Television review: Tidying Up

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, January 25th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Megan Basham reviews the new reality TV show Tidying Up.

REICHARD: Uh oh. Let me just straighten this up over here first…

MEGAN BASHAM, TELEVISION CRITIC: Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’re trying to get your family out the door to school, to church, or some other destination where punctuality is of the essence. Suddenly one child can’t find her shoes just as another realizes she has no clean socks. Now, instead of loading up the car you’re digging through piles of clean clothes left on the dryer from a week ago while simultaneously screaming, “Look under the couch! If you can’t find the white ones wear the blue ones!” In the meantime your spouse is calling, “Where are the keys? They’re not where I left them!” So you start shoving dirty dishes around the kitchen, hoping they’re hidden under a stray cereal bowl and begin to notice the sticky film of spilled juice or syrup covering the counters.

All at once your shoulders slump, your energy drains away, and you think, who lives this way? What does this say about who we are as a family? As parents? How are our children ever going to succeed growing up in this kind of chaos? Surely everyone else is managing life better than this!

Or, maybe you’re a man.

I’m joking. But Netflix’s latest cultural juggernaut, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, is fascinating not just for its exploration of how we relate to the stuff crowding our homes. It also delves into the emotional toll disorganization tends to take on different family members and what that says about our roles as husbands and wives.

AUDIO: I feel like I’m to blame because I’m the mom, and mom is supposed to create the memories, mom is supposed to make home home. I hold that near and dear. And I own it that it’s my responsibility to do the laundry, go to the grocery store, cook, but I feel like I’m failing in that area. Which is not okay with me.

Kondo is the Japanese author of two best-selling books on the subject of home organization. And she’s the reason you may have heard friends wondering aloud if various items in their house “spark joy.” Because her method, which she calls KonMari, begins not with cleaning, but with confrontation.

Rather than tackle one room at a time, she has families go through one category at a time, like clothes. She asks each member to pile up their items so they can really assess how much they have.

AUDIO: I’m going to be honest with you, this is the biggest pile I’ve seen of all my clients. I don’t know if that’s how this works. For me, clothes are a passion, an obsession, recreation, retail therapy is something I’m definitely guilty of using. Whenever Ron and I would fight shopping was a diversion. It was a way to calm down, de-stress.

Whether its clothes, baseball cards, Christmas decorations, we can all relate with the participants as they realize a lack of organization often isn’t their real problem. Or, at least, not their first problem. Rather it’s their sinful desire to acquire more and more stuff.

AUDIO: I’m actually feeling guilty right now. Like I’m feeling uncomfortable. I don’t know why I have so much stuff.

But Kondo is no modern day Francis of Assissi, prodding her clients to rid themselves of their possessions. Rather, she wants them to think about why they have what they have and keep only those things that bring contentment and serve a purpose. Things, as she says, that “spark joy.”

This is part of the almost wholly innocuous series that could present a problem for Christians, along with two episodes featuring same-sex couples. Kondo asks clients to hold their items and even thank them. She even urges them to thank their houses for protection. This skates a little too close to pantheism for comfort, and I wasn’t surprised to read an interview in which Kondo revealed she practices the Japanese religion Shinto.

But there is a simple work-around for those who want to try the KonMari method. Rather than thank the objects, you could thank the Lord for the objects, as the Mercier family in episode three appears to do. While they don’t say so expressly, they’re the only ones who, rather than kneeling with Kondo, bow their heads and hold hands with one another instead.  

AUDIO: The ultimate goal of tidying is really to learn to cherish what you have so that you can achieve happiness for your family, so that you can live comfortably.

Our culture is crowded with shows featuring jaw-dropping renovations and perfectly curated Instagram feeds that make you feel like your home and your life just aren’t good enough because you haven’t got the newest, best stuff. Kondo’s message to focus on the good gifts we already have is truly welcome.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

Like this story?

To hear a lot more like it, subscribe to The World and Everything in It via iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts.







Pocket Casts

(Requires a fee)

One comment on “Television review: Tidying Up

  1. Sara says:

    Can’t figure out how to get “The world and everything in it” app-icon to show up on my home screen, so that I can click on it every morning and get my daily dose of world podcast
    Can someone please contact me via my cell phone 830-581-8410.
    Would really appreciate a life human voice to invest about 3 to 7 minutes of their time to make a positive impact on my little part of the world, here in Texas.
    Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.