homemaking manuals, nonfiction

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.