If Only Marie Kondo Could Clean Up My Social Life

If it doesn't 'spark joy,' the guest of the hit Netflix series 'Tidying Up' tells us, get rid of it. Should the same lesson be applied to our circle of friends and acquaintances?

Who doesn't spark joy?
Who doesn't spark joy?


I have a friend I can't stand. It sounds mean, but that's how she makes me feel. Every time she writes me, calls me, wants to visit me, I'm annoyed. I just can't handle her. It's always been that way and I'm pretty sure it will stay that way. And yet, this friendship has existed for more than 10 years now.

We became friends a long time ago because she asked me — literally! — and I felt sorry for her. I know: wrong reason to make a friend. But it wasn't obvious to me then. Now I'm aware of it, but I don't know how to end our friendship.

All of this brings me to the subject of Tidying Up, the popular new Netflix series with Marie Kondo. At first, the series annoyed me. It seemed like just another minimalist-lifestyle guide, like something you'd find on YouTube. Nothing new really. But its so-called "KonMari" method, I came to realize, isn't like other minimalist manuals.​

Kondo does not demonize the fact of having "too much stuff. She humanizes it. The Japanese host addresses each case and story differently with the adapted treatment. For people, everything is valuable in some ways, but they may have to say farewell to it. Especially when they answer "no" to the question: Does this "spark joy" for you?

And if I pose that same question about the people in my life?

The satiric web page Der Postilion recently wrote that, "Cleanup expert Marie Kondo recommends keeping a maximum of three family members." I read that and had a good laugh. And then I thought about it.

Obviously, with family we don't really have much choice. But when it comes to my social life as a whole, surely I'm allowed to make some decisions. Is it perhaps time to tidy up?

I'm not talking about dumping everything, as I did, for example, when I moved out of my childhood bedroom. Since the things I had in there weren't particularly dignified, I just threw out everything I could no longer use. This time, I'd like to sort things out by understanding and feeling. I want to really consider who makes me happy and who crushes me or constricts me.

We have to say goodbye to people that we never really liked.

I need to, actually, because the "friend" I mentioned before isn't the only person who, for some time now, hasn't been good for me. There are a number of ex-friends who really shouldn't be in my life any longer. And yet they continue to take up a lot of space. There are acquaintances who only contacted me once I'd started working in the media — so they could try to get their projects in the public eye. And there are friends who demand a lot from me, but want to give little back.

These are people who haven't "sparked joy" in me for a long time. And yet they put me under pressure. So yes, it's finally time to let them go, to sort my circle of friends and acquaintances the way Marie Kondo does with cupboards. Not that I want to throw all the people I'm dealing with in a pile, as Kondo always does with things at the beginning of each episode. But a list of names might be good. I can start by writing down all the people in my life and then decide: Who do I really want there?

Marie Kondo — Photo: Official Instagram

Those who'll make the cut and remain will have more space in my life. They will each have their own place in it, one that is reserved for them, where I can appreciate them, where I can rely on them and find them when I need them. But this space can only exist if other spaces become free.

We have to say goodbye to people that we never really liked, people we often neglected miserably. After all, who really needs a friend who'd only show up when she felt obliged to? This step is tricky, though, which is why a little help from Kondo wouldn't hurt. Somehow she manages to do everything — even disposing of things — with an almost excessive amount of respect and care.​

Kondo expresses gratitude to every object before it is jettisoned. And while it may be overkill when you throw things away, the KonMari method is actually perfect for tidying up your circle of friends. Indeed, it would be amazing if this woman came knocking on my door and helped lead me though this process that I've put off for so long.

Obviously that's not going to happen. Still, I'd like to use Kondo as an example. And as a starting point, I'll probably start with the friend I first mentioned, since she isn't really a friend at all. I want to explain to her that I am very grateful to her for liking me, but that I'm not available enough to keep the contact going. And probably, I won't just be doing a favor just to myself. I'll also be freeing up space in her life so that other people can enjoy her more.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!