February 22, 2019

The Spectacle of Millennial Burnout

“The fifth episode of Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, Netflix’s effervescent new reality series, deals with Frank and Matt, a couple living in West Hollywood, California. Both writers, they have a touching love story involving Tinder, a too-small apartment filled with detritus from past roommates, and a burning desire to prove their adulting bona fides. They are, in short, the archetypal Millennial couple. The dramatic hook of the episode is that Frank’s parents are coming to visit for the first time, and Frank wants to impress them, to make them see “that the life we’ve created together is something to be admired.”

Frank and Matt, in other words, want their home to reflect their identities and sense of self (as opposed to the cutlery preferences of the people Matt lived with after college). They’ve internalized the idea that the signifiers of success are primarily visual. “I don’t know that I’ve given [my parents] any reason to respect me as an adult,” Frank agonizes at one point, which is absurd, given his apparently successful career and adorable relationship. “I’m organized in some aspects of my life. Like, professionally, my email inbox is organized, I’m great. And I just get frustrated with myself that I haven’t translated that into my home life. It feels like I give it all at work and then I come home and am like, pmph.” He makes a gesture like a deflated balloon.

If the viral success of Tidying Up With Marie Kondo is anything to go by, Frank and Matt—their exhaustion, and their understanding that an adult existence is an optimized one—aren’t anomalous in their anxieties. Kondo, a Japanese organizational consultant, has sold more than 11 million books in 40 countries since the publication of her magnum opus, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Compared to the interest in her television series, though, Kondo’s previous achievements are a relative blip. Netflix didn’t respond to queries about how many people had viewed Tidying Up, but in the U.S. at least, the show’s release has sparked a feverish curiosity about Kondo and her practices.”

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