Let's Tidy-Up Some Misunderstandings of Marie Kondo's New Show


#1

We need to get organized on this episode Waypoints, which means it's time to get advice from Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and learn all about both the KonMari method, and issues people have taken with the organization expert and her new reality show. Does she really hate books and mementos, or is that just a misunderstanding of what Kondo is trying to get people to do? Then, Rob has been reading an eye-opening article about the forces that have been preying upon and devastating rural communities for the last 30 years. It's a useful corrective to a lot of simplified narratives of rural stagnation that have been used to excuse bad actors and official indifference.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/yw8mnm/lets-tidy-up-some-misunderstandings-of-marie-kondos-new-show

#2

The discussion on rural farming is a big issue in my family. If have two aunts who are farmers, and they’re barely holding on. She’s not wrong to hate the dems but how do politics of spite and Trump ever help her? It’s hard to frame a reasonable alternative when I don’t know enough about the issues they face.


#3

Rural life for me, economically speaking, always feels like I’m taking something away from someone else. I live on a farm that grows mostly corn and soy beans. I’m not sure how to write this, or if I even should. I always feel out of place. My parents are always on me about getting a “real” job. Which is fine, except when I get a job around here, I feel like I’m taking it away from someone who actually needs it. It’s always low skill blue collar type work. The people I’ve worked with all have had a bit of desperation around them that I could never and may never understand. I always feel wrong, both in real life and when talking politics or economics on here. Privilege is who I am, and I’m still not sure what to do with it.


#4

My wife and I devoured Tidying Up.

My brain exists in a constant state of chaos. That bleeds out into my life and my space. I always thought that I was just a disorganized person. The reality of the situation is that I just never learned good organizational skills and got used to massive amounts of clutter. I found that specific hard skills that Mari Kondo taught were incredibly useful. I started folding my clothes, my wife and I donated several black garbage bags of clothes and a few boxes of household items that we had been lugging around for ages to the local Women in Need shelter.

It sounds really silly to say but at 34 years of age I found a Netflix Reality TV show had practical applications to my personal and professional life.

I understand that some people are quite upset about Mari Kondo encouraging people to go through their books and get rid of ones that no longer spark joy for them. I understand where this critique comes from but I think it’s important for people to remember that no one is twisting their arm. I have been holding on to 3 wine boxes full of graphic novels and comics for about a decade. I spent a fair amount of money on them and I really enjoyed them at the time I bought them. I never got rid of them because there are some seminal works in there; Preacher, Sandman, The Watchmen. The usual assortment. These three boxes had just been sitting in a corner of our apartment taking up space and strangely enough occupying a a small sliver of my mental energy. I went through them all and realized that I am probably never going to read most of them again and I don’t really need to have them around. I kept Sandman and took the rest to my city’s biggest used book store. Now someone else can enjoy these books at a fraction of the cost of buying them new. It felt good for me to pass these on and know that they would find new life with someone else.


#5

I really relate to this. I grew up in an extremely rural area, and my first job is 100% from my petty-bourgeois upbringing. I was a librarian in the county library, and every summer I would lose my job because of a work grant given to the library for them to hire a “helping hand”. I would apply for the work grant because the library did want someone with experience, but never got it due to said earlier petty-bourgeois family. I was super okay with this obviously especially being in high school and wanting to just chill during the summer. Eventually the library let me go because they couldn’t even pay the below minimum wage hourly wage throughout the year.

Rural economics are fucked in a million ways. I’m very very critical of the plan to work in the democratic party as opposed to making a new political party for the Left because of growing up in such a rural area. Most people have been disappointed by the democratic party in one way or another and want nothing to do with them. I think the democratic name is shot to shit so bad in these areas that the current party would need to be very publicly purged for a lot of people, hell including myself, to trust them. I don’t know how could I trust a party with the likes of a Kennedy still in there.


#6

I don’t know how everyone else felt, but to me the beginning of this show was just crushing to listen to.

I really, really dislike almost all “improvement” based reality shows because more often than not they fall into two basic categories. The first is “these not problems are going to be inflated into capital S Serious problems for entertainment” or “watch us gaze directly into the abyss for as long as possible and fetishize human misery.” “Hoarders” might as well be renamed “Mental Illness as Entertainment” and it’s never not gross to watch a show justify luxuriating in someone else’s sickness because hey, we put them through some questionable televised therapy and rented a dumpster.

