Novel approach to win war on clutter
New reality TV show with a twist to hit Netflix screens
THE WAR on clutter continues. In previous reality-tv skirmishes with America’s junk-filled closets and overstuffed garages, shows about clear-cut cleaning tried to sass and snark people into a state of tidiness.
Before she found her way as an actress, Niecy Nash on Clean House decried home owners’ “foolishness” before unleashing helpers to pare down the mess and redecorate rooms to minimalist perfection.
Viewers later became transfixed by the tragedies seen on Hoarders, a tough-love approach to a form of mental illness, in which troubled homeowners and renters living amid unsafe piles of belongings and filth.
Now it’s Marie Kondo to the rescue in Netflix’s happily engaging new reality series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
The show isn’t all that revelatory, but it qualifies as a fine New Year’s binge for people who intend to drag the Christmas tree to the kerb sometime before Easter.
If you haven’t heard of Kondo, a successful Japanese home organiser, then you’ve probably been buried under a mound of still-tagged bargains. The rest of us already know (and perhaps adhere to) the principles in Kondo’s international bestseller, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying
Up, which advocates a five-step Konmari approach to evaluating one’s belongings on an emotional level.
If an object does not “spark joy” (in Kondo’s terms), it probably needs to go. Tidying Up puts Kondo’s methods to the test in eight different Los Angeles homes, starting with that of Kevin and Rachel: married adults with busy careers and two small children, not enough space and not enough time or energy to stay ahead of the stuff they own.
Kondo, who is in her early thirties and also has two young children, arrives at her clients’ houses (accompanied by translator Marie
Iida) full of squeaky, irresistibly cute enthusiasm, greeting engorged closets and chaotic junk drawers with giddy discovery. “I love mess,” she declares.
Unlike her TV predecessors, Kondo brings a calming influence to the surroundings – even asking owners if she may kneel in a particular spot and silently greet their homes.
Sometimes she asks the homeowners to join in and offer unspoken thanks to their home for the shelter it has thus far provided.
This is a noble and overdue concept for the home make-over and real estate genre – a chance to express gratitude for any home, rather than the perfect home.
Years of TV programming have placed homeowners and home-seekers on a narcissistic pedestal of entitled complaint (our house is too small, too ugly, too outdated) and criticisms.
How many couples, by now, have we seen walk through homes for sale and disparage the counter tops, bathroom tiling or backyard size?
Where’s the reminder that we should be so lucky as to have lived in a state of acquisition rather than sacrifice?
The gratitude extends to Kondo’s lessons in culling.
Once Rachel has dragged a few closets’ worth of her massive, mostly casual wardrobe and piled everything on the bed, per Kondo’s instructions, she is asked to “thank” an item of clothing before discarding it.
It’s a long process, topped off with Kondo’s insistence that the remaining T-shirts, underwear and socks be folded into rectangular shapes that line up in drawers like obedient children.
Herein lies the happiness. You might not run to your dresser to immediately duplicate it, but you’ll at least be tempted.
Kondo’s journey continues to other families and couples facing various anxieties about their mess.
Margie, recently widowed, confronts a closet full of her late husband’s clothes. A male couple, Frank and Matt, seek Kondo’s help tidying their shared LA flat as a way of asserting their adulthood, especially for family members who still think of them as young slobs.
Clarissa and Mario are expecting their first baby and must reckon with a surfeit of clothes, especially his stacks of collectible sneakers and athletic shoes, many of which he bought with no intention of wearing.
And Ron and Wendy, emptynesters married 42 years, must tackle layers of accumulation, including the dreaded Christmas decorations and decades’ worth of baseball cards.
The vicarious factor can be appealing on its own. Other viewers may watch to get the inspiration to tackle some of their own closets.
Kondo’s methods make good sense, dividing the work into categories – clothes first, then books, then papers, followed by a catch-all category, “komono” (miscellaneous), which includes the kitchen, bathrooms, garage and miscellaneous spots where stuff accumulates.
She saves sentimental objects for last, and it’s here where the owners must really buckle down and assess whether they are keeping something out of a sense of duty or true joy.
To her credit, Kondo is not a make-over artist. She effuses over any form of progress, happy to overlook matters of taste and decor.
As such, Tidying Up isn’t filled with visually appealing reveals that viewers expect from other homeimprovement shows.
It’s also worth noting that Tidying Up is so relentlessly encouraging that it cannot bring itself to feature a failure, such as a homeowner who gives up in the middle of the process. It can sometimes feel as if Kondo and her producers settle for small victories without addressing some of the homeowners’ personal issues.
She’s here to tidy up and spark joy, which ultimately includes a bit of glossing-over. | The Washington Post