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Sparking joy with Marie Kondo

| Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Claire Kopischke | The Observer

A few days into 2019, I woke up to find my Instagram feed filled not with models or influencers, but with photo after photo of aesthetically pleasing folded clothes and well-organized bookshelves. Bemused, I took to the internet to find the source of the craze. Netflix’s new series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” which takes the influential book of Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo and brings it to the small screen for new audiences, had gone viral.

Set in Los Angeles, each 45-minute episode features a new hapless family or individual on whose home Kondo cheerfully descends, armed with feather dusters and impossibly tiny boxes. With the help of a translator, Kondo explains how to sort your items into categories — books, papers, clothes, komono (miscellaneous) and sentimental items — before envisioning your ideal lifestyle and then trashing everything that doesn’t “speak to your heart.” Unlike other reality-makeover shows such as “Hoarders,” there’s no dark twist or stress on past bad habits — the series is relentlessly wholesome, with the emphasis always on the simple beauty of tidying up.

There’s a fundamental self-help aspect to the series. The message is that if you can only purge your apartment of its clutter, then the rest of your life will get better as a result. Couples confront major relationship issues as they sort through their baseball card collections and families come to the stunning realization that their mom doesn’t actually like doing everyone’s laundry only to have it thrown on the floor. It’s no accident that the show was released on New Year’s Day. Tidying up is one of the top New Year’s resolutions for Americans, and Kondo is here to help. The show clearly hit a nerve in the American consciousness, with thrift stores and Salvation Armies reporting a huge uptick in donations as millennials rush to de-clutter.

Kondo’s approach is not for everyone, and skeptics will undoubtedly feel weird about applying her quasi-spiritual approach to throwing out their old gym shorts. Her “KonMari method” asks you to take each possession lovingly in your hands and ask yourself — yes, out loud — “Does this spark joy for me?” If the answer is no, you are instructed to thank the magazine, Christmas ornament or ten-year-old Weezer CD for its service and release it into the void. I also laughed uncomfortably through Kondo’s silent prayer to each house she enters, during which she kneels on the floor and whispers some sort of invocation to the spirits of junk-hoarding past. That said, Kondo’s enthusiasm does inspire an irresistible urge to tidy up. After binging the whole season, I went home and folded all my pairs of jeans into Kondo’s signature tiny, vertical pyramids. Am I a changed woman? Probably not, but the inside of my sock drawer will never be the same.

Show: “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” Season 1

Starring: Marie Kondo

Favorite episodes: “From Students to Improvements,” “The Downsizers”

If you like: “Queer Eye,” “The Great British Baking Show”

Where to watch: Netflix

Shamrocks: 3 out of 5

About Kay Bontempo

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