is marie kondo good for quilts?

is marie kondo good for quilts?

By guest blogger Teresa Duryea Wong

Marie Kondo is adorable. She sparkles. Marie is a tiny Japanese woman who wrote a tiny little book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, that sold really big — over 10 million copies. Now she has a new Netflix series where she helps people “tidy up.”

Her adorableness makes you want to cheer her on. Makes you want to sign up. Yes, I want a tidy life. Yes, I want to feel joy. Please, Marie, just show me how!

Marie’s religion helps people decide what stuff to keep by deciding what “sparks joy” for them. If an item does not spark joy, get rid of it she says. I embraced the concept. I cleaned my closet. I got rid of old stuff and donated it. I folded my jeans so they stand up. I organized my shoes. It was joyful.

But after that, her joyful method met a spectacular collapse in my home. Marie, I said, you are not touching my books and certainly not my quilts or my studio!

Can you imagine what would happen if she entered a home like mine with piles of old quilts? She’d ask, do these spark joy? And of course, I’d say no. Joy is not the right feeling. I’d explain, these quilts were made by my grandmother, my great-grandmother. These quilts once kept my family warm. Mothers made these quilts that for their children. These are a part of the people who came before us. These do not spark joy. They take up space and collect dust. They are hard to store. But I keep them because they spark something more important than joy. They spark memories. They are our history.

In her television show, Marie consistently encourages people to get rid of their books. She suggests they do not open the book, just look at its cover and decide if it sparks joy. This is crazy. Getting rid of all my books would make me sad. Like old quilts, books are hard to store and collect dust, but I keep them because of what they once meant to me. They represent literature and learning. They do not spark joy. I keep them because I love them.

And what about our quilt studios and workspaces? Does your space have clutter? Mine does. Some days I wish it was less cluttered, but I also believe that clutter can spark creativity. A dusty old object can spark inspiration. A shiny tool can spark creativity. For example, I have over two dozen pairs of scissors. Do I need them all? Does each pair spark joy? No. They simply have a job to do. But even my ordinary, utilitarian scissors can spark creativity. They are part of the process. They have nothing to do with joy and everything to do with how I create.

And what about all that fabric? Like many of you, I have tons of fabric. There are days when it stresses me out because I feel like I should be using it more quickly. But then those feelings pass, and I look at my stash and I am inspired. That’s the thing about emotions, they change. Cleaning might feel joyful for a moment. But it can go too far. Don’t break what isn’t broken. And so my dear adorable Marie, you can have my closet, my jeans, my shoes, but you must stay away from the stuff that sparks my creativity --- my books, my studio and my quilts!

Teresa Duryea Wong writes and speaks about quilting and textiles. Her most current book is American Cotton: Farm to Quilt. 

To visit Teresa’s website and check out her popular books +click here

To see a video that flips through Teresa’s book, American Cotton +click here


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56 comments


  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    You are so welcome! My studio is not always this clean… I often have piles of junk! And that’s okay. Teresa

  • Frédérique
    I totally agree with your point of view! Clothes and shoes meant not so much for a quilter than fabric, books and sewing notions. I guess a paint artist will not give away so easily all his stuff, same for any other artist!

  • Anna
    AMEN Teresa!! Thank you for this piece and expressing your complex sentiments! I agree with others’ comments that you have a beautiful and impressively organized work studio space that is enviable organization-wise AND that the meaning of what “sparks JOY” is a much more complex, nuanced concept than Kondo references and varies tremendously by individual. Clearly quilts in all their diversity and forms sparks JOY for you and is a huge part of your life. Creativity and all that relates to it = JOY. Yet all kinds of things contribute to creativity that are do not qualify as joy in and of themselves. Also, it’s important to think of the ache, loss and possibly irreversible regret that would result if you gave up quilts that are important & meaningful to you historically just because they didn’t spark aesthetic or a more narrow definition of joy for you in a certain moment. That said, I do think Kondo’s idea of constantly asking ourselves why we hold on to something & whether it does generate joy is a very useful ethic, as Shasta said, to make more room for the things that do.

  • Shasta
    Your sewing room looks tidy. If you take out the things that don’t bring you joy, you have more room for the things that do. It is obvious to me that your books and quilts do bring you joy. Maybe your definition of joy is different from Marie’s.

  • Jane Holbrook
    I draw the line at tidying my quilt studio. Mine isn’t as neat as yours, but it is definitely my happy place. Thanks for the humorous write up.

  • Mrs. Plum
    Teresa, your studio looks MUCH tidier and more organized than mine. I agree with you about fabric—it is my inspiration as well. I have not read Marie’s book. I love the look of tidy, but cannot seem to maintain it. Somehow, the serendipity I find in chaos is what inspires me.