As the buzz of New Years starts to dwindle, people all around the world start cursing themselves for failing their resolutions. January has always been a month for new beginnings. The pressure to reinvent oneself post festive period is strong and grey skies, the remnants of excessive drinking and eating make it all the more difficult.
But that doesn’t mean that each year you don’t try your damned best. And this year Netflix has your back. With the timely release of early January 2019, Tidying Up is an eight episode series hosted by Japanese organising consultant and author Marie Kondo. The series sees Kondo visit struggling households with an aim to declutter.
Kondo received international fame with the release of her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The text offers several tips for organising and tidying your home which Kondo demonstrates in the series. Yet, as the living space advocated by Kondo is minimal unfortunately so is the entertainment value of this show.
Many people fear tidying (this author included) due to the associated monotonous activities. Kondo attempts to introduce an element of gratitude to tidying. Her “konmari” method of tidying advises participants to only keep items that “spark joy” for them and to “thank” items they choose to dispose of.
It’s a nice idea. Putting an end to the guilt associated with poor purchases is necessary in a society which advocates buying into fast fashion. Kondo’s clients have definitely accumulated a wealth of junk. But with few exceptions it would be fair to say that their “messy” houses are quite normal. There is no shock element to this show which is disappointing on reflection of its trailers. It should be said from the outset that Tidying Up is not a makeover show. The before and after clips of finished projects are not drastic in difference as they were never that bad to begin with.
There’s a large focus on staying organised as a household while attempting to raise a family. Several episodes show the unequal division of chores that often occurs in family homes. In episode one, we are introduced to the Friend family comprised of husband and wife, Kevin and Rachel and their toddler children Jaxon and Ryan.
Kevin works long hours while Rachel minds the kids and runs the household. There’s a fair amount of bickering between the pair as each believes the other should be doing more in the house. Kevin gives Rachel grief for paying someone to do their laundry. This pilot episode sets the tone for the entire series. These are very normal people with very normal problems. Who hasn’t heard of that family dynamic? This situation is often repeated in episodes of couples with kids who can’t get a handle on their “hoarding”. Kondo’s method doesn’t translate well into American culture where bigger is always better. This makes the transformation appear un-complete.
Other episodes include young couples with newly bought condos, a grieving widow and a pair of empty nesters. An emphasis on cutting down “collections” is more the goal of such episodes. Books, baseball cards, sneakers, Christmas decor? It all needs to go. Well most of it.
The cutthroat nature of Kondo’s views on such miscellaneous or sentimental items are more difficult to agree with. A collection may be an achievement or goal of sorts for certain individuals. Only keeping the few items that spark joy may not always be the right decision. The same applies to Kondo’s views on books. The topic caused major controversy across social media. Viewers advocated the importance of personal libraries. Yet there is something to take from Kondo’s approach to collections. When they prevent you from having access to certain rooms in your house you may have an issue. This is a repeated situation across the show.
While the majority of episodes are bland and predictable, episode four ‘Sparking Joy After Loss’ is a clear standout with emotional impact. The episode sees Kondo help, Margie, a woman who has lost her husband not long ago grapple with letting go of his possessions. It’s in this episode that sparking joy is of the utmost importance. After loss, items become intrinsically linked with all sorts of memories. This makes the tidying process so much more difficult. Margie’s emotional journey is a tough watch but it’s necessary for her to move on to the next period on her life. The necessity of Kondo’s method is most plain in Margie’s situation.
As previously stated, its during this time of year that the pressure to purge one’s old life and start anew becomes most felt. Tidying Up will offer some inspiration to those hoping to emulate the New Year: New Me sentiment. That doesn’t mean you should bin all your garments that aren’t sparking joy in a bid to reinvent yourself with the Zara January sale though. What’s important to remember in times of material chaos is that there’s always a light at the end of the mess. We’re all human and it’s okay to be untidy sometimes.
Take as little or as much as you need to from Tidying Up and enjoy a few quiet episodes on a lazy Sunday. But if you’re seeking to binge on dramatic life upheavals as documented in shows like A&E’s Hoarders, you might want to sit this one out.