Thank Your Socks, Idiot (Kondo-pilled part 2)
I'm writing thirty posts in thirty days, again. This is number twenty-six.
This is a follow-up to this essay, also about Marie Kondo.
Marie Kondo suggests that you thank your socks when you take them off. Like to express gratitude that they sheltered your feet during your heroic journeys. She also instructs you to do the same for anything you throw out. Thank you for your service, paint can.
Some mad people are mad at her about this. They throw words like ‘woo’ at her, as if that really means anything. They act like she’s literally expecting the socks to talk back to her, like she’s desperate to share her problems with a tube of argyle.
The same population, tellingly enough, doesn’t feel bad about doing other, similar things. The Kondo haters will happily fill out gratitude journals, where they say thanks for random things in their life to a blank page. (What is the implied audience for this action?) They will meditate, because Science said it was good for them, plus a religious guy in a robe who said you don’t need to be religious gave them permission.
In other words, they’ll happily do things that are at least as ‘woo,’ which is to say, not couched in a strictly materialist aesthetic. But they’ll only indulge in such rituals, or even try them out, if a secular authority figure brandishes a bullshit study. Instead of hearing ‘thank your socks’ and thinking, ‘oh, that’s an odd strategy, let’s try it,’ they react with outrage. They regard it with a contemptuous smirk and continue living in their cluttered wasteland.
This is exactly the modern disease that Kondo is attempting to deal with in her work. People think she’s a prophet of objects, and that’s part of it, sure. But her most significant contribution is her inducement to investigate personal phenomenology—which is to say, she actually asks you to forget about authority and think about how the fuck you feel about the physical world in front of you.
It should be a trivial skill. But it’s pretty hard to find on the ground right now. One of the interesting tragedies of our supposedly individualistic age is that we’re not great individualists. The ideal of individualism involves going on your gut, frequently, making the best use of local data that there’s no easy precedent for. However, what happens instead is that we still trust authority, it’s just lots of different diffuse authorities who don’t deserve our respect. Instead of our elders—who were worth following unconditionally in an ancestral environment, given the relevance of their expertise—we follow a whole bunch of little propagandists from magazines, Instagram ads, and our extended social network.
Sure, Kondo is an authority. But she’s an anti-authority, in the same way that Wittgenstein was an anti-philosopher. She asks you to ask yourself what’s right, which is a skill that requires training. You’ve been educated stupid, robbed of the basic courage required to do something odd in the privacy of your own home.
See how it feels to train that faculty. Think about thanking your socks. Does it make you anxious? Are you worried that Daddy Science will punish you? Nobody will punish you. Nobody is actively coercing you, most of the time. You do it just fine all by yourself.