Cleaning up after Marie Kondo: what to read next after you've KonMori'd your home
Updated: Oct 13, 2020
With so many people staying home in an effort to slow the spread of covid-19, more are tackling their household clutter and mess. Many have turned to Marie Kondo, tidying expert and creator of the KonMori method for home-decluttering. The spike in donations some thrift stores have received indicates just how widespread the quarantine-inspired decluttering spree has become.
If you’re reading this post, you may have already decluttered your home. If so — congratulations! This represents a big step toward taking control over your own space. If you used the KonMori method specifically, you’ve also learned more about yourself and what makes you happy.
But tidying is only the beginning. KonMori and similar methods only address one facet of our material lives. What possessions we choose to keep and how we want to organize our homes is one thing, but how do we take care of it all once we’ve done tidying?
Our homes continue to need time and attention: the floors, the stove, the laundry, the books (I kept mine), the bathroom all get dusty and dirty and hard to manage even if every item in the home sparks galaxies worth of joy.
Cleaning is its own art. Most people learn the art of keeping home from their parents — specifically their mothers and occasionally their fathers. Unfortunately for many of us, this art was not passed down the chain of succession. Either our mothers or our grandmothers didn’t pass down their tips, tricks, and habits for reasons of their own. Now, we’re left wondering why we seem so bad at taking care of our things. What feels like it should be simple and intuitive is, in fact, it’s own special kind of magic.
Thankfully, there are resources to help. Here are three books which each offer very different approaches to keeping home. One or some combination of these approaches to housework can help you keep the joy in your home nice and clean.
Three Books on Cleaning That Spark Joy
Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson, Ph.D., J.D.
This book is a beast. It’s for the overachiever, researcher of everything, the home-keeper everyone will consult for practical advise. At 850+ pages long, this book covers every question about every nook and cranny of your home.
And it’s not just for the full-time house-spouse. Notice Mendelson has both a Ph.D. and J.D. Raised originally to be a housewife, Mendelson went on to study philosophy and later practice law. By writing this book, Mendelson has chosen to embrace her housekeeping strengths as well as her career. The practical instructions in this book are intended for everyone, no matter how little time they spend at home.
Because Mendelson is a philosopher, this book also includes a well thought out ethical theory behind good housekeeping. There is something very Aristotelian about the first chapters of this book. Like Marie Kondo, Mendelson doesn’t just tell you how to clean, she tells you why you should clean.
This book is not designed to be read in one sitting, but to be consulted as the reader is ready to tackle whatever home-keeping task they’re ready to learn next. If you’ve ever wished you had a housekeeping manual, this is it.
If the very idea of the previous book overwhelmed you, this might be the better choice. At 50 pages, this workbook is for those who are easily overwhelmed, easily distracted, or forgetful with regard to their house chores. Brooks aims to help her readers find a personalized and forgiving relationship with their home.
Rene Brooks is an ADHD advocate and popular voice in the ADHD community. Both this book and its author are pragmatic and straightforward. To see more from Brooks, see her personal blog and website here.
If you’re a minimalist, a spiritualist, or feel like you’re always creeping closer to joining a monastery, this is your book.
Cleaning for a Zen Buddhist monk is art, ritual, and religion all in one. This book challenges its readers to think more deeply about their relationship to the act of cleaning. There are many amazing opportunities for meditation, mindfulness, and peace when we clean. This book shows its readers how.
Not all rituals in this book are practical for every reader but there’s much accessible cleaning wisdom to be found in Matsumo's guide.
I’ve found all three of these resources valuable, my favorite being Mendelson’s behemoth of a book. Growing up and for the first phase of my adulthood, I never dusted. When it crossed my mind it was quickly forgotten. I was a big sneezer. For the longest time I never owned a vacuum cleaner, and my partner always did the dishes. My things were always buried in piles of other things. This was how I was raised and would continue to live.
I’ve since then adopted a cozy form of minimalism, KonMori’d my home, and take great pleasure in the small, daily tasks which keep my home clean and healthy. I’d never thought I’d enjoy folding my laundry but here we are. This has all been a gradual process assisted by various books, YouTube channels, a little bit of Aristotle, and encouragement from my partner. My daughter is a gleeful duster on Sundays.
If you’re seeking a neater, happier home, take your time. Enjoy the little victories and changes. Whatever you do, do it in a way you can enjoy. Life is short, live it well.