Why you should never meet your idols, a review of Netflix's Tidying up with Marie Kondo.
Let me start by saying I’m a total KonMari convert. For the past 4 years I have worshipped Marie Kondo’s method of decluttering after I totally transformed my home and life by following her method. With the launch of 'Tidying up with Marie Kondo' at the beginning of January on Netflix, it seems the world is finally realising the positives of a declutter. Even after decluttering my books, her two are still proudly displayed on my shelves and I still flick through them frequently. I use a variation of her method when decluttering with my clients. I even occasionally ask (to those clients that ‘are aware of KonMari) “does this item spark joy?” So I patiently waited for her new show on Netflix to air on New Year’s Day and even put a reminder on my calendar. I binged watched it over two days… and I left feeling rather flat by it all.
Maybe it’s a case of you should never meet your idols? Maybe now I’m a professional declutterer myself I’m used to transformations and working with clients that I’m desensitised to it all. I remember when initially going on my APDO training to become a Professional Declutterer and Organiser one of the trainer said off the cuff that she wasn’t keen on KonMari and that her methods weren’t appropriate to expect hoarders to follow. I sat feeling slightly indignant as I was a recovered hoarder and I had worked for me? And then I started working with clients and adapted the method so it worked wonderfully. The folding clothes are storing items upright was (and still is) a game changer! Maybe now being faced with the true method on Netflix (Titled Tidying up with Marie Kondo) I realise just how much I have adapted it to work with real life clients, and maybe initially myself too? So maybe her method was more a starting point for me rather than an actual complete method to follow religiously.
Maybe the issue is that I’m used to watching documentaries on Netflix, that have each brought something new to the table, for example The Minimalists, Tiny Houses, Consumed. I’ve taken bits from each thing I’ve watched and I’ve felt enriched by it. With Marie Kondo I felt it was rushed, and even more cynically, just part of a corporate plan to capitalise on the back of her success on the books. I guess the main thing was that it didn’t teach me anything I haven't already read, or was able to already find easily on youtube.
You may think this blof post is all just a slating the show, but it was watchable and enjoyable. I did watch each episode (amazingly as did my 8 year old who pronounced - "She's Untangling, Mummy!" I found the episodes were chosen well to highlight and feature different people and issues. There are some definite positives to the show. I loved how it shows the different reasons behind how clutter manifests itself, and also how different people deal with clutter in different ways. I found it sensitively handled, especially when the children were upset about clutter being an issue in the home. I think it’s great that it shows the real life stress it puts on relationships, and how much pressure clutter creates, and how things can be different once you declutter.
One of its strengths I thought was the demos of ‘how to’ especially the short clips of how to fold clothes. I found these visual guides really clear and concise and would be a great starting point for someone wanting to tackle their wardrobe. Although I am now mindful of working towards minimalism, one of KonMari’s biggest positives is that it concentrates on what you want to keep, it’s not about ‘getting rid of stuff’. The show is effective at showing that KonMari is not about minimalism, but how it positively affects her clients life post-declutter.
One of the main things the series has done is brought decluttering to the mainstream consciousness. Since it first aired there’s been countless articles online and in the media all about KonMari and also our relationship with stuff. In the USA goodwill have noticed a massive increase in donations. Over here in the UK there’s been articles daily about KonMari and also (maybe even more importantly) about consumerism, and the global issue of having a throwaway society and the sheer amount of items ending up in landfill. As part of this Professional Declutterers and Organisers such as myself are starting to get requests from the media to discuss the KonMari hype. APDO member Lynn Kirk was featured on BBC Breakfast the other day to discuss her role and the method – this would’ve been unheard of if it wasn’t for the Netflix show, so it shows that people are cottoning on to just how transformational hiring a Professional Organiser can be.
Along with the positives though, I have a few grumbles about it. I’m not sure if Marie Kondo is being badly advised but a lot of the things she has done with her business recently makes me wonder. The KonMari app had tons of glitches and seemed badly put together. In the series she starts a consultation by bringing in some of her special boxes to the session. These are available on her website to buy at the eye watering price of $89 for the set, (currently sold out), yet in her book she states you can use shoe boxes, or various other boxes and not to buy any storage until after you declutter. I find shoe boxes and mobile phone boxes great to use inside drawers, and the Ikea Skubb set perfect for separating clothing.
One of the ways in which I adapted her method without even realising was the ‘power of the pile’. In the show Marie asks that ALL the clothes get piled into a room to then sort from. From a personal point of view had I done this when I first decluttered I wouldn’t have been able to find a space big enough, and if I had by some miracle managed to pile it on my bed I think I would’ve slept on the sofa for a month and given up ever using my bed again. Although her version creates a visual spectacle perfect for TV, in real life I find it much better to pick a type of clothing to work through in one go (ie all T-shirts). This makes it a smaller timescale to work with and seems a much more achievable category which in turn ensures the motivation keeps going. The other reason why I found Marie’s method a problem was that when every single item of clothing is on top of each other you cannot compare similar items to decide which one to keep, so there is a possibility that you keep more than you should or discard more than you should. For example if you have an abundance of black leggings but they’re mixed in with everything else you may not realise just how many you have and are unable to compare them to keep your favourite or best pair.
Another reason I found that the show was rushed was the use of using a translator and subtitles. I’m adept at reading subtitles quickly but some may find it an issue to follow what she is saying whilst still trying to watch what’s going on. I wish Marie had been able to talk in English, but if I’m honest that was just a minor irritation, along with the very long ‘Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiii’ upon meeting the clients.
Another thing that I found hard to gel with was the fact it was done with American homes, which are basically massive! Obviously being a Netflix show this had to happen, and the US is so consumer driven it makes sense to start there. I do wish they would do a show featuring small homes like in the UK, and I am sure that these would be much more transformational and have an impact like I have with my clients. Maybe that was why I was left feeling flat, is that my idol had less ‘wow’ in the transformations than I get with my clients? The homes still seemed cluttered, even though there was a vast improvement, or maybe that’s just the result of working in large American homes?
One of my main bugbears with it was that it seemed to concentrate on working by room rather than by category. This completely goes against the KonMari philosophy, although I do work with clients in this way when circumstances dictate it the best way to go. By working by room you risk just moving items from one place to another and not realising when items are duplicated, so I found it a bit odd that there was a definite shift on the series to this way of working.
I would watch another series though I have to say, I’m just very niggly! Maybe that’s my perfectionist personality coming through. I hope that if there is another series they continue to showcase client’s journeys, and maybe revisit the previous clients to show if they’ve managed to totally adopt their clutter free lifestyle or whether they fell back into living in clutter. I’d like to see more behind the scenes clips, working more on the psychological aspects of decluttering and working on the link between the stuff and sentimentality. It’s definitely worth a watch, it is uplifting TV, especially for anyone new to KonMari who is considering decluttering either by themselves or by hiring an organiser (tip: use www.apdo.co.uk to find an organiser local to you that is vetted, has insurance and is registered with HMRC and the ICO, as there’s bound to be tons of people thinking of becoming professionals that won’t have any training, insurance or awareness of the psychological issues clients face). If you’re thinking of booking, I would sooner rather than later, as I anticipate by February we will be having lots of calls for help from clients that have started KonMari with good intentions, then got in a tangle and have massive piles of clothes where their bed should be!
Have you watched it? What did you think? I’d be interested to know, comment below!