What Can Netflix Teach Us about Tidying?

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marie kondo on netflix playing on computer

I’ve been writing about my experience with the Marie Kondo method this week partly because Netflix released Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, a series based on her tidying method and her book. I really enjoyed watching (to be honest, binging) the show. Is watching as much fun if you haven’t been through the process or read the book? I really don’t know, because that wasn’t my experience. I don’t think Tidying Up is as addictive as, say, Queer Eye, but I do think it’s compelling, and even emotional, especially if you’re interested in organizing or konmari in the first place.

Can you learn how to do the konmari method by just watching the show without reading the book? Well … kind of. The main points of the method are shared in the show: You tidy in a specific order. You thank every item as you discard it. You fold your clothes a certain way. But personally, I got a lot of ideas from the book that aren’t in the show at all that were really helpful, and I think the whole method made a lot more sense when it was explained fully. So I’m still glad I actually read the book before tidying.

I do think the show is a fantastic companion to the book, though, partly because it explains some things fully that were only hinted at, or were fairly confusing, in the book, like this stuff:

How to konmari with a partner and/or with kids

I went through the konmari process before I was married, so I only had to deal with my own stuff, and I got to decide where everything was placed and how it was organized. I think this was a lot easier than doing the same thing with a partner or a family, and I’d always wondered how it would work if you had to factor in another person (or people). The show only profiles couples and families with kids, so the idea of tidying when you’re already part of a team seems a lot more doable after watching.

How to fold stuff

One of the best parts of the konmari process is learning a new way to fold. This crazy folding method matters a lot, because her method saves drawer space, keeps clothes a lot less wrinkled when they’re folded, and helps you keep things tidy by being able to see all your clothes at once and not having to upend a whole stack of t-shirts just to find your favorite.

Most folding is outlined clearly in the book, but there are a few awkward pieces that it’s hard to get right, and a lot of those things are addressed at some point in her show: How to fold socks, bras, onesies, fitted sheets, scarves, ties and more are all addressed in the show. And we do get to see the infamous sock-folding technique, although it’s presented more like an inside joke for those of us who’ve read the book than an actual how-to tip.

What order to tidy komono (i.e. miscellaneous items)

The order of tidying in konmari is really important — it goes Clothes, Books, Paper, Komono and Sentimental Items. That’s all nice, except that Komono covers a LOT of ground. In practice, the fact that Komono isn’t incredibly detailed into specific categories works out fine, and it makes a lot of sense, since not everyone has the same Komono (some people don’t have a garage with a lot of tools, for example, and not everyone has a craft room or a home gym). But I do like that, in the show, we get to see people tidying their kitchens, bathrooms, garages and offices in more detail than we get for those areas in the book.

In the show, we’re able to see people actually doing the work themselves — Marie pops in a few times during the process to keep them on track, but it’s the home owners who really do the tidying. Several of the homes looked well-kept instead of like they came from episodes Hoarders — their junk was mostly confined to spare bedrooms and closets. This is a lot more true to the way most of us live, so I liked that they showed this reality instead of choosing more dramatic transformations. There’s virtually no attempt to redecorate or style the homes into polished versions of perfection — they just look like clean and tidy versions of the original rooms, not stunning home makeovers, which I found refreshing. All in all, I really enjoyed the show. It’s fun to see Marie Kondo at work, and to see the choices people made.

My favorite part was seeing the families come together; everyone had a part in making choices and tidying, and that teamwork was kind of beautiful to see — families coming together to accomplish tasks is a big part of real life that’s very underrepresented on TV. Do you have to watch this show to konmari your home? Of course not. But it’s a fun way to stay inspired if you choose to start, or even if you’re only a little bit interested in the process. And in my experience (and the experience of a lot of you guys, according to my Instagram DMs), watching a few episodes results in an almost involuntary return to tidying. This is one time Netflix inspires us to actually get OFF the couch.

Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist, a book about buying from locally owned stores and cofounder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Currently, she works as Communications Director at Infomedia, a web development company in Birmingham, Alabama. Find her as @crollwagen on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and most other social media platforms.

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