Marie Kondo’s Netflix show, Tidying Up, has become a megahit, and the “Kondo Effect” is arguably in full swing. Thrift stores are already brimming with purged clothes, and viewers everywhere are inspecting their closets for joy-sucking ephemera. When Antifa is making memes about folding clothes, you know an organizational philosophy has reached its zenith.
Kondo’s minimalist ideals have sparked some controversy as well. Bibliophiles aren’t thrilled that the housekeeping guru believes in the power of a well-edited bookshelf. Kondo doesn’t necessarily think you should hold on to the experimental novel you couldn’t get through (because there is no plot!) but are keeping because you aspire to finish it (someday) and it has a pretty spine.
Others have questioned a central tenet of Kondo’s philosophy: Is “sparking joy” too high a bar when it comes to all the items in your home? What about “it sort of makes me feel better about my life?” (See also: antidepressants.)
But these debates seem somewhat beside the point when you see the KonMari method utilized to its fullest extent: transforming an incredibly cluttered home into an eminently livable space.
Wendy and Ron Akiyama, who live in Lomita, provided one of the most dramatic before-and-afters of the series by utilizing the KonMari method to pare down a swamp of clothing and Christmas decorations that had taken over their home.
“[Our clutter] was adding this whole layer of stress to our days,” says Wendy. “You would look around and just think, ‘This is futile.’”
As the couple tore through their belongings, searching for joy, Wendy says she was surprised by what they found. “We were able to confine our hoarding to places you couldn’t see,” she says. “Once it was exposed, it was like, whoa, this is crazy.”
Among the items Wendy unearthed were the hundreds of jackets she’d amassed over the years. Together, they formed a mountain of clothes that Kondo called the largest pile she’d ever seen.
Wendy says she was a bit apprehensive about having all of her stuff splayed out on a Netflix show for millions to judge, but the end result—a clutter-free space—was worth the potential embarrassment. “It’s not like the show Hoarders,” she says. “I watched that and it was, like, ‘Holy cow, this is sad!’ But I knew from talking to the producers that [Kondo’s show] wouldn’t be like that.”
Since the TV crew departed, Akiyama says she feels like her house has lost “10,000 pounds,” and has happily discovered that she’ll never need to buy tape, flashlights, or extension cords again.
But she says she hasn’t let the pursuit of minimalism get in the way of her self-soothing shopping trips. “I mean, I still have 149 jackets,” she says. “Kondo is fine with that as long as each one sparks joy.”
Perhaps most amazingly (to me), Akiyama also says she hasn’t had to work hard to keep the KonMari method alive in her daily life. “We’ve touched every blessed thing in that house—three generations of stuff. We know how to store it, how to find it again, and how to enjoy all of our things.”
And what about objects that aren’t enjoyable? One part of Kondo’s method I find irksome is the “thanking” of objects that no longer prove useful. I wondered if Akiyama had developed an emotional or even metaphysical relationship with her objects since production concluded but, blessedly, she assured me that she hadn’t.
“I do talk to my nutcrackers sometimes,” she says. “I’ll say, ‘Oh, my God, you’re so handsome, I’m going to put you over there.’ But I don’t think they have spirits, and I don’t, you know, talk to rolls of tape.”
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