Downtime

It’s KonMari Time for You Bastards

Mike Pence is the latest former high-ranking leader to get burned by classified documents. Herein, the solution.

A smiling Marie Kondo in front of many stacks of classified files.
The life-changing magic of security oversight. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic via Getty Images and Getty Images Plus.

On Tuesday, former Vice President Mike Pence was revealed to be the latest high-ranking government leader who turned out to be hoarding classified documents in his home. This follows several weeks of news about classified materials being discovered at President Biden’s former office and home, and before that, August’s dramatic FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago, former President Trump’s Florida estate, which yielded its own trove of classified documents.

Sensing a pattern here? When Trump’s collection was discovered, we could understand it—the man is messy—but clearly the problem is bigger than that. Is it possible that all our living former presidents and vice presidents might possess some documents that they shouldn’t? (To say nothing of dead presidents—Gerald Ford always did strike me as a little bit sketchy.) The answer to that is more likely yes than not, and as my colleague Fred Kaplan recently wrote, the fault may lie with our government’s tendency to overclassify documents more than anything else.

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Regardless of the cause, at the moment it’s abundantly clear that this problem isn’t going to solve itself. I can’t claim Kaplan’s expertise on these issues, but I’ve been thinking about what could get us out of this pickle, and it seems like perhaps it’s time to take a more proactive approach. It’s possible that some of our ex-leaders are clean—I have a feeling Michelle Obama runs a tight ship and banished her husband’s classified files tout de suite—but I can’t imagine that guys like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush dealt with disposing of their top-secret documents properly. Those sloppy bastards? No way.

So what do we do about it? A project like this calls for a world-class organization professional, someone whose name is practically synonymous with minimalism and cutting through clutter. We all know there is only one. It’s time to call Marie Kondo.

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Kondo rose to fame as the author of a bestselling book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the star of two Netflix reality shows. It’s true that she has, in recent years, faced some backlash and accusations of “empty promises” in the philosophy she espouses. But I really think she’d be in her element here. She is known for the KonMari Method, which involves gathering absolutely everything one owns and asking of each item, “Does this spark joy?” I think Donald Trump should try this. Well, maybe illicit documents he knows he shouldn’t have would spark joy for him … but that’s why we have special masters, right?

Kondo is no public servant, so we’ll probably have to pay her handsomely as a consultant, but what are our other options? Sure, we could try the Home Edit ladies, but we want someone who will actually get rid of shit, not organize it into color-coded jars. There’s simply no one on Kondo’s level. It’s like in the movie Armageddon, when an asteroid was on course to destroy the planet, and everyone collectively decided that only Bruce Willis could save us. Only Marie Kondo can save us from the classified document madness threatening to bring our federal government to its knees.

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Besides, there could be ways to cover Kondo’s fee: Maybe we can get Netflix to pay for it if we agreed to let them film her tour of former leaders’ residences as the next season of one of her shows. That or we can take it out of our inflated defense budget, since, after all, this is an issue of national security. Ultimately, hiring Kondo will be more cost-effective than conducting FBI raids of the homes of every single former president and vice president—and remember, most of them have several. Do we really want to waste resources sending an entire team to raid Al Gore’s summer house when we could simply dispatch Kondo, a master of efficiency? Do we want to subject poor 98-year-old Jimmy Carter to a bunch of scary guys in uniforms rifling through his stuff, or do we want to introduce him to one nice lady who knows what she’s doing?

The choice is clear. Marie Kondo, you’re our only hope. The only hard part left is figuring out if anyone knows where to find Dan Quayle.

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