Marie Kondo wants us to live surrounded by items that spark joy. Instant Hotel and Stay Here want us to turn our living spaces into personality-free, Instagram-ready tableaux that command maximum rates on Airbnb. And in The New Republic, Kyle Chayka wants us to think about what these makeover shows really say about life in a late capitalist gigtopia.
Unlike, say, HGTV’s Fixer Upper in which we see reinvented structures, there isn’t much of a satisfying reveal at the climax of these episodes. Clothes have been folded, kitchen appliances aligned, and books jettisoned, causing consternation among literary watchers. (Kondo gives a lesson relevant to the fake news era: “Books are the reflection of our thoughts and values, so by tidying books it will show you what kind of information is important to you at this moment.”) The subjects are generally enthused at their new, joy-sparked lives, but it is a minimalist process of refinement rather than renovation. Progress is abstract, which is one reason the episodes could have been half as long.
The commandment to think carefully about what you own isn’t so radical, after all. “Sparking joy” still relies on material goods to form the basis of an identity: Each object must feel like it is an ineffable part of you, as if your old T-shirts emitted a Benjaminian aura. It’s not about taking up meditation or therapy; Kondo is advocating for something as close to perfect consumption as possible. The idea that things don’t matter is anathema to KonMari.