I NEVER watch reality TV, but Marie Kondo's book changed my life when it first came out, and I couldn't resist seeing her in action!
I agree that the Friend family was super annoying and a poor way to start the series, and I do wish they had explained the reasoning behind Kondo's method more thoroughly for people who hadn't read her book, but as the series went on I really started appreciating what it was doing well.
For one thing, this show is not the typical Hoarders-style voyeuristic exploitation fare, where people are really sick and for some reason getting therapy on TV for us to gawk at. These people are just not happy, and need some help tidying. Marie's job isn't to come in and counsel them about their relationship, or force them to let go of treasured possessions, or makeover their whole home for them, or judge whether they are right or wrong to keep this or get rid of that. She wants them to be happy, and she's showing them how to do the work for themselves that will help them figure out what is right for them. These families, even the more extreme-looking cases like the lady with all the nutcrackers, or the guy with all the sneakers, they're not really hoarders, they're not sick. They just have a lot of stuff and they're having a hard time getting rid of it, which is totally normal for a lot of people, especially in the US where homes are larger than in countries with higher population density. I lived like that for ages (and still do sometimes, I admit). We might live in a bigger space than we strictly need, and we end up filling it with stuff, because it's natural to expand into the space you occupy. We get attached to stuff because it used to be important to us, or there are memories connected with it, or because having a house full of stuff gives us the illusion that our lives are also full - it's completely normal (though obviously not desirable) to live in clutter like these families do. But this isn't an intervention - these people know they have too much stuff, they want to tidy it up, and they just need some help with a structured process. Marie isn't advising them to keep or get rid of individual items, or judging or pressuring them, just helping them understand for themselves what items actually bring them happiness, and what is just junk. And what I loved about the series was that eventually, everyone got it, and they all got it for themselves. The guy who was having a terrible time getting rid of stuff, holding that old mailbox in his hands, decided that even though it was a good memento of the past, it wasn't something he needed in his future, and that was a turning point. Once everyone experienced how good it felt to unburden themselves of stuff they didn't need, and how good it felt to see space opening up in their homes, the process just rolled downhill to the end. People (like me) who like collecting things don't often get to experience the joy of getting rid of things (usually it's someone else trying to get rid of your stuff, which just makes you dig your claws in harder), but once we do, it really is a life-changer, and it really is easier to keep your home in order once you get how good it feels to have a place for everything, and to have a space you can feel proud to show off to friends and family. I just enjoyed seeing regular, messy people get to experience that.
Kondo is so kooky and delightful - I love that her techniques are a little bonkers! From greeting the house to letting handbags "rest" to expressing gratitude to items before discarding them - obviously this is not for the good of the object itself, just a way to shift the way you think about the items you use. I don't use the handbag suggestion, and part of me thinks it's just a better technique for people who have multiple purses and might not use the same one every day - it's easier to cycle through bags when your stuff is out of the old bag and ready to be thrown into the new one on your way out the door. But the rest of me knows that this is actually a very sensible suggestion that I SHOULD be doing, especially because I use the same bag every day! I accumulate so much crap in my bag, and I forget it's there and don't notice it until I'm somewhere pulling out my wallet and wondering why it won't fit back in properly, and of course I can't deal with my junk when I'm out and about. If I opened my bag and confronted what was inside it every day at home, it would be SO much tidier and easier to use. But ultimately a bit too labour-intensive for the reward.
And expressing gratitude to items - I love this. Obviously the shirt doesn't care if you thank it. It's just a way of giving yourself a moment of closure with something before you get rid of it. It does a lot of people good to "say goodbye" to something they are having a hard time parting with, or accepting that something they loved so much they wore it completely out will never again give them that same enjoyment, or maybe getting rid of clothes they've never worn or books they haven't read - how do you get rid of something that you haven't even used yet? "Thanking" the item is just a way of accepting that it's done all it's going to do for you, and releasing yourself from the obligation to eventually wear it, or read it, or do something with it to justify having bought it.
I didn't LOVE this show, but I did find it strangely compelling, even if only because it reminded me of how good it felt to "Kondo" my own apartment. I liked that it was low-stakes, non-judgmental, and not voyeuristic to the point of being exploitative. I also liked how universal it was - everyone has to figure out how to manage their stuff and their space. Watching people figure it out was kind of soothing and rewarding. I liked it!