On January 1st, 2019, Netflix released a new reality TV series, ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’. Marie Kondo, bestselling author, organizing consultant and now global de-cluttering media sensation, has capitalized on a resurgence of readymade self-help solutions for our world of excess. Her solution, discovered after an early nervous breakdown and episode of fainting, focuses on the experience of ‘sparking joy’ as a catalyst for organization. The KonMari MethodTM is simple. All of the objects in our lives and homes can be separated into four categories. Proceeding with one category at a time, such as papers, you hold each object close to your body and attempt to sense if the object sparks joy. If it does, you keep it, if not, you thank it and part ways. It is a subjective criterion, one which must be cultivated, according to her methodology. ‘Spark joy’ could be easily interpreted as happiness, pleasure, satisfaction, love, or inspiration, all of the fantasy-ladden promises of self-help that aim to tidy-up the inevitable castration inherent to our relation with objects.
While watching the first episode of ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’, it became clear that the spark of joy was often a spark of jouissance. A married American couple faces a domestic meltdown while confronting towers of boxes in their garage. The wife bursts into tear at the sight of all her clothes amassed on the bedroom floor. If they only could have less, they would enjoy more what they already have. It is a new pop-strategy of reduction. What better criterion to decide which objects to keep and which to pitch than jouissance? Afterall, what good is an object if it does not spark jouissance.
After the Netflix release, social media took quickly to producing Marie Kondo memes. Spark Joy itself became a meme, which made its way not just into colloquial language but also the pages of the New York Times. A virtue of the meme is that, like a formation of the unconscious, it already interprets. It did not take long before the face of the New American Superego appeared from behind Marie Kondo’s polite and charming smile. This meme says it all.