What’s the right way to think about the buzzy new Netflix series starring Marie Kondo, the world-renowned decluttering expert?
Should we ponder how a TV show ostensibly about physical clutter can stab you in the heart, as Kondo’s subjects unearth sorrow along with their junk? Young parents joylessly bickering about laundry, a widow holding onto her late husband’s belongings.
Should we read the episode descriptions and wonder how “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” could possibly be compelling?
“Marie helps a retired couple reclaim their space by showing them how to cut back on clothing, store Christmas decor and display old family photographs.”
“An expectant couple with their first little one on the way get tips for organizing shoes, folding socks and toppling a mountain of accumulated paper.”
Should we ask if tidying can bring happiness?
Or perhaps it’s best to look at the impact it’s having in homes around Boston, as a population suffering from stuff overload turns to a Japanese guru in hopes she can save us from ourselves.
In Plymouth, Amanda Freeman, 29, said that Kondo’s philosophy has helped her, an adopted child, overcome a separation anxiety so intense it extends even to possessions.
“I was afraid of getting rid of things that had a memory attached to them, especially to a person who is no longer with me,” said Freeman, the mother of two and pregnant with a third. “It was as if that item was the only thing tying me to the person.”
Freeman, 29, was thinking about her late grandmother. “For my high school graduation she gave me a perfume set,” she recalled. “A few years ago, I ran out of perfume. But that empty bottle has been sitting on my dresser.”
Empowered by Kondo, Freeman took a picture of the bottle, thanked it for bringing her joy — as Kondo advises — and finally threw it away.
“The danger with holding onto possessions and letting them have so much power over you is that it makes you almost have this hoarding mentality,” she said.
In Somerville, Kondo’s show has helped T Lawrence-Simon, a professional circus performer and instructor, part with 300 pairs of underpants (a collection amassed while working for a men’s underwear blog).
The especially good news for Lawrence-Simon is that Kondo’s show arrived when he’s still a young man, with decades left to enjoy his new Kondo-inspired vow:
“I decided I’m 30 and it’s time for me not to be the stereotype of the messy artist,” he said, “and to have a room that other people can enter.”
Kondo’s show premiered to great excitement on Jan. 1. Ever since then, local social media feeds have been filled with updates from people who previously boasted about having it all and who are now boasting about getting rid of it all.
Research by UCLA-affiliated social scientists had previously found that American families feel overwhelmed by clutter. But even so, not everyone is delighted by Kondo’s message. Consider Ryan Kyle, 32, an electrician from Weymouth, a victim of secondhand Kondo.
He’s decidedly not a Marie Kondo person. When deciding whether to keep a possession, he has never asked himself if it “sparks joy,” per the famed KonMarie method. But his wife is watching, and now it’s as if Kondo herself has reached out of the TV to strike at his collection of man stuff, accumulated for a planned man cave.
His Coors Light sign, his Nintendo console, several amplifiers, and a Lego Millennium Falcon are all targeted for eviction. “The show came at a poor time for me,” he said.
By one reckoning, the War on Clutter is about 40 years old, dating back to 1978, when the first Container Store opened in a 1,600-square-foot space in Dallas.
Sadly we have made so little progress that not only is clutter still with us, it’s become a national obsession — as large as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s dancing video and President Trump’s wall and Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ sleeves and eyelash perms and Whole30 and legalized marijuana and teen Juuling and standing in line to buy a salad all rolled into one.
Clutter has moved beyond stuff. It’s now also those annoying friends boasting on your Facebook feed and toxic colleagues and meetings you don’t want to sit through and family members bringing you down.
“Clutter is anything that stands in the way of living your life in the way you want to,” said Kathy Vines, the expert behind Clever Girl Organizing , in Melrose.
But getting back to “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” Should we worry there is something broken about a society that spends half its time demanding same-day delivery and the remaining time watching a Netflix original series about people getting rid of stuff they probably couldn’t wait to get?
Or should we just renew our Amazon Prime subscriptions and wait for the spark of joy?