Just when it seemed Marie Kondo had spread her gospel on the "life-changing magic" of decluttering as far is it could go, the author -- whose two previous books remain international best-sellers -- is back with a different audience in mind.
Kondo's message that you should keep only things that "spark joy" is now in manga form, with a love story as a backdrop. Her new book, "The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up" (Ten Speed Press), features the work of artist Yuko Uramoto and seems designed to attract a younger set -- including teenage boys -- many of whom probably missed out on her earlier volumes.
And she may be on target.
While my two sons, ages 12 and 14, had zero interest in her earlier books, they battled over who could rip through Kondo's manga as soon as they spotted it on the dining room table. And while they rolled their eyes when I asked if it had made a difference in their lives, my younger son was soon putting his desk in order and going through his drawers, and my older son packed for a family trip by carefully rolling his clothes into neat little packets in his suitcase. He also commented on a recently acquired cabinet in our living room, noting Kondo's advice that additional storage furniture should be unnecessary in a properly decluttered home.
Then my boys passed the book on to a friend, who also rolled his eyes and shrugged when asked if he'd learned anything from it. But within days, he'd packed up no less than seven bags of unwanted toys and clothes from his room.
A coincidence? Perhaps.
Manga is a form of graphic novel in Kondo's native Japan. "In Japan, manga is a form of artistic expression and entertainment that connects people across generations," Kondo wrote in an email when asked about the book.
"Creating the manga has been such a fun and gratifying experience for me, and I hope that it sparks joy for new readers and fans alike!"
The fictional story tells of Chiaki Suzuki, 29, single, and living in a tiny hoarders' den of a Tokyo apartment. She develops a crush on the handsome -- and minimalist -- young man next door, a professional cook whom she can't bring herself to invite over because of her messy apartment.
The two meet when he complains about the mountains of trash on her balcony.
Chiaki is a workaholic and never has time to cook, but she dreams of preparing delicious meals at home. Will she ever be able to tidy up enough to invite her Prince Charming to dinner?
Thanks to Kondo, who appears as a character in the book -- a sort of magical decluttering fairy -- the answer is yes.
Kondo, teaching her method of sifting through belongings one category at a time, helps Chiaki transform her apartment and, in the process, her life. Chiaki learns to appreciate the things around her, recognize her forgotten dreams and value herself.
In short, she discovers the life-changing magic of tidying up.
And yes, she does end up with the cute guy next door, a role model for any reader, of any age, who ever doubted that cooking and tidying up was a certain way to a girl's heart.