If you’re looking for motivation to kickstart a decluttering project this month, consider making a Netflix date to watch Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. After all, it’s like a free session with the world’s most famous professional organizer.
But to call her a professional organizer isn’t exactly accurate. Yes, she’s built an empire thanks to her trademarked KonMari folding method, $89 Hidikashi box sets, and three bestselling books, but after watching the first episode of her new show, it’s clear that her appeal isn’t limited to her organizational prowess: Kondo has genuine compassion for people who no longer find comfort in their homes because of clutter.
“Tidying With Toddlers” focuses on the Friends, a young couple with two small kids. Their modest home doesn’t immediately come across as messy but underneath the surface is disarray. Mom is exhausted caring for their children and can’t muster the energy to do laundry; Dad works long hours and gets cranky when he comes home to find chaos. (“They’re getting the worst of me sometimes,” he admits). It’s a scenario that’s totally relatable.
And that’s why the show works. Whereas other reality shows about decluttering have involved diagnosable hoarders or professional organizers who send families packing in order to overhaul their homes, Kondo’s Tidying Up features everyday people paring down their possessions on their own. Kondo pops in for progress checks—in one scene, she perfectly arranges a kitchen drawer with just a few deft corrections—but the hard work is done by the couple themselves. She’s there only to give strategic advice (e.g., use boxes to compartmentalize your drawers), listen to their emotional confessions (spoiler alert: there are tears), and offer moral support (“Even my house gets cluttered sometimes,” she shares).
The reveal at the end of the episode isn’t as dramatic as the before/after shots in other reality shows, but that only drives home the point that when it comes to decluttering, the process—giving your possessions some TLC, figuring out what sparks joy in your life, learning to love your home again—is just as important as, maybe even more than, the end results.
Here, three helpful takeaways from the show:
1. Organize by categories.
Rather than going room by room, Kondo recommends sorting by categories: clothing; books; paper; a category she calls “KOMONO” (kitchen, bath, garage, and miscellaneous items); and things with sentimental value.
2. Tackle sentimental items last.
As you go item by item, ask yourself if it sparks joy, she says. What does that mean, exactly? In the episode, Kondo describes the emotion as what you feel when you hold a puppy, and says that you’re more primed to recognize that feeling toward the end of the decluttering process. That’s why you should wait till then to tackle the sentimental items.
3. Show gratitude.
At the beginning of the episode, Kondo unexpectedly asks the Friends if she can “greet” the house before they start the decluttering project. She then kneels on the carpet and bows her head, thanking their house for offering shelter and protection. It feels hokey at first, and you can tell the couple aren’t quite sure how to react initially, but as Kondo continues with her moment of quiet gratitude, they start to feel the import of her act, culminating with a teary acknowledgement from Rachel, the wife, that the house has, indeed, been good their family. It’s a surprisingly moving scene and reinforces why Kondo requests that we all thank our things for their service before tossing them out.
N.B.: Photography courtesy of KonMari.com.
For our interview with Marie Kondo, see Think Like Marie Kondo: 9 Tips from the World’ Top Storage Fanatic. For more on decluttering, see: