When Christians Tidy Up

Why let Marie Kondo have all the fun?

Perhaps you’ve heard of the craze for this Japanese author and her books, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and her most recent, Spark Joy. She even has her own show on Netflix, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Her brand is called Konmari. (If you haven’t heard of any of this, you’re not missing out on much, but you might find it interesting nonetheless.)

To be fair, I’ve never watched the show. (I got rid of Netflix ages ago, gasp! How un-millennial of me.) However, I have read her first book, and even attempted to follow her advice while cleaning out our apartment before a big move.

I piled my old t-shirts, baggy jeans, unused scarves, and other pieces of clothing high in giant piles. I read her tips and then threw away chunks of belongings into garbage bags, some to donate, others to trash. I was left with a very limited wardrobe and a lot less stuff to pack.

I felt good about it.

Honestly, my approach to Kondo’s book was like skimming through a manual–not bothering to read all the fine print, but just locating the bullet points and following her “to-do” lists on a surface level.

For that reason, I didn’t notice (until after doing more research) that Kondo’s methods are steeped in Shintoism–a traditional Japanese religion focused on the energy, divine spirit, and personality of objects. Basically, treating objects like people, and treating your home like a shrine.

No wonder then, that she teaches her followers to assess whether or not their t-shirts “spark joy,” to say thank you to that old set of tongs you no longer need, and to blindfold your kid’s stuffed animals before throwing them out (so you don’t have to look them in the eye and get sentimental, of course)!

It should be obvious to the Christian that those Shintoistic practices have no place in our homes. We don’t view our houses or objects through the lens of pagan mysticism. Maybe it hardly even feels like a temptation to do so, since we are so far removed (physically and spiritually) from an Eastern religion like Shintoism.

But let’s not be too prideful to think we’d never be tempted to fall into idolatry–remember, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Our spiritual ancestors, the Israelites, through constant exposure to their pagan neighbors and their practices, fell into the sin of breaking the first commandment. Who are we to say we’d never do the same? “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).

True, we can learn how to fold sweaters or organize a desk from anyone, regardless of their religion. Can you follow Kondo’s methods for housekeeping while leaving the weird Shintoistic stuff behind? Sure. I’m not here to invent a “thou shalt not.” But let’s have discerning and guarded minds.

Are we aware of the increasing influence of mysticism in mainstream Christianity today? Are we protecting our Christian witness? Let’s consider these things before buying Kondo’s books and watching her show.

Not only that, but when it comes to tidying up our homes, do we have the right motive? Are we doing even this for God’s glory?

I know I struggle to think about how I can glorify the Lord while folding laundry. And that’s something Marie Kondo can’t help us with.

So what can we meditate on as we get our homes in order and take care of what’s been entrusted to us? How do we get rid of stuff with a God-glorifying attitude? Let me offer this simple attempt at tackling tidying up from a Christian–rather than Shintoistic–perspective.

WHEN CHRISTIANS TIDY UP

  1. Wisdom, Not Magic

The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands. (Proverbs 14:1)

Through wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
By knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches. (Proverbs 24:3-4)

God cares about our homes. It would be a gnostic, unbiblical idea to think He doesn’t, that He is only concerned about our souls. Wrong too is the belief that if we are spiritually minded, we won’t be any earthly good. Instead, we are called to look to the Lord for discernment to manage our households. He cares about our homes and wants them to reflect His order and wisdom.

As wives, we are called to build up our homes as pleasant, precious places. What that means specifically–how to decorate, which furnishings to choose, how to fold our clothes–is not dictated by Scripture. We are free to choose, and while human advice can be useful, we don’t need “magic” to figure it out. It’s clear that the wise handling of money and the orderly running of a household are both commended by the Word. Foolishly wasting resources or letting the home come to ruin are likewise condemned.

Are we pleading with God for wisdom in this area, believing His promise that He gives wisdom to any who ask without doubting (James 1:5)? I know I need to pray more earnestly in this!

2. Do Your Math

Here is the equation: godliness + contentment = great gain:

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

It’s not a step-by-step tutorial, but a foundational principle. If we have hearts filled with discontentment, we’re going to fill our homes with possessions that detract from our pursuit of Christ and His kingdom. If we are content with having what we need–food, clothing, and most of all, the Bread of Life–what we have in excess can be assessed with right judgment, thankfulness, and willingness to let go of all we have to follow Christ if He calls us to that.

