Review: Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo

Over the last few days, I watched the entire season of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix. After years of watching home organizing shows (in three different countries in two different languages), Tidying Up ranks very high on my preference list. There are a few issues I have with the KonMari method though. Here is my perspective about the show.

Kondo respects the families and their home. At the beginning of each episode, she “greets the house” by kneeling on the floor for a few minutes. Personally, I find it a bit daft but this gives her clients time to focus on their vision of what they want their new organized life to be. This centres them and prepares them for the upcoming tasks.

During the show, the clients do everything themselves. There does not appear to be a team or crew of organizers to help. The families sort through their own stuff. They decide what to keep (things that “spark joy”) what and what goes (things that don’t “spark joy”). We see them taking their own stuff to donation centres too.

One of my favourite things about Tidying Up is that there is no “stuff shaming.” Kondo does not make the family members cry because they have too much stuff or they are not treating their stuff well-enough. She just keeps smiling and reminds them of their end goal. When the clients are unsure about keeping an item, Kondo does not judge. She tells them to keep it because they can always look at it later and change their mind. All of the professional organizers I know work this way with their clients.

Tidying Up also has realistic timelines. In one episode, the final reveal was on Day 42 — six weeks after Kondo’s first visit. This allows families to carefully evaluate their decisions about which items truly “spark joy.” This is much more representative of the work that professional organizers do.

I admit that I was pleasantly surprised when, in one episode, Kondo brought in an empty shoebox — a plain old shoebox — and told children to use it to organize their clothes. Because, she said, that when they were ready to buy a dresser, they would know how much space they needed. No shopping for containers and bins. No expensive furniture brought in by the show’s sponsors. Just respect for the clients, their needs, and their budget.

The big reveal at the end of each show is the closest to reality TV that I’ve seen. There were mismatched hangers in closets. Shoeboxes on shelves holding (nicely) folded clothes. No renovations, no painting, no staging — just families proud of the work they accomplished.

Where Kondo sparks joy: Clothes

tshirts folded Konmari methodKondo’s method for folding clothes is amazing. I’ve used her method with my own clothes. Everything looks beautiful. The clothes take up much less space. I think it is a bit corny to “communicate my affection” to my clothes by running my hands over each item. However, it removes all the wrinkles and helps me notice if there are stains or damage to the clothing.

Where Kondo sparks controversy: Books

Unclutterer’s Twitter timeline was abuzz with bibliophiles stressed out that Kondo was telling everyone to get rid of any books that did not “spark joy.” She may have said that. She also said, “Books are the reflection of our thoughts and values.” She wants people to ask, “Will having these books be beneficial to your life going forward?”

In other words, Kondo thinks people should keep books that they have enjoyed and still want to enjoy, and they should keep books that they have found useful and will likely still find useful in the future.

Where Kondo fizzles out: Paper

I find Kondo’s method of sorting paper too simplistic. She says there are three categories:

  • Pending — Documents to act on such as bills and correspondence.
  • Important — Documents to keep permanently such as contracts and insurance forms.
  • Miscellaneous — Documents that you refer to often such as recipes from a magazine.

In the short-term this is a quick way to separate what you need to deal with now, and what can be stored for later. In the long-term, this is a formula for cluttered, over-stuffed filing cabinets.

There are many important documents that you need to keep for an extended period of time but do not need to keep permanently. People need to develop a routine for dealing with their papers on a regular basis. See the Unclutterer series on Records and Information Management to get not only your paperwork, but your electronic documents sorted, uncluttered, and organized once and for all.

 

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo does not reveal any new or unique organizing techniques. However, it is an enjoyable show to watch. Kondo’s cheerful attitude and positive energy spreads to the families she helps.

We would love our readers to share their thoughts about the show. Chime in with a comment and let us know what you think.

Get the most out of Netflix streaming by being organized

Like many of you, I love Netflix. For just a few bucks a month, I can watch a slew of TV shows and movies on demand, across devices. Identifying what I want to watch is easy. So easy that my “queue” of videos gets out of control quickly. Perhaps this sounds familiar? Fortunately, there are things you can do to organize and take control of your Netflix account.

