“I'm so excited because I love mess!”
January 4, 2019 4:35 PM   Subscribe

The Unexpected Joy of ‘Tidying Up With Marie Kondo’ [The Ringer] “Released on New Year’s Day, Tidying Up is very much an extension of Kondo’s internationally renowned persona. But true to Netflix’s notoriously data-driven programming strategy, it also shares DNA with some previous hits for the streaming service. Like the recent reboot of Queer Eye, Tidying Up is an old-school makeover show with a host of modern tweaks. [...] Over eight characteristically efficient installments—the editors of Tidying Up manage to convey the magnitude of each household’s project while also winnowing their journey down to a tight 40ish minutes—Kondo takes tired buzzwords like “gratitude” and “mindfulness” and gives them new life. This is what Tidying Up adds to what’s already on the page: a series of highly specific applications of Kondo’s technique, and with them, proof that anyone, including you, can tidy up their own life in their own way.” [YouTube][Trailer]

• “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” Reviewed: The Organizational Consultant as Freelance Exorcist [The New Yorker]
“Each episode of this housekeeping procedural preaches the pleasures of her process. I found it impossible to binge the show, largely because it kept jolting me to the back of the closet in the kids’ room, where I meditated on disused Hot Wheels race tracks. The introduction finds the petite Kondo approaching an overstuffed closet, daintily hopping to reach a high shelf, and cutely failing. There is perhaps a smidgen of Orientalism in the series’s framing of its Japanese star as a sprite who flutters efficiently across a nonspecific U.S.A., gracing its chaotic households with wisdom. Perhaps she’s not an Other, just otherworldly, in the manner of a fairy godmother or enchanted nanny. Either way, spirituality is essential to her method, and “magic” is central to its meaning; she knows that the unloved stuff in the garage is weighing down the soul. The word “tidying,” with its implication of light dusting and fluffing sofa cushions, is insufficient to the physical task Kondo proposes, which may involve gathering an entire wardrobe of clothing, accumulated over decades, into a linebacker-size pile. This is a vision of the organizational consultant as a freelance exorcist.”
• Marie Kondo’s new show sparks dread [The Outline]
“Every month, I’m struck by the urge to reorganize all of my worldly possessions, and purge my books, papers, and clothes. I’m not too much of a neat freak. I allow clutter to consolidate over time, before putting everything away in manic cleaning moods. Thus I assumed I was the target audience for the new Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, wherein the vastly popular Japanese organization consultant demonstrates how to fold clothes properly, how to put items where you can actually find them, and most notably, proselytizes the need for possessions to “spark joy” for semi-hapless American families seeking her guidance. The KonMari method was brought to America back in 2014, when Kondo’s first book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing was translated into English to widespread acclaim. The tenets are deceptively simple. “Tidying is not just about cleaning,” Kondo instructs during the show. “It is creating a space that sparks joy,” and “a means to realize your ideal life.””
• Tidying Up With Marie Kondo Isn’t Life-Changing, But It Is Surprisingly Watchable [Vulture]
“Considering that this show is the literal equivalent of watching other people clean their houses, something I barely want to do myself, it is far more absorbing and interesting than I expected. Perhaps that’s also because there’s a bit of Hoarders in Tidying Up, too. While some subjects merely fall in the disorganized category, there are some couples, like Wendy and Ron Akiyama, who have been married for decades and seemingly never gotten rid of a single thing, with a real, serious mound of mess to tackle. Wendy and Ron’s episode, “Empty Nesters,” reveals the boxes upon boxes of baseball cards that are stacked to the ceiling of their master bedroom, and the masses of Christmas decorations that have pretty much taken over the rec room. (Wendy has enough decorative nutcrackers to form her own military.) There is something oddly satisfying about seeing other people living in a more intense level of chaos than most of us do, yet still managing, by the end of a 35-minute episode, to confront it, overcome it, and effectively downsize.”
• Tidying Up With Marie Kondo review – TV destined for the bin bag of shame [The Guardian]
“The secret of these shows is that the hard work is done by the production team, sourcing couples who are inexplicably willing to re-enact for the camera their everyday domestic lives – which have troubling but fixable underlying problems. Here, Kevin and Rachel, the parents of two young kids, have lost the energy to communicate with each other, and never get round to doing the dishes. It is clear what’s wrong even before a survey of the garage reveals their wedding photos, forgotten and mildewed. Ron and Wendy, meanwhile, obsessively accumulate tat to fill the void created by their children leaving home. And so on. Kondo, however, barely does anything to help. There’s no moment where she shows that her tidying expertise is based on psychological insight. Her signature move is to get her clients to remove every piece of clothing from their cupboards, collect it all on the bed in a teetering mound of shame, and go through the stack item by item, holding each one to see whether it will “spark joy”. If no joy surges ceiling-wards, the redundant vest top or underwhelming pair of beach shorts is thanked for its service (the whole house has previously been “greeted” with a moment of silent contemplation, designed to ensure its cooperation) and condemned to a black bag.”
• Tidying Up With Marie Kondo Offers Gentle Self-Help, For Better and Worse [The Muse]
“Stylistically, Tidying Up is gentle. Marie Kondo is a soothing presence—never soporific, somehow, but always engaging. She is twee, almost unbearably so, which is an affect not really seen in American television personalities. About 15 minutes into every episode, Kondo takes a moment to commune with the house, selecting a spot in the residence and kneeling in silent reverence. This goes on for longer than feels comfortable; sometimes the subjects join her, and sometimes they seem like they’re enjoying it. Conflict, when it happens, feels softer than it would on House Hunters, where couples routinely argue with increasing venom over the necessity of a mudroom in the home of their dreams. The beauty of Marie Kondo’s world is that tidying is not punishment. She subverts the chore of cleaning by imbuing it with a radical sense of self-improvement. Unlike the underlying economic status anxiety that colors all of HGTV’s offerings, Tidying Up is more self-help than self-defeat.”
• Tidying Up With Marie Kondo Isn’t Really a Makeover Show [The Atlantic]
“There’s no sense of competition, and the ostensible makeover at the heart of every episode simply involves regular people becoming happier and more at ease in their own home. Kondo doesn’t scold, shame, or criticize. Things spark joy or they don’t, and it’s fine either way. The families whom Kondo visits—all of whom live in the Los Angeles area—range from newlyweds and the parents of toddlers to empty nesters and retirees. They hail from an array of ethnic backgrounds; some are well heeled and others live modestly, but none are full-on hoarders, nor are any of them extremely rich or desperately poor. Kondo isn’t dealing with people who appear to need serious psychiatric help or whose homes are legitimately unsafe or unsanitary—a key difference between this show and the popular A&E series Hoarders, which aired from 2009 to 2013. Tidying Up also doesn’t address the topic of generational trauma and the way it can shape people’s relationships with their possessions, which Arielle Bernstein wrote about for The Atlantic in 2016. Kondo’s clients are merely (sometimes profoundly) stuck: Short on time or long in denial, they’re either frazzled parents trapped in a Sisyphean rut with laundry or older folks overwhelmed by decades’ worth of clutter.”
posted by Fizz (113 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
fanfare link.

I was surprised and excited to see this pop up on Netflix. It's very, very satisfying to watch and makes me feel hopeful. Around Christmas - a bit before, I guess - my clutter situation has taken a downturn. I'm a little more UFYH in many ways but I like a lot of Kondo's techniques.
posted by bunderful at 4:41 PM on January 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'll watch the show if it contains advice on how to find time to do all this constant tidying. Instead I'm going to make a show called "The Life Changing Magic of Getting a Cheap Roomba Knockoff So I Don't Have to Constantly Sweep Up Dog Hair".
posted by runcibleshaw at 4:51 PM on January 4, 2019 [24 favorites]

This is one of the worst reality shows I’ve ever seen, and I’ve produced quite a few. She’s got all the charisma of a dead potted plant. But it’s produced by Gail Berman, who has pretty much the worst taste in the world.

Why is this an FFP and not in Fanfare?
posted by Ideefixe at 5:07 PM on January 4, 2019 [10 favorites]

This is in fanfare, linked to in the first comment.

I've been vaguely aware of Marie Kondo for a while but mostly thought it was "get rid of everything and find your joy." Divabat has a great comment in that Fanfare thread which reads in part;

The point of Marie Kondo isn't "Get rid of much stuff as you can", it's about being mindful of what you have and keeping only what resonates with you. And if that means you end up with what seems like the same amount of stuff as before, so be it. It's not a bulldozer minimalist system.

I will check it out. Thanks for the post.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 5:12 PM on January 4, 2019 [10 favorites]

Well, from the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the idea is not that you're doing constant tidying. You basically pile up all your shit and go through it and throw away everything that doesn't spark joy in your soul. It might take a few days, it might take a few weeks.

Once you've found your keeper items, you determine everything's special place to keep it and you always put it back where it goes when you're done with it. Done properly, you're never constantly tidying: you go for one massive throw-away/organize assault and then never deviate from The Plan.