I know all too well how gutted you can feel when you’re watching someone who has their shit 99% together get an hour dedicated to fixing their seemingly wonderful life by getting a haircut and learning how to iron or some shit. Who knew that true bliss, a secure familial relationship, and stable employment was one easy to master domestic chore away? If only I had learned how to properly sew on buttons, I’d have my entire life sorted out by now.

Life is weird, circuitous, and rarely fits neatly into a pre-defined mold. I was struggling with a lot of things for a long time, and through persistence but also an unbelievable amount of happenstance, I managed to find myself on comfortable ground when there was a time when I genuinely thought that would never happen. Please don’t let things like this throw you into despair.

Sorry, I’m sure this is helpful to no one, but these shows bother me to no end and it’s aggravating to see them doing harm to people.


#7

Hearing Danielle lay out her critique of Tidying Up was pretty gutting, and I do sympathize with her view and yours as well. And yeah, in the past these types of shows absolutely fall into the categories you listed, and very rarely do they feel like the viewers or the participants get anything of value out of the experience. But I do want to make a distinction that this show (and its sister Netflix show Queer Eye) are incredibly empathy driven. They always seek to humanize their subjects and make their issues feel relatable. Sure, you might not be a sneakerhead who needs to trim down his collection, but perhaps you can relate to the need to start living in the present when he decides to wear some of the shoes he had sitting in his closet. Or maybe you aren’t a widow, but maybe you can empathize with her loss and desire to go back to happier times by deciding what items of her late husband’s to keep.

Obviously, if the show or genre aren’t something you can deal with due to life experience or where you are at currently, I get it. But I don’t think Tidying Up is necessarily harmful, and in fact can be helpful if you are in a place where you can hear Marie Kondo’s advice. At the very least, she’s got a great method for folding fitted sheets. :wink:


#8

While perhaps people are making too big of a deal of Kondo’s old book beliefs, I don’t think the backlash is somehow connected to people thinking that she’s going to take their books away–that’s a real basic strawman arguement against her detractors right there.

Instead, many people rightfully criticize the ideology behind her asceticism. There’s a certainty to the practice, and while it’s probably unnecessary for a self-help guru to tack a “but only listen to this if it works for you” on to the end of every assertion, the popularity of this show supports the belief (that works for some people, largely due to cultural factors) that this is an objectively good and helpful practice.

As I mentioned previously in the What’cha Reading thread, I grew up in a multi-generational refugee/immigrant family. The idea of throwing perfectly usable things away is antithetical to the values I grew up with. That’s not to say that my values are compatible for everyone either, but I’m not going on TV, selling a method that is rooted in class and culture assumptions. Lord knows I’ve had to push back against MariKon for years now, when people try to tell me that I should try it. It’s imperialist, and condescending, and when people are unwilling to hear me out, it tells me what they actually think of me.

Plus, there’s just a basic irony of someone who’s published 2 wildly successful books telling you that you don’t need more books. Thanks, I think I’ll start with yours…

ETA: the Atlantic article linked in the main Waypoint article is a very good explanation of my antipathy towards this method/message. I’m not going to discourage anyone from pursuing it for themselves, should they want to, but I think that conversations around self-help can be awfully smug and self-aggrandizing, and I can empathize with the feelings that CrimsonBehelit was describing.


#9

I feel like this is a bit of a strawman with regards to konmari, though. If you’re just “throwing out” stuff, obviously that would be wasteful. But there are plenty of places to donate books and clothing that would be a great benefit to others. Like, every year in my town the Alzheimer’s society does a fundraiser where they collect everyone’s old books and have a big book sale. It’s a great way to support a charity, get some new books for cheap, and let go of books you no longer will enjoy. While the method certainly has its flaws, I don’t think it’s as wasteful as people claim.


#10

I can certainly appreciate that, and I don’t think these things are being built intentionally to be cynical or cruel. I do believe that a lot, if not almost all of these shows are being made by people who are genuinely empathetic and who are trying to impart useful advice on people. I don’t doubt for a second that the Tidying Up people are sincere in their intent.