My kids watch shows on Netflix as do I. That’s fine until Netflix starts suggesting I watch Pokemon and Uncle Grandpa. No thanks, Netflix. The solution to keeping what you watch separate from what others in your house watch is to create a specific profile for each person. Thankfully, profiles are pretty easy to create.

In the upper right-hand corner of your screen, you’ll see a link for “manage profiles.” When you click it, a new window will appear with the option to “Add Profile.” Give everyone in your house an icon and a name and you’re good. The new profile will join your list and you can even edit restrictions for kids, which I recommend doing.

If you don’t have kids, or if you’re the only one watching Netflix, you can still make use of profiles. You can make up to five per account, so set them up for genres you like. Comedies, horror, documentaries, etc. That way, you’ll get great genre-specific recommendations … which leads me to my next point.

Rate what you watch. Netflix’s algorithm is pretty good at learning what you like — and dislike — and making recommendations based on those preferences. The best way to improve those results is to rate everything you watch accurately. You can do this in the Netflix viewing app or through their website, if you wish to bulk rate things you have watched in the past.

Next, I recommend using a third-party website to find what you want to watch. Sure, you can scroll through Netflix’s suggestions, but it’s faster to make use of a website that’s designed to help you find something decent. For example, What Is On Netflix lets you browse titles that are top rated by Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, and more. Instawatcher is another good choice, as it lists what’s popular as well as each title’s rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

If you plan on watching on your computer, learn some keyboard shortcuts. They can save a lot of time:

Enter/Spacebar: Toggle pause/play
Left Arrow: Rewind
Right Arrow: Fast Forward
Up Arrow: Volume Up
Down Arrow: Volume Down
M: Mute

Streaming video services can be quite convenient. I enjoy Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Streaming, and others. (So does Erin, she doesn’t even have a cable television subscription any longer.) With a little effort and organizing, the experience gets even better.

Use Twitter to keep track of new streaming movies from Netflix

Ever since we picked up a Blu-ray player that supports streaming high-definition movies from Netflix to our television, my wife and I have been watching a lot of films we missed in the theater since our baby arrived in August. Paying $8.99 a month for a 1 DVD plan that includes unlimited streaming is far less expensive than ordering on-demand movies from a cable provider, and we like not having to deal with physical media.

Unfortunately, the Netflix website makes it unnecessarily difficult to find out what new movies are available for streaming. To keep track of which films are being released for instant viewing, I follow two Twitter accounts that provide coverage of changes to the selections offered by Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” service:

If something catches my eye, I immediately add it to my queue and then it shows up right in the Netflix menu of my Blu-ray player.

Netflix streaming on your Nintendo Wii

Over the last year there’s been a slow but steady increase in the amount of streaming and downloadable content available online from Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Unbox, the iTunes Music Store, and countless other content providers. Better availability of streaming content means I’m less likely to clutter up my living-space with physical media that I have to store. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I bought a DVD.

Unfortunately, getting streaming content from the Internet to your television can still be challenging. We’ve written before about the Roku HD-XR, a set-top device which enables you stream both movies and television programs directly from Netflix to your television. We think it’s a great product, but we don’t particularly like the idea of another dedicated device in our entertainment center with limited functionality.

So you can imagine how pleased I was last Wednesday when I heard the official announcement that, beginning later this spring, the Nintendo Wii will support on-demand streaming of content from Netflix. If you have a Netflix account that includes on-demand streaming you can now sign up online to receive a free disc that, when inserted, will allow you to watch streaming content on your Wii.

The Playstation 3 and XBOX 360 have both supported Netflix streaming for quite some time. It’s nice to see Nintendo doing the same.

Soundbar includes Blu-ray, Netflix and Pandora

samsung-htbd8200I’ve written a couple of posts about soundbars in the past, but they just keep improving by leaps and bounds. (Not unlike everything else in the consumer electronics industry.) The Samsung HT-BD8200 features a Blu-ray player and the ability to stream from Netflix and Pandora. Other features include an iPod dock, the ability to stream audio from A2DP-compatible Bluetooth audio devices, and a wireless subwoofer.

With all of the features that are included in this speaker it is a decent option for those of us who want to keep our cable clutter under control without sacrificing our sound or entertainment options. The speaker was shown at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show and is probably going to be released in the first half of 2009. 

