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Brianna Parkins: Marie Kondo has fallen. Tidying up is out and wall-to-wall tat is in

The cleaning guru has given up on her teachings since becoming a mother. It’s time we bring back display cabinets filled with treasures

Once in a generation, a guru to middle-class women appears as their guiding light to happiness, enlightenment and the highest state of being possible – having a tidy house. Like Oprah, Martha Stewart, Gwyneth Paltrow, Aggie McKenzie and Kim Woodburn that came before her, we looked at Marie Kondo as our lord and saviour. The woman who could show us a better way of living via home organisation. We could save time, space and even our relationships if we just committed to throwing some of our old stuff away and folding our clothes in ways that stack neatly in drawers.

Except, Kondo jazzed up the old “throw out old stuff and tidy your drawers” message by playing with our emotions. When doing a clearout, most of us usually fling things into a third pile of purgatory that isn’t quite “throw out” or “keep”, then it sits in the spare room, attic or car boot for six to 30 months before being brought back in again to the house. But Kondo famously has us wandering about the house, looking at things in it and asking ourselves “does this spark joy” to determine what to keep and what to get rid of. Kondo says we’ll know if something sparks joy if it feels like “a little thrill, as if the cells in your body are slowly rising”.

This makes things a bit tricky as most of us don’t feel this way about bath plugs, electricity metres or dishwashing tablets, but we still need them in the house. The same goes for partners. It’s a dangerous game to ask ourselves “does this spark joy” while they watch telly with their hands down their trackie bottoms, but Kondo is famously strict on her minimalist principles. Cut the deadweight, do some fabric origami to fit your T-shirts into a drawer and there’s nothing standing between you and your dream life.

And we bought it, quite literally because the Japanese organisation expert has sold millions of copies of her four best-selling books, starred in her own Netflix series, has a range of homewares and trademarked the KonMari method of cleaning. You can take classes in the Fundamentals of Tidying Up and even apply to become a KonMari-certified consultant. Kondo built her business empire on our collective dreams of decluttered spare rooms and wide, beige open-plan Japandi-inspired interiors.

So last week when she admitted she had “kind of given up” on living by her teachings after the birth of her first child, the world had two reactions. The first was one of devastation and betrayal from devout fans who had got rid of everything they loved including their family to follow her doctrine. The second was from anyone who has had children who rubbed their hands with smug glee (once they had prised the dried Play-Doh off the sofa) while chanting “ONE OF US, ONE OF US”.

“I realised always maintaining the perfect state of tidiness was not my goal, but spending time with my kids is. That’s what really sparks joy,” she told the Guardian.

Which is a lovely thing to say but in reality at one stage at least 90 per cent of parents have thought about how much tidier their house would be if they didn’t procreate and would have seriously considered swapping a vomiting toddler for a Dyson vacuum cleaner at 4am if presented with the opportunity.

However, this might mark an important defeat of minimalist interiors and the triumphant return of wall-to-wall tat. We must stop pretending we can live like chic Shinto priests or Scandinavians with their sparse belongings, muted whites and beige-coloured woods. Humans are really just slightly more complicated birds – collecting shiny, colourful trinkets in order to show off our nests to others. It’s in our nature.

That’s how the industry of novelty souvenir ashtrays and shot glasses came to exist. I long for fridges covered in tropical, Technicolor magnets from strange, faraway places such as Benidorm. I lament the loss of display cabinets filled with treasures such as Waterford Crystal sets, commemorative Princess Diana plates and vintage Tiki mugs. All of these things spark joy. Folding away clothes does not.

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