It’s not every day that we stumble upon a ‘decluttering celebrity’. But tidying guru Marie Kondo, whose name is now a famous verb, has become a household name not only in Japan but also around the world. Her 2014 organising bible, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which we reviewed it at length here, is a publishing behemoth that sold more than 8.5 million copies in over 40 languages. Now, Kondo is organising the world with her 'KonMari' method through her own reality TV show on Netflix.
Titled Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, the show was released on January 1, an aptly time when our New Year’s resolutions are renewed. The format is quite straightforward. Kondo visits the clutter-addled homes of American families over eight episodes, helping them sort, eliminate and arrange based on a simple determining factor she popularised – do the items you hold in your hand spark joy?
It’s a liberating move – sending unwanted items packing and thanking them for their service (like giving your clothes a hug). But it won’t be easy for people who are unfamiliar with the KonMari method, especially if a stranger starts exhorting you to locate joy in random things like an old magazine or a pair of torn sweatpants.
In the show, a constantly beaming Kondo, who speaks mostly Japanese, and her translator help participants confront the enormity of their belongings by putting them in a giant pile. This is because she believes that tidying a little every day doesn't work. Speaking with the measured calmness of a therapist and maintaining a polite distance, Kondo then guides her clients through five categories of organising: clothes, books, documents, komono (miscellany) and last but not least, sentimental items.
Tidying Up exudes a feel-good vibe, just like Netflix’s Queer Eye, even though the show puts you through footage after footage of disorder, unwashed dishes and dirty leftovers (the horror!). Perhaps, it’s the sight of the homeowners coming to terms with their messy lifestyle or the change of dynamics between couples just by decluttering that radiates a certain positivity. Because in the end, your home is a reflection of your relationship with yourself. Plus, who knew folding clothes into neat squares can save one’s marriage?
It’s also comforting to know that chaos doesn’t escape a neat-freak like Kondo. She admits that her young daughters sometimes undo her hard work of keeping her home pristine and clean so she involves them in easier chores like folding clothes. If she feels tired from cleaning, she would rest and take a nap – like any other normal person would.
Some will find Kondo’s method odd because not all of us are used to her ‘cheerleading’ style of self-improvement. And certainly, not all of us consider clutter ‘fun’, although Kondo feels otherwise. What her books and TV show are trying to convey, eventually, are to treat our possessions with respect and regard mess as a chance to purge or start afresh, rather than a source of anxiety.
Just how different is watching Kondo in action though? By the time we finished the first episode, we were charged with a sudden urge to rid ourselves of the extraneous. Imagine what eight episodes can do for you.
‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ is streaming on Netflix now.