“Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” and Why America Is So Obsessed

If you’ve turned on Netflix in the last few months, you may have borne witness to the widespread cultural phenomenon also known as “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” If your familiarity isn’t due to the Netflix original series, perhaps you were one of the original fans before this undertaking to unclutter took place. Originally published in Japanese in 2014, the author and encourager of a more simplified life, Marie Kondo, was added to the New York Times bestseller list and sold over 3 million copies of her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

One simple question is at the helm of what has been coined, The KonMari Method™ and that is “Does this spark joy?”

Each couple who appears on the home improvement style show asks this question to every item in their home. Should the answer be “yes,” the item returns to a (hopefully) more tidy space in the house, but if the answer is “no” then out it goes to either be donated or tossed out with the rubbish.  Both the homeowners and the audience are guided by Marie to reevaluate and de-clutter our spaces with only the things that bring feelings of joy.

So what is it about this cheerful, petite woman from a distant country and her housekeeping mantra that’s got Americans so transfixed? In a country that has been known to embrace excess in everything from the size of its houses and vehicles to the population’s diet, where is the connection?

We Crave the Ability to Recognize Joy

Regardless of home size or level of tidiness, one of the more recurring themes in the couples’ lives on the Netflix original was that of feeling overwhelmed. There is so much on people’s plates nowadays – regardless of life stage – that you can often find yourself simply going through the motions. The question, “Does this spark joy?” is so much more than a deciding factor to keep or toss an old t-shirt. The desire to hit the pause button and stop going through the motions to take inventory of what we fill our lives with is something that can benefit us in so many ways. Learning to recognize when the answer is “yes” and figuring out what joy really looks like can help to avoid and remove the aspects of your life that not only don’t bring joy, but reduce it. 

We Need More Gratitude in Our Lives

According to The KonMari Method™, “It is a state of mind – and a way of life – that encourages cherishing the things that spark joy in one’s life. Belongings are acknowledged for their service – and thanked before being let go, should they no longer spark joy.” This method of showing gratitude is not only put into action for the items in the home but to the home itself when Marie enters the residence and begins the purging process. As you get older, life begins to get filled up with obligations, experiences, relationships and even stuff. It’s easy to overlook the things that can mean so much to us, but due to the hustle and bustle of life, be taken for granted. Showing gratitude and acknowledging what you have to be thankful for, can be a life changer in your mindset. If you are saying goodbye to something, such as clutter or an ended relationship, having a moment of thankfulness for what it brought you can bring healing. When acknowledging the gratefulness for a career or a treasured friendship, it can bring joy in itself and allow anxiety to lessen.

We Can Find Real Power in Letting Go

The honest truth is that having the power to change something feels good. While Marie Kondo seems to be spending an awful lot of time helping curate mess free homes, it’s more than that. It’s about helping families feel like they have power over their space and their lives. She does this through letting go of things that don’t capture their greatest joy and she does it very well.  The reminder the show provides, that each of us has the power to “clear out” the clutter and the noise that is taking over our lives, genuinely needs to be heard. When you make the decision to remove certain things from your home or your heart, there is a sense of empowerment there that we all need.




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