Makeovers have involved judgement as far back as Cinderella. Whether it be high and moral: she deserved a ball-gown instead of soiled rags, an appearance to match her beautiful nature. Or low and superficial: would I Snog Marry or Avoid? (as in BBC Three’s ‘makeunder’ show that ran from 2008 to 2013). Competitive: as in Changing Rooms (1996 - 2004), wherein couples swapped homes and decorated a room in the other’s house, while we decided which was more tasteful. Or cautionary: she really shouldn't have visited such a cowboy surgeon for that third nose job.
Compared to these earlier shows, then, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo is anything but extreme. Like its diminutive title suggests, the show is quiet and unassuming. A typical episode is exactly that: ordinary. Paradoxically, that's what makes it sort of radical. This Atmosphere of Averageness sees the ‘amateur’ participants receiving most of the screen time, and ‘expert’ Kondo modestly stepping aside; unthreatening. The participants have not undergone any exceptionally hard hardship, the stakes are low, and the drama is every-day: a young couple want to impress their parents when they visit; a woman must remove her late husband’s jackets from the cupboard; a couple considering a third child ought to make a bit more space. There are no Herculean efforts to move mountains of domestic debris. There is no competition, not even ‘against the clock’ – some tidies are staged over months. The show’s by-line might as well read, Regular people do a normal amount of cleaning up.