the life-changing magic of tidying up

tidying up

The life-changing magic of tidying up, by Marie Kondo. Originally published in 2011. 226 pages.

This is a lifestyle book, but at least it is a genuinely useful one. Marie Kondo filled a need based on a post-modern trend that could really only ever exist is a culture of material excess and consumption, but it is still a real need.

In the life-changing magic of tidying up, Kondo testifies that she has been fairly well obsessed with cleaning and purging since she was  child. Clutter annoyed her. After attempting countless methods suggested by numerous “organization experts” in tens of books and magazines, she came up with a method of her own, which she calls the KonMari method.

It’s a straight forward route to a de-cluttered house, and the best part is that when you get there, you won’t have to worry about ever having to deal with clutter again. Well, so long as you stay out of Target, Old Time Pottery, Williams-Sonoma and other bastions of clutter producing products.

In a nutshell, the Konmari method is this: Go through your house, in one fell swoop, and get rid of everything that is unused, unneeded, is lacking beauty, or doesn’t bring you joy. All of it. Every piece of clothing, kitchen gadget, tech gadget, tool, shoe, sock, bra, CD, book, or brick-a-brac. All of it. Even if it means you have to rent a dumpster to put outside your house and collect it all. Because our problem really isn’t lack of cabinet space:

“I have yet to see a house that lacked sufficient storage. The real problem is that we have far more than we need or want.”

Now let me tell you. This SPEAKS to me. I am a purger by nature who gives away or tosses as much as I can as often as I can. And this is where Marie Kondos’s method turns controversial. This tosser is married to a keeper, so we keep a lot.

I wasn’t too far into the book when I began to question: How is this supposed to work in the context of a household of people who want to keep all their stuff? It wasn’t long before she made it clear that it would be wrong to throw away other people’s things without their permission. However, the hope is that your housemates might be inspired as they see you de-clutter the spaces you are authorized to purge.

One of the light bulb moments in the book was when the author suggested we learn to make a marked shift in thinking from trying to decide what we want to get rid of to evaluating the things we truly desire to keep:

we should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.

That alone cut my wardrobe significantly. In a good way.

One room I am authorized to “go konmari” in is the bedroom of our two youngest daughters, ages 8 and 9, so I did. Despite wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of our 9-year old (a keeper), the end result was so startling that even she had to admit that it was a good thing that I went through the toys with a merciless eye.

If there was thing about the book I found highly impractical, it was the details of the konmari technique. She suggests that whatever category you’re purging (clothes, shoes, books, whatever), that you take every item from all over the house, put it on the floor in the middle of a main room, and touch each item to see how it makes you feel:

the best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.

That felt a bit new-agey for one thing, but on top of that we have a fairly large house in which we have lived for 15 years. There’s far too much stuff in here for that to be in any way practical. Very few things are capable of bringing me joy unless they are connected in to a memory or experience with those I love most. Getting rid of things is easy. Getting everyone else to get rid of things is harder.

Overall, it’s a good book if for no other reason than it helped me to really consider the amount of useless *stuff* I keep in our home.There is just too much stuff. And even if I can’t get rid of as much of it as I’d like, I can certainly refrain from needlessly adding to what is already here.

Grade: B

Content advisory: This book’s author is Japanese, and this subject is approached from a very Eastern perspective. I had no problem at all with that, but I thought I’d make it known to those of you who would like to know it.

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17 thoughts on “the life-changing magic of tidying up

  1. I’ve been using my MIL’s kitchen while they are away and I think she needs this book, lol. In all seriousness though, I like the tip of picking what you like rather than choosing what to get rid of. But like you, I’ll leave out the feelz bit – that’s a bit silly if you ask me. This is one of those books I’ve been a little curious about and it sounds like what I’d have expected.

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  2. It’s a book with a sound and practical premise padded with feelings based nonsense to get you to 200 pages. But, unlike so many other books, it at least has a sound and practical premise.

    For example, it is true that no matter how many times you clean up a space (ie: neatly reorganize all your stuff), you invariably find that you’re back where you started at within a couple of months, and you do it all again. This is why despite our generally clean domicile, I have to continuously tidy. Keeping too much useless stuff.

    My kitchen is the next thing on the list, as I can purge it however I see fit. Kitchens can easily get out of hand just from keeping too many tupperware and faux tupperware containers, lol.

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  3. Yup – it’s all the containers and lids that don’t match! LOL We went and bought some nice new Rubbermaid containers and I had the job of organizing that cupboard a bit. I am told she is generally appreciative of anything that makes her life easier, so I may just offer to help clear it out a bit – there is so much crap that there is only crap in the ample cupboards, the only food being cereal!

    Having had that experience of constantly cleaning up the same stuff, I have become something of a minimalist and unnecessary clutter drives me nuts. It’s at least a little bit fun clearing out clutter – especially when you see the end result and it’s like you can breathe again, lol.

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  4. I loved this book and am due for a reread. It really helped me get over some of the difficulties I had with getting rid of stuff (i.e, gifts). It also made me think about why I kept things I no longer wore or didn’t particularly like on me, etc. The addition of a husband has added to the stuff in the house, but even he is keen on us going through another round of purging.

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  5. Once you get her to resist the urge to keep containers she considers “reusable” like the little plastic tubs lunch meats come in, you’ve done plenty, lol

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  6. Because my husband is good with his hands (including building things) he can see potential use in a lot of things I would toss. Thankfully he is fairly neat so we only have a few little pockets of clutter. But they still bug me.

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  7. I threw out a bunch of those – left a few in different sizes. I didn’t throw out any actual tupperware but I did find the lids to put in yet another container so at least they are findable, But all of it is so old it’s pretty much crapped out – lids don’t even stay on properly. I think she’ll just start using the nice new ones (we got two sets so there’s an abundance) with all the nice lids that snap together instead.

    Next up, should I throw out the peas in the freezer that say 2010 on them and just put some fresh ones in there? LOL I’m not even joking! And that’s not even the oldest – try stewed apples from 2004! LOL o_O I wasn’t sure if that was just an old label at first, but I’m fairly certain now that was the actual date they were frozen. I know things get forgotten about, but when it’s almost as old as my eldest daughter, it’s really time for a clear out!

    I keep a few of those “reusable” lunch meat containers, but I’ve realized they also replenish themselves, so there’s no need to keep more than maybe three at any given time. 😛

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  8. “what you want to keep” is a great way of thinking about things, and it’s worth noting that in factories around the world, that very phrase is what drives thousands (millions?) of “5S” programs around the world. I tell my kids often that if they learn it well, it can be a very well paying job.

    How it’s done properly: you simply pay attention to what you actually use in an area, and then you organize things so that you can pretty much grab what you need blindfolded. (don’t use an actual blindfold with kitchen knives, of course)

    One thing that is a “sticker” for me is that I hate simply throwing useful things out unless it really doesn’t work with my life. My “workaround” is to simply make a point of wearing those things out quickly as a way of saving for what I really want in my home. We still take a fair amount of stuff to Goodwill and so on, but when we plan out what we really want, it takes a lot less effort.

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  9. padded with feelings based nonsense to get you to 200 pages.

    I got a good chuckle out of the part saying to empty your purse everyday so that it gets a good rest and while putting it away you should tell it thank you for holding your things.

    No, I will not thank my purse, but I might take more things out of it now because it emphasizes how it makes the purse misshapen faster when you leave it full.

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  10. Her tendency to imbue inanimate objects with life was funny to me. But that was a good tip to beware of how excess stuff in your purse.

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  11. How it’s done properly: you simply pay attention to what you actually use in an area, and then you organize things so that you can pretty much grab what you need blindfolded. (don’t use an actual blindfold with kitchen knives, of course)

    That’s the general idea, Bike. As far as the kitchen, that’s always going to be something of a challenge because there are 4 and 1/2 people cooking in here and it’s a common lament of mine that you can tell where certain often used items can be found based on who was assigned kitchen duty on a particular week.

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  12. :^) I can tell who’s cooking by how the knives are, or are not, put away. I’m a leftie and I put the edge to the right. Righties tend to put the edge to the left. One hint; arrange things around how the kitchen is used, and migrations will happen less frequently. It will be more intuitive to do things right.

    How not to do 5S: have someone come in from outside and let him red tag everything he doesn’t like when he doesn’t know what things are for. He will inevitably throw a way a number of “unused” tools that are actually the most important tools there–and they recently replaced something worn out.

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  13. I want to do this to our house so badly but everyone but me is a keeper. It’s depressing. Since we are trying to move I feel like it’s even more important to try to purge but 7 people cry out in angst when I suggest it. Sigh.

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