A professional organizing consultant and best-selling author, Marie Kondo has always abided by a specific vision of the world, and how life might best be lived. Becoming a household name and global influencer with the publication of her 2011 book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up—which sold more than 8 million copies, and topped the New York Times bestseller list for 69 weeks—Kondo recently took her message to television, with Netflix reality series Tidying Up.
Partnering with Kondo on the Emmy-contending series were executive producers Gail Berman and Hend Baghdady, who believed wholeheartedly in the premise of Tidying Up—that by cleaning, organizing and properly maintaining our personal spaces, lives and relationships can be changed for the better.
“What I’d love for everybody to take away from this show is to learn to take care, and really cherish what’s most important to you in your life. Oftentimes, we spend so much energy and time on things that we don’t truly care about, or don’t really cherish, so that’s something that I definitely hope everybody takes away,” Kondo says. “And if you did see the show, I’d love it if you implement it into your own life, as well.”
For the host of Tidying Up, the work of tidying (and sparking joy) is never really done. A global thinker, the Japanese native has been cleaning house, all while working towards a much larger goal—that of organizing the world, itself. Below, she explains what that means, while the show’s executive producers discuss the challenges of putting Tidying Up together.
Marie, what was exciting about the notion of hosting a television series, when the idea was first broached?
Marie Kondo: One of the great things about doing this TV show that I didn’t expect, and which I couldn’t get with my books, is that you can visually see the entire process [of tidying], and it makes things much clearer in that sense. Not only that, but you are able to visually witness how all these people’s lives change; you can see in their expression. So, it’s a very visceral experience for the viewers.
How did Tidying Up land at Netflix? Why was the streaming service an ideal platform?
Hend Baghdady: When we were out trying to set the show up, it required an executive who looks beyond what is generally on the air and goes a little bit deeper, and we found that in Bela Bajaria.
Gail Berman: Bela got it from the get-go. She understood what it could be, which was really remarkable, because, let me tell you, a lot of people did not. She really understood that this could have a meaningful effect on people’s lives, and be more than a makeover show—and more than a personal transformation show, even. She just felt it could go much deeper, and I have to say that she really stepped out in a way that was extremely amazing, from an executive point of view.
Kondo: One of the things that really made me interested in doing the show was the production staff at Netflix. I knew that they deeply understood my method, and they were very much interested in spreading the message. When they gave a presentation to me, they made me know that spreading the message of this tidying—my particular way of tidying—was beneficial to the world, and I knew that these were the group of people that I could trust my message to. And I, myself, was very much interested in furthering my message to the world, so it was really good timing.
What did you discuss amongst yourselves early on, in terms of the approach you would take with the show?
Kondo: In our initial discussion, we considered various different formats for the show. There were times where we even considered a structured show, and wondered whether that would be better.
Berman: We thought this might work well as a half-hour scripted show, and then we were approached by TriStar for a possible film. While we were considering all of these things, Hend was putting together an idea for this as an unscripted show, and we decided that it might make a really great unscripted format—but an untraditional one, because the lead host did not speak English. So, it would require a translator; we felt that was imperative to create the authenticity of what Marie was trying to do.
The idea was relatable people who have relatable circumstances that were somewhat overwhelmed in their lives, for a variety of reasons, and Marie could come in and not only tidy up the house, and their method of tidying up the house, but also assist in their life change as well.
Baghdady: In general, it was a big challenge to not try and make this a big, loud, salacious show, but to be able to get across the transformation, and how her method truly affects the day-to-day of people’s lives, while still having that home element to it. We were very keen to not make this a hoarders show, where you would go in and see an insane home that would then be transformed.
One of the things that I can say about this series as a whole is that we very deliberately did not produce these moments that you normally would, in a reality show. So, what you were seeing on screen was a very authentic [representation of] the experience of the cast.
You mentioned the fact that on Tidying Up, Marie communicates through a translator. What approach did you take with the editing and general packing of the show, with this in mind?
Baghdady: We did a couple different things. Initially, we made sure, obviously, that we had a Japanese-speaking staff in post-production, which helped a lot. Because sending everything out to be translated and transcribed would have been incredibly cost- and time-prohibitive, given how much footage we actually shot for the families. So, that was one way we were able to navigate it, just from a procedural place, being able to edit seamlessly.
