On Watching ‘Tidying Up’ (or American Adults Weeping Over Clothes)
I am not big on self-help books and wasn’t about to read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, but I decided to watch the show that everybody seemed to be talking about – Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
This, I must confess, was a self-enforced lesson in forbearance because I never thought my life would come to a juncture where I would have to spend my Saturday evening watching a bunch of adults tearing up over a pile of neatly stacked up clothes.
But that is exactly what Kondo’s show is all about.
The concept behind Tidying Up with Marie Kondo by itself isn’t bad. Many of us could benefit from watching a prescriptive show like that to get our houses and lives in order.
Petite Marie herself has a pleasant presence on screen, and I would find it easy to subscribe to her philosophy of doing away with the unnecessary – if she did not insist that I communicate with my house and my clothes while tidying up.
I would also like her more if she could exercise self-restraint and not go into raptures every time she walked into a cluttered home. “I am so excited because I love mess,” Kondo squeals in the 2nd episode of the show as she inspects the insides of a tiny LA home with its gigantic piles of clothing that could give the pyramids of Giza a complex.
Kevin and Rachel Friend, an American couple whose home Kondo is helping tidy up in her opening episode, are parents of toddlers who live in a home full of stuff. Kevin is a dick and Rachel is in constant need of his approval. Her messy ways, the clutter because of the toddlers and Rachael not finding enough time or energy to keep her house in the way her husband likes it, are driving the couple apart.
When Marie initiates the couple into the KonMari project by guiding them to communicate with their home by offering gratitude to it, Rachel, who is breastfeeding her toddler, is so overwhelmed that she gets weepy. Kondo then lovingly goes on to teach them to hold each item in their hand and decide if they feel any spark of joy while doing so. All things that fail to create that spark must be discarded.
This, I feel is a useful lesson in both mindfulness and decluttering. One could easily use this tool to eliminate unnecessary items of clothing, even though saying ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ to every uninspiring t-shirt or underwear you are sending to a landfill, may require taking a month’s leave from work.
The next lesson is about folding clothes and stacking them up in drawers and using enough baskets and boxes to make your house looks like a Muji store. Again, a spectacularly space effective way to store your things and something no doubt, most people are going to make their domestic help watch.
Marie, on her part, feels rewarded for her effort when she sees that the couple has deepened their bond by tidying up the house together. Rachael tells the viewers that her own little babies are watching her fold clothes and organise her house and she feels that they are going to imbibe these qualities.
(I can assure you from personal experience that there is no guarantee that children of tidy and organised parents will grow up to lead orderly and clutter-free lives.)
Most of my childhood resembled a never-ending episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo because my own mother, who is capable of teaching Kondo a thing or two about decluttering, had a maniacal penchant for cleaning up and discarding things. The sell-by date of these items, or their utility value to other family members, had little bearing on her decision to give them away.
On more than one occasion, I have watched my vexed father search for his favourite shirt only to discover it on the back of the gardener mowing our lawn. My own clothes and shoes were often given away without consulting me because my mother believed I did not need so many items in my wardrobe, which was as untrue then as it is now.
The irony though is that I grew up in a house where hoarding things was considered a sin worse than theft or murder, and yet I have turned out to be a person who attracts clutter.
Marie tells Frank and Matt, a young gay couple, that her mission is to spark joy in this world through tidying up. Among other things, she teaches them to say goodbye to books by first piling them all up in one place and then eliminating them based on her ‘spark of joy’ principle.
As someone who loves to read, I find it hard to part with my books collected over a lifetime. There are plenty of books on my bookshelves that I might not have enjoyed reading, but they are representative of a phase or a time in my life and I am NOT willing to say thank you and goodbye to them. Ever.
If you consider the fact that both Matt and Frank are writers, who until not long ago were students, you will have an idea of how emotionally demanding this task might have been for them. Of course, they are Americans making their debut on television, so they had to act euphoric. But I felt their pain.
(Shunali Khullar Shroff is a freelance writer, blogger and author of the bestselling book ‘Battle Hymn of a Bewildered Mother’, published by Hay House in 2015. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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