Netflix’s “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” ignited a national decluttering frenzy when it debuted in 2019. But, the next year, something very messy happened, which affected our homes, relationships and offices: the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home orders.
So, in her new series, “Sparking Joy,” which launched Aug. 31, the Japanese organizing icon is delivering a more personal, feel-good sort of reality show.
“I want to help people to find joy not just by tidying their homes,” Kondo says in the series trailer, “but in every area of their lives.”
During the pandemic, Kondo and her team came up with a new spin on cleaning up: The process could help sort out not only people’s junk, but also their emotions. The show makes for compelling television, reminiscent of the style of HGTV’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and Netflix’s “Queer Eye.”
“Tidying isn’t just about physical objects, it’s a process of learning about yourself and understanding how you really want to live your life,” Kondo wrote in an email.
The three episodes — only about 40 minutes each if you want to binge — show her working with the owners of an organic garden center; a coffee shop entrepreneur; and a church volunteer with a clothing problem. All struggle with messy shelves and messy relationships.
Yes, there is drama, and yes, there is crying.
Kondo started as an organizing consultant while she was a student at a Tokyo university, and she now heads a global tidying empire. Her 2011 book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” which was published in the United States in 2014, has sold millions of copies. She now trains KonMari consultants who deliver her philosophy to people around the world, and she has a line of organizing products at the Container Store. Kondo lives in California with her husband, Takumi Kawahara, the president of KonMari Media, and their two daughters and son, whose birth she announced in April on Instagram, where she has 4 million followers.
The Kondo in the new show seems more relaxed and willing to share glimpses of how she personally gets it done. You see her in various stages of her pregnancy, dressed in loose jumpers while inspecting spider-filled seed bins and church storage rooms jammed with paint cans and bleach. Viewers are offered bits of her own home life as she gardens and folds clothes with her daughters. She says she tries to teach her children to have love and respect for things.
There is no sign of some of her more controversial decluttering ideas, such as blindfolding stuffed animals before getting rid of them or cutting photos out of coffee-table books before tossing them.
Instead, she focuses on general advice, such as storing items vertically in boxes, so you can see them, and keeping useful items on your desk to help increase your motivation. She does perform a little ceremony with a tuning fork to purify each space before tidying, which you may or may not think is a bit over the top. She also suggests that burning incense or adding crystals, candles and flowers can bring good karma.
All three episodes were filmed in the Los Angeles area. The most compelling is the first one, about a father and son who run Logan’s Gardens, an organic plant and garden design business. Jimmy and Logan (the show doesn’t share the subjects’ last names) admit they are focused on plants, not organization. But they discover that making some changes can improve their professional and personal relationships. Jumbled bins were sorted, and seeds, catalogues and plant markers were placed together.
The families on the show are provided with the tools, infrastructure and containers that Kondo determines will improve their clutter situation. The garden center received wood potting tables, a roof and matching storage containers. With a newly organized workplace, Jimmy has more time to teach Logan what he knows about planting. Logan’s sister also pops up to reconnect and offers to help. Everyone appears to like tidying way more than they thought they would. Joy.
But I wondered: Does clutter really make you cry? Kondo says the raw emotions in the show came naturally as families confronted the issues that were important to them.
“There is a strong connection between physical items and past experiences and future goals, and the emotional responses you see on the show are truly organic,” Kondo wrote in an email. “People go through the literal and figurative inventory of their pasts and emotions in a healthy way, to build for the future they envision for themselves.”
In the other two episodes, an overworked mom who feels sad in her messy home and a single mom who can’t bear to throw out dead flowers or plants share their tidying journeys.
Kondo tries to convey the message that it’s totally OK to keep the stuff you want and use, but make sure you arrange it nicely and remember that “well-cared-for items exude a positive energy.”
Americans’ seemingly never-ending struggle to divest continues. And now, if you will excuse me, I think I’m going to go throw out some old shoes and have a good cry.