Reminding ourselves that we will leave this world with nothing–to depart and be with Christ, which is far better–leads us to forsake any sinful attachments to our possessions and to be generous with what we have. Not only that, but to pursue godliness and contentment, and to know that these spiritual graces are far greater gain than anything money can buy.

Let’s pay attention to the foundation of our homes more than the objects inside of it. Is our house built on the Rock, the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, we can trust God to show us our hearts and what we should do with what He’s given us. Both the poor widow in her poverty and King Solomon in his great riches glorified the Lord, because they trusted God’s providence and obeyed Him in it.

3. Thank Your Creator

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:17)

We can agree with Marie Kondo that tidying our homes is a great time to express thanksgiving. But who should we thank? That’s where we part ways.

We don’t thank the objects themselves, but the Giver of them. It is a sign of man’s wicked depravity and idolatry that we would honor the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1), but a sign of regeneration and a humble heart when we bring our gratitude to our Maker. We know that He made all things for His glory (Rev. 4:11), and has even granted them to us for our happiness. This is an amazing truth considering the fact that we don’t deserve anything from His hand, but wrath and judgment for our sins.

And that brings us to ask ourselves–are we thankful for the greatest gift of all, the Son of God, come in flesh to save us from our sins and make us His? The One who “became poor, that [we] through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9)? Jesus Christ is the divine Gift of heaven, sent in love to the whole world (John 3:16), but pledged particularly to His Bride (Ephesians 5:25). Let’s thank the Father always for Christ.

Whether we have much or little, a grand estate or a small inheritance, we know that our gracious Lord has ordered our lives for His good purposes. And we can express our gratitude as we tidy our homes, not just for the things we have, but for God sending His Son to grace our households with salvation.

4. Seek God’s Blessing

“The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked,
But He blesses the home of the just” (Proverbs 3:33)

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it… (Psalm 127:1)

Most of all, in all our attempts to tidy and care for our homes, let’s remember to seek the Lord and His favor upon our efforts. We labor in vain if we don’t have His blessing. The best news is, He desires to give it! When we ask for what we need, we don’t come to an angry Judge, but a loving Father who promises us: “Seek and you will find…” (Matthew 7:7).

We can have perfectly tidy houses, structured schedules, folded clothes, and beautiful possessions, but if we don’t have the Lord as our covenant God–if He isn’t present in our homes, working in us to worship and adore Him–then we have nothing.

But if we have Christ, we have everything already! –and we are free to enjoy the good gifts He grants us. We are also protected from falling utterly under the suffocating grief of a collapsing home. He reminds us that one day we will be in glory with Him, and He is preparing a place for us even now (John 14).

Yet in this life, there is no better place than a godly home–full of the pleasantness of the presence of God. He brings joy, peace, and unity to our families and warms every room with His love.

So let’s go ahead and tidy our homes and clean out our closets. These are the every day things of life that do matter to God. But let’s do it while pursuing, not the unattainably lofty goals of Marie Kondo or Good Housekeeping, but Christ Himself. For when we have Him, there’s truly no place like home.

11 thoughts on “When Christians Tidy Up

  1. Beth Gordon says:

    This is excellent! I read her book when I first began to declutter my home. You begin up some points that bothered me but I didn’t know these elements were part of a religion. I was right to skip those. I like how you you related tidying up our homes with our spiritual walk.

    Like

  2. Jessica says:

    I was totally onboard with the method, but not the means. Let’s be honest. The only thing in my wardrobe that sparks joy is that coffee t-shirt and some pajama pants. I’m for practical and organized. Thank you for the warning for those seeking a “spark”!

    Like

  3. Mimi Dublin Knowles (@dublin_mimi) says:

    Thanks so much!! This has come to me in a very timely fashion, as I’m in desperate need of purging my home of so much clutter. As a Christian, I want to honour God with my whole being, including my home & keeping it clean & tidy.

    I watched part of the first episode of Marie Kondo’s Netflix show, but I thought something about it was a bit odd, & her method wasn’t for me. However, you’ve made some great points here about why her method didn’t sit quite right with me. Well, not her method, but the why behind it, really.

    Thanks again, & God bless you. I’d never seen your blog before, but I shall return.

    Liked by 2 people

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