My wife and I are moving. Since I have a Netflix account and we’re in need of some organizational advice for our new apartment, we decide to watch Marie Kondo’s “Tidying Up,” a show that everyone is talking about. Neither of us have ever seen the show, but I come across Marie Kondo’s name at least once a day on my Twitter feed. Marie Kondo, in case you’ve been stranded out to sea for the past few months, wrote a bestselling book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" about her “KonMari” method of cleaning and organizing your home. Her website describes her philosophy as a “state of mind and a way of life” in which you keep only those things that make you happy. If an item you own no longer “sparks joy,” then you thank it for its service and get rid of it.
We decide to watch the latest episode, which involves a newlywed couple named Angela and Alishia. The first thing we notice about Marie Kondo is that she is quite diminutive, standing at practically four-foot nothing. Such an itty-bitty slip of a woman that if she were to stand still for too long, you might mistake her for a doll. And she never stops smiling. Never. She appears downright euphoric from the task of helping people get their messy homes in order. The show’s intro includes a montage of families she’s helped, many of them in tears at either the desperation of their household’s disarray or the pain of tossing objects they no longer feel joy from but are intensely attached to anyway.
She arrives at the couple’s Long Beach condo and has them guide her through their new home, showing off areas where they believe they need help. Shoes are piled up. Belts go missing. Clothes are mixed together. Closets make no sense. It causes tension. Along the way, Kondo chimes in with comments such as, “Yes, there is a lot of cloudiness here in this room.” This is interspersed with asides of Kondo sitting on a couch and delivering her wisdom directly to the camera: “When tidying, each individual should be responsible for their own space. This lessens the tension and increases their sense of trust and bonding.” Okay, makes sense.
She gives the couple “homework,” starting with the closets in which she tells them to designate personal storage areas. She invites them to kneel on the living room floor to formally introduce themselves to their new home. She has them close their eyes and meditate on their hopes and intentions for their home. This causes my wife to roll her eyes and laugh. She thinks it’s ridiculous. Over the top. However, Kondo says people should do this because “it’s about creating a welcoming, inviting, positive environment.”
Next she has each of them take every single item of clothing out of their closet, determining if each still “sparks joy.” If it does, it stays. If not, it’s gone. I imagine how difficult this process would be for my wife. She’s certainly not a hoarder but also not someone who so easily lets go of her possessions. (I see self-storage space in our future.)
We continue to watch as Kondo helps the couple with their kitchen pantry. She has them categorize food items. Coffees and teas go together. Cereals and snacks go together. Pasta and flour go together. And so on. She’s also a big believer in folding clothes and boxing miscellaneous items.
Overall it seems like most of what Kondo says is merely common sense. Get rid of things that don’t make you happy? Seems self-evident. There might be a few tips here and there that my wife and I will take with us when we move from New York City. She did learn a new way to fold her bras. I learned a new way to fold my hoodies. For the most part though, it feels fairly simple, though perhaps for other people it isn’t. A chaotic mind makes for a chaotic home.
We find Kondo adorable and funny but my wife expresses skepticism about the permanence of the KonMari Method. “That house will be a disaster again in a week,” she says. “Trust me.”
Like many people, we’ll be using self-storage in New York to prevent our items from messing up our apartment while also keeping them close. Seems like a good way to forgo the agony of tossing any belongings just because they don’t necessarily make us as happy as they once did. We’re all for being neat but not for making ourselves feel bad over it. Don’t throw away that dress your grandmother gave you just because you never wear it anymore. Let somebody store it for you. Problem solved. You don’t need a cleaning guru to tell you that, do you?
Lee Anderson is a writer out of Park Slope, Brooklyn. He keeps a music review blog called "Alphabet Pony" which you can check out here!
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