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New year, same new ugly crying
Auspiciously released on the day of the year when Americans are still resolute about their resolutions (good luck with that!), Tidying Up with Marie Kondo enters the decluttering show genre with something markedly different than its predecessors: whispers of spirituality and Eastern mysticism. Adapted from her breakthrough book "="" rel="follow">The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up), Kondo's Netflix program brings the principles in the book to life -- namely the practice of honoring one's space and possessions before chucking the stuff that no longer brings joy out of the door.
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Tidying Up feels different from other de-cluttering shows, like the comedic Clean Houseor the horrifying Hoarders from the very first episode -- perhaps because the people we first meet are themselves fairly stable, grounded and aware they're in need of help, as opposed to clinging to their junk. Kevin and Rachel Friend, a young, attractive, middle-class couple with two toddlers, need help not so much with de-cluttering but bringing order to the chaos of overflowing cabinets and closets common to parents of little ones. Kondo, who speaks through a translator and performs a little blessing/gratitude ritual before going to town on her subjects' crap, doesn't exactly tell the Friends much more than they already know, but she does help them see more clearly where their processes are inefficient and how their sense of cooperation has broken down in the day-to-day bustle. Brass tacks, her process involves going through all belongings in a specific order -- clothing, books, documents, sentimental goods, etc. -- dumping it all in a pile, then neatly rearranging what you keep, often with Pinterest-worthy folding technique.
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Of course, few watching will actually do all this, but it's meditative to watch. What Kondo leaves her pupils with is a greater sense of gratitude for life itself, reverence for the things they've accumulated along the way and a call to be more mindful overall. In showing her charges how to be mindful of what we accumulate, how we use it and how we treat it, she gets closer to her mission of sparking joy -- joy that's evident on the faces of people she works with. Another young mom, Katrina Mersier, weeps during her family's segment that the clutter she, her husband and their two kids now face as a result of downsizing from a house in Michigan to an apartment in Los Angeles makes her feel like a failure. By the end, she's all smiles. Indeed, Tidying Up leaves viewers oozing happy tears almost as much as the participants, making it very much like Netflix's other happy tears show, Queer Eye, in terms of emotional payoff.
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Few of us in our newly wellness-obsessed culture fail to understand that we collectively have too much stuff, and that experiences matter more than things; it's why big box stores have been going out of business and why we store music in the cloud. Tidying Up arrives at precisely the right cultural moment, pushing the de-cluttering show into the 'Live your best life' era by getting people to be present, look at their surroundings and honor the truth. It may not provide much in terms of tips or motivation (watching Netflix kinda implies that the viewer is chillin', by definition) but it does spark a glimmer of inspiration and yes, some joy, much like its happy and gay counterpart Queer Eye.
Tidying Up with Marie Kondois streaming now on Netflix.