[review] Tidying Up With Marie Kondo: Does This Spark Joy?

Though the book came out in 2011, it was in 2014 with the english translation of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up that Marie Kondo’s stardom exploded with the most un-celebrity-like title: an organizing consultant.

Though Marie Kondo was already a big deal in Japan, leading to a two-part TV dramatization in 2013, the adoration from the west had a typical air of ‘favorable’ orientalism, expecting a spiritually stable Asian guru to change modern life with a few mystical words. She looks and talks like an ideal Catholic school girl and her core method is to keep only those things that “spark joy.”

What is so special about tidying up your space that it requires a special mantra, and how can it be “life-changing?” We gotta see it in action. And when we want to see something, Netflix usually makes it. So for the month of new year’s resolutions, Netflix gave us Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.

After its recent release the show has been trending with people keen to purge their own closets and houses. The show features singles, partners, and families who wants to bring order to their homes. Marie Kondo, the tidying expert, intercedes with the #KonMari philosophy, featuring a handful of tips, techniques, and lessons. And oh boy, we didn’t expect watching someone else tidying up their room could be this emotional. But is it because of the method or the Netflix-chosen families?

So, as one does, I thought what better way to see if the “spark joy” mantra really does work than to live in my reality for a second. I looked around my room and saw a mess. After fixing and processing all of it, here are 3 lessons I picked up on:

Lesson 1: Not everyone invests emotions in the things they own. Feeling attached to something can be just as hard for people who are disconnected from the things they own as saying goodbye to something might be for those who feel deeply connected to them. I realise the “spark joy” scenario isn’t always present or necessary for every individual.

Lesson 2: Be accountable for the things you can control. Sometimes we surround ourselves with a mountain of nonsensical clutter, not because of the stuff but because of our own issues. We are what we own. We want to organize, have control over our lives, and yet want to avoid the responsibility and reality as well.

This is where most of our problem lies. Accumulating more and not knowing how to let go creates the problem in your home as well as in your life.

Lesson 3: A house should feel like a home amongst many other things. Your room should feel like a real place, not a storage unit. Because if not, our life feels off, and our relationships do too. You want to do so many things but you can’t. You can’t live like that. You don’t have to be like that.

It’s okay, some people aren’t good here. If you need help, try not to internalize it too much. There’s many sources around and Tidying With Marie Kondo (show or  book) could be a good one to start from. That’s the intention. To realize that it’s okay to ask for help and learn from there.

Coming back to the show, it didn’t help me much to understand the power of what Marie Kondo is talking about. While at the beginning it looks easy and inspiring, every episode became so repetitive it meant nothing. Only when I ironically detached and lived my reality, could I connect with the KonMari method, and realise the steely willpower of this woman.

I still don’t know which stuff “sparks joy” in me, but I get why tidying up can change your life, or your attitude towards life at leat. We often forget to check on ourselves and to be grateful about quality over quantity. When you have few special little things they stand out more. Living a more organized life leaves you more productive, hygienic and happy. So that part is true, tidying up itself spark joy in us.

Marj Ostani

Marj Ostani

Marj is a Filipina culture & entertainment writer currently based in Manille. You'll best spot her at gigs, fairs, bazaars and exhibits with the signature tote bag. Former INFJ-turned-INTJ, a gemini rising feminista!