The KonMari Method™ and Hobby Joy

“The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’”

Marie Kondo

Regular readers of Sprue Pie With Frets might have deduced that real-life disruptions have impacted my modeling and regular posting to this blog for the past few months. That Meng T-72 hasn’t progressed much since April or May, and my previously fast-n-furious daily blog posts have dwindled to once every couple of weeks.

The most significant of those disruptions was a re-shuffling of real estate, which recently concluded with the move-in of renters at our Washington DC-area home. Work-related travel will have me on the road for much of the next month or so, but I expect to be returning to a regular cadence of building and posting in the coming weeks.

Moving out of our home of several decades forced a reckoning with my embarrassingly large agglomeration of modeling supplies, tools, and kits, some of which dates back four decades or so—a couple of go-to needle files and some railroad models were major tween-age investments.

Accumulated hobby supplies weren’t the only excess things exposed to my spouse, Rachel, and me by the stark reality of clearing out of our Washington-area house. There was plenty of other stuff—housewares, out-of-style clothes, and embarassingly large caches of office supplies and hot sauce—that needed to go.

In response to our Too Much Junk crisis, Rachel evoked Japanese housekeeping and self-improvement maven Marie Kondo. (Rachel is handily the most eclectically well-read person I’ve ever known—she can throw down authoritatively on both Joyce Carol Oates and Dr. Oz.)

Kondo’s KonMari Method is encapsulated in the quote back at the beginning of this post. Turns out to be a useful principle for us modeling hobbyists as well. If it doesn’t spark joy, get rid of it.

And in that heap of books, supplies, tools, and kits there is certainly a lot of stuff that doesn’t make the cut—those things that really won’t ever spark joy.

In some cases, the decision was made for me—like dried up old paint, or evaporated Tenax 7R, or disintegrating decals. Obsolete kits, particularly those rendered in a long-superannuated media like vacform or garage resin but now offered by Tamiya, Trumpeter, Meng, or Takom, are also easy to write off as assassins of joy.

In other instances, it’s subject matter or a scale that was once an obsession but whose appeal has faded. If you’re never going to build it or run it, it’s never going to spark joy.

A couple of big-ticket items escaped quick, intuitive joy-sparking classification, but Kondo’s logic is unstoppable. Sometimes, it’s a question of balancing past joy against future potential joy.

In particular, my two model railroad layouts brought me much joy while building them and then when trains ran on them. But they did not promise me much more or new joy, even if I had chosen to relocate them to our Delaware house. It was tough to part with the train layouts, but I’m delighted that they will bring new joy to new owners and communities.

The final result of ‘Marie Kondo’-ing my scale modeling and model railroading whatnot will be an epic sell-off of a significant fraction of my stash in the coming months via eBay, Facebook, and a train show or two. Model kits and small-ish tools and supplies are easy to sell online. However, two big categories of hobby items which I have in embarrassing abundance—HO and N trains, and workbench organization accoutrements—will likely sell more readily in person at a venue like the Great Scale Model Train Show in Timonium, Maryland.

Maybe I will bump into Sprue Pie With Frets readers on line or in person as the sell-off progresses. Here’s hoping my old trains, compressors, and tool organizers spark joy for others!

Marie Kondo’s big idea also turns out to be useful in our social and community lives as well. It’s not that great an intellectual leap to realize that non-joy-sparking people and scenes can also be Marie Kondo-ed away, to constructive effect. And thus some reorientation of Sprue Pie With Frets—particularly regarding engagement with social media.

The model making hobbies have always had an element of fustiness and petty egotism, long before the emergence of the internet and evolving online communities.

Indeed, some of my most memorable tweenage experiences with the social aspect of the modeling hobbies were, in retrospect, eminently untoward. When I think of kind, helpful adults who nurtured my hobby interests as a boy—Ken Hough of Valparaiso Pet & Hobby and Dr. Alan Roebuck come to mind—I remember them happily because they stand in sharp contrast to the more typically hostile, impatient adult hobby shop staff and hobbyists I encountered in my formative modeling years.

A decade or so later, fresh out of the Army, I was working my way through college at a big hobby shop in the south suburbs of Chicago. Screening for the job had focused, I now realize, on people skills and what I would later characterize as ‘Dale Carnegie Instincts’ (the old-school How to Win Friends and Influence People guy) or emotional intelligence. Don, the hobby shop owner, wanted staff who could deal as professionally and effectively with a harried single mom who needed to make an erupting volcano model before the morning bell tomorrow morning, as with an IPMS nationals winner in desperate need of what turns out to be the last bottle of burnt palladium metalizer in North America.

Don wanted his shop to be different from other shops—welcoming and inclusive. His emphasis on the store staff’s ‘people skills’ conceded that his applicant pool—predominantly the model hobbyist population—had an anti-social bent.