(via CNET)

Streaming Netflix

I’ve been a Netflix junkie for the past three years. I really enjoy the service and I only have a couple problems with it: Damaged discs and the dreaded “Very Long Wait” for some highly anticipated new releases. I was a bit intrigued by the Roku Netflix Player when it was released this past spring, but I’ve been holding off until their selection of available titles increases. Currently, they offer roughly 12,000 titles, a fraction of what is available in disc form. Everything I have read about the Roku is fairly positive. It is easy to set up, the user interface is straight forward, but the picture quality is a bit less than the DVD itself. I’m also awaiting the inevitable upgrade to streaming HD content. Surely, bandwidth is the main obstacle to that becoming a reality. Roku says that the player is HD ready and will stream HD movies and TV shows when Netflix is able to send the content. While the Roku box costs $99.99, the streaming of Netflix does not cost you anything extra if you already have an unlimited monthly membership (starting at $8.95 per month).

While I’m waiting for the perfect Netflix player to come along, Engadget is reporting that LG has a Blu-Ray player that will stream Netflix content. I have yet to upgrade to Blu-Ray, but this is definitely the unit I would go with when/if I go that route. The Blu-Ray player is still limited with the content that Netflix is offering, but it also plays Blu-Ray and standard DVDs. This offers a bit more versatility to the player where the Roku just streams Netflix.

I’m a big fan of being able to leave the physical media in the past and these developments, while not perfect, are approaching something I would be interested in purchasing. With options from Apple TV and Amazon’s Unbox, the inevitable end to the physical disc will be here before you know it.

Online toy rental in the spirit of Netflix

Reader Lorena sent us a link to a wonderful article about Baby Plays, an internet-based toy rental company for U.S. residents. From the article:

“Baby Plays … allows parents to receive four or six toys in the mail every month, assembled and ready for playtime. Call it Netflix for the toddler set.”

There is a flat fee based on the number of rentals ($29, $32, and $36 packages), and all of the toys are guaranteed to be lead-free. According to the article, “the toys are sanitized with Clorox wipes and loaded with fresh batteries before being shrink wrapped and boxed for shipment.” Additionally, all toys come with a postage-paid box for returning the toy when your child tires of playing with it.

Toy rental sounds like a terrific idea for keeping play room clutter under control, especially if you don’t have a toy lending library like the one discussed in today’s earlier post. This service also seems like a perfect gift a grandparent could give a grandchild.

Netflix to become more uncluttered?

NetflixHere at Unclutterer, we love innovation that leads to a less cluttered living space. We have mentioned Netflix in the past as a way to curb DVD clutter at home. Much to our delight, it appears that Netflix is taking their business model in a new and exciting direction with movie downloads straight to your tv. From The New York Times:

Netflix, the DVD-by-mail company with more than seven million customers, has a new strategy that may one day make those red envelopes obsolete.

The company wants to strike deals with electronics companies that will let it send movies straight to TV screens over the Internet. Its first partnership, announced Wednesday night, is with the South Korean manufacturer LG Electronics to stream movies and other programming to LG’s high-definition televisions.

The partnership will extend a novel feature from Netflix, announced a year ago, that allows paying subscribers to watch any of 6,000 movies and television shows on its Web site free. But that service can be accessed only with a personal computer.

This news comes at a time when the Unites States Postal Service is threatening to increase shipping rates on all soft edged envelopes because they are not sortable using their machines. According to the USPS, it has cost them around $42 million in labor expenses over the last two years. Netflix isn’t too concerned over the increase for various reasons, but the idea of receiving movie rentals over the internet takes the USPS out of the equation altogether.

I have a couple of problems with Netflix at the moment, one of them being that the system isn’t perfect. Sometimes I receive damaged discs that cannot be read by my DVD player. At other times, I have received the wrong disc. These two problems would be eliminated with the new service.

This new and inevitable direction that Netflix is heading will unclutter my mailbox and my entertainment center. I can’t wait for the day when I have a Netflix “channel” on my television with my queue viewable with a press button on my remote. This is just more reason to love Netflix.

Netflix for books

As a dedicated unclutterer, I love Netflix. Why fill your home with DVD boxes when you can have every movie ever made at your disposal just as long as you’re willing to wait a couple days for it? Sure, there are going to be those titles that you absolutely love and will want to own to watch over and over, but most of the time movies are one-time consumables you don’t need to hang on to.