Some parts of this are easier than others
posted by glonous keming at 5:15 PM on January 4, 2019 [18 favorites]

If you want to watch, you should look through the episode list and choose the one family whose circumstances most match your own. The changes made aren't visibly dramatic, but Netflix plays up the material transformation in their quick before (gray emo filter) and after (saturated color) shots.

Overall, I'd say the show didn't spark joy. So I'm going to thank it and gently place it in a box for Goodwill.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 5:17 PM on January 4, 2019 [19 favorites]

I haven't watched the show, likely because of my previous experience with the book.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 5:17 PM on January 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

I tried the first episode that popped up, but didn’t get too far in because the husband’s barely suppressed creepy anger was such a distraction.
posted by Miko at 5:18 PM on January 4, 2019 [29 favorites]

I had the same experience as Miko. God forbid they pay to do laundry so she can have some free time. Their house wasn't even a big mess! Gave up after that, I love house cleaning/ tidying shows but this one just did nothing for me.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:21 PM on January 4, 2019 [7 favorites]

I got her book once as a gift. Did Not Appreciate.
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:28 PM on January 4, 2019 [13 favorites]

I skipped ahead to the empty-nesters, as it was second-closest to my own circumstance (the closest one, the widow, I couldn't face). I enjoyed watching Kondo zip around the house like a tiny cheerleader, and I am copying the suggestion to switch to clear plastic tubs for long-term storage so you don't have to keep opening them to see what's inside.
posted by Mogur at 5:36 PM on January 4, 2019 [8 favorites]

I find Kondo’s demeanor captivating. Certainly she’s not charismatic by American “LOOK AT ME!!!!” standards, but her calmness is refreshing. The show has a meditative quality similar to the GBBO.
posted by scantee at 5:52 PM on January 4, 2019 [31 favorites]

I get stressed out by the idea of Kondo because so much of my clutter is stuff I'll need to fix or replace other stuff. Like, I don't know how to declutter when the clutter exists to save money. Does she have a solution for this? Because I am extremely into a show that is like GBBO. I have watched all of GBBO multiple times and I need my Calm Rewarding Reality Show fix.
posted by schroedinger at 6:02 PM on January 4, 2019 [7 favorites]

I tried the first episode that popped up, but didn’t get too far in because the husband’s barely suppressed creepy anger was such a distraction.

This. I'm watching it right now and I want to punch him. He is killing the GBBO "valium" vibes I had hoped for.

On the bright side, Marie helped clear up the questions I had about what it's like when something 'sparks joy': "You feel it when you hold a puppy."

Almost nothing I own makes me as happy as holding a puppy. I may throw out my entire house tonight. Pray for me.
posted by nightrecordings at 6:45 PM on January 4, 2019 [116 favorites]

You basically pile up all your shit and go through it and throw away everything that doesn't spark joy in your soul. It might take a few days, it might take a few weeks.

Does it explain how to do this "pile, sort, purge" thing around a day job and household residents who aren't interested in tidying?

All of the "how to clean house" methods I've seen, were aimed at women who were either stay-at-home partners, or living alone; none of them were useful for a woman who's out of the house 9+ hours a day, and comes home to a household full of people who also hate to clean house, and who haven't caught the tidying bug from whatever organizational system is trendy this week.

I can ask myself, "does this spark joy?" and throw something out if the answer is no. I cannot ask four other people, "hey, does this spark joy for you?" and wait for answers. Nor am I willing to play the, "if you don't answer me, I guess I'll throw it out" game.

(Also. My grey shoes do not spark one damn bit of joy, but they're the only ones I can wear with a dress in winter and not look horribly unprofessional. Throwing them out would mean seeking replacements that "spark joy," which no business-usable shoes have done for me in years; certainly, none available at cheap, nearby stores are going to spark joy. I am not up for spending multiple shopping days trying to find shoes that make me joyful instead of shoes I don't hate and can wear to work every day. The whole "it should spark joy" thing assumes a level of resources - both money and time - that many people just don't have.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 6:50 PM on January 4, 2019 [41 favorites]

Does it explain how to do this "pile, sort, purge" thing around a day job and household residents who aren't interested in tidying?

So, there is no perfect answer to this, but she does address it (as well as one reasonably can) in her books.

Three or four years ago I did a major KonMari purge of my crap. The rule Marie gives is to not lay a finger on the possessions of other people in your household. Only your own stuff. You can't and should not be making these decisions for others.

When I cleared out my "doesn't spark joy" excesses, I was amused and delighted to find that it had an immediate positive impact on those I lived with at the time. I came home a day or two later to find them clearing out their own stuff. (In her books, she predicts this domino effect.) And I hadn't said a word. YMMV, and it doesn't address questions of how to achieve this around a hectic life schedule, but there is a lot to be said for the positive energy that flows inward when we eradicate the clutter in our lives. It touches the people around us.
posted by nightrecordings at 7:02 PM on January 4, 2019 [41 favorites]

Does it explain how to do this "pile, sort, purge" thing around a day job and household residents who aren't interested in tidying?

I'm not convinced that the other residents in my household are super-overjoyed by a lot of the clutter I see in their spaces, so what seems to work (for now) is for me to take a grocery bag into the space, fill it with stuff that I don't like, and ask them to review before it's all donated.

They might not throw out 10 old PEZ dispensers on their own, but they also won't miss them. Seeing them all in a plastic bag with some old school items makes it an easy call.
posted by witchen at 7:15 PM on January 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm not a Kondo fanatic, but her book has been helpful for my husband and me when it comes to getting rid of stuff. Apparently we're just animist enough that thanking an item for its service makes it easier to get rid of it. If that doesn't work for you, cool enough.

I do get tired of the misinterpretations of what she's saying, though. Misquoted from memory, she talks about winter boots. Do winter boots make you feel as happy as you do when holding a puppy? No, probably not. Does having warm, dry feet in the winter make you feel happier than having cold, wet feet? Awesome. Keep the boots.
posted by Lexica at 7:22 PM on January 4, 2019 [78 favorites]

I found her book surprisingly useful. Did I take all her advice? No. There is nothing more likely to cause me problems than daily taking my wallet out of my purse and storing it under my bed. I will never stop rolling my socks. I have no intention of storing my bookshelves in my closet. I had a good understanding of spark joy and I used it; I did in fact take out all my clothes and, though I kept too many (I don't NEED 10 black tshirts but I do wear them, eventually they will get worn out), her organising principles were helpful; most surprisingly to me, her suggestion that I thank things before giving them away was intensely helpful.

I haven't watched the show, and I probably won't, but her book -- despite my not following more of her suggestions than I do follow -- was more useful than other things have been.
posted by jeather at 7:39 PM on January 4, 2019 [9 favorites]

I have to say this show is so soothing to me! And also every meme in this list spoke to me deeply, ESPECIALLY the one about Marie having Big Virgo Energy (so true, so aspirational!).

also, agree on the husband in the first episode! like dude your wife obviously has husband-induced anxiety disorder and your rage and entitlement isn’t helping. The way he kept saying how “fun” she was made me cringe, like obviously that’s code for messy/flaky, stop being such an asshole
posted by stellaluna at 7:42 PM on January 4, 2019 [14 favorites]

I've just watched the first and heading into the second. Some of it I've been doing without realising it's part of the KonMari method, but decluttering is in full swing here. Watching other people go through the same thing has been more anxiety-producing than I expected though.

Nthing the comments about the husbant in the first episode. The pair of them were using "babe" like an insult and I had to nope right past a lot of it...
posted by ninazer0 at 7:58 PM on January 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

So I study domestic literature (19th C.) and a lot of my research deals with how the aesthetics of the household environment impacts the moral development of the residents therein. It's super interesting to me how the trickle-down of decluttering maps onto this model and I'm going to have to watch this (while not decluttering, personally).
posted by mmmbacon at 8:37 PM on January 4, 2019 [13 favorites]

In the few episodes I have watched so far, Marie Kondo is basically like the really chill kind of therapist.

By just being nearby and observing a family's stuff with them, looking into their untidy closet without shaming or guilting or criticizing, she helps them let go of a lot of their own shame and other emotional baggage. And this is quite healing for them.

I enjoy watching the show while I fold laundry. So far we've only KonMarie'd our clothing, and it was certainly a mini life change.

I also have a suspicion middle-class Americans could probably let go of some of our more regressive political attitudes if we had a different, more thoughtful relationship with our stuff.
posted by mai at 8:50 PM on January 4, 2019 [16 favorites]

I had to bail halfway through the first episode because I just felt angry at that family.

The second episode, I kind of enjoyed, although I kept thinking things like 'this house must be 4,000 square feet'.

That's as far as I've gotten so far, but it seems like this might be Queer Eye for the Rich Tribe or something.

