OK, yea, I know. I caved. I couldn’t stand the buzz, the increasing allure of the discussions pulling me back to my college dorm days when my friends and I would stay up all night discussing the world’s weighty topics…
And so I binge-watched all eight episodes in less than a day. And I read or re-read everything I pointed to in Marie Kondo, a peer-reviewed compendium. And more. And only put a stop to finding more to read because, well, reading wasn’t continuing to spark joy. Just a dull headache.
And I admit I’m a grudging convert. After watching the show, I’m very confused about a fundamental aspect of her approach, and I still have vehement objections to other aspects of her approach. More on that later. I’m also finding the fury of criticism fascinating. More on that later as well.
For now, WHY AREN’T HER CLIENTS GETTING ALL THE CREDIT??
Kondo’s clients, just like mine and my colleagues’, DO ALL THE WORK. They make all the tedious, confusing, painful, frightening, frustrating decisions, compromises and sacrifices. Kondo’s clients have even taken the brave and generous step to open up their lives for very public examination, to teach people that organizing is possible. And they have the honesty to acknowledge that the clutter isn’t just clutter, it’s a stress on their mental and emotional selves. The fact that these are people within typical parameters of disorganized – no Hoarding: Buried Alive – think Peter Walsh’s old Clean Sweep, Mission Organization, or Clean House, for much more apt comparisons (I watched alotta these when I was home-bound with a newborn!) – is refreshing and encouraging. Might have been people with severe clutter/hoarding tendencies on those pioneer shows, I just don’t remember, but, still, no Buried Alive.
A careful Organizer is a guide, a fresh set of eyes, a source of ideas about rolling file carts and a tear-inducing book or two. A competent Organizer can suggest reasons why something can be let go. An honest Organizer can give a client space to KEEP something. A jack-of-all-trades Organizer will take out the trash, break down boxes (I ♥ my Big Blue), make sure the red scarves stay with the red scarves and don’t get tangled with the red sweaters. I find it extremely puzzling that Kondo leaves her clients to fend for themselves for most of the organizing process – side-by-side service is a fundamental component of a Western Organizer’s approach. I can’t figure out if the show just excised most of her interactions with her clients.
Kondo on TV isn’t nearly so rigid as Kondo in print. That is excellent news if it means her methods aren’t as rigidly applied as her books imply. The diversity of our clients’ capabilities and needs renders any one-size-fits-all concept unacceptable. And this is where I really diverge from Kondo Klamor. I’m not even slightly konvinced (YES, I’LL STOP NOW) that her methodology works for any but a relatively small percentage of people who need help: organizing isn’t even remotely only about paring down and pretty boxes. Time management, stress management, impulse control, innate and learned sentimentality, learning and thinking styles are all undeniable aspects of our clients’ responses to and abilities to “control” stuff, and we teach strategies for improving upon and understanding all of these. And the Organizer CAN’T make the decisions, because if the Organizer makes the decisions, they ain’t gonna be how/what the client would decide. Simple example: do you sort your spices alphabetically, by cuisine, country of origin, typical use, manufacturer…???????? Kondo, by virtue of her approach, seems to make a fair number of decisions for her clients?
AND NO MARATHONS. Never ever never gonna happen with me and my clients unless something drastic – flood, fire, eviction or surprise visit from X – compels. Decision fatigue is real, physical fatigue causes mistakes. Many of my clients and I have never worked more than two hours at a time. I’ll be honest, I consider the marathon mandate borderline malpractice.
But but but Kondo on TV is a highly intelligent, intuitive, slightly mischievous and caring woman who brings some of a venerable Shinto heritage to her technique. I’m finding the contrast from Western consumerism invigorating. And the contrast is exactly what many of her harshest critics seem to find exceedingly threatening. The criticisms are an ugly, glaring rearing up of – um humm, I dare say it, because I agree – (unearned) Western privilege, elitism, and racism. You can do a Google search for many intelligent rebuttals to the critics.
Go ahead. Watch the show. Tell me what you think. And I may try to see if Clean Sweep is available on reruns.