That said, I’m so excited about Book Swim, a new service that promises to do for books what Netflix has done for DVDs. You pay a monthly fee, come up with a list of books, get three in the mail (no postage fees either way), return them when you’re done (no late fees) and get the next one in your queue. How awesome is that?

070904-bookswim.jpg

It sounds like a great way to sample books you might not otherwise pick up. They have plans from 3 books out at a time for $19.99 a month, to 11 books for $35.99. Sure, the library is always another great option, but this is so convenient for busy folks. One feature I dig: If you really love a book you can just keep it and pay them for it. I’m not sure how great their selection is, but I plan to get a subscription and report back with details. Anyone out there already a Book Swim member?

Ten things to do in 10 minutes

I get frustrated when I work for eight hours straight and then finish the day feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything. It is as if I have been a hamster in a wheel, running nowhere. It’s times like these when I seek out small tasks that I can finish quickly to feel some sense of productivity. Often, too, small tasks are all that I can handle because I’m exhausted.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, feel welcome to tackle one (or more) of the following 10 uncluttering tasks you can do in 10 minutes:

  • Organize your sock drawer. Get rid of socks that are hole-ridden, stained, or without mates.
  • Clean out the cupboard under your kitchen sink. I’m not sure why, but in my home this is where all of my “I don’t want to deal with this right now” kitchen items land.
  • Round up all of your pet’s toys. My cats like to swat their toys under dressers and into closets. Once a week, I walk around the house with a yard stick, retrieve all of their toys, and return them to their toy basket.
  • Sort through your magazines. Decide which ones can stay and which ones should go.
  • Clear out your “to be watched” list. Check your favorites list on your Amazon Video, Netflix, and other streaming services accounts. Delete the movies and TV series you’ll never watch.
  • Start a load of laundry. Laundry and I are in a constant battle, and usually Laundry is winning.
  • Sit in silence and do nothing. I often forget to take time out of my day just to sit, collect my thoughts, and relax. Uncluttering my mind is just as important as uncluttering my home.
  • Straighten out the trunk of your car. Right now, there is a stack of wood in the trunk of my car. I remember how it got there six months ago, but I don’t know why it is still in there. It needs to find a different home.
  • Pull all of the extra hangers out of your closets. Hangers are like tribbles. They seem to appear out of thin air. I put mine in a grocery sack, toss the sack into my car, and then drop them off at the dry cleaner’s the next time I’m running errands.
  • Post a Freecycle ad. Find one thing you’ve been meaning to get rid of in your home, and create a Freecycle post for it.

Feel welcome to drop suggestions for 10 minute projects into the comments section–we would love to hear your ideas.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

The Real Cost of Financial Clutter on the Road to a Remarkable Life

This guest post comes from Trent Hamm, the author of The Simple Dollar: How One Man Wiped Out His Debts and Achieved the Life of His Dreams. Be sure to check out his blog, The Simple Dollar after reading this truly inspiring piece.

Every time you spend a dollar, you sacrifice a bit of your future.

Five years ago, I believed the above sentence was foolishness. I was 24 years old, working at a high paying job, and about to get married to a wonderful woman. I had just spent almost ten thousand dollars on a wedding ring and an exorbitant honeymoon in Europe, and I was actively shopping for a new vehicle because, well, my current ride just wasn’t quite good enough.

Roll forward three years. I had $17,000 in credit card debt and literally not enough money to pay my bills. A good chunk of the debt incurred for that honeymoon still sat on the credit cards. My wife, son, and I lived together in a tiny apartment, trying to figure out what we were going to do next.

Everywhere I looked around me in that apartment, I saw stuff I didn’t need. Video game consoles piled high under the television, along with a small mountain of games for the consoles. Over a thousand DVDs. A gigantic television set that dwarfed our living room, looking almost comically out of place. A huge collection of Magic: the Gathering cards. So many books that half of our child’s bedroom consisted of bookshelves. Two nearly-new cars sitting outside.

And yet I felt empty inside. I held my child close, thinking about all of the things I wanted to give to him, but instead I had chosen to spend all of my money on stuff

Every time you spend a dollar, you sacrifice a bit of your future.