I've had the book for six months but I've been too intimidated to crack it open.
posted by taterpie at 8:53 PM on January 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I feel like Kondo's whole approach is upside down. Yes, you have to identify those items in your house that spark joy. But those are the things you have to get rid of. They're what drives your attachment to objects. Once they're gone, and you realize you don't miss them, it's a lot easier to let go of everything else.
posted by escabeche at 8:54 PM on January 4, 2019 [15 favorites]

I liked this show just fine. Agreed on the husband in the first episode; it seems like things got better because he was finally actually invested in the household and worked with his wife on the project, instead of just blaming her for everything (and I DO NOT GET his laundry-help objection, at all). I was reminded of the part in the book where Marie Kondo says a lot of people get divorced once they finish the process.

I read the book and got rid of a lot of my things about a year and a half ago. I had heard about it before and thought it was the stupidest thing I had ever heard of, etc etc, all of the things that everyone is saying in this thread. But then I came across the book again at a different time, when I felt like I had a lot of changes in my life to make but it was all very intimidating, so I could at least start with my physical stuff. And it really is a good practice, if you’re in the right place in your life for it, to look at everything you have around you and get rid of things that you may have been holding on to out of habit, or history, or a sense of obligation, or any other reason that’s not “because it brings you joy.” It really does tend to radiate out, because you can’t help but see what else is there that you really don’t need to keep.

So I also got rid of some curtains in my bedroom that I had had for 12 years or something, that I was just sick of looking at, and once I briefly dated someone who was terribly boring and asked about them in a weird way that suggested he thought these stupid Target curtains were quirky or something and I just kind of couldn’t help but think about that, and I had moved into my place when I was a 25 year old scumbag and stapled them over the windows, and etc etc and I threw the damn curtains away.

Turns out they were excellent blackout curtains and my bedroom window faces east, and 12-years-ago cheap Target curtains were nice lined thick cotton and that is NOT very affordable anymore. So I spent 6 months waking up at 8:30 every morning with the sun in my face (I work nights a lot, it was awful) and a friend finally dragged me to Marshall’s and i was low on cash but got some terrible ugly polyester blackout curtains that aren’t worth the title of blackout curtains. So I still hate my curtains. At least I put up curtain rods finally, so when I find better ones I can replace them. And that’s my story about getting rid of something you need because it doesn’t bring you joy, maybe just keep it if you really need it.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 9:01 PM on January 4, 2019 [25 favorites]

posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:07 PM on January 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

jeweled accumulation: if you're set up for it, grab a blackout blind on ebay or something and mount it inside the window's depth. It's not massively expensive and the two layers really make a difference.
posted by Leon at 9:13 PM on January 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

The problem I run into is "this may not spark joy right now but in x situation/in the future it might be exactly what I need and spark joy then." And I have been consistently right about that for multiple objects most people would have thrown away, including half used notebooks and scraps of paper. And then there's things that don't spark joy until you dig them out of a box three years later like, oh yeah, I forgot about that!

I do use this principle for replacing items that should spark joy but don't (ex: jeans that don't fit quite right, poorly glued sticky notes). But it really hasn't helped me declutter at all. On the other hand, I'm also really not bothered by clutter as long as there are clear spaces to sit and/or do a craft thing, so...maybe I'm just not motivated enough?
posted by brook horse at 9:30 PM on January 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

So, I was a huge fan of her book and found it very useful. For the record, the author estimates the time needed to perform the one time tidying process to be six months, give or take. The biggest point is that you choose the things you really like and keep them, not the other way around. She uses "spark joy" to denote a physical sensation but also uses "things that give you pleasure", "things that you really like".
Another very helpful tip is to sort by category and it was truly life changing for me. No shuffling things around on the shelves. You take out one category and sort it. If you have too many clothes, you can sort just the tops first, or just the socks. I have done clothes and books and toiletries in between working 60 hour days and going through some personal stuff. It was very cathartic.
Incidentally, I did the big tidying project a few months after losing my Dad and I do not think it was a coincidence. Tidying my own things despite not living in the same household as my now deceased father has helped me process grief.
there's much less woo in the book that you'd expect. A lot of it is very common sense.
posted by M. at 9:38 PM on January 4, 2019 [17 favorites]

Yes, you have to identify those items in your house that spark joy. But those are the things you have to get rid of. They're what drives your attachment to objects. Once they're gone, and you realize you don't miss them, it's a lot easier to let go of everything else.

I'm not a very good or knowledgeable Buddhist, but this seems like a misinterpretation of the idea that the glass was already broken. Understanding and accepting the transient nature of experience doesn't mean "push it all away".

As my zen teacher says (misquoted from memory) "Life offers us enough practice opportunities; we don't need to actively seek them out. Just pay attention."
posted by Lexica at 9:47 PM on January 4, 2019 [29 favorites]

The show itself was a bit of a disappointment for me. It shows very little of the atual process which is in itself really fun as you see the space clear out and things you really like come into the foreground. There's much more about the people going through it and the end result does not seem to be thorough in some cases. Nobody seems to have more than a few dozen books and they seem to be random more than accumulated out of love for reading.
But also, in the show, she goes against one of the most important principles in the whole book which is that you leave sentimental items to the very end after you have developed a better sense of what you want to possess VS what you are keeping out of inertia or vague sense of guilt. This counts for sentimental papers, clothes, everything - they all come together at the end in the sentimental category. In the show it almost seems like people start with it.
Also, she recommends against buying any boxes or organizing products before you are done, insisting that you will most likely find appropriate storage items as you tidy. At the end of a given category, you can see if you really need something and then choose something you really like. In the show she brings lots of boxes for her clients.
posted by M. at 9:55 PM on January 4, 2019

was reminded of the part in the book where Marie Kondo says a lot of people get divorced once they finish the process

Wait what?! You start with the socks and the stuffed toys and end with the spouse?
posted by tirutiru at 10:23 PM on January 4, 2019 [24 favorites]

I've watched 3 episodes so far and my biggest takeaway is that clutter is relative. I would be so happy to live in any of those places because compared to where I live now those places look like zen retreats to me.

I share a place with my folks. Love them lots but they have so much stuff that there is literally no more room to store anything 'away'. They live with piles. My Dad constantly has to buy new things because things get lost. There is no such thing as a free surface with the exception of a 2 cutting board size space on the kitchen island and the stove burners. This is no joke. I have very little room for any of my things outside of my room space and when I try it just gets overloaded with their things and I either can't find my stuff or forget its even there because it's covered with stuff.

Both of them know that this is a problem. Both make some attempt to get rid of stuff and get organized but it's become clear that they are overwhelmed as well as have some emotional issues about their stuff. There are regular arguements about stuff and living in such disorganized clutter causes frustration and general unhappiness. It's stressful and any task has to have a built in time for dealing with the clutter and finding all of the things needed for it. This includes things they like to do for fun.

I haven't tried to do full Kondo with them but her advice about looking at things in terms of sparking joy and versions related to this concept are a tool that really works with people in situations like I'm in. I read that part in her book and tried it. My Dad collects and keeps things for future projects that he might consider doing some day. He's gotten himself to the point where he literally has no room to do any projects because his work surface is piled with things being kept for projects. He in his later years now and it saddens me that he gotten himself into a position of having so much clutter around that he is not doing things he actually likes to do.

Me talking to him about what projects he realistically choose to work on in his free time when the 'should do' projects are done has enabled him to let stuff go. Dad would you rather try to build a weed trimmer from these multiple parts of other weed trimmers that you've collected from the dump or work on your model planes.
That's all he needed to be able to get rid of them. We worked through a similar thought process with laptops and the 5 laptops that have been gathering dust on a shelf for several years got replaced with something that he uses regularly but lived in various locations around the living room and kitchen surfaces because it had no real home.
It doesn't sound like much but this was a huuuuge breakthrough in his thinking about things.

I've been laying the ground work for tackling the kitchen for several months. She's been able to deal with a few smaller things so I think we're ready to make a go of it. It's going to be tough. I pretty much know what is going to end up going but she has to come to that understanding herself. I can help but I can't do it.

My hope is that if we can achieve some success that they'll be more open to an even bigger decluttering project based on her method or at least the parts that seem to work even a little bit. If not at least I may get a kitchen that I can more easily cook in. I would cook heaps more but trying to work in such a clutter is so stressful that I end up defaulting to the bare minimum.

Oh and trying to keep a house cluttered like this clean is a nightmare. You have to clean to be able to clean so again defaulting to the bare minimum is easier. There is very little that can be done quickly and those things I regularly do. Our toilets are cleaned a lot because it's difficult to pile things in a toilet and the toilet brush is one of the only cleaning tools that has a home that it's never moved from. Ask me to sweep something? Hold on I have to go search for a broom....
posted by Jalliah at 10:24 PM on January 4, 2019 [43 favorites]

"...was reminded of the part in the book where Marie Kondo says a lot of people get divorced once they finish the process..."

Wait what?! You start with the socks and the stuffed toys and end with the spouse?

