Samantha Jones, Marie Kondo, and Going with Your Gut

How Sex and the City gave us the joy-sparking theory of life choices

Over the last few days, I’ve binged Netflix’s new series, Tidying Up, featuring organizational guru Marie Kondo swooping, sprite-like, into moderately cluttered home and helping the families inside create spaces that reflect their ideal selves. It’s Hoarders through the looking glass, taking us into a gentler and far more manageable mess.

Unlike the show’s A&E antecedents, there aren’t compulsive behaviors and darkly scored group therapy sessions in the pursuit of KonMari. There’s upbeat music and brightly colored skirts instead. The main barrier the show’s subjects have faced in their efforts to tidy their homes is the lack of a strong emotional vocabulary for interaction with their homes and the things inside.

They know what sweatshirt might be useful in the autumn, what stack of plates was a good deal, and what cords might go with what appliances. But they don’t intuitively know how those objects make them feel.

That’s why Kondo teaches them—and trains them over the course of five lessons, building up to the hardest-to-manage sentimental items—to identify what sparks joy. Keep only the things that spark joy for you now: these are the things you’ll want to take into your future.

When asked to explicate the concept, Kondo doesn’t use words. It’s irreducible, understandable only bodily. She enacts joy-sparking—it makes your body go like this, rising up with new energy and a smile.

It’s no wonder one subject of the series says the process helped him open up emotionally after a lifetime of being walled up: Kondo is asking us to get in touch with what our bodies are telling us.

(It’s worth noting that Kondo is also helping subjects transform the chore of cleaning into something closer to cultivation.)


…Or a Good Dermatologist

Of course, as with most life insights, Sex and the City was there first. In season 6, Carrie struggles with deciding whether to stay with Jack Berger. The relationship works on paper—they’re both hip New York writers, their restaurant banter is top notch—but something just isn’t clicking. Six episodes into the drama, Samantha cuts through the noise with a clear directive: don’t stay in a relationship that makes you frown.

Her advice is deceptively simple.

If it feels basic, it is—it’s the lesson to stop over-thinking and start feeling. Samantha may be the character most driven by id; she’s also the one in deepest harmony with what her body is telling her.

Building an emotional vocabulary and getting in touch with emotional cues is a challenge, but it’s also an imperative.

Whether it’s a relationship or an extension cord, we should be applying the Samantha Test to find our way forward—and we should get Michael Patrick King some of Kondo’s royalties.