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Critics Review
Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo review: A pandemic purge of objects and emotions

Marie Kondo, the Japanese organising consultant who took the world by storm with Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, returns with her three-episode mini-series Sparking Joy.

Pratishruti Ganguly
Sep 01, 2021
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Early on in Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo, host and creator Marie Kondo clarifies that she rests the importance not just on decluttering spaces but what kind of life her clients would like to lead. The statement is reminiscent of Kondo’s calm, almost-therapy-like aura that buoys the emotionally charged, feel-good reality show about cleaning.

It’s interesting that Sparking Joy has debuted at a time when the pandemic-fuelled captivity has robbed us of the ability to demarcate personal from professional spaces. Our homes have concretised to become our entire world, the internet our segue into the beyond. Kondo’s show aims to not just help people in finding joy through tidying up their homes, but also “every area of your life.”

The three episodes, about 40-minute each, focus on three entrepreneurs — owners of an organic garden centre, a church volunteer and a coffee shop owner. Their spaces are as messy as their relationships. Each episode has a central theme. The first episode titled The Joy of Family dedicates as much time to a young gardener’s gripe with a messy garden as his attempt at reconnecting with his family. The second episode — The Joy of Balance — is evidently about a cafe-owner learning the ropes of balancing her work with her cherished ones. The final episode — The Joy of Letting Go — is about a church volunteer’s journey towards accepting change as the only constant.

Marie Kondo with her clients

Unlike the deluge of slickly packaged reality shows on OTT platforms, there is nothing remotely voyeuristic about Kondo’s reality show. She glides into her clients’ work-stations with her relentless charm and positivity, doling out as much advice about storing items vertically so that they’re easy to spot, as about the Japanese traditions of identifying the inherent spirit in all objects. But it has generous doses of comfort tears and catharsis. Moreover, the show also shares glimpses into Kondo’s life beyond her work hours, her home where she divides household chores with her daughters.

The show opens with Kondo holding a tuning fork and a crystal even as the camera starts rolling. She informs that while she does not greet the space outside her home, but with many people stepping in, it might startle the house. Kondo’s anthropomorphising her space does not feel like a rip-off from Dhoom 2, where Bipasha Basu’s character becomes an object of ridicule for greeting her shack every day. Instead, it cements her spiritual take on decluttering, her ideas about objects being an extension of our person.

There is no razzmatazz about Sparking Joy. The pace is staid, the tone, contemplative. Those familiar with the Tidying Up series would liken the new show to be more of a sequel than an independent reality web series. It unfolds slowly, almost like a self-help guide about better living. Kondo provides her clients with objects, storage containers, dividers and bins to categorise what they own. However, unlike Tidying Up, Sparking Joy does not discourage treasuring— even if they are dead flowers. This time around, she does not prevent clients from scurrying down the rabbit hole of nostalgia but motivates you to arrange things in a manner that they are well-kept for, so that the old and decrepit don’t get buried under piles of newer, shinier objects. She says that physical items hold within them a segment of our past experiences, and going through what they own makes one tap into the archive of emotions that we may have forgotten we felt at a time.

Verdict: Sparking Joy is the kind of meditative exercise that demands patience out of its viewers. It sucks you in if you let it, and makes for the best kind of comfort watch, the kind that makes you both contemplative and shakes you up into action. If you were looking for clarity — literally and figuratively — Sparking Joy will provide just that.

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