The problem is, in and of itself, a bunch of useful life tips is rarely worth watching. I could very easily watch a few youtube clips to learn how to do most of these tasks, or in the Tidying Up example, just buy her book. The actual tips and advice are coming in behind the human drama aspect of things to make this more entertaining. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it does create a weird paradox where you either have people who are largely doing fine and you’re overinflating these minor problems for entertainment value, or you have people with genuine problems in need of serious help and they probably need the kind of assistance a TV show can’t provide.

I’m not saying there aren’t ways to thread this needle, it just needs to be done delicately and it very rarely seems like they do. They have this need to paint these interactions as life changing in some regards as opposed to a minor lifestyle tweak that means your shelves aren’t cluttered anymore. When you’re in a place in your life where you would walk through fire just to be in a situation where having that kind of problem was even possible, it can be brutal to watch people act like it’s all such a massive burden because the closet is just such a mess.


#11

Watching the discussion around this subject is like watching a bunch of strawmen beat each other into the dirt. You don’t have to throw shit away, you don’t have to obey it wholesale, people don’t think Marie is going to burn your things, not holding on to extra things is indeed a luxury some can’t (or believe they can’t) afford, it is possible to feel good about owning things you don’t use, you can keep this and not that, you don’t have to get rid of sad or scary books because they don’t bring you “joy” (this particular reading is purposefully wrong-headed), pretty sure Kondo wouldn’t object to discarding her own book, just…I am having a hard time making sense of why people are personalizing the discussion around the konmari method, from both ‘sides’. Take the parts that work, leave the parts that don’t. Maybe that means obeying the method word-for-word, and maybe that means ignore it entirely.

I heard about the method a few years ago and now my five-level bookcase is still full of books, but is unencumbered by the three extra stacks of books that used to sit in front of it, all of which will now make an appearance at the local Friends of the Library book sale. The objects I no longer need, I have sold or otherwise listed in the free section of craigslist, because, yeah, throwing them away is wasteful. I feel better for it, because seeing those things, having to move them around or otherwise think about them and their uselessness, actively bothered me.

I wonder if anyone would even know the name of this show, let alone object so strongly to it, if it aired on HGTV instead of Netflix.


#12

I think the reason for this is because the act of sorting through one’s possessions is an intensely personal process that no one is exempt from. And it’s not even a capitalistic driven argument IMO, at least not entirely. Even the most ardent minimalist or anti-consumerist has possessions that they are incredibly attached to, and so everyone recoils a bit when someone like Marie Kondo comes in and suggests that there are things that you own that you maybe don’t need. Even I had that reaction when my wife suggested we watch the show. Who does this lady think she is? She doesn’t know me, so how can her advice possibly apply to me?

I think Danielle’s response to the show was a great example of why the konmari debate has gotten so heated. She recognized that she was bringing a lot of emotional baggage to the show, and despite finding Kondo to be a perfectly nice person, there was a visceral hate nonetheless. People, and I include myself in this, are arguing from a place of heightened emotions. And while I am certainly not saying that emotion isn’t valid in debate, too much of it can make strawmen mighty tempting to march out.


#13

i think this is the key aspect that make this show either incredibly good or eye-rollingly bad, depending on your gut reaction to the show. That this is presented as an objective good, and the people in the show engage wholesale and uncritically of the konmarie method is inherently dramatic, since it represents a huge shift in perspective. Whether it is a maintainable shift is… not quite so well answered by the show, according to the little I’ve seen.

A show about people methodically going through old things and actually reflecting on whether to keep or toss things would be a much less marketable (but much more relevant & probably realistic) show.


#14

I find the backlash to what I saw as this completely harmless thing really weird tbh. If you watch, Marie is just the catalyst for people to have a mini-crisis occasionally and reevaluate their relationship to all of the shit they own, and never puts them on the spot or encourages them to just get rid of everything. If you say an item has essential value, then she says keep it. She’s so passive and accommodating that I’m surprised people have such an extreme, defensive reaction to her very gentle methodology. You literally see people work themselves up and get ultra defensive to this person literally just asking you “is this thing important enough to keep?” which is surprisingly quite an affront.

As for the argument it feels somehow exploitative, they never go to actual hoarder’s homes because Marie’s method is not one suited for people who have a mental illness that drives them to keep things until the situation becomes entirely unmanageable and unsafe, but for everyone who just never thought to take stock of what all of their material goods actually mean to them. It’s a universal and mostly mundane thing for most, and It’s something that I’ve never given much thought at all honestly, and the method is gentle enough to make this evaluation and cleaning process as accessible as possible.