Today, not only do I believe deeply in that sentence, it underlines every choice I make in life. I turned that disastrous ship around, realized that all of that stuff was standing in the way of my passions and dreams, and in just two short years, I found enough financial freedom to do what I’ve always wanted to do: quit my nine to five job, stay at home, and focus entirely on my family and on my passion for writing.

The name of this blog, Unclutterer, really underlines the entire idea. Clutter exists in all aspects of our life, not only in the way we arrange items in our office and in our home, but in how we manage our time and manage our money. Clutter is distraction from the big picture, in every way, shape, and form. Clutter can even blind you and choke you if it grows out of control.

Financial clutter is a particularly insidious form of clutter, because it winds through so many aspects of our life. Much of the clutter in our office and home has a financial cost to it, meaning that we actually spent some money to create that clutter. The cluttering of our time is also financial clutter – if we waste our time on things that drain our money or don’t earn as much as we potentially can, we’re draining our financial plans of a great deal of vitality.

Here are six great steps that you can do immediately to reduce the financial clutter in your life – and begin to open the path to a truly remarkable life.

Calculate the true value of your time. Figure up how much you earn in a year. Now, subtract from that the cost of transporting yourself to and from work, the cost of work clothes, the cost of income taxes, and any other costs that your job foists upon you (like entertaining coworkers, for example). Now, figure up how many hours you actually work in a year, and add to that the time spent transporting yourself to and from work, the “extra” time spent working when at home, the time spent buying work-related materials, the time spent schmoozing with coworkers, the time spent on business trips, the time you “need” to spend unwinding after work, and any other time investments you make at work. Then divide the calculated amount you make by the number of hours you work for the year. That’s how much you really value an hour of your life. Know that number. Remember that number. It’s important.

Physically unclutter your living space. Go through all of your possessions and ask yourself whether you actually use it or not. Is it something that has honestly provided value for your life? Look for books you’ve not read, DVDs you’ve only watched a time or two, unplayed games, unlistened music, collections of things that you no longer feel passionate about, and so on. Gather up all of this stuff and estimate how much you’ve spent on it. Then divide it by the value of your time that you calculated above, and if you want to, divide that by 40 (so you can see this in terms of weeks). That’s how much of your life you spent working so you could have this stuff. When I first did this, I estimated that I had spent two years of work accumulating stuff I barely use.

The next step is to get rid of all of this stuff and make a clean break. Eliminate the stuff that you’re not using, haven’t used, and likely won’t use again. Get some degree of financial return out of this stuff in any way you can. Don’t worry about maximizing your return – you rarely will be able to make back the value of your time by seeking out a slightly higher return for the stuff. Then take that money and put it into the bank – it’s now your emergency fund so you don’t have to turn to credit cards when something bad happens.

Set some big goals – and remind yourself of them all the time. This is an effective way to unclutter your mind. Sit down and figure out what your true big goals are. My goals were to spend more time with my children and write for a living – that’s what I really wanted to do more than anything else. Your goals may differ, but spend some time really searching within yourself to know what they are. Focus in on just one, two, or perhaps three goals that really speak to the core of your life.

Once you’ve figured out what you’re really shooting for, let most of the other stuff in your life melt away. If you’re focused on becoming a full-time writer, don’t burden yourself with chasing promotions at work. If you’re focused on being a great parent, don’t spend your mental energy worrying about social obligations in the neighborhood. Focus in on your goal and use all of your energy to reach that goal.

The best way I’ve found of keeping on focus with the goal is to put visual reminders of the goal all over the place. My desktop wallpaper is a picture of my children, and I keep pictures of them everywhere. I also keep notepads everywhere to make it easy for me to jot down thoughts – and also to remind myself of my writing dreams.

Use the true value of your time – and those visual reminders of your big dreams – every time you consider making a purchase. Let’s say the true value of your time came out to be $5 an hour (it can easily be this low, even at a “good” job). You’re at the store and you’re lusting after buying a Nintendo Wii — it’s $270 after taxes. That’s 54 hours of your life spent working for someone else so you can buy something else to clutter up your home. Even better, that’s $270 (or 54 hours) taken away from your big dream.

