There’s a general stigma when it comes to the world of reality TV shows. We’re not talking about polished documentaries or slick talk shows, mind you. We mean the kind of voyeuristic peep shows that display people’s dysfunctions in the most exaggerated of light. The kind of shows that make us feel like we’re better than the ignorant jerks across the screen. Think Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares”, “The Biggest Loser” or the myriad of other bizzare programmes on the TLC channel. Rare is it to find a self-improvement reality TV show that genuinely leaves a lasting impact beyond the empheral high of enjoying other people’s misery. So you can imagine our surprise when we first saw Netflix’s “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”.
Where are the heavily editted highlight reels of people at their very worst? Where is the drama and tension that’s normally baked into the three-act struture of any self-improvement TV show? Most importantly, where is the loud, charismatic expert to direct our ire towards the perpetrators? All there is some soft-spoken Japanese lady teaching people to decluter their lives. And yet, it was one of the most life-changing shows we had ever watched. It was fascinating to see how the simple act of cleaning out one’s house could improve mental health and heal relationships. Needless to say, we’re fans of Marie Kondo.
For those expecting this to be a second season to “Tidying Up” though, unfortunately this isn’t it. This is more of a spin-off series than it is a follow up to Kondo’s usual episodic format. “Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo” functions less like a TV show than it does like an anecdotal self-help book come to life. The question is this: does “Sparking Joy” have anything meaningful to add on top of its sister series? Well, let’s find out!
Part of the fun of “Tidying Up” was the novelty of seeing Americans reacting to Kondo’s zen-like joy and calm as she teaches them pearl wisdom. Like it or not, it leaned heavily onto that aspect to provide entertainment. “Sparking Joy”, however, does not. Also, the depiction of the issues and dysfunctions here are a lot less dire. Where it gets interesting is when we see Marie take on a much larger role in the series. There are longer segments of her expounding the Japanese values of decluttering. It’s deeply fascinating to hear her speak on the spiritual dimensions of keeping a clean space. She draws from the cultural traditions of how a kami (spirit) exists in every object.
The series is split up into three roughly 40-minute episodes. Each episode following a diffirent family seeking aid in trying to declutter their homes and workspaces. From there, Kondo picks up where she left off with the usual process of offering advice and helping them set up a system. What’s interesting is when she starts to move her expertise into the realm of finances and relationship advice. The decluttering is a gateway into her teaching people how to order their lives.
The episodes each wrestle with three themes: family, balance and letting go. There’s a clear thematic logic behind it. The first episode “The Joy of Family” sees a young gardener Logan learning to connect better with his family. The second episode “The Joy of Balance” sees cafe-owner and mother Joanna learning to find time to cherish her loved ones. Then finally, “The Joy of Letting Go” sees her an older woman learning to accept the change that time brings. A story and an episode for each season of your life.
There’s a clear poetry and beauty to the episode structure. That being said, we did find ourselves bored during certain sequences following the families. This is most likely due to the condition of our ADHD brains being so thoroughly shaped by our need for exciting conflict. Sorry, TikTok and Worldstarhiphop have broken us. To some, they’ll relish the challenge as they slowly unlearn their lesser desires for something more rewarding and contemplative. Others may be inclined to switch over to something more interesting. It gets easier over time, trust us. Pacing isn’t the show’s only foible though.
Fans of “Tidying Up” will no doubt recognize most of the tips Kondo proposes here in “Sparking Joy”. Especially the ones involving space and time management. Which is a further disadvantage when you consider the limited runtime of the overall series. Why not simply produce another season of “Tidying Up”? It certainly doesn’t help that the people Kondo is helping seem to be relatively functional and somewhat healthy. Admittedly, saying it out loud, we realize how awful we sound right now.
If you can’t get enough Kondo’s sanguine personality then you’ll definitely get a kick out of “Sparking Joy”. Especially, when we get an exclusive look into the lives of her husband and children. They’re honestly some of the most heartwarming moments of the entire series. We would have been satisfied if the series only gave us a deep dive into the lives and times of Kondo and her family. A glimpse into how the master manages the day-to-day challenges of life.
Watching Netflix’s “Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo” is like reading a really good book. It’s a task that requires stillness and, to some measure, discipline. There will be some moments you’ll wish it gets straight to the point. For those who are willing to stick it out, you just may find the secrets to living a life of healthier relationships, better work-life balance and inner peace. If you’ve never seen “Tidying Up”, then this series is the perfect TLDR version of the core principles she teaches. There’s still enough to warrant those acquainted with her to give it a watch as well.
So what do you think of “Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo”? Did it well…spark joy in you? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
"Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo"
Watching Netflix's "Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo" is like reading a really good book. It's a task that requires stillness and, to some measure, discipline. There will be some moments you'll wish it gets straight to the point. For those who are willing to stick it out, you may just find the secrets to living a life of healthier relationships, better work-life balance and inner peace.
Netflix's "Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo"