Sitting on the bottom shelf of my IKEA bookcase lay a rejected copy of Marie Kondo’s “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It had taken me a solid half hour to find the little thing, which resembles the type of novelty book perpetually on sale on the register-adjacent racks at Barnes & Noble. Why had I paused my life to find this self-help book in the recesses of my bookshelves, home to forgotten biographies authored by former college professors and embarrassing middle school photos?
Well, I, like nearly every other person I follow on social media, had started watching Netflix’s new lifestyle-oriented reality show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” And I had suddenly remembered, as I watched this exceedingly tidy Japanese woman pleasantly reform the American households she visited through a truly foreign concept – downsizing – that I had a copy of the book that inspired the series. It was given to me as a gift a few years ago, undoubtedly as a hint to keep my new apartment clean. Upon receipt I had promptly sniffed and hidden its insulting presence from view, an admittedly easy task given my penchant for clutter.
But once back in my hands, I flipped quickly to its guide to folding laundry as I wrestled with an oversized load of sheets and towels. The next night, I emptied out an entire dresser and systematically held each piece of clothing in my hands, asking myself if it sparked joy, then either put it aside for donation or folded it into a neat little rectangle to be carefully stacked upright in my drawers. When I was done, I could see every remaining piece of clothing I owned in neat colorful rows and marveled, wondering why no one had ever clued me into this clearly more organized way of storing clothing. I felt the urge to Instagram it. “Look at me! I can be tidy! I’m doing the joy thing!”
I was not the only one. For weeks, friends had been posting photos of piles of clothing wrenched from their closets, quoting Kondo’s adage to “spark joy.” I resisted as long as I could. But the Internet’s hivemind eventually got me, as it does any Millennial in possession both of Netflix and any degree of social media addiction (i.e., most Millennials).
In the same week, I removed my unused crockpot from its lair at the back of my lower kitchen cabinet – a gift bestowed to me undoubtedly as a benevolent hint to “learn how to cook already, and if you’re too lazy for that just throw stuff in this pot and push a button, for goodness sake” – after having completed four full seasons of “The Great British Baking Show,” (GBBS) or as a I like to call it, “The Most Pleasant Show On Earth, With Accents.” I looked up a Pinterest recipe I had saved two years ago, went to not one but two stores for ingredients, and set about making soup. (OK so I didn’t have the nerve to bake bread from scratch, but at least I attempted some form of cooking. Cut me some slack!)
My cat watched at a disturbingly close proximity to my chopping, but for all my efforts could not be shooed away. I was rather like an ape on display at a zoo, having been given some kind of new tool as a test of intelligence. She was the judgmental four-year-old diligently mocking through the glass.
Netflix, my parents woefully pointed out after I pridefully updated them on my newly forged lifestyle choices, within the span of weeks had convinced me to do things they hadn’t been able to talk me into trying for years. I’d hazard to guess there are grown Millennial offspring all over America currently exhibiting the same annoying habit, all thanks to widespread access to low-cost television streaming combined with a desire to share every detail of one’s life on social media.
It seems to me based on the collective success of Kondo, GBBS’s Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, and my extended social media network in getting me to try new things (we’ll see if they stick, though, won’t we?), that the older folks who have been complaining about Millennials should recognize that they have a powerful tool of manipulation at their disposal. You want us to change our behavior? Talk to us through Netflix. And preferably, via someone lovable and more talented than we are who also happens to be endowed with a soothing accent. Alternatively, we will also accept Jeff Goldblum. Don’t ask us why. That’s between us and him.
Some concepts for you:
“The Joys Of Voting.” Joe Biden and Betty White team up to knock some sense into those young folks who think voting is a waste of time with wit, wisdom, and, hopefully, wine. We will oscillate between raucous laughter at Joe’s meme-ready quips and humble embarrassment at Betty’s wry assessments of our inefficacy, then unexpectedly find our faces streaked with inspirational tears at the end of each episode. If we aren’t registered to vote let alone run a polling place by the end of it, why, gosh darn it I guess we’re just a hopeless cause after all.
“#RelationshipGoals.” As marriage and birth rates decline amongst Millennials, many of our grandchildless parents are fretting away their elder years by scanning through our social media accounts with the acumen of a private investigator, searching for any sign that we’ve either found or have somehow overlooked our perfect match. Problem is, when they attempt to rush our love lives along in time for us to reproduce before their demise, we do what we do best – the opposite of whatever they suggest. Instead, I suggest you combine the powers of Netflix with our favorite endearing celebrity couple, Emily Blunt and John Krasinksi. They’re adorably loving toward one another. They collaborate and support each other’s work. One embodies a beloved nanny from our youths. One is an inspirational action hero. She even has a British accent. We’re ready for love, guys. We just need Mary Poppins and Jack Ryan to give us a little push.
In exchange for watching your propaganda, I humbly request that you senior generations consider our own turn at subliminal streaming education. For your consideration, “Entitled,” a show following Millennials throughout their daily lives: working extra hours to make up for the lower wages they’re doomed to earn in perpetuity as a result of starting their careers during the recession; coming home to a cramped apartment in a marginal neighborhood because they cannot afford the kind of place you did at their age thanks to soaring housing costs; and spending their free time at brunch eating avocado toast and guzzling mimosas because they are just trying to escape the ever-present anxiety of loan debt repayment for a few hours thankyouverymuch. What’s in it for you: narrated by Tom Selleck. Copyright pending.