Ok, so I found the quote in my Kindle book and it says:

Here are just a few of the testimonies I receive on a daily basis from former clients:
"After your course, I quit my job and launched my own business doing something I had dreamed of doing ever since I was a child"
"Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don't. So I got a divorce. Now I feel much happier"
"Someone I have been wanting to get in touch with recently contacted me"
"My husband and I are getting along much better"

So, not necessarily, no.
posted by M. at 10:46 PM on January 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

I use kondo as a verb and a friend who did the same to her place will also. The process was so helpful during the turmoil of the past few years and now living in 1400 sq ft with 5 people, it's so good to have minimal stuff, and to know what we have is what we want and like.

I'm a crouton-petter so making a story about why something is useful and makes me happy is easy. Does this cat litter box spark joy? Yes! It is very much better and easier to clean than the other models, the cats like it and my house is nicer as a result. What a good cat litter box.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:03 PM on January 4, 2019 [26 favorites]

My mother remarked the other month that she had been Kondo-ing, or maybe death cleaning, I forget, and waited until I had arranged my face in a polite expression and looked around hopefully for something to note the absence of until she leant forward and said, "And I love ALL my stuff!"

She does, too, and now the stuff is mostly labelled somewhere inconspicuous explaining why they're interesting. And until I have to dust her stuff, it's none of my beeswax. (Thank goodness. The woman has a barn and builds a shed a year.)
posted by clew at 11:34 PM on January 4, 2019 [11 favorites]

We've both been frustrated with our house clutter for some time as we're basically the couple in the first episode except we both work and I'm (hopefully) not as jerky as the husband. But the accumulation of stuff - the exhausting toddler, the guilt over not having the toddler in a good space, and all of that getting inbetween us - we identified strongly with that.

What we found really refreshing about the show was how Marie comes off as genuinely a good consultant - she works with the clients, is empathetic and interested, and listens and encourages them and gets their ownership - it's not the typical Jillian Michaels type WE FIX YOUR LIFE American reality show where they kick down the door and shame you and gawk at your life decisions and yells at you when you don't want to do exactly what's prescribed.

We're both reading the book and binge watched this week - and we're going to start with clothes this weekend.
posted by Karaage at 12:07 AM on January 5, 2019 [15 favorites]

I have not watched this and never will. I still occasionally have flashbacks to a BBC TV programme which was similarly about an outsider invading people’s homes and forcing them to “declutter” through the pressure of the TV camera as representative for judgemental neighbours.

The psychological damage, the strain on relationships, the sight of people in tears just so an outsider could smugly walk away while these people stood in an echoing “tidy home”...

And of course the victims would subsequently fill the emptied spaces of their hollow homes with consumer junk in an effort to replace lost memories.

posted by fallingbadgers at 12:52 AM on January 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

got her book once as a gift. Did Not Appreciate.

Much joy was sparked in our office when our lovely, bumbling editor received at his desk via amazon, from his equally lovely but far more focused fiance, not one but *two* copies of the book, in the same package.

Whenever this book is discussed I bite my tongue from responding to each and every comment where people make assumptions about it being a brutal experience as people's emotions are wrecked and all their precious stuff torn away from them for the hollow sake of tidiness, when the value of the book really is that it recognises and respects the emotional relationship people have with their things, for good and bad. It's not at all trying to push people to an extreme state of rejection of possessions.

Anyway, now off to avoid thinking about getting rid of the last of my t-shirts that remind me of responsibility-free life, but are definitely past actual wearing *whistles*
posted by ominous_paws at 1:58 AM on January 5, 2019 [29 favorites]

fallingbadgers: this show is the complete opposite of that. Kondo doesn't interfere at all, and the few times she's asked for her opinion on a specific item she usually goes "sounds like this is important to you so keep it". She even says straight up that her goal is to not force people to get rid of stuff, but to keep the stuff they really want.
posted by divabat at 2:18 AM on January 5, 2019 [22 favorites]

I do not and never will have a problem with clutter or having too many possessions because for a long time I’ve tried to implement the “does this spark joy?” policy before I buy things, but when the book became popular I realized that that was essentially how I decide which records I want to get rid of when I weed my collection.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:26 AM on January 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

I think KonMari and this show have come at a very interesting cultural moment. It’s kind of an anti-consumerism, in the sense that happiness is something obtainable by manipulating your material world. The classic ad model tells us to buy things to make ourselves happy and assert our identities; this is asking us to downsize and get rid of things to make ourselves happy and satisfied. In the process, we can expect to learn about ourselves, and achieve much more than just freeing up closet space.

I don’t think it’s a garbage idea, because a lot of people seem to get a lot out of it. And this doesn’t feel out of place in an age of growing popular discontent with capitalism.

I think the part that I find threatening is how it showed up alongside tiny homes and other ideals of minimalist living. I still can’t fully articulate what exactly I find threatening, but I think there’s an element of powerlessness — part of the appeal of the tiny home is that it’s the only house many of us could afford to buy. So now we’re a re-examining of what all of us truly need, but it’s driven in part by scarcity and loss, not necessarily only anti-consumerism.

I think being insecure financially and existentially makes it easier to keep stuff you may not need: so you don’t have to buy it again, or so you have a tangible link to the past. I’m not saying that’s better than KonMari. I’m often scared to get rid of stuff because I don’t know when I’ll have lost something I didn’t previously recognize as meaningful. That may be an odd relationship to have with your material possessions.

Anyway, I’m just interested in why KonMari has gotten so popular, and why watching other people declutter is soothkng. It says a lot about where we are.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:03 AM on January 5, 2019 [24 favorites]

@divabat Thanks for the clarification but the whole concept still makes my fur stand on end and low growling to emerge uncontrollably from my mouth. I guess ursine decluttering is a concept unlikely to take off
posted by fallingbadgers at 4:04 AM on January 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

From a friend on Twitter who has an interest in Japanese culture and design and knows the language (locked account, shared with permission):
if it helps a little, the japanese word for 'spark joy' is 'ときめく'(tokimeku) and relates to the feeling of throbbing or palpitating of the heart (it's where the japanese onomatopoeia for 'doki doki' comes from!). i would say the feeling of 'waku waku' is closer to what i think the western interpretation of 'spark joy' is because it's related to a feeling of excitement. ときめく in this context is more of a feeling of something resonating with you, rather than something that literally makes your heart race!

The west has a rather simplistic understanding of japanese design concepts where their only takeaway is minimalism and simplicity. not that they aren't aspects of japanese design, but they're not the overarching picture.

i would argue that japanese design very much speaks to one's emotions, not just in a 'hey let's get excited about this!' but in a more 'i am moved by this for some reason/this speaks to me' sense that may not necessarily have an explanation. this, attitude i think is better way of figuring out what it is we need vs what we want

after all, i think the more attachment to an object you have (be it for aesthetics or because it represents you), the less likelihood you have of just letting it go unused
When asked about resources:
donald norman has a book called 'emotional design' and came up with the concept and focuses a lot of his work on user-centred design. an excerpt of it was part of my uni readings and it really resonated with me

the hello kitty episode of 'the toys that made us' don't specifically talk about the concepts of japanese design, but you can get the feeling of how they approach it (even though the west embraces anime culture somewhat, i think westerners still find the hyper cuteness of things like hello kitty too much/too feminine etc)

japanese tea ceremonies are a great example of 'how to create an atmosphere and memory that has meaning'. it's not just about serving tea and enjoying the company of others, it actually involves a level of mindfulness where the person performing the ceremony thinks about the guest and the season therefore chooses certain tea bowls and traditional sweets to serve, even things like what scroll is hanging in the room's tokonoma (kind of like an alcove). literally everything is there to be pleasing not just to the eyes and taste buds, but to the soul
And her exasperation at the critiques:
Lbh, if you've started reading mari kondo and your first thought is something like 'well my keys don’t give me joy but I need them to get into the house', then you have missed the entire point.

maybe you should start with a first year course reader in japanese culture instead
posted by divabat at 4:05 AM on January 5, 2019 [56 favorites]

This is from Kondo's Wikipedia page - the article this is from isn't loading for me (emphasis mine):
I was obsessed with what I could throw away. One day, I had a kind of nervous breakdown and fainted. I was unconscious for two hours. When I came to, I heard a mysterious voice, like some god of tidying telling me to look at my things more closely. And I realized my mistake: I was only looking for things to throw out. What I should be doing is finding the things I want to keep. Identifying the things that make you happy: that is the work of tidying.
posted by divabat at 4:10 AM on January 5, 2019 [36 favorites]

One of the episodes captures that moment I think - one of the men struggles throughout the episode of trying to find things that spark joy and said he felt mostly ambivalent about a lot of stuff and just generally kept things......until he started on books and she helped him identify the one book that gave him that sort of feeling.

From there, suddenly the sorting process got a lot easier for him because he could compare it.

What I also liked about the episodes is that there's a good diversity of people on there in different situations but also with different levels of skepticism and struggles with the method. One woman in particular was averse to throwing anything away because a lot of it was important to her or was being kept because maybe if they wanted a third baby someday it'd be useful, which again I can identify with - but it seems like there's something about starting easy, specifically with clothes that generates the momentum to start on other things.

