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Marie Kondo's Netflix Show Aims To Help People Declutter


Four years ago, a Japanese organizing consultant published a book that was called "The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up."


MARIE KONDO: Hello. I'm Marie Kondo.

GREENE: Now Marie Kondo has a reality show on Netflix. She has people go through all of their possessions and throw out anything that doesn't spark joy.


KONDO: First is clothing.


KONDO: I can't reach. Next is books.

GREENE: To help us understand how this famous de-clutterer became such a sensation, I spoke to Linda Holmes. She's host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. Hi, Linda.


GREENE: So you like this show?

HOLMES: I do like it. It's a lot of fun.

GREENE: It is, right? And you learn things. Like, I learned exactly how to fold a fitted sheet which is something I've been struggling with since - I don't know - like, I was 12.

HOLMES: Yeah, I think if that was all that people took away from this, they'd feel like it was worthwhile.

GREENE: The idea of a reality show that is about making over your home or making over your life, that's not new. So where does this fit in the constellation of all those shows?

HOLMES: Well, there haven't just been lots of home makeover shows. There have even been other cleaning and organizing shows. But I think this one is different because it brings together that genre of television but also what you might call self-care culture, which is mostly aimed at women. And it's kind of a encouragement to be at peace and take care of yourself. And her methods of cleaning also incorporate a lot of stuff about feeling good and happy, rather than just make your office more functional.

GREENE: I want to play a clip from one conversation that happened in an episode. This was between Marie Kondo and a couple, Rachel and Kevin Friend.


KONDO: (Through interpreter) So both of you work.

RACHEL FRIEND: Well, he mostly works. I teach intercultural communication a few days a week. But I'm mostly home with the kids. So I was going to say, ever since I had kids was when I started to get really, like, anxious about the house being not organized.

KEVIN FRIEND: I'm 50-60 hours a week, yeah. And then sometimes on the weekends...

GREENE: And, Linda, the episode I watched, I got, almost, a little emotional because it was really digging into some sensitive questions about families. And you mentioned the focus on women, that there seems to be a gender divide that really is exposed here.

HOLMES: Yeah, I think that most of the episodes that feature heterosexual couples do illustrate a kind of a responsibility that the woman often feels for household management. And I think that one of the things Marie Kondo wants to do is remove some of that burden, less by redistributing work and partly just by lessening the overall amount of work.

GREENE: Now, there has been some backlash against her on social media and then backlash to the backlash, suggesting...

HOLMES: Yeah. Sure.

GREENE: ...That there's some racism involved in the backlash. What exactly are you making of all that? What's going on?

HOLMES: Well, there's been some backlash that has to do with things like - how dare you suggest I throw away my books? There are people for whom, you know, you might as well suggest that they throw away their pets. It's very personal and intense for them.


HOLMES: I don't think all of that is necessarily racist. But I think there is an element of dismissiveness toward her that is probably more likely in any show that involves women of color, than it does other hosts of shows.

I do think there's a little bit of kind of exoticizing her that can be unfortunate. And sometimes I think you miss the nuance of what she's saying because the English translation doesn't always capture all the nuances of the Japanese language that she originally is working in.

GREENE: What's the most important thing you've learned from her?

HOLMES: I think the most important thing I've learned from her is that she wants you to value the things that you own and own only the things that are really valuable to you. Have less stuff. Buy less stuff.

It's not necessarily a matter of throwing all your stuff away over and over and over again. It's just a matter of living with less things.

GREENE: Good lesson to live by. Linda Holmes from NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. Linda, thanks.

HOLMES: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linda Holmes
Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.