In 2012, a good deal of popular attention greeted a book, translated from the Japanese, entitled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. The book was, as its title announced, about decluttering and organizing the home, but it overlaid these mundane chores with a missionary zeal that somehow spoke to a substantial audience of millennials and their mothers. The book’s popularity was such that it spurred a second book, Spark of Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. The author of both, Marie Kondo, had by now become a celebrity, and her principles for decluttering and organizing had been branded with a formal name: the KonMari method.

As with all products and services that penetrate the fickle consciousness of the consumer, the next step was to extend the merchandise into a new arena. Kondo’s lessons have, accordingly, been adapted for television in the form of a Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. The producers understood that the appeal of the books could be amplified by the physical presence of their author, a diminutive figure who looks like she has been neatly folded for maximum efficiency, much the way she teaches her clients to fold their clothes. More… “The Regressive Magic of Tidying Up”

Paula Marantz Cohen is Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University. She is the host of  The Drexel InterView, a unit of the Pennoni Honors College. The Drexel InterView features a half-hour conversation with a nationally known or emerging talent in the arts, culture, science, or business. She is author of five nonfiction books and six bestselling novels, including Jane Austen in Boca and Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death, and the SATs. Her essays and stories have appeared in The Yale ReviewThe American Scholar, The Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. Her latest novels are Suzanne Davis Gets a Life and her YA novel, Beatrice Bunson’s Guide to Romeo and Juliet.


Ever since my visit to a home show a few years ago, I have been besotted by kitchens. I fall asleep dreaming that granite countertops will replace my Corian surfaces and that an island will suddenly erupt in the middle of my island-less kitchen space. I covet a breakfast nook. Visions of teak cabinetry and Sub-Zero refrigerators dance in my head. Apparently, I am not alone in my fantasizing. An informal survey of real estate agents indicates that the kitchen has become the crucial room in the sale of a house. According to a friend in the business, my dumpy ’70s-era kitchen is likely to sink the price of my home by 20 percent.

“Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen” Through March 14, 2011. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The kitchen now holds… More…


The word “domesticity” gives me the vapors. Just the sight of a ball of yarn and knitting needles makes me have to lie down and fan myself for a while. A deeply neurotic part of my brain appears to equate learning how to sew a button with giving up my career, marrying a dentist, and moving to the suburbs to tend to little Basil and sweet Paprika.

I am not afraid of spiders — I am afraid of needle and thread.

It is a fear of turning into the type of woman that Christina Stead’s fictional Letty Fox described as “cave wives”: dull, stay-at-home types whose only topics of conversation are their new knitting projects, their children, or the interesting things their husbands said. I know that these women are mostly fictional stereotypes created by my own subconscious…. More…