We also decided that Marie Iida, who’s the translator, would help, and we did it in three different ways. There are points where you hear and see Marie only, and it’s subtitled. There’s times when Marie is speaking, but we actually just put up bullet points that indicate the message, when she’s giving tips. We wanted to really simplify, and rather than have the colorful, complete sentences she was speaking with, we would just have these shorter takeaways for people that were very digestible. Then, the third option was when we would bring in Marie Iida’s voice over Marie speaking, and what we found is that actually, seeing Marie Kondo speak resonates with people, even if they can’t understand her.
That was a big worry, whether or not people would want to read all the text. But ultimately, they really enjoyed hearing her speak because she’s so energetic and lovable, and excited on camera.
Berman: And also, it is authentic. People responded to the fact that she has passion for what she’s doing, and what she’s talking about, and I think that was important to show, even though she might be [expressing] it in a different language.
Baghdady: We wanted to lean into the fact that Marie doesn’t speak English because it gave the show an authentic tone. Part of the charm of the show is the simplicity of her message and that it transcended the language barrier.
Marie, could you describe the experience of coming into the homes of your Tidying Up cast, gaining such intimate access to strangers’ lives?
Kondo: I’ve worked as a professional organizing consultant for a very long time in Japan, so I’ve had quite a lot of experience of going into strangers’ homes and looking through their belongings. I always had to foster new relationships from day one, when I met new clients, so the show is really just an extension of what I’d been doing to that point. But of course, it was a new experience for me to work with an interpreter, and to attempt to communicate on the show. In that sense, I was a little nervous. But I always told myself, I’m just going to do what naturally comes to me—what I’ve been doing my whole life.
Were specific stories or moments from Season 1 particularly moving to you?
Kondo: Every moment was really precious to me, so it would be very difficult to choose a number one. But Margie, when she began tidying, seeing her organize and sort through her memories of her late husband, and being able to be there with her and walk through her transition in her life, was incredibly meaningful to me.
Berman: I had a very emotional attachment to her. I found her story very relatable and compelling, and I think Marie really helped move Margie’s life forward.
Since its debut on New Year’s Day, Tidying Up has seemed to affect the world on a large scale. News reports have noted a significant uptick at donation centers in the U.S., while countless fans have turned to Instagram to share their own journeys of transformation. What has this meant to you all?
Kondo: I think I’m just astonished by the power that tidying has. I, myself, have always been certain of the power that tidying has, but I think my belief in it is always strengthened by seeing the reaction, and the action, of people that watch the show. And really, their reaction showed me that this is something that the world needs and wants. There is an inherit desire to live a more simplified life. So, I think it’s become a great opportunity for everyone to discover that about themselves.
Berman: It was wonderful. It really resonated in a way that I’ve rarely seen a show resonate with people. We were so pleased with the overwhelming response from viewers and from Netflix, and their support was really fantastic. We understood, after having worked with Marie, how potent she is as a change agent.
Marie, can we expect another book in the near future? What’s the status on a second season for Tidying Up?
Kondo: In regard to Season 2, we’re still very much in the discussion phase, so I’m excited to find out what happens there. But at the end of the year, I have plans to publish a kids’ book where you can actually read with your children, so they can learn more about tidying.
I’ve also heard that you’re certifying KonMari consultants, with over 300 individuals currently sparking joy in more than 30 countries.
It’s true. I do help a lot of people become professionally certified as tidying consultants, and there are consultants of mine all over the world, working with people on their cleaning journey, so that’s something that I hope to expand in the future, as well.
I understand that beyond tidying up individual homes, you have a bigger vision in mind of organizing the world. What does this mean to you?
Kondo: What that means to me is, I just wish for as many people as possible in the world to finish tidying—and not only that, but to learn to cherish their belongings and themselves, and lead fulfilling lives. This might sound like a very small change in each individual person’s life, but when you accumulate it all together, I believe it becomes a very large impact and change to the world. To really learn to cherish your belongings, it makes us cherish not only ourselves, but others, and I think that can only be beneficial to the world at large.
What is sparking joy in the world for you right now?
Kondo: Right now, I would have to say what sparks the most joy for me are my children. I have a two- and a three-year-old, and it’s great because the two of them are starting to communicate with each other. It’s so much fun to see them creating their own world, being in their own world. I love tidying with them, and it’s almost as if I’m fostering a new generation.