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Tidying Up with Marie Kondo: transformation tv done right

Netflix’s latest hit sparks more than just joy.

I like Tidying Up with Marie Kondo in the same way that I liked Queer Eye: good things happening to likeable people, with the added bonus of aesthetic transformation at the end. It’s the same with day-time TV programs about home renovations, “I’m glad Steve is happy with his work and thank GOD he had that fireplace removed to reveal the original one underneath”.

Through the KonMarie process (a tidying programme which focuses on keeping only those items which “spark joy”, introducing yourself to your space, and organising possessions in a way where you can see everything at one glance) the families and couples taking part seem to experience real, emotional transformations as well as the physical decluttering transformations of their homes. Particularly emotionally moving is Margie Hodges’ episode, in which Marie helps her to re-organise her home after the death of Margie’s husband. While not all of the episodes are tear-jerkers, like Margie’s was, each partaking person is interesting and likeable and you genuinely want them to succeed. The focus on the participants themselves sets this program (as it did with Queer Eye) apart from other “transformation” television.

At university, only the cream of the crop of my clothes and sentimental items have come along, so my miniature KonMarie attempt in term-time has been swift. However, I’m aware of what waits at home for me. In each episode, in order to sort clothing, Marie gets her participants to take all of their clothes and make them into one pile on the bed. Then, shifting through the pile piece by piece, the person must choose whether it A) sparks joy and must be kept, or B) does not spark joy, in which case it must be thanked, and let go of. The piles of accumulated clothes at the start of this process are always, as many participants commented on, shamefully high. My pile will be no less embarrassingly large, but I am excited to take in what I own, to be reminded of my love for items long forgotten, and to declutter both space and mind. Despite criticism that the programme seemingly encourages fast and simple disposal of items, presumably to the bin, in many episodes there has been an effort made to film the items (clothes) being donated to charity.

The pace of the show means that it is not one that you want to binge in one go. The appeal of watching each episode is just meeting the participants and hear their stories. In this way, Tidying up with Marie Kondo differed from Queer Eye. With Queer Eye I had to ration episode-watching, distraught at the looming possibility of the end of that available series. Tidying up with Marie Kondo is ideal for low-energy watching in front of dinner, or as relaxation, but lacks the genuine thrill of the Queer Eye transformation. Perhaps this emphasises the sustainability and accessibility of the KonMarie system: no, you won’t have a new haircut and new furniture won’t be put in for you, but you can do the KonMarie system on your own, and truly realise the value of what you already own.

What I have taken from the show is mostly garment-based, and perhaps I would take more lessons away from reading one of Kondo’s four books on the art of tidying up. I’ll probably eventually give in to the temptation to buy one, but it’s unlikely I will act on all the advice therein. I’m happy for the television participants, and I certainly want to sort out my wardrobe, but I expect my cupboards will be fit to burst with miscellany for a while longer. Some tasks seem too big to begin.

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