As a physical presence, Marie Kondo has more in common with a snowflake than with the flesh-and-blood humans around her. She speaks softly, wears white, and doesn’t so much make an entrance as drift to a halt on the stormy day when we meet. Most celebrities of her magnitude have a force field. Kondo, standing about five feet tall in shiny patent-leather heels, has none—and yet she’s so famous in Japan that she can no more ride the Tokyo subway than Beyoncé could.
At 30 years old, Kondo has written four best-selling books about the art of tidying, including The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, her first book translated into English and a runaway best seller. Fans of her decluttering techniques call themselves Konverts and use the author’s name as a verb: “Good day today,” wrote one in a parenting forum. “Kondoed fridge before shopping delivery.” From another: “It seems mundane but I’ve Kondo’d some deodorant that I didn’t like the smell of.” Konverts live for the high of domestic purging. They call it Kondomania.
The author’s formal study of neatness began at age 5, when feng shui principles became trendy in Tokyo. “My mother was applying the method, but to my eye, the house was not tidy enough to have the feng shui effect,” Kondo said, sipping Fiji water through a straw at lunch. She began helping her mother with the housework. “Well, not so much helped, as I was the one who tidied,” Kondo clarified. “I actually executed all the tidying up.”