Why Everyone’s Going Mad For This Netflix Show About Tidying Up

By Phil Clarke, Editor of The Handbook website Phil Clarke |
15th January 2019

Forget Netflix-and-chill, the latest trend is Netflix-and-rearrange-your-garage. There’s something strange going on in ‘cupboards of doom’ and ‘man drawers’ across the nation, and it’s all thanks to Marie Kondo. The Japanese writer and possibly the world’s least likely TV star, has seen a surprise craze taking over Britain, and tidying has suddenly became the new sexy.

If you’ve not seen Marie Kondo’s The Art of Tidying Up then you’ve basically not lived, and what’s more I’ll bet your kitchen cupboards are a total state. The premise is simple, each episode she turns up at the house of a generally messy person, and turns their houses and lives upside down. We’re not talking a full-on Britain’s Biggest Hoarders freak show, but rather it’s people like you and me, who just haven’t gotten round to tidying up for a while. And if you’ve still got a bunch of filing left to complete, if you’ve got a spare room that’s overflowing or a landing cupboard that’s basically your to-do list, then your life is literally about to change as this¬†zen whirlwind of a guru steps over your threshold, does a really weird prayer, and starts asking ‘does this bring joy?’.

So what’s her method? She breaks tidying down into six simple steps, and crucially she tidies by category, not by room…

Clothes

Start with clothes and Marie Kondo suggests you take all your clothes, and put them all on your bed in a massive pile. You then pick up each single piece and sort into two piles. Ask yourself ‘does this give me joy?’ If it honestly does, then keep it, if not then chuck. If you’ve nearly as many unnecessary clothes as most of us, then pity the charity shop that has to sort through them.

She’s also not keen on hanging clothes, and prefers them to be folded. Unclear why. But interestingly she likes them to be stored vertically, so basically with all your shirts, for example, sideways, which makes them easier to select.

Books

My personal nemesis. I not only have so many books that I might be legit mistaken for an antiquarian book dealer (to be fair, the cardigans don’t help), but I buy them at about five times the rate that I can possibly read them.

Kondo sparked book-lovers’ ire when she suggested that one of the couples she was helping tidy maybe, y’know, get rid of some. Protests round out because, after all, books are the soul of every room, they’re mankind’s accumulated wisdom, they’re beauty, they’re storytelling and they’re truth. But yes, they’re also clutter. Do you really need five copies of every single Dan Brown novel? Does a dog-eared paperback of 50 Shades or The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous really ‘spark joy’?

Again, put them into piles and sift through them methodically and ship the rest off to Oxfam, or whichever charity is your least favourite. If you haven’t read a book, send it off. If a book doesn’t spark joy, send it off. Kondo herself only has 30 books herself. Make of that what you will.

Papers

I have acres of rainforest sat in piles around the house. Great stalagmites of bank statements, circulars, payslips and unpleasant sounding letters from the TV Licensing people.

Kondo, a woman who has obviously never filled out a tax return, says ‘my basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away’. Tricky when you live in a country where the houses are literally made of paper. But her theory goes that paper will never spark joy. But assuming you’re not living in the future and swiping your Thames Water bill on a giant Minority Report style screen, you’re going to have to keep some paperwork so Marie Kondo reckons there are only two types of paperwork, stuff to deal with and stuff to keep. separate everything into the two, putting all the ‘to do’s into a vertical folder to be methodically dealt with, and the ‘to keep’s in two separate catagories, the stuff you need infrequently (like your lease or insurance details) and stuff you need to refer to more regularly.

Oh, and digitalise what you can.

Komono (bits and bobs)

Clearly running out of space, herself, the next category is just ‘komono’, which isn’t those Japanese dressing gowns, but rather Japanese for ‘all the other bits’. So kitchen, bathrooms, CDs, everything. And she suggests taking the same ‘does it spark joy’ approach.

A big Tupperware proponent, Kondo wants things to be sorted and stored in see-through boxes, so make them easy to locate when needed, but easily stored on shelves etc. Also, store by category (this goes throughout), so put your Christmas decorations all together, or your stationary (this actually sounds patently obvious, but still. And what about if you mainly use your stationary for Christmas cards/thank yous?)

Sentimental items

The sweetest moments in Kondo’s show are when it crosses over into Queer Eye territory and all this transformation starts to touch the participants’ lives. And this is most likely to happen during the ‘sentimental items’ section of the tidy. We all have items that are precious, that are incredibly valuable to us even if they’re considered tat to everyone else. It might be a collection of soft-toy cactuses, an elastic band ball or fossilised lemon (all, incidentally, items lately purged from my office desk), or it may be photographs, collectors items etc.

Toward the end of the episode, when the rest of the house starts to look spic and span, it’s the chance for these items to shine, for the photo albums to reveal past secrets or long-forgotten connections to the past to touch into the present. By not only tidying, but celebrating the sentimental the shows come to their sentimental conclusions.

And it’s also a good place to leave your own tidying projects, finding something forgotten or special, the reward for a job well done. Well, either that or just ram everything into a cupboard to be dealt with at some point in the future.

Check out Tidying Up With Marie Kondo on Netflix

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