I think the complaints that the place doesn't look "that much better than before" is misplaced - I think the exercise and mindset shift in the journey is what's important here, one that can be observed in a lot of the people who struggled with the concept. To them they got rid of a tremendous amount of stuff and learned the discipline to keep things in their place.
posted by Karaage at 4:40 AM on January 5, 2019 [7 favorites]

I don't know if telling people to go take a course in Japanese culture will do much but get hackles up, but just honestly reading the book itself is enough to clear up a lot of the common misconceptions. You don't need to be able to knock out ten thousand words on nihonjinron or whatever to get it.

Of course persuading someone to pay for a book on something that strikes them as terrible from jump is a challenge...
posted by ominous_paws at 6:08 AM on January 5, 2019 [7 favorites]

I was really excited to see this, because thanks to that book my first day of 2019 was so much better than my first day of 2018. I focused on my mental health and recovery from depression in 2018, and doing the KonMari process was a major part of it. Her book is very much about how your living space and the objects in your life impact your mental health, and how to listen to your intuition to select the things that most serve you and make you happy. We're so often encouraged to approach stuff from a rational standpoint. How much did I spend on it? Was it a gift from someone I don't want to hurt or offend? Could I still wear it if I lost twenty pounds? Could I make something else out of it if I took the time? What if I decide to get back into this hobby? What if someone else in my life can use this someday? Is it still in good condition? This method is about turning away from all those questions, and instead asking your heart, is this something you want in your life? I spent a lot of my life not really knowing what I wanted, and my possessions reflected that. So letting go of them was part of coming to terms with my past, with the choices I'd made, the way my possessions propped up my self-image and papered over the regrets I had. It made room for who I am right now, and gave me room for what I needed in my life right now.

For example, I let go of many of my books. I didn't have them in my life because I valued them, or because I was making use of the information in them -- I had them in my life because my depression told me I was a failure. My books reassured me that I was intelligent, I had had academic triumphs in the past, and I was still the sort of person who had intellectual, interesting books on her shelf. When I moved away from that depression and started the process of selecting the things that mattered to me, I could admit to myself that those books didn't fit the person I am today. I am not going to move to Japan and become a translator. Grad school was a mistake. I do not have the time or drive to teach myself Latin. During my depression, admitting these things would have been tantamount to admitting I was a failure. After I was able to come to terms with the person I actually was and the things I actually wanted out of life, I let go of those books that I hadn't touched in years and didn't serve who I am now.

Here's what I printed out and kept near me as I was going through this process, if anyone else could use a cheat sheet:

• Hold it - or hug it - and ask your heart, not your head
• Does the item make you feel radiant, or tight?
• You know it doesn’t spark joy but you can’t let it go:
• Does this symbolize my attachment to the past?
• Does this symbolize my fear for the future?
• Am I showing that I value it right now?
• How does it compare to the things that definitely bring me joy?
• Does it serve the person I am right now?
• What role did it play in my life?
• What did it teach me?
• Thank the item for what it taught you and what it did for you
• Let it go with joy and gratitude
posted by shirobara at 6:13 AM on January 5, 2019 [73 favorites]

I just recently cleaned out a large chunk of my life. This is the finished product.

And I didn't really use the KonMari method. I just needed it out of my life. I needed to feel not so stressed out. It was more of a purge and less of a tidying. I was also making space for my partner who will be moving here relatively soon and that was a huge motivating factor.

I guess I did keep a few things that spark joy but I also threw out/donated a fair number of those items too. My whole thing was, have you thought abotu this or used this in a significant way in the last year, 2 years, 5 years? If not, then it basically hasn't existed in your life. Get rid of it.

I kept some of my larger more expensive fancy edition books but pretty much everything else was donated. And the one thing that kills me is that I gave away things that I know I could have made some good bank off of, but I just don't have the time and I just needed it out of my life. Some of the more other long term items that only get used here and there were stored in bags/bins and placed in a proper place where I know I can get them easily.

I feel lighter and can breathe easier when I walk into this room now. And I'm being super aware of letting clutter build now and if something can be thrown away right away, that happens instead of it just being piled up in a corner or shoved into a shelf.
posted by Fizz at 7:00 AM on January 5, 2019 [14 favorites]

Thanks for the cheat sheet, Shirobara! These have been the most important concepts for me in attempting to sort through and cull things that have been stored for so long -
  • Am I showing that I value it right now?
  • Thank the item for what it taught you and what it did for you
Gifts that got stored away...how is that honoring that someone gave you a thing? I have gotten more joy out of those gifts which were well thought out and given with love but totally off the mark or just unneeded in my life by thinking quite a lot about the person and the time around the gift but then acknowledging that no one wants to think of a gift they gave to someone sitting in the back of their closet for ten years and that the gift has done it's job and could have more life if given away or that it has served its purpose and can be disposed of. I have a lot of sentimental things which remind me of my past but using this method has allowed me to see which ones still hold a memory and which ones have faded to the point of uselessness. Using her methods has been a very interesting way to engage with my possessions rather than to feel shame about their current life as "clutter." I agree, it's not about minimalism, it's about consciousness and unburdening yourself of weight that does nothing positive for your life.

But yeah, that husband...? I will return to the show and just skip ahead. His attitude was...problematic.
posted by amanda at 7:11 AM on January 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

I Konmari-ed my clothes, toiletries, and books before the Netflix series came out. Paper is next on my list, and I have to say that none of the episodes so far have helped me figure out how to go through my file cabinet. Her book does say that all your important papers should go in a box/file small enough to be able to take with you in an emergency, and that is a useful bit of advice.

I think that combining her positive mentality about what to keep with my own realization of “oh god, this has been in my house since we moved in 7 years ago, and I haven’t touched it since” has been helpful. I thanked my college German literature books but gave them away when I realized that non-college-me gets way more joy from watching German stuff on Netflix and listening to Austrian radio online. When I went through my sweaters, I asked if a couple ugly but warm cardigans sparked joy, and I realized that they actually sparked panic because they were my go-to hospital clothes during our years of scary hospital trips for our son. I was able to say, “Thank you for keeping me warm during that difficult time” and then say goodbye. It felt GREAT. I also finally said goodbye to my entire remaining pre-baby wardrobe because at this point even if my body miraculously returns to pre-baby state I have since discovered the joy of ordering size tall clothes online, so I chose to keep clothes that better cover my body.

My 6 year old and I went through his toys and asked what sparked joy, and he immediately got it. I learned new things about his preferences on jigsaw puzzles, for example (“I love this race car puzzle because I like to imagine myself driving on that track” vs “I think dinosaurs are kind of scary so I do not want to look at these dinosaur puzzle pieces”). We are keeping some toys I would rather donate because he seems too old for them, but he said they still sparked joy, and I’m willing to keep them for him and ask again next year.
posted by Maarika at 7:32 AM on January 5, 2019 [27 favorites]

Thank you, Shirobara. It is more approachable for me as a cheat sheet, I think. I haven't delved into the book yet but have been mulling over what I've read about the philosophy.

I have enjoyed every limited purge I've done: books (yes, don't @ me. I'm an e-reader user and owned up to that), clothes generally, t-shirts specifically, and fabric.

Books: kept oh, 30 favorites maybe, and anything I couldn't easily replace. I am not a big re-reader, and don't have kids to influence with huge groaning bookshelves.
Clothes: If I don't feel good in it, it goes. I have sequestered a lot of things until I decide whether to purge them, though. There's a little dress purgatory in the basement.
T-shirts: do I actually enjoy wearing this on my body, or do I just like the design? Craft project time.
Fabric: Is someone else going to make this into something cool before I get around to it? I winnowed down a dozen types of fabric (plush, vinyl, weird polyester, everything) to just a few types that fit the crafts I've been doing for the last 3 or so years.

My house is still a wasteland of cat fur and Pop figures; upscale minimalism is right out. But it was weirdly fun.
posted by cage and aquarium at 7:35 AM on January 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Now watching episode 1 while reading this, which is pretty fun. I'm not going to change how I fold things, but I do like the appreciation of things that you let go of. Couple #1, I envy their garage with all that shelving. I really hate over-consumption and waste and wish there's was some emphasis on recycling and donating, as well as just acquiring less.

I can't imagine exposing my life to the world this way, even to get a tidy house.
posted by theora55 at 8:45 AM on January 5, 2019

Also, in the buzzfeed article, #15 is #1
posted by theora55 at 8:49 AM on January 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

For $REASONS[]⁺, I was in the SuperTarget in Liberty, MO on the morning of December 26. The rest of the store was empty, but the shelves looked like a hurricane had gone through. The only part of the store that was busy — and it was crammed, with much elbow-jostling and barely concealed anger — was the Christmas decorations section. 30-70% off was enough to have people load their carts with huge items (giant musical/LED reindeer? I WILL CUT YOU TO GET THAT!) that they'll likely store for ~300 days before use.

I felt like yelling “Do these items spark more joy in you than spending time with your family?”, but then I remembered that Missouri is a concealed carry state and there would be a high probability of getting shot. Marie Kondo wept.

