I admit it: when it comes to TV viewing, I’m a follower of the masses. From the “Must-See TV” of the 1980s to the Melrose Place/Beverly Hills 90210 dramas of the 1990s to the turn-of-the-millenium original reality shows like Survivor, I’ve always enjoyed jumping on the bandwagon for a new fad.
So perhaps it comes as no surprise that when I was recently under the weather and stuck at home on the sofa, I found myself binge-watching TV’s newest craze: Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
In case you’ve been living under a rock or are just not as easily suckered into a fad as I am, Marie Kondo is the Japanese “decluttering” expert who is all about “sparking joy” as she helps a family that—while falling far short of the folks featured in the “Hoarding” TV shows—has too much stuff and needs some assistance in getting organized.
Because some of her methods seem a little “hokie”—for instance, she likes to talk to inanimate objects to thank them for their service before letting them go, and she insists that the owner holds every article of clothing, book, etc., in their hand to gauge whether the item “sparks joy” before deciding whether to toss it or keep it—she’s become the subject of many internet memes. Mommy Bloggers love to hate her, with many an article devoted to why her trademarked KonMari method of tidying up would never fly in their home.
Believe me, I’m as skeptical and sarcastic as any Mommy Blogger out there, but I must admit, after watching 6 of the 8 episodes of Tidying Up so far: I am here for Marie Kondo and her joy-sparking decluttering ideas.
First of all, she’s just so darn NICE. So petite and smiley, she shows up at a family’s house with her faithful interpreter, and she never, ever judges them. She gets downright giddy when she sees their piles of junk, literally jumping up and down with delight, saying, “I love messes!” She sweetly coaches the family through five categories of decluttering: Clothing, Books, Paper, Komono (miscellaneous items) and Sentimental Items, leaving them plenty of time (like, at least a week) to tackle each category.
The biggest drama you’ll find in every episode is when one spouse tends to have a harder time letting go of stuff than the other spouse, so there’s either one tearful on-camera confession or a long moment of lip-biting tension between the two. This is as predictable as the moment that comes in every single episode of Extreme Couponing, when something goes awry at the cash register, and for a scary minute there it looks as though the extreme couponer is going to go over her limit and the world will end. But ultimately, it all works out; the spouse sees the light and learns how to let go.
Marie drops by to visit the family several times throughout their journey, which generally lasts about two months. She teaches them how to fold the clothing that remains neatly into compact rectangles that she lines up in drawers, and brings them boxes and other storage solutions for the rest of the “stuff.” Then she oohs and aahs over their progress at the end. Now, honestly— these people had much bigger messes to start with than I do, so most of the “after” scenes look like my “before” situation. But Marie is always cool with the results, as long as things are stored correctly and the owners have thoughtfully decided that each and every item they’ve kept “sparks joy.”
At various points during each episode, Marie presents a little lesson from her immaculate home, where I imagine her drawers are filled with nothing but white sweaters, black tights, and colorful flare skirts. She admits that she sometimes has a hard time keeping things tidy with two toddlers in the house, but we, the viewers, never see any evidence of this. That’s probably what offends some of the haters.
But me? I’m a lover, not a hater. I find myself inspired every time I watch the show—not to the point of taking on my whole house over a 6-week period, but on a smaller scale. Marie recently inspired me to go through 10 years’ worth of photos, toss the doubles, and finally put 2009 and 2010 pictures into albums. (Only 8 more years to get caught up on!) She inspired me to purge two boxes of books from my nightstand and my kids’ rooms. She taught me how to fold my socks into squares so they won’t take up as much space in my sock drawer. And, incredibly, her lessons spill out into other areas of life. Do those social media accounts you follow spark joy, or are they upsetting? UNFOLLOW. Does that TV series you’re currently binge watching spark joy, or do you just feel like you are obligated to finish it? STOP WATCHING IT. Does that annoying couple that keeps inviting you to dinner spark joy, or do they just cause you anxiety? DECLINE THEIR INVITATION.
Even if you don’t embrace the entire process, like talking to your house and thanking your old overcoat, Marie Kondo’s overall message goes much deeper: Eliminate the stuff in your life that does not spark joy, and learn to appreciate the stuff that does. That’s a life lesson that even the biggest cynic should be able to get behind.