. But what do you do with ones that don’t and yet have been with you for years and years. Very few places you can drop off plants for a new home.

    • Re what to do with plants you no longer want: Where I live (in Pittsburgh) we have a social network called Nextdoor. I think it is nation-wide. I have posted on Nextdoor seeking to give away both house plants and garden plants and have had good luck finding people who want to take them.

      • Thank you, Pattie. We have Next Door here in Denver. I live in a townhouse complex with very limited outdoor gardening possibilities and the neighbors in my complex are always happy to get a new plant or cutting. One might say that giving away does indeed “spark joy.” True joy.
        And not a materialistic profit-making author or greedy agent in sight.

    • More than a bit cultish, Mary, imo. Tell you one thing I will “de-clutter” immediately should it fall into my mail of whatever form:

      ANYthing by Marie Kondo. Or any other professional “de-clutterer,” seeking to make a quick buck off vulnerable, insecure homeowners.

      It’s an abominable fad, imho.

  5. While Christmas shopping this year, I came across a book about Swedish Death Cleaning, another method of cleaning out and tying up loose ends as we age. As we Baby Boomers grow old and start to clear out all the stuff left from the golden age of consumerism of the last 6 decades, of course there will be those who see opportunities to make a buck out of it. In my small town in the last few years, 3 or 4 second-hand shops, plus a “fancy” Goodwill shop have sprung up, in direct proportion to all of the downsizing going on. I like the idea that at least some some recycling is going on.

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