A new year in Japan means it’s time for ōsōji, the annual cleaning of one’s home. And, right on schedule, Netflix has released “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” to give us all some inspiration — or make us feel guilty for putting it off.
The eight-episode series follows organizing guru Marie Kondo as she helps American families organize, compartmentalize and, most importantly, throw away piles of stuff in their homes. Kondo meets a variety of households, from expecting parents and a grieving widow to a same-sex couple, and convinces them to toss anything in their homes that doesn’t “spark joy,” which she describes as filling their hearts with happiness.
That “spark” is the main idea behind Kondo’s “KonMari” method, which has turned her into an international cleaning superstar. Her philosophy of downsizing has lead to a best-selling book, the aforementioned Netflix series and being named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2015.
The show has sparked a lot of joy with people online, as Kondo floats through people’s homes, disassembling their closets and occasionally speaking a few crucial lines in English.
“I love mess,” Kondo says in one episode as she opens a homeowner’s disorganized dresser drawers. Her onscreen translator, Marie Iida, tries to fill in the gaps as Kondo rattles off tidying tips, but not everything translates well. (When Kondo says “sparking joy” should feel like “kyun!”, Iida jokingly explains she can’t translate the squeal.)
These funny moments have created a garage-full of memes online, as well as jokes from people who are skeptical about the KonMari method.
Twitter user @adamjmoussa tweeted a photo of Kondo holding a contestant’s child with a caption that read, “This baby does not spark joy for me, so it will have to go.”
Meanwhile, @kashanacauley took it a step further, writing “After a heated discussion with Marie Kondo I’ve decided to throw myself in the trash.”
And the zingers didn’t stop there.
“Marie Kondo is holding me at knifepoint and demanding that I throw out my husband’s ashes,” wrote @bridger_w.
The aspect of the show that horrified many readers was when Kondo encouraged homeowners to throw away any literature in their house that, yup, doesn’t spark joy.
“Wait Marie Kondo is telling people to toss their books? THEIR BOOKS?” posted @jowrotethis, accompanied by a gif of actress Betty Gabriel muttering “No, no, no, no, no, no.”
Meanwhile, @geekylonglegs wrote, “‘Fahrenheit 451’ predicted Mari Kondo saying to burn all books.”
America’s Kondo mania has been feted by likes of Elle, The Guardian, Cosmopolitan and VICE, with each outlet either focusing on the memes, the tidying tips or simply reviewing the show as pure entertainment.
Japanese Twitter on the other hand was only taken aback by how the show jumps back and forth between Kondo speaking Japanese and her translator speaking English, and how people overseas were getting upset online over the book suggestion.
Some people also questioned whether Kondo’s self-described “Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” was truly Japanese. Kondo starts each episode by “greeting” the house by sitting on the floor and sending out good vibes, which is something uniquely Marie.
Twitter user @orcshapeshifter said that people who criticize Kondo’s techniques, including her method of “waking up” books before tossing them, are being discriminatory. “Maybe interrogate *why* animism is so funny to you? Or why — as a bibliophile — the prospect of many books being donated so they can go to people who will cherish them all over again bothers you,” he wrote.
Other people online argued that Japanese homes are actually often filled to the ceiling with junk, so Kondo may be the exception instead of the rule. Twitter user @10mhardbacks created a thread on how “Japanese minimalism is built on LIES,” with plenty of people piling on with their favorite photos of messy Japanese homes and apartments. One snapshot features novelist Ango Sakaguchi’s cluttered home, where the floor is concealed under all of his books and papers.
Despite some naysayers, each episode of “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” ends with the homeowners, sometimes in tears, talking about how grateful they are for the KonMari method and how painless the process was. This may seem like simply a feel-good moment of a former hoarder finding their way, but it’s simply a marketing move.
In the past few years, hundreds of people have become certified KonMari consultants, and Kondo plans to expand her army of cleaning cadets.
While it might sound scary to let a person come into your home and tell you what to throw away, Netflix’s show seems to be easing people into the idea and potentially turning viewers into customers long after the credits roll.
While we clean up our homes, Marie Kondo will be cleaning out our wallets — kyun!