I’m seriously waiting for an episode where the person just makes an impassioned speech about how they love all their stuff so much and need to keep it and Marie just goes “okay, understood” and leaves happily

Also they need to cool it with the bad music cues, they’re awful


#15

Like many, I didn’t finish the first episode of Tidying Up, and like many, it wasn’t because I have issues with Marie Kondo. I found it so challenging to watch the Friend family, with Kevin’s barely-swallowed rage, the smug scorn with which he says “yeah, we got two kids out of it, that makes up for all of it, right?,” the resentment. It’s just painful for me. He is an example I’d point to of toxic patriarchy that doesn’t necessarily look like outright abuse. (Though, um, with the anger and superiority he shows in front of the camera, I fear what he was like when the crew left.) Rachel Friend carries so much guilt and so much depression. I think the show immediately showed why this method can be helpful, can be a hugely emotional experience, and can still not actually fix the underlying communication issues that caused the problem in the first place.


#16

Well, it’s like the veganism thing, right? Just saying you’re a vegan is a perfectly innocuous statement, but there’s always a chance that the other person will have a little voice in their head which translates that as “I’m judging you for eating meat and cheese”.

There’s a variety of reasons why someone won’t eat meat and/or dairy, some of them even health related, but the mere implication of moral judgement is there and it makes people uncomfortable


#17

She’s actually explicitly said this too, in response to the book criticism in particular, that the important thing is the reaction that you have and what that tells you about the things that you value. Yes, this may rely on a certain level of privilege to actually be valuable to someone. I’m not disputing that. I’m more just curious about the overall vitriol in the reaction.

This may be a bit of a wild tangent, but this is bringing me to the idea of people placing their identity into the things they like or own, rather than just into themselves. My closet is full of hoodies that reference sports teams or video games. My shirts and hats as well. I may not have stickers on my laptop, but plenty of people sure do. Plenty more have tattoos that reference the things they enjoy or appreciate. Identity is a complicated thing and I’m not trying to simplify it, but it seems like a common mode in the way we express ourselves to tie our identities expressly to the things we own (and consequently show to others).

So I wonder if that’s why the reaction to the idea of “hey maybe you could think about getting rid of some of the things you own; if you don’t want to that’s fine, but your reaction will tell you something about what you value” has been so vitriolic, especially from people who can afford to get rid of things, who aren’t collecting those things out of socioeconomic or cultural necessity. Because either they feel like that would be losing something they’ve, maybe subconsciously, invested identity into. Or because they don’t want to acknowledge (I certainly don’t) how valid that might be.


#18

I haven’t seen the show, but the clips I’ve seen and what I’ve seen described of how much of the show fits this description really well. It tempts me to get my Netflix subscription going again to see what I make of it for myself, if only to see if I can find which of the Tidying Up shows I will see when I watch it.

I’m super tempted to go into this approach for my own items. I feel I do have a tendency to let items accumulate into too small a space (this is mostly a symptom of a lack of storage space in where I live now) or to simply let poor organisation get the better of me. Taking a more thorough accounting would be good for me – and, to be honest, I could certainly stand to take a look through some of my old games again and look into reselling them, which I’ve done in the past (I may have a few regrets about selling the GameCube games I had, but I can’t deny that some of what I had in there had appreciated dramatically since I’d purchased it – I was definitely better off selling my Path of Radiance for £90 than keeping it).

There’s an element of this to me where it’s hard to ignore that there is a definite layer of culture and class that goes into this. I look through items I have with an eye to their resale value or which of my extended family I can pass them over to (in the same way that many of them were passed onto me by others in the past). Charity is less on my mind, while it seems to be more of a focus for the more affluent folks. That doesn’t mean I can’t take a few of these consultant-hiring folks’ ideas and use them to make my space better.


#19

That’s fair, especially as someone who owes most of their possessions to thrift stores, resale shops, clothing swaps, and hand me downs. One benefit of Tidying Up’s popularity is that allegedly the resale scene is bumping rn. Can’t be dismissive of that.


#20

A cool intersection of my farming life and the Marie Kondo stuff is I am drowning in free bullshit that different seed and farming companies give out just about every year. So many hats and coats and they’re all so terrible.