I also learned quickly from Don and his major domo, Dave, that a few of our customers who were also locally- or even nationally-famous elite modelers were inveterate kvetchers and badmouthers—about other modelers, about our shop and our competitor shops, about IPMS, about people who weren’t in IPMS, and about kits and products. With a recession in full blossom, the shop needed reasons to make, not repel, sales.

I thought of my early encounters with purportedly grown-up modelers and Don’s hobby shop when I read Matt MacDougal’s blog post on the seeming pedantic nastiness of aircraft modelers in comparison to their armor modeling brethren.

“‘Twas ever thus,” I naturally thought to myself. Whiny, prickly modelers will always be with us, and of course have moved their game online.

Except I would argue that armor—and automobile, and railroad, and radio control—modelers are just as prone as aircraft modelers to passing imperious judgement, preaching absolutism of technique, and acting like
$#!thouse lawyers (an apt bit of military jargon, no offense to any lawyer readers). Past and ongoing for/against fooferaws online over gloss coating before decals, Future floor finish, how to clean an airbrush, and what type of paint can go over what type of paint incur similar pedantic excesses, for example, and don’t have much to do with armor, aircraft, or whatever.

What goes unsaid in Matt’s post is that were it not for social media, he wouldn’t have had as rich or colorful an argument to make about unpleasant modelers. We all know a few idiots from the hobby shop or club—but on social media, modeling jerk-ism is in full, sour blossom.

Not a surprise, really—social media prioritizes conflict and controversy over information quality and promotes solipsism and epistemic closure (reinforcement of one’s own viewpoint and limited knowledge while excluding others’ viewpoints and wider knowledge). That’s settled science at this point.

What does this have to do with Sprue Pie With Frets and Marie Kondo?

I write this blog to enhance the quality of my modeling experience—to spark joy, if you will. For me, and maybe for others. I like to share what is interesting and inspiring to me, and particularly enjoy responses to my posts and launching dialog: the more thoughtful, the higher quality—the better. It’s not about agreement; indeed, when new or contradictory information or insights come forward, I have not shied away from a correction or a mea culpa.

Unfortunately, Sprue Pie With Frets posts garner responses in some social media settings that are not, objectively speaking, thoughtful, or do not advance dialog. They aren’t quality responses. They don’t spark joy.

Some negative social media responses to Sprue Pie With Frets might be founded on actual, honest misreadings that could be explained away by haste, second language, or perhaps other factors.

Unfortunately, trollishness and bad faith are more accurate explanations for responses characterized by gratuitous contrariness or demonstrably false assertions and premises. Such responses reject fairness and consistency, facts, and existing bodies of knowledge to score points with in-jokes, snark, and sarcasm. Tellingly, such low-quality responses are never yielded via email, DMs/PMs, or even in comments on the blog—just in large venues that prize hot takes over substantive quality.

The net effect is that Sprue Pie With Frets exposure in some social media venues doesn’t spark joy.

I’ll be right here, still writing blog posts, which will continue to be linked via Sprue Pie With Frets’ social media pages. Going forward, however, just don’t look for Sprue Pie With Frets posts in just any old venue.

Spencer Pollard recently relaunched his online presence, focusing on his blog, in part to better control his brand and modulate his presence in social media spaces. Mike Rinaldi and Lincoln Wright similarly have each mentioned in podcast interviews that they keep their social media participation measured. Seldom, if ever, can these three gentleman be heard trash-talking or assuming a tribal pose. In all three cases, they’re clearly choosing to stay gracious and kind, and falling back on Dale Carnegie instincts.

I’m choosing gracious and kind, like those guys, and a lot of other people, whom I admire and like to be around, both inside and outside the model hobbies. I’m choosing what sparks joy.

By the way, those needle files and prized brass train models from the 70s made the cut—they still still spark joy whenever I use or look at them. They’re staying.


  1. Having recently sold a house, moved several hundred miles to a new area and now waiting to close and move into a new house, I can completely sympathize with the collection of stuff! Both the wife and I agree that we need to pair down out collection of accumulated “stuff”, if only we could come to agreeable terms like you and yours have!


  2. This gave me lots of joy. The whole thing. I too must do a purge of hobby things that no longer give me joy. And I too have limited my hobby engagement on social media for many of the reasons you express.


  3. Because I follow a few female intensive podcasts, I am familiar with Marie Kondo and Kon Mari. I am happy to see the method applied to modeling. Now, to put it into practice.


  4. Good stuff. All so very relevant. I am just waiting for the temps to drop down to something manageable, so I can get out in the shed and really clean out some stuff. I’ve already started inside the house.
    And your take on social media is quite timely. I just recently axed quite a few FB pages from my follow list. I am in this hobby to enjoy it, not get a spike in blood pressure every time I open the page.
    Just found this blog, by the way and have signed up for notifications.
    Crikey, I may even get back to my own blog again!

    Liked by 2 people

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