The Limited Joy of Tidying Up

They were a tired, run-down couple. They were frustrated—with each other and with the house. Closets were overflowing, tupperware was spilling out of drawers, and they had two small children adding their own daily messes. Their life needed an intervention, so a Japanese woman was called in to help. Marie Kondo is her name, and in her new Netflix original series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, she enters the homes of families like this to bring peace, stability, and her trademark staple: joy.

First, the problem is identified. The young married couple starts the episode talking about their personal issues with one another and their home life in general. The stay-at-home wife can’t stay on top of all the laundry and has to hire help. Her working husband expresses frustration with this. They both talk about feeling tension and anxiety and the effects on their relationship.

Kondo’s method, known as #KonMarie and first presented in her 2014 book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is to begin with a long moment of silence and then a good house purging. Her decluttering method is based on categories, so the couple begins with dumping all their clothes out in one large pile and sorting. The wife picks up an old t-shirt she doesn’t even remember owning, then she literally thanks it and puts it in the discard pile. When she picks up the next item a big smile brims on her face. This article of clothing brings her joy, so she puts it in the pile of clothes she’ll keep. This process repeats itself with the next couple tiers of categories that Kondo has devised.

Throughout the process of dumping, sorting, and organizing, the cameras are always attuned to sentimentality, as when a wedding video is found. Both spouses can be seen talking to the cameras about any good changes happening, not just with the house, but within themselves or in their marriage. The end result? A tidy home and tidy hearts. Marie Kondo wants to help people find joy in their relationships and in their homes. She helps people get rid of material possessions, but also spiritual baggage. At the end of the episode Kondo says, “Couples can deepen their ties through tidying.”

Time for a confession: I love decluttering and organizing. Like Kondo, tidying up gives me joy. I feel alive when I can throw together bags for donations or toss something in the trash. I love seeing a well-organized and clean room, cabinet, or drawer. For me, everything has a place to go, and if it doesn’t, I’ll find one. My problem is the opposite of many on the show. I have trouble being at peace with “stuff.” I’ve had to learn to overlook, at times, the clutter my husband and children leave behind. I’ve had to learn patience and forbearance with my family. Having children means more things in the house than I would personally like to have. Being a homeschooling mom also doubles this “stuff problem.”

But Marie Kondo points out that not all stuff is a problem. She never advocates to get rid of all our sentimental items. She even points out how a lot of material things can carry deep meaning for our lives and our relationships. Kondo has helped confirm to me that material possessions are not inherently evil, but they can be a distraction from more important things. Kondo is trying to solve a spiritual problem: excess. The vice of materialism and consumerism has many of us in its grip.

This should resonate with Christians, as the Bible calls us to be wary of consumerism. We are told to “store up … treasures in heaven,” not on earth. We are also reminded that this world is not our home. God does not want us to find our identity in material possessions, like the rich young rulerwho couldn’t leave behind his earthly wealth to follow Christ. What’s more, Kondo’s message of valuing people and relationships is another reminder to love our neighborTidying Up helps us see that we are too easily fixated on the material things of this world. The show leads us to a deeper, unseen realm of spirituality. We are more than material. We have a soul as well as a body.

Kondo’s spirituality seems to be rooted in her idea of joy. Here, however, her thinking falls short of the Bible’s standard.

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Theories of Life, Death, and Afterlife in The Discovery

Where do we go when we die?” has been a question haunting humanity since our earliest days. This unknown was explored in ancient myths, folklore, and drawings on walls. Life and death was even dictated by specific beliefs about the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians, for example, preserved their bodies and organs when they died. They buried themselves with material objects, pets, and loved ones, in faith it would all come along with them when they passed through death. Some religions believe in reincarnation: after death, people are reborn into another state (human or not), and the quality of their previous life determines the quality of their next one.

What most religions have in common is the belief that this life determines the next; the afterlife is the result of choices made in this life. But not so in the Netflix original film The Discovery. The idea of afterlife presented here is a second chance at this life. It’s a way to fix your deepest regrets and undo all the wrong and the tragedy you’ve endured. The Discovery begins with Thomas, a leading scientist who has proven the existence of an afterlife. He can’t say what it is exactly, but the proof gives a bent sort of hope to the world. It is fodder enough for millions of suicides by those who are looking for a way of escape from this life. No longer is death viewed as meaningless—now it’s life that has some explaining to do. Why bother to face the problems of this world when there is another one? As one videoman says to Thomas before he shoots himself in the head, “Thank you, Doctor, for my fresh start.”

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