Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

life changing magicApparently Marie Kondo is already a world phenomenon. Where have I been? Not watching talk shows I guess. According to my post-reading reasearch Marie has been all over the media and her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has been a New York Times bestseller since its publication in November 2014. Perhaps the phenomenal success of this book is a sign that our culture has reached a materialist crisis point: so many homes are are creaking at the seams with accumulated stuff and people are overwhelmed with the problem. We cannot stuff another broken laptop into the garage and are working so hard to pay the bills for the house and all the stuff in it that we cannot find the stretch of time and the level of energy to do what it would take to get rid of it.

A co-worker recently enthusiastically recommended this book, assuring me that it really is as life changing as the title promises. Since I have long been feeling oppressed by the clutter in my house, I downloaded it and began listening that day. I was immediately inspired. Marie Kondo, who runs a very successful home organization consulting business in Tokyo, hits the perfect chord for the organizationally challenged. She presents a combination joyful mindset and a simple specific plan of action. Yes that’s right: joyful. We are to feel joy about cleaning, organizing, and even folding our socks. Feeling anything remotely positive about the monumental task of organizing my house is nothing less than a revolutionary concept to me.

I have read other books on organizing. I also have collected all kinds of organizing ideas on my “Home and Garden” Pinterest board, Pinterest being the closest thing that has ever, up to this point, worked for me as an effective method for organizing anything. The other books didn’t stick, and I suppose it’s too early to tell if Marie Kondo’s method will stick either, but it makes me feel more hopeful about my ability to solve this problem than anything else I have come across. I have already filled two giveaway trash bags full of shoes that failed the “Does it give me joy?” test.
Marie’s method is twofold: first you purge all possessions that do not give you joy and then you establish a home for each item you have consciously decided to keep in your life. During the discarding phase of the process, you gather all items by category (as opposed to by room or space) in this general order: clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous junk, sentimental mementos (e.g., cards and photos). The idea is to begin with things that easiest to deal with and work slowly up to the more difficult decisions. Marie gently but firmly guides you through the process with anecdotes, examples, reasoning, and encouragement. Handling each item individually is an essential part of the process: you hold the book or the blouse or the old appliance in your hands and ask “Does having this item give me joy?” You keep only those items for which the answer is “Yes.”

In my initial foray into this process I ran into the question of “What if these shoes sort of give me joy, at least such humble joy as shoes can give?” Marie says you can put the “sort of’s” in the keep pile, wait a day or so, and then put those items through a second test. She says, with her clients, many of the borderline items don’t make the second cut. Marie does not fully define “joy.” That is something each of us has to define for ourselves. But her contention is that by starting with your clothing and working your way consciously to more difficult categories, you not only learn what joy feels like for you but you also confront and come to terms with your past and clear out the things holding you back from what you want to achieve going forward. Here is where the life-changing magic comes in. Going through this process not only results in a more organized stress-free living environment but also frees you to step into a new exciting phase of your life. She says she has seen her clients suddenly lose weight, end bad relationships, and begin their dream careers as a result of tidying their homes.

Much of this book may seem a little crazy to some people but to me her approach makes perfect sense. I have always felt there is a connection between the state of my home and the state of my mind. But I guess I sort of assumed that the mind has to come first: to organize my home I first had to organize my mind. Marie Kondo says you can start with the exterior mess as a path to finding interior order. Hey, I figure it’s worth a shot. Starting the mind has not worked.She also suggests talking to your inanimate objects – thanking your socks and shirts and old cell phones for their faithful service. She says taking loving care of your possessions gives them life and energy, even a visible glow. Some readers might think this part is a little off the deep end. Not me. As a child I found it the most natural thing in the world to speak to inanimate objects and felt an energy in certain toys…and walls and bushes….Anyway. So the book either validates my sanity or tells me I am not the only crazy person in the world.

Marie’s consulting business is of course in Japan, so her examples are of Japanese households, with their shrines and the kind of closets and living spaces they have, which are smaller than most American homes. This gives the book a special flavor and fresh perspective that I found pleasant. It was also somehow comforting to know that Japanese people end up with the same credit card statements, warranty books, cosmetic samples, condiment packets, spare buttons, partner-less socks, and other ridiculous debris that accumulates in my drawers, closets, and pantries.

About CJ

Blogger, illustrator, writer

Posted on September 18, 2015, in Books of the 21st century and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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