‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ a feel-good but unremarkable series

Marie Kondo is pictured speaking at the RISE Conference in 2016. Via Wikimedia Commons

The KonMari method, Japanese tidying consultant Marie Kondo’s decluttering method, seems to be everywhere since Kondo’s show, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” (2019), hit Netflix earlier this year.  The eight-episode series launched on New Year’s Day, just in time for those of us with New Year’s resolutions to tidy up our own spaces.  The show brings Kondo’s KonMari Method, introduced in her bestselling books “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” (2014) and “Spark Joy” (2016), into the homes of everyday people with too much junk.

The KonMari method, as defined on Kondo’s website, advises, “Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service — then let them go.”  This phrase — “spark joy” — is at the center of Kondo’s brand, meant to inspire introspection as we consider what items we find meaningful.  Kondo therefore approaches decluttering as a spiritual journey not only meant to declutter our spaces, but also supposedly declutter our lives. Kondo has been massively successful in promoting this method — “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” was a New York Times bestseller, with over 8.5 million copies sold worldwide.  So, naturally, a Netflix series based on her life-changing method is the logical next step.

In “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” a neatly-dressed Kondo, translator in tow, arrives at families’ houses and helps them go through their junk in five categories — clothing, books, papers, komono (or miscellaneous) and sentimental items.  Interspersed are mini-lessons from Kondo about tidying up, such as how to properly fold a baby onesie or how to store neckties, which viewers can use in their own decluttering journeys. Kondo is a calming, almost fairy-godmother-like presence in the families’ homes, using her gratitude-based decluttering methods to help families sift through their emotional junk and keep only what sparks joy.

“Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” is, as one might expect, relatively low-stakes television.  It’s slow-paced and unremarkably shot, which makes it feel calming, but never terribly exciting or engaging. It lacks the drama of other home-improvement programs that boast satisfying demolitions and drastic before-and-after transformations. The show includes many easy-to-implement tips and tricks for home organization — less daunting, perhaps, than a DIY Network backyard makeover — but after a few episodes, the formula feels predictable. 

“Tidying Up” is the kind of show that’s good to have on in the background of another activity — it’s soothing and pleasant, and perhaps it’s inspiring for those of us looking to declutter our own spaces. However, the show straddles an awkward space between being a more instructional home-improvement show and a reality show about transforming people’s lives, and therefore fails to be either.  While Kondo’s books have obviously achieved success, it’s unclear as to whether a reality show is really the most effective next iteration of the popular KonMari method.


Summary

"Tidying Up with Marie Kondo" is soothing and pleasant to watch, but fails to be much more compelling than that.

3 stars
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