Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I had been eyeing The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo for several months, and when I finally found it on sale, I snapped it up. A quick read, it was interesting and upbeat, focusing more on theory than specific advice. Here’s is a summary of my reaction to the book.

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Your possessions want to be happy and they want to make you happy.

This is Kondo’s foundational premise; it makes sense in many ways. For example, elastic lasts longer if allowed to rest, so you shouldn’t store your stockings in a way that puts constant strain on it. The stockings are “happier” folded than rolled. If you store your books in stacks, the ones on the bottom bear the burden of the ones on top and never rest, so they are not happy.

She also claims your possessions are not happy if they don’t make you happy; I have a hard time personifying my things to that extent. However, the first step in her two step program, discard, is built around asking yourself whether each and every item you own brings you joy. This does make sense to me, although when I get frustrated with my home, I feel like nothing brings me joy; and when I take a good look at each thing, I think they all give me joy. However, on the whole, I have found it helpful.

Thanking your possessions.

Kondo thanks her shoes at the end of each day for serving her so well; she thanks her earrings for making her pretty, she thanks her bag for carrying her wallet. When she gets rid of something, she thanks it for the time it spent with her, for the joy it initially gave her, for the services rendered. Again, this struck me as a little bit hokey, but then again, helpful. I don’t think my belongings care if I thank them, but I do think it is helpful to me to appreciate any given thing for the purpose it has served and to let it go knowing that its service has passed.

Issues not fully addressed.

Overall, my reaction to the KonMari method of organization is that it’s great…if you live alone, work outside of the home, never do anything dirty, and can replace afford to replace anything you really need. Now, to give Kondo credit, she has authored three more books that are rumored to be anticipating an English translation release soon. Her ideas are helpful to me, but not the cure-all she promises for the following reasons:

  • I work from home; not every individual piece of material or tool necessarily brings me joy, yet they take up a fair amount of space. Can that storage area be improved on? Probably. Can it be eliminated? Not unless I want to quit my job. The big picture brings me joy, but not every necessary detail.
  • I teach my children at home. I’m not going to lie, I’m a big geek about school supplies, so a good many of them do bring me joy. Still, the fact of the matter is that not every single aspect brings us joy per se. I can’t just throw out all the math books even though I don’t like math. I can seek books that I like better, but the fact remains: I’m going to have some of these items out of necessity, not joy.
  • Does Kondo never have to paint a room or do anything else terribly messy? She says she does all the organizing at her client’s homes dressed up, and that I believe, but I’m talking about clothes ruining tasks. Sure, it would be nice to feel attractive while painting or gardening, but if all I own is clothes that bring me joy, then I risk destroying something I really love, and that makes me sad. Ok, ok…maybe one messy outfit would do the trick, and maybe I have more than that. Still, I do need one.
  • As with other organizing books, she makes several claims that just aren’t true of me. I will read old magazines again; I will read books I bought ten years ago. I will reuse the old aluminum foil folded up in my drawer and the washed out Ziploc bags. It’s part of my culture, really, and I value thrift and eschew casually resigning things to the garbage. I can’t always afford to easily replace something I chucked if I find I need it later on down the road, and I need to be realistic about that.

Despite these criticisms, I did find The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to be helpful, and I’d recommend giving it a read.

How do you keep clutter from crowding you out of your home?

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