⁺: (which included getting some pharmacy items to help ms scruss, who was poorly. Being an IronicallyDetachedSmirkingHipster was pretty low on my list until I saw the carnage in the decorations aisle.)
posted by scruss at 8:53 AM on January 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

Sure, but which of your possessions will spark joy tomorrow?
posted by biffa at 8:57 AM on January 5, 2019

My whole thing was, have you thought about this or used this in a significant way in the last year, 2 years, 5 years?

That's my philosophy - stuff should be actively used - and I am more than happy to give away expensive things - as long as they are going to be used.

For example, my kids never quite took to LEGO (Minecraft OTOH), so I had been moving around two original Mindstorms kits I had purchased when first released - back and forth across two continents, multiple provinces, etc... "saran-wrapped" so that no pieces would fall out... For 16+ years... And therefore also moving with me the shame of them sitting idle, and all the associated regrets.

Ended up giving them away to a student in a high-school robotics club - because at least someone would put them to use...

Haven't missed them once.
posted by jkaczor at 9:05 AM on January 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

So, I’ve told my KonMari stories before, I’ve done it a couple of times for different areas, and have literally, not kidding, not exaggerating, given away two tractor trailers worth of stuff, and yet, I’m still not done. (To be fair, our house got devastated during a storm, and I chose to donate a ton of stuff rather than rent storage units.)

For me, as a crouton petter, her methodology resonates. For some friends, it is grating and infantalizing. In conclusion, tidy is a land of contrasts.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:10 AM on January 5, 2019 [8 favorites]

Ended up giving them away to a student in a high-school robotics club - because at least someone would put them to use...

I'd have a lot less anxiety about getting rid of things I don't use if I knew I could get them to someone who would use them.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:27 AM on January 5, 2019 [8 favorites]

My whole thing was, have you thought about this or used this in a significant way in the last year, 2 years, 5 years?

That's my philosophy - stuff should be actively used - and I am more than happy to give away expensive things - as long as they are going to be used.

When dealing with large amounts of clutter I've had to add sub-category to this way of looking at my own stuff over the years and the current situation I live in.

It's the 'things that I find when sorting that haven't been used because their existence forgotten because they've been covered up, stashed in some weird place and now that it's back in the open and easily accessible again there is a strong possibility it will be regularly used. So this needs to be tested before I get rid of it for good 'category.
posted by Jalliah at 10:16 AM on January 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

I love the book and periodically re-read it, partly for its interesting take on the world and partly because for me, the process works. I have actually spent a lifetime accumulating and also discarding, but the book helped me approach it more consciously and deliberately (and with more enjoyment). I still have my collections of objects, tools, books, swords, and jewelry, but everything I own I actually do love (or do use - but the pair of duck boots I have now actually fit me, unlike the ones I was holding on to). And I know where everything is. And I'm finally tackling going through the decades of handwritten journals I've kept, reading through them and transcribing the bits that matter to me.

At some point in the not-too-distant future (a matter of years) I will have to pare it down even more, but I feel as if I could approach that task without trauma now.
posted by Peach at 10:43 AM on January 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

I am very much enjoying Chuck Wendig's twitter thread take on this show.

I'd have a lot less anxiety about getting rid of things I don't use if I knew I could get them to someone who would use them.

Yeah! As someone whose parents both died within the last eight years and who both had massive houses filled with a lot of things, it's been really enjoyable for me and my sister to slow-motion start getting rid of the things that bring us zero joy and which might be useful. I live in a 700 square foot apartment. It is full. Not full like overflowing but full as in "I have enough stuff, I have no more places for extra stuff, please do not give me more stuff and I am rethinking this antique encyclopedia I have..." I got rid of a non-compact OED last year and do not miss it!

So, with my parents stuff, we gave all the "boat blankets" to the animal shelter (and got to touch some cats). I gave a few sextants away, one to a friend of my dad's and one to a pal who was considering learning celestial navigation. My sister is just today giving away an antique corn shucker to the town historical society. We also gave them the windmill that was in my mother's barn. Old town newspapers? Also to them. Plus my mom's collection of annual fair t-shirts. Thirteen boxes of my father's books to the town booksale. One box to a local friend who is a sailor (my father was a sailor) and she made me a lap quilt as a thank you. All my dad's shop tools with the exception of a few antiques, we gave to the local vocational center. My mother's foster son (a source of a lot of friction) has a big house and wanted some things and was nervous because she had left distribution of her stuff (she left him some money) up to us. It felt good to be gracious about giving him things and at the same time being like "Oh man we all HATED that hutch, please have it with our blessings" I'll be packing up her postcards to give to a friend to start ebaying with a good profit share. We gave her clothes to the local thrift store who we are also packing up all the kitchen stuff to go to.

Dealing with this stuff is hard but my sister and I have been so lucky in that

- we are a team who mostly agrees on stuff and mostly agrees that our parents aren't "in their things"
- we have the things we need and which bring us joy (sister maybe has a sliiiightly overfull house, but not terribly so)
- both of us believe our possessions, as much as we like and enjoy them, do not define us

As much as it's been a little weird to be the reluctant caretaker of the Museum of Dad and Museum of Mom, I've felt lucky that I've had some guidance (from Wrong Kind of Cheese here as well as other IRL people) and the privilege of time to do this stuff right. For so many people, time or money is the great limiter, and those are tougher to deal with than a joyless sweater.
posted by jessamyn at 11:27 AM on January 5, 2019 [26 favorites]

Konmari is so 2015, the cool kids are all about the gentle art of Swedish death cleaning now. "Save your favourite dildo, but throw away the other 15."

For some great context on clutter, have a look at the UCLA a culture of clutter study. I have the book, it's one of my favourite peices of research. This video gives a great overview.
posted by Dr Ew at 12:25 PM on January 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'd have a lot less anxiety about getting rid of things I don't use if I knew I could get them to someone who would use them.

In my city there are a few Rough Trade style groups where you can exchange things you don't need and get what you need without cash changing hands. I've gotten a fair few things in and out that way!
posted by divabat at 2:37 PM on January 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

[slowly lowering myself into a trashcan as marie kondo watches]
this no longer brings me joy
[she nods cheerfully]

posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:08 PM on January 5, 2019 [12 favorites]

divabat, thank you for "tokimeku" - I had been wondering whether or not "spark joy" was a neologism in the original Japanese, the way it seems to be in English.

I quite enjoyed the book by reading it in the spirit of this Elif Batuman quote :
Many books have changed my life, but only one has the word “life-changing” in the title: Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. I have read it three times – much like The House of Mirth. (Would the house have been more mirthful if the socks had been folded and stored upright?) I found it totally gripping – like an unreliably narrated novel that is also a self-help book.
posted by yarrow at 7:51 AM on January 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

Thanks for that Elif Batuman link, yarrow. She's wonderful. The Idiot was one of the best things I read last year.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:46 AM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

For anyone who hasn't gotten around to reading the book (or has and wants more), I heartily recommend the extremely cute manga edition.

I haven't gone through the whole process yet, but I did it with my clothes a year ago (complete with getting everything out of closets/drawers/laundry basket and into one place for review) and it did wonders for my ability to feel OK about parting with things that weren't really me anymore. Then I was able to rearrange my closet in a way that made the stuff I have visible and accessible so I can get dressed more easily.

It's extremely helpful for crouton-petters like me. Try not to read too much into the "spark joy" phrase without reading it. There is actually room for practical items we don't feel sentimental attachment to.
posted by asperity at 9:49 AM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

was reminded of the part in the book where Marie Kondo says a lot of people get divorced once they finish the process

Wait what?! You start with the socks and the stuffed toys and end with the spouse?

Well, I guess if your spouse doesn't spark joy, out they go. Rules are rules.

But at least now you know how to crisply fold a t-shirt.
posted by spilon at 11:43 AM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm way too good at purging, so here I am stuck replacing my wardrobe AGAIN because my real problem isn't clothing, it's my relationship to my appearance. Clothing sparks many feelings for me, none of them being anything resembling joy.

(I still love the show! It's so soothing, the idea that I might get it right this time.)
posted by Space Kitty at 12:59 PM on January 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'd have a lot less anxiety about getting rid of things I don't use if I knew I could get them to someone who would use them.

THIS. I tend to accumulate crafting stuff and have recently had to instill a moratorium on myself because there's a lot of it that I never used. I had even more, though - until I had the idea to ask a friend with a 9-year-old if she'd be interested in it. He happily said yes, came over and took about 3 bags' worth of glue and markers and paper and stickers and other random stuff off my hands in one fell swoop, and that was a game-changer, to the point that i'm looking in my closet with a critical eye lately and saying ".....Hmmm, maybe I should ask J if he wants even more stuff for R? I wonder if she's into doing fabric crafts, I didn't check that."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:11 AM on January 8, 2019

I'm not going to change how I fold things

For me, her folding method is the most useful change resulting from the book - see all your options when you open a drawer!
posted by valeries at 8:09 AM on January 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

Book twitter has responded poorly to Marie Kondo's show, led by a tweet from Anakana Schofield, who further explained in a Guardian essay: What we gain from keeping books – and why it doesn’t need to be ‘joy’

This morning I saw a good response to Schofield: Jesse 'Chilton' Panic (they/them): anthropologist
FYI: that guardian thinkpiece on Marie Kondo which - again - completely misunderstands the KonMari method, and thinks that it means only keep happy books, is also racist. The writer calls Marie's practice of waking books up - part of Shinto animism - "woo-woo fairytale nonsense."

