Marie Kondo will simplify and declutter your home, even if it takes three books to do it.
In her blockbusters, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “Spark Joy,” Kondo’s neatnik, folding-obsessed persona felt comedic. It would be maniacal if it weren’t so cute, down to her “spark joy” pose: The lifted leg, the tilt of the head, the finger pointed in the air. She’s like a cartoon character come to life to bless you with tidiness.
In her new book, “The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up,” Kondo is literally a comic book character. This odd little shoujo manga book, originally published in Japan, follows the tale of a fictional messy woman named Chiaki Suzuki. An earnest workaholic, Chiaki never cooks and has a disaster of an apartment littered with trash on the balcony and items on every surface. She never invites people over because of the mess. Chiaki is still single even though she is a whopping 29 years old. When her attractive neighbor comes over to complain about Chiaki’s balcony trash (rightly so), he gets a glimpse into her apartment and is disgusted.
What is Chiaki to do? Since this book is by Marie Kondo, you can probably guess. Marie Kondo — or rather, Manga Kondo — takes on Chiaki’s case, and over 185 pages, the pair get Chiaki’s life back together.
In shoujo manga books, protagonists are clumsy and messy. Partly, it’s to make a more likeable heroine, but partly it’s to make her meek and looking for protection and attention from handsome men. In this manga, illustrated by Yuko Utamato, we learn about all the ways Chiaki has let herself go. She realizes she doesn’t cook for herself anymore, that she doesn’t enjoy her life, that she doesn’t have a way to move forward. Through the KonMari method, she learns how to value the things around her, and thus herself. (To anyone who’s read a Kondo book, this will sound familiar.)
In one of their first lessons, Chiaki is deciding what books in her hoarder’s den to keep or throw away. She feels sad at the idea that an author has written and sold a book only to have it discarded.
“You wouldn’t like it if someone got rid of the book you wrote, would you?” Chiaki asks, her hands balled into fists, her mouth wobbly with emotion. Manga Kondo stops her with a hand up and her mouth in a half-moon smile. The little black-and-white Marie seems resigned to her fate, in a way.
“Actually, if it doesn’t bring joy, I’d rather they did,” she says.
Thank you, Manga Kondo, for your honesty.
Everdeen Mason reviews science fiction and fantasy every month for The Washington Post.
By Marie Kondo. Illustrated by Yuko Uramato
Ten Speed. 192 pp. $14.99