“You’re vindicated!” read the message from a friend, along with a link to The Washington Post. I am rarely vindicated, so I excitedly clicked on the link. It led me to an interview in which Marie Kondo, the queen of decluttering, and author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, admits to being messy since the birth of her third child.
“Up until now, I was a professional tidier, so I did my best to keep my home tidy at all times,” she said at a webinar. “I have kind of given up on that in a good way for me. Now I realise what is important to me is enjoying spending time with my children at home.”
Marie Kondo has admitted to having a messy house.
Never has anything been more relatable. I, too, kept a (relatively) tidy home until my third child. No matter how organised or neat you are, the third kid just pushes you over the edge into chaos.
And I did feel vindicated by the article. I’ve been proselytising about the joys of mess for years, even writing a book on the subject. But more than vindication, I felt admiration for Marie Kondo. It takes courage to change your mind and philosophy, and it happens increasingly rarely. Most of us cling resolutely to what we’ve already decided we believe, and the confirmation bias means we can cheerfully filter out any evidence to the contrary.
But to change your mind publicly – particularly when you have been the public face of a particular philosophy – takes a particular kind of strength. The sunk-cost fallacy makes us loathe to give up anything to which we have committed a great deal of time, whether it be a relationship, a career, or a dedication to tidying up. It is fantastically hard to accept that the idea that what you have made into a cornerstone of your life may not be working for you anymore.
And yet Kondo has managed to shift gears. As did our Australian of the Year, Taryn Brumfitt, when she gave up bodybuilding and began preaching body positivity and acceptance to the world.
Australian of the Year Taryn Brumfitt gave up bodybuilding and began preaching body positivity.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
Both Kondo and Brumfitt initially subscribed to the quest for perfection; in Kondo’s case a perfectly tidy and organised home, in Brumfitt’s case, a sculpted and lean body. And both eventually realised that perfection is neither necessary nor sustainable, nor does it bring long-term joy.
Of course, there can be satisfaction in a tidy home, just as there can be satisfaction in attaining a fit body. And someone might admire your body, or admire your house. But satisfaction isn’t joy, and admiration isn’t connection, and it is joy and connection that makes life worth living.
If you love cleaning your house, or you enjoy dieting and working out, you should absolutely keep doing so. But if you’re doing it out of fear, or because society tells you that’s how you should live, know that the quest for perfection doesn’t bring happiness. If anything, it brings self-criticism and shame.
Your home will never be perfectly tidy for very long because it is inhabited by real human beings who live and eat and move and generate mess. And your body will never be perfect because human bodies aren’t cyborgs, and we are soft and bulgy and blotchy and asymmetrical and that is perfectly okay.
“When you take your final breath on this earth, what thoughts will be going through your mind?′ said Brumfitt in her Australian of the Year acceptance speech. “No one has ever said to me [it is] the size of their bum.”
Similarly, no-one gets to the end of their life and wishes they’d spent more time decluttering their wardrobe. No-one falls in love with another person because their shower screen is spotlessly clean. And no-one adores their best friend because their stomach is so perfectly flat.
I hope that Kondo and Brumfitt encourage more people on the perfection bandwagon to jump off and take a breath. Meanwhile, I will continue to feel pleasantly vindicated. It isn’t a particularly noble emotion, but you know what?
I’m not perfect either.
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