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Review: Tidying Up with Marie Kondo Is a Breath of New Years Fresh Air

Four out of five small boxes.

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo is Netflix's latest lovely reality show binge

I came to Tidying Up with Marie Kondo absolutely unaware of who the host was or what her methods were,  and ended the first three episodes not only completely taken with the host, but ready to go through my own stuff and re-organize my life.

As always, every January brings about a new promise to get my life in order and stop being as disorganized. This show is a blessedly welcome look at how to reorganize one’s living space by focusing on joy and working towards organization, rather than by shaming anyone.

Kondo began her work as a tidying consultant when she was a 19-year-old university student, and has grown into a renowned expert in her field and the New York Times bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Her KonMari method centers on five categories of decluttering: clothing, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and sentimental objects. She says to keep an object if it sparks joy in you, and if it does not, to thank it for what it has done before giving it away or getting rid of it. Overall, it is framed as an experience that is supposed to bring you joy, rather than stress or unpleasantness.

Tidying Up is not about Kondo though, but rather how her methods work. While Kondo appears throughout each episode, she isn’t the heart of it all. Rather, the episodes center on the family she is working with at that time. These families are not on the brink, but rather real people who are just stressed about the amount of stuff they have in their homes. They want to get clean, and in the case of those with children to pass on decluttering and cleaning skills to their kids. This is where Kondo comes in.

Kondo tours their homes and does not spend too much time clucking her tongue and judging these people. Instead, she greets them with a smile, before going on to introduce herself to the house and thank it for what it does. This silent moment, in which the family takes part as well, is actually quite moving. The exercise in gratitude might seem silly, but when do we take the time to actually thank things for what they do for us? It’s a nice, quiet way to re-center ourselves, and for the family in question to begin their journey.

Similarly, Twitter discussion has broken out over whether Kondo’s idea of sparking joy and thanking objects before giving them away or getting rid of them is either too reverent or too quick to throw out. It’s worth noting that in the episodes I have seen, Kondo never encourages any family to toss away things they don’t need. There’s always the undercurrent that they’ll give away books or clothes that no longer appeal to them. The sparking joy idea might seem silly, but it’s another great way to do a gratitude exercise. We don’t think about joy nearly enough, in my opinion.

Kondo does not hold the family’s hand throughout the episode. Instead, she guides them through certain steps, and then lets them organize on their own. She’ll teach people how to fold, but it is up to them to go through their clothes — by piling them all in a mountain on the bed — and decide what to keep and how to organize that. Instead, she’ll have little moments throughout the episode in which she addresses the viewers to give them tips, while letting the family at the center of each episode have agency in fixing their own lives.

The families will go through rough patches, but there are no shouting matches, no breakdowns, and no manufactured for the camera dramas. Instead, the family works through their clutter and ultimately emerges tidier and feeling far better. Kondo visits them at the end of the episode to check in, and the family thanks her for the help in getting them on the right track.

It is nice to see that the families are able to do this mostly on their own. It makes the task of decluttering seem doable, rather than some task that requires a professional to tackle. If these people can do it, then so can the average person watching this. The lightness of the show, as well as the joy Kondo brings, makes it all feel like it is possible to do, rather than a task that will lead to tears and anger.

Tidying Up is a lovely show to watch if you need to de-stress, or if you need some inspiration for that organizational New Years resolution. If Netflix keeps up these kind, gentle reality shows, then they’ll really corner the market on de-stressing television. Hopefully, this show will spark as much joy for you as it has for others.

(image: Netflix)

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Kate (she/her) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions she has. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, she is now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for her favorite rare pairs.