This works well for small purchases, too. Is that latte worth an actual hour of your life spent working? Is one latte a week for a year worth 52 hours of your life — more than an entire work week? Might that $270 not go better helping you save to make that dream come true, perhaps by helping you build up the financial cushion you need to quit your job and follow that crazy dream?

Go through every. single. monthly. bill. Many of the bills you receive every month have some sort of extra fee in it. Look at your cell phone bill, for instance. Are all of those features something you really need to pay for, every single month? Figure out what you don’t need – what’s just cluttering up your bill – then ring up your cell phone company and get those “features” dropped. Look at your credit card bill. Is that finance charge ridiculously high? Call up your credit card company and request a rate reduction. If the first person you talk to says no, ask to talk to a supervisor.

Even better are bills you can eliminate entirely. We used to subscribe to Netflix, but we were scarcely watching two movies a month, so we cancelled the service. Now, if we get the itch to watch a movie, we just go rent one or download one — it’s far cheaper than the Netflix grind. We used to be members at a gym, but now we get most of our exercise at home or by jogging around the block, so there goes another substantial chunk of financial clutter.

Unclutter your debt. Make a list of every single debt you have — credit cards, student loans, car loans, mortgages, and anything else you have. Write down the total amount you owe and the interest rate you’re paying on that debt. Order them by interest rate. Then, each month, make the minimum payment on each of them, then make a substantial extra payment on the highest interest debt. When that debt disappears, move on to the next one on the list until they’re all gone.

The best way to do this is to create a “virtual bill” for you to pay each month. Figure out an amount that you can afford without too much hassle – say, $200 – and then each month give yourself a bill for that amount. That bill is payable to whichever debt is on top of the list.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

Avoiding one-size-fits-all uncluttering rules

Apartment Therapy recently ran an article by Shifrah Combiths entitled 9 Things No One Needs Anymore and Should Declutter. The list includes DVDs, DVD cases, CDs, file cabinets, a stockpile of pantry and household items, wall calendars, physical inspiration (mood boards, etc.), paper lists, and take-out menus. The recommended alternatives were almost all digitally focused: streaming services for movies, Amazon’s Subscribe and Save service, scanned papers, etc.

The good part about this list is it can challenge you to think about whether the physical items you have are indeed the best answer for you. Maybe you really do want to eliminate one or more of these things from your space and use other options.

But I can think of many situations where eliminating these items isn’t the best choice. Combiths acknowledges some of these, noting that people may want DVDs for road trips and CDs for playing in the car. Some people’s minds work better with wall calendars, and they also help some families.

But the following are some other reasons people may want to hold onto the items that “no one needs any more:”

  • They aren’t comfortable using digital options. My father, who is in his 90s, is not going to scan his papers and keep them in the cloud, as Combiths suggested.
  • They live somewhere with slow internet connectivity. Streaming movies just isn’t a good option for everyone.
  • They have budget constraints. Streaming services cost money. Keeping some DVDs and CDs (especially ones that children play repeatedly) and borrowing others from the library may be better options for some people. A good scanner costs money that people may not have, too.
  • They just work better with paper, at least in certain circumstances. Some people really like their paper lists, even if they acknowledge the benefits of digital ones. You’ll still find a wide variety of paper lists for sale: to-do lists, shopping lists, and more — as well as paper planners that include both calendars and lists. And not everyone is going to find that a Pinterest board works as well for them as a physical vision board.
  • They have a real need to stockpile at least some items. I stockpile a lot of water, some food items, cat litter, and more because I want to be prepared in case of an earthquake.
  • They are movie fans who like all the supplementary material that comes with DVDs and usually isn’t available from a service like Netflix. They may also like more obscure titles that aren’t readily available through streaming services.
  • They have disabilities that make digital options less attractive. For example, not all websites work well with screen readers. And Hulu was recently sued because it didn’t provide the audio description tracks that are available for many movies and TV shows, describing what’s going on for those who cannot see it.

So yes — you may well find that you don’t need all or most of the items in the Apartment Therapy list. But it’s perfectly okay if you do if you do need or want some of them. Lists like this are useful if they get you to reconsider what you’re saving, but you’re the ultimate authority on what works for your particular situation.