I have something to admit: I am an HGTV junkie. To be clear, I’m using “HGTV” here in the same way one might use “Kleenex” in place of “tissue” because I’m pretty much obsessed with design shows and the like, regardless of the network. So, with a natural curiosity and, really, as a bow to societal pressure, I started watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo this week…and, well, I’ve got thoughts.
If you haven’t caught the show and you aren’t familiar with its namesake star or her famed KonMari Method, let me give you a quickie overview, courtesy of Netflix: “In a series of inspiring home makeovers, world-renowned tidying expert Marie Kondo helps clients clear out the clutter—and choose joy.”
Yes, “choose joy.” Kondo’s shtick—and I only use shtick for lack of a better word because joy does, actually, seem to emanate from her—is that having too much stuff can steal that joy. And each item you keep in your home should spark joy, not take away from it.
Bring on the joyous decluttering. But not exactly the joyous watching.
Yes, America is having quite a love affair with Marie Kondo, and I guess I sorta get it. I see how her tips could be transformative, if you’re open to them. (Frankly, I’m not. A few minutes into episode No. 1, I had to fight the urge to go throw some [more] clothes on the floor instead of thanking each item individually as I was choosing to get rid of it, as is her recommended process.)
But here’s my bigger concern: These families on her show have issues. Not any more or bigger issues than other typical American families, but issues that definitely peek through the cracks of a crammed closet. I mean, I’m a believer that a pretty house can solve a lot of life’s problems, but to think that tidying up can fix your family is a little much, no?
Let’s take Kevin and Rachel Friend (and their two uber-adorable kids), the family from the first episode. He’s busy and overworked and craves/expects a perfectly kept home. She’s admittedly sloppy and overwhelmed and home with the two kids most of the day plus working part-time. Clutter is clearly affecting their relationship, but anyone who took one pysch class in college can see that it’s really just a symptom of a larger marital problem.
When it was all wrapped up in a Marie Kondo-approved bow at the end of the episode, I wasn’t even a little convinced that the family had permanently changed, or that they had healed, just because the bottles and plastic wear were nicely tucked away and the t-shirts were all folded in Kondo fashion in a drawer (a process I’m finding super irritating since it will clearly only work for those who are painting the rainbow with their tees and not housing 75 similar shirts in shades of gray and black, BTW).
Please, Netflix. Commission a follow-up show ASAP. I need to see these people in one, three, and six months. And they need to be surprise visits. There, season two is all planned out.
Even better, make season some kind of collab between Kondo and a marriage counselor.
In the beginning of episode two, Wendy Akiyama basically explains how, now that she and husband Ron are empty nesters, it’s a great time to tackle the house since there’s no pressure to actually participate in their relationship. It was heartbreaking.
She later announced, after going through the tidying up process, that her “retail therapy” was a way to hit her husband “where it hurts.” Ouch, but points for the self-realization. I really hope Netflix left them with a resource to talk through some of their issues—together. Perhaps Ron will tell the truth about how he really feels about paring his baseball card collection down, because no one who watched that believes he loves 10 cards just as much as he loved 1,000.
I have to admit this show stressed me out, and not just because the Akiyama house was closing in on some Hoarders-level stuff. I mean, they got rid of 150 BAGS OF TRASH. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY! It was all just starting to feel like The Biggest Loser, Dysfunctional Family with Household Clutter Edition. Sure, you can lose the weight/clear the clutter, but what happens if you don’t get to the reasons behind it?
Two and one-half episodes in, I’m done. And, I’m still more comfortable with my everyday mess than the idea of militant tidying. Plus, I feel like clutter-clearing should exist on some kind of a sliding scale according to the size of your space. I have a huge master closet and, frankly, it sparks panic for me to think about having to clean it out.
Plus, I saw something recently that said that messy people are smarter, and, you know what: That definitely sparks joy.