I know I keep returning to this point, but I'm honestly so angry about how Book Twitter™ has treated Marie Kondo. There are hundreds of more extreme makeover shows with white westerners with English as their first language, yet those didn't bother you.

Yet one show with a Japanese host, speaking in her native tongue for large portions of the show, using her own culture and faith to formulate her compassionate, people-led approach to minimalism and you're up in arms and making paid thinkpieces out of it. Okay.

Maybe interrogate *why* animism is so funny to you? Or why - as a bibliophile - the prospect of many books being donated so they can go to people who will cherish them all over again bothers you.
posted by gladly at 8:09 AM on January 8, 2019 [22 favorites]

The animism is the part that convinced me to give the method a second look - what I'd seen in passing on websites was "here's how to fold clothes" (which I liked, but isn't a game-changer for clutter management), "and you start by putting everything in a pile and getting rid of everything you don't love."

If I do this (still iffy; very unsure about the logistics of trying this for my possessions in the midst of a house with four other people), I probably won't get rid of many books - I love having a large library. But I'm entire willing to go through them and consider which ones really aren't useful, even as reference works or potential loaners: outdated textbooks, damaged children's books, and so on.

Or why - as a bibliophile - the prospect of many books being donated so they can go to people who will cherish them all over again bothers you.

If I knew they'd go to people who would cherish them, I'd have no problem letting them go. It's "box of books outside on the sidewalk" that bugs me - where a few of them get picked up by people who care, a few get picked up to use as doorstops or kindling, and the rest wind up being soaked by rain until I haul them to the trash.

Not mentioned in any decluttering system I've seen: The process of "send items no longer needed to someone who can use them" can take as much time and effort as the initial sorting and identification of those items, and also requires social activity.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:44 AM on January 8, 2019

I was inspired by all of this to tidy up my drawer(s) of baggy t-shirts to use for gym and ugly t-shirts to use for pyjamas, which up to this point were very much the Picture of Dorian Grey of my clothing collection. I couldn't even open one of them.

By creating the additional categories of "t-shirts I want to wear as normal clothes after all", "t-shirts I ill-advisedly resized to be way too short and which I will never wear again in my life but want to keep in a box for sentimental reasons" and "ratty but comfy t-shirts to Frankenstein into long-sleeved pyjama tops" and folding everything else into tiny squares to pack into the drawers vertically, I compressed two drawers into one, and the resulting display of designs facing upwards is aesthetically pleasing to me. :)
posted by confluency at 10:08 AM on January 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

I watched the whole series finally while decluttering in a sense a decade of electronic files for a group that involves 15,000 emails and - I haven't even started on the dropbox and Google drives and CDs and the paper file boxes proper. Kondo on the background reminded me this was hard emotionally and it was easier once I started being ok about crying filing emails from people who died and I missed.

I noticed the space they gave for both Marie's practice of greeting the house and the short reaction shots of people to that. I also noticed the times they did show when people donated things to a place it was somewhere specifically meaningful, the cancer charity shop and the AIDS charity shop, presumably chosen by the clients personally as somewhere they wanted to support.

And oh the downsizing family, I just wanted to hug them and take her out for the day and have that guy sit down with the dad from the first episode and tell him you can do so much better. Your kids can be so much happier and you will be a better person. It's laundry, man.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:12 PM on January 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

It's "box of books outside on the sidewalk" that bugs me - where a few of them get picked up by people who care, a few get picked up to use as doorstops or kindling, and the rest wind up being soaked by rain until I haul them to the trash.

I love putting stuff out on the sidewalk (though I wait for a sunny day and bring things in if they don't get taken) because I feel like it heightens my chance that it'll go to someone who will use it rather than some Goodwill warehouse somewhere. Not many (if any?) people are bringing books home for doorstops or kindling!
posted by valeries at 5:17 AM on January 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I watched the whole series finally while decluttering in a sense a decade of electronic files for a group that involves 15,000 emails and - I haven't even started on the dropbox and Google drives and CDs and the paper file boxes proper.

I've been meaning to do this for AGES - go through files stored in computers and Google Drive and external harddrives and what not, take out what's not needed, take out duplicates. I haven't found a good way to do this yet - I feel like I need a spare computer to be the holding space for all the files and then go through them category by category, just like how Marie Kondo gets you to pile all your clothing/books/etc on your bed/floor/etc and sort through them that way, but my current computers don't have enough space to enable that.
posted by divabat at 5:37 PM on January 9, 2019

I just moved house and so I am a very receptive audience for this stuff. There is nothing like moving to make you disgusted and repulsed at every life choice you've ever made and horrified at the investment of money and time you've put into the crap you surround yourself with. I'm aggressively purging post-move.

But what it makes me realize is that when you have a lot of stuff, you have to deal with it all the time. It's in your face, needing to be washed, folded, moved, dusted, shoved aside. stored, configured. And what's really going on here, in capitalist consumerism, is distraction from human relationships and self-development. If we aren't moving our stuff around all the time, or nestling within it, we have to look at what a life looks like without all the trappings to focus on. This is the harder part of the work.
posted by Miko at 5:43 AM on January 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

Marie Kondo, you know what would spark joy? Buying less crap

Is this as enragingly nonsensical and smug as the title suggests? Because I damn sure don't want to give them a click if I can avoid it.
posted by ominous_paws at 8:59 AM on January 11, 2019 [11 favorites]

I'm just going to assume yes.

Hot take culture is bad enough when the take-givers have actually engaged with the thing in question. When they haven't? I think I should be able to have my pharmacist bill them for my blood pressure meds.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:19 AM on January 11, 2019

(And when I make that assumption, I do so only because there's no fucking way you could have watched the show and come to that take honestly.)
posted by tobascodagama at 10:20 AM on January 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's not like she doesn't address the idea of buying less crap. She just acknowledges that shaming people for it is not especially helpful.

I mean, she doesn't even recommend going out for all the latest in pretty organizing supplies, she's hardly promoting unrestrained consumerism. (At least based on the books I read.)
posted by asperity at 11:42 AM on January 11, 2019 [8 favorites]

ok good and thank you for your help. I'm sure there was once a point where scrolling the guardian front page wouldn't make me want to punch myself in the face about twice every second.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:43 PM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I finally got around to reorganizing three drawers in my kitchen, and got rid of hardly anything, and mysteriously none of the drawers are now overfull even though two of them were when I started and I organized by purpose rather than size of doodad. I am taking this as a benevolent response by the spirits of thingummy. (My favorite grandparent was a Yankee animist.)
posted by clew at 2:28 PM on January 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

What Marie Kondo has actually identified is that millennials have an appropriate amount of stuff but can’t afford enough housing to put it in

This is my life 1000%. Do I get rid of my stuff in order to artificially fit into the constraints of my jaw-droppingly elitist housing market, or do I hold onto it with the hope that I will someday be able to afford a dignified amount of space for myself?

I’m leaning toward the latter, because option 1 makes me feel sad.

Don’t judge my clutter, judge the exploitative housing prices that keep me in cramped conditions well into adulthood.
posted by delight at 3:55 PM on January 11, 2019

One reason I think some people end up thinking "oh this just means people buy more stuff" is they don't really get how all the pieces are supposed to work together.

I'm specifically thinking of things like the "thanking an object for its service" concept. This is something I routinely see Westerners make fun of or disregard, but I think it's actually an important piece. [Obviously for Japanese its rooted in animism which is pervasive even though actual Shintoism with a capital S is not something most people really follow]

So, my wife (along with many Japanese) does this [it was a Thing long before Marie Kondo --- she is a savvy marketer/entrepreneur, but most of the actual "method" would have been familiar to Japanese people]. The side effect is she feels bad throwing things away, but also recognizes she shouldn't keep things that don't matter.

So what do you do, if you don't want to keep things that don't "spark joy", but also feel bad throwing things away? Be careful of what you buy, otherwise you'll have to say goodbye to it.

