Marie Kondo’s story is one of the most unlikely in recent pop culture history. How does a person with such a gentle and humble nature become a worldwide phenomenon simply on the basis of helping people organize their home? What began as a method, then a book and a web site devoted to tidying, has now become a twice-Emmy nominated (Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program, and Outstanding Structured Reality Program) television show on Netflix.
Here, Marie and I discuss the origin of the show, a possible season 2, and her approach to improving the lives of her clients through tidying.
Awards Daily: Full disclosure: My wife was a huge fan of yours before I met her and we are applying your technique to our home as well.
Marie Kondo: I’m so happy to hear that!
AD: You were already successful before Tidying Up got picked up by Netflix. How did the show come about?
Kondo: So, the way it happened was my book was sold in the U. S. and became a bestseller, One of the producers at the production company, Jackal Group, had read the book and she approached me with the idea for the show.
AD: Were you surprised at all by how well the show was received?
Kondo: Yes! I was so surprised not only that so many people watched the show but they actually implemented my tidying method into their lives. I’m amazed by that.
AD: I haven’t seen an official announcement yet. Will there be a season 2?
Kondo: We are in the midst of discussing that right now.
AD: I was hoping to get a scoop!
AD: If there is a season 2, what might you do differently to change things up?
Kondo: That’s exactly what we’re planning and discussing right now. I think changing the location or the environment might be very interesting. For instance, I’d love to tackle an office space.
AD: What I find most notable notable about your method is that it’s not so much about getting rid of things as much as it is keeping what you love. Which seems like a revolutionary concept that’s been sitting there for a long time waiting for someone to pick it up.
Kondo: I myself always felt that tidying meant throwing things away. This was back when I was in high school and at the time I was earnestly researching on my own the subject of tidying, and I was so focused on throwing things away that I had a lot of stress during that time. I think one of the reasons why is because I was always constantly looking at the negative aspects of the things around me. I was looking for what I didn’t like things about the things around me and the reason why I should throw things away. The stress mounted to the point that I actually passed out! (Laughs). That’s when I shifted my thinking to valuing not what I let go, but what I want to keep in my life.
AD: There is a gentleness to your approach that is so different when compared to other shows that attempt to help people organize their lives. Take something like Hell’s Kitchen, in which the host is very aggressive with his subjects. You are the polar opposite of that.
Kondo: I think it came very naturally to me. I myself like to take good care of the things around me. Cherishing each and every object that I have is the fast track to tidying and is part of my daily practice as well.
AD: What do you say to people who argue that not everything you own can spark joy?
Kondo: I think that’s completely natural for people to think that way. This idea of sparking joy is hard to grasp in the beginning, but I feel that even with seemingly boring items in our lives, it’s all about shifting perspective and seeing that item for what it contributes to your overall happiness. A wrench or a hammer may not seem like it sparks joy, but it allows us to build furniture, which adds to our life. It’s all about thinking of it that way.
AD: Is tidying something you felt drawn to at an early age?
Kondo: When I started as a little girl, I really looked up to my mother who was a full-time housewife, and her ability to be good at cooking and cleaning and all of the housework. I was a girl who looked up to that. That’s how it started.
AD: When I was watching the show, I was thinking that the sentimental items might be the most difficult for people to part with or reorganize. Do you find that to be the case?
Kondo: It is exactly as you say. A lot of people have trouble letting go of sentimental items and find it very difficult. What I try to remind everybody is the KonMari method is done in a specific order for tidying. Beginning with clothes, working through books and papers, miscellaneous items, and then finally the sentimental items. So, by the time you get to the sentimental items, you’ve ideally honed your sensitivity to your joy so much that you now know what sparks it for you. Then you should be able to keep those items with confidence and pride.
AD: You get them practicing the method before they get to the really hard stuff. That’s almost sneaky!
Kondo: I think so! (Laughs).
AD: What does is mean to you to walk into someone’s home one day, and then leave a few days later, and see the that you have changed their lives through tidying and organization?
Kondo: It’s not so much that I am making a change. I am a witness to the changes in my client’s life. I find myself so taken aback and wowed by the power of tidying every time it happens.
AD: What was the most challenging episode for you in terms of getting your clients on board with your method?
Kondo: I believe it was the second episode. It began as a bit of difficult situation because I could tell that the husband was not fully on board with the tidying process. He seemed like he was going along with it because his wife wanted to. That was pretty difficult. But once they got together they were able to see that through tidying they rediscovered what it is that they want to value in their lives. Then they started to tidy with intention. I was very moved by the change in him.
AD: Do you ever find it challenging to make your method work in your own home?
Kondo: I’ve always has designated spots for everything in my home and I try to continue that even now, but after I become a mother and now I have very small children sometimes I’m just too exhausted. If my children have made a mess and I’m running out the door, I leave it alone. I try not to look at it and put it aside temporarily. (Laughs).
AD: So, you are human!
Kondo: Yes! (Laughs).