[As a side note, the KonMari method is basically a variant on what most Japanese would know as danshari, which is how my wife always refers to this process]

So as bad as that headline ("Marie Kondo, you know what would spark joy? Buying less crap ") is, I suspect Ms Kondo would actually agree with it.
posted by thefoxgod at 6:10 PM on January 11, 2019 [6 favorites]

What does Kondo have to say about stuff that doesn't spark joy but has real utility nonetheless?
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:25 PM on January 11, 2019

That's fine, "joy" can be "wow this belt is super useful for making my trousers not fall down" even if it's not a fancy belt. Or similar. Like recognition of the good job a simple utilitarian thing does.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:42 AM on January 12, 2019 [7 favorites]

Yeah, my newish vacuum sparks joy in that the suction is better and the construction and attachments make it easier to clean more areas and it's satisfying (and maybe a little horrifying) to empty the bin and see how much dog fur it picked up. That doesn't mean I'm overcome with happiness every time I use it.
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:24 AM on January 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Maybe it's a translation problem, but I don't think I understand this concept of sparking joy. I would say the majority of my possessions fall under the category 'Grudging Acknowledgement of Utility'.
posted by runcibleshaw at 9:17 AM on January 12, 2019

Congratulations, you have just written 40% of all published Mari Kondo takes.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:54 AM on January 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

If your vacuum is the last possession that you have that is cluttering up your life...then spend the time ruminating. But, sorry, if you start the Kondo method, it will be quite awhile before you even get to pondering the joy of your vacuum.

Also this: "Buy less crap." That puts the onus on future you. Current you? The one with overfilled drawers and closets and garages and crawl spaces and bins and shelves? The horse is already something with the barn. Sure, if you want to avoid dealing with current you, needlepoint "buy less crap" on some recycled denim and put that on your wall.

I haven't read a take-down of her concept yet which isn't just some kind of sneering one way or the other. If your possessions and living space are fine by you and fine by the people you co-habitate with? Move along!

However, as a method, in particular bringing all of a kind of item together so that you can see how many duplicates you have or versions of a thing where one is clearly superior and the other can be tossed, recycled or repurposed, is a good method. It really does work. And then if you have difficulty parting with dumb things (all of our things are pretty dumb when you get right down to it), her method can be helpful. I have a stack of unsold posters that I made sitting in my closet. I'm trying to get rid of them. It feels like there is value locked up in them. But really? The value can only be unlocked with a lot more time and effort. I've already made my profit, they paid for themselves, the exercise of making the item, marketing and selling it was fun, informative and engaging. I should thank it for its service in my life and then move on. On the other hand, they are stacked neatly and don't take much room so I still keep them. Occasionally, I give one away and that's a little spark of joy. But at least I know why they are there and the purpose they are serving in my life.
posted by amanda at 10:24 AM on January 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

if you start the Kondo method, it will be quite awhile before you even get to pondering the joy of your vacuum

True! I first Kondoed my house when the book came out in the US a few years ago and have re-done so from time to time since due to moving and accumulation, which is why things like the vacuum spark joy for what they are and do, even if using them doesn't bring heart-eye-emoji love.

(I feel mildly defensive since my comment was meant to echo the one above, not dismiss the concept. The KonMari method does in fact spark heart-eye-emoji joy in me.)
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:44 AM on January 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

Congratulations, you have just written 40% of all published Mari Kondo takes.

Sorry, I'm truly trying to understand how it works (without buying the book obviously). I'm the type of person who craves very granular detail and instructions, especially for a new process I've never tried before.

In my mind the Kondo process involves gathering all of your belongings up and then going through each one and seeing if it "sparks joy". If you don't gather all your belongings how to do you decide which ones to gather up and go through?

As for joy, to me joy is a very strong emotion. It seems like joy here is being used as a synonym for liking something. Or, even less strongly, recognizing something's utility. If that's the case, why even use "joy" to describe the process?

Also, a lot of the defenses of the Kondo method here seem to be of the variety, "if you think that's what it is, you don't understand it". Correct. I don't understand it, but I'm trying to, because to me the process seems like it would end up with me having one poster, one dog, and one mug and nothing else.
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:48 AM on January 12, 2019

I think of KonMari along the same lines as the William Morris line “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” It doesn't have to be all or nothing: Some things in my house are neither useful nor beautiful, but for sentimental or other reasons I keep them around. Some things do not spark joy in either the happiness or good fit for purpose sense, but I keep them anyway. The two ideas together remind me that I enjoy my living space more when I look around and like what I see, and help me cull and say goodbye to items that don't fit any of those categories.
posted by Flannery Culp at 11:43 AM on January 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

There is a great article at Vice by Nicole Clark with an ending like a kick in the stomach: 'Tidying Up with Marie Kondo' Is Inadvertently About Women's Invisible Labor. In the new Netflix show, couples learn how to tackle household tasks by 'tidying' together, a process that reveals just how gendered our domestic expectations are. The article includes links to some interesting first person accounts of trying to equalize emotional labor in a domestic relationship.
posted by bq at 2:33 PM on January 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

Additionally, I've watched only the first episode of the show, and I thought it was brilliant, and yes, uncomfortable to watch. I can't imagine how they got someone to reveal such a negative side of themselves on camera.
posted by bq at 2:34 PM on January 12, 2019

The "spark joy" part is, in my opinion, just one part of the process. It's another measure of an item's worth. Because if you are confronting a thing which you have had in a drawer, a closet, a shoebox for ten years and trying to decide if it's worth keeping, you can ask yourself, does it spark joy? Or, has it lived out its purpose? I have keepsakes/tchotkes which a year ago, five years ago, I could not part with. However, sometimes something which sparked joy or was sentimental passes out of that stage but in order to move it out of my life, I need to address it differently. You can apply it to things which you haven't seen in ten years or things which are out in view daily but for whatever reason you'd like to change up the view or clear out a space, freshen up your space, or just to remind yourself what you like today. To ask, simply, what utility does this have doesn't really get at the heart of a lot of the reason we end up holding onto a thing for a long time.

I work in people's homes and they are often asking me for help because they are "out of space." Sometimes it's not so much that they need more room or more storage, it's actually that they've moved into another phase of their lives and their homes are full of things which served them in the past and are no longer needed or serving them now. But, I'm not a professional organizer so sometimes we just add a room to their house!
posted by amanda at 3:21 PM on January 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

The anti-Kondo backlash, as addressed here, is a good example of why I've come to believe that social media is inherently harmful even if you managed to get rid of the Nazis.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:31 AM on January 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

So, has anyone hit the thrift stores since this came out? I've seen a few news articles suggesting that donations are ridiculously high right now. And I need a new tea kettle.
posted by asperity at 2:46 PM on January 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Tom Gauld: ‘The life-changing magic of decluttering in a post-apocalyptic world’ (a @mariekondo inspired comic I made for the New Yorker two years ago).
posted by homunculus at 10:14 PM on January 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Interesting twitter thread about Kondo's anti-junk "spiritist cosmology":

@braak: "okay I am thinking some more about Marie Kondo and the thing to me is, on one level it seems like, 'oh she's teaching people to be materialistic, she's treating objects like they're people, &c' and in a way this is true but in another, different way it's not true. ..."
posted by homunculus at 10:55 PM on January 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I imagine the thrifting will be hit or miss depending on the area. I don't declutter as much as I could because I keep backups I find on the street etc in case my first one goes bad. That way I don't have to buy another. If you're not in a well off area you may have fellow residents doing the same (or not getting rid of anything because they don't have extra). But that's the case for thrifting anyway, I guess.
posted by schroedinger at 6:23 AM on January 19, 2019

My Buy Nothing group has exploded with people offloading and citing the show on Netflix. I had a client I met with this week who had a junk hauler parked out front. They had a bunch of kitchen demo debris in their yard but were also hauling all kinds of things out of the basement. She said that she had seen an ad for the show...not even seen the show!...and booked a hauler to get stuff out of the house.

I think maybe our nation might be in the grips of a general anxiety. I can't imagine the source....
posted by amanda at 7:31 AM on January 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Well, there is that, but January has for a long time traditionally been an organizing and clean-out month. It makes a good narrative to link it to Kondo, and she may have given it a real push, but some percentage of this would be happening this time of year anyway.
posted by Miko at 9:16 AM on January 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

posted by homunculus at 6:12 PM on January 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

They had an amusing take on Marie Kondo on WAIT WAIT DON'T TELL ME recently. Full transcript is here, but an abridged version below:
PETER SAGAL: All right. We've got one more quote for you. Here it is.

BILL KURTIS: I'd like to tidy up the entire planet.

SAGAL: That's a quote from the host of a new Netflix show that has everybody throwing everything out. Who is it?

CONTESTANT: Oh, my gosh. I know the name of the - I've seen commercials for it, but I cannot remember the name - [...] Marie something.

SAGAL: It's Marie Kondo. You knew who it was....The author of the book "The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up." If you haven't seen her, she's this tiny, constantly smiling Japanese woman who says you should get rid of any possession that doesn't spark joy. [...] She has this weird sort of theory of emotional relationships to your possessions. For example - and this is true - when you decide to throw something out because it no longer sparks joy, you have to thank it for its service to you. [...]

ALONZO BODDEN: Peter, I hate to say this, but this is why black people laugh at white people.


BODDEN: You watch a TV show, and it's, like, "yeah, I'm going to throw away everything I have." Trust me, black people are, like, "throw it over here! That Mercedes is not sparking joy!" You know what I mean? Like, you guys need to stop.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:18 AM on January 22, 2019

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