The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

  Summary (Amazon):  Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

My Review (spoilers?):

Executive Summary: inspiring

So I am fairly certain that this will be a first for me. I do not think I’ve ever reviewed a self-help book before! My plan is to summarize the point of the book and once I finally start implementing it, I’ll post an update. (I mean, how will you know if it’s worth it fully if you don’t know whether it actually helps!?)

I’m not sure where I first heard about this book but it has a near-perfect review on Amazon, and after the frustration after packing and unpacking for our move this year, I was ready to de-clutter EVERYTHING.

The Japanese author, Marie Kondo, has developed her own method (the KonMari method) through years of experimenting on how to de-clutter your house and (important!) keep it that way. Marie herself sounds like quite the crazy person in the funniest, most adorable way. As a small child, she became obsessed with organization and being tidy and has been that way ever since. Most of the experimentation was her own and the KonMari method stemmed from this. She has stories of racing home from elementary school to get the latest organization magazine or being frustrated with her siblings’ junk so she would hide it and then if they never missed it, she’d throw it away. I’m so glad she wasn’t my sister, but it’s funny to hear from someone else! All this is to say, the book is not dry, and she livens it up with childhood stories as well as examples from clients who she has had.

There are a couple premises of the book that are critical to the KonMari success of tidying. First is to focus on reducing the amount of stuff that you have. She provides a general list of the order in which you are to do this. Essentially begin with clothes, move to papers, books, and documents, miscellany, and lastly, anything with sentimental value. The point is that by the time you have made it to your sentimental things, you will have fine tuned your decision making skills on what is important to keep.

She does not recommend doing any of these over time. She preaches the “all in one fell swoop” method. I will use the clothing organization as my main example. She tells clients to find ALL their clothing (any in miscellaneous closets) and put it on the floor in a pile. Anything that doesn’t make it in the pile will be gotten rid of because it was obviously not important enough to remember anyway. Part of the method of putting it on the floor is just so that you can see HOW MUCH stuff you actually have. You then proceed to go through your items by group (i.e. shirts, pants, etc.), picking up each item and asking yourself “does this bring me joy?” If not, the item finds a new home.

The idea is to move through all your items keeping only what is absolutely necessary to your needs and happiness. Organization is a lesser focus of the book itself, however she does offer suggestions as to things like how to arrange your closet and how to fold your clothing, but the major focus of the book is how to make the decision to throw things away. Which sounds like a very easy idea. But if it’s easy and obvious, why doesn’t everyone do it?

She also mentions how to manage other people as you are going through the process. A few psychologyesc points that she makes that I find fascinating involve family members. Don’t let your parents (specifically your mother) see you tidying. Parents are specifically designed to want to protect you, and if they see you throwing away most of your stuff, they will feel stressed that you won’t have enough to survive and will try to limit your progress on tidying. Another point that was made was that people need to break the habit of passing on their junk to others. The big sister/little sister type of relationship is hard to break and because of years of conditioning, younger siblings have a much harder time with the tidying (because typically they have so much more stuff). I thought about this with regard to the thrift store as well. I want to be more mindful of the quality of the things that I take to a thrift store as I don’t want to pass on the burden of sifting out stuff that is far too warn onto those volunteers. That’s unfair to them. (I have a habit of never throwing away anything that is far too rigid).

Marie mentions that for most people, the full process for tidying takes about 6 months (although I would suspect that most westerners would find it to take even longer than that as we have bigger houses and therefore more stuff). I am looking forward to starting this in 2016 and I will keep an update of my progress!

Verdict: 4.5 stars

I know that seems high for something that I haven’t actually tried. However, the book is written in a way that makes it very easy to follow which I believe is the most important thing about a book like this. It’s an exhausting extensive task to clean out your entire house, but if you come away from the book thinking “I can do this!”, I think the author is fully successful! I also really like the zen spirituality of the book about how to deal with things that you once loved but don’t have a use for any more. It’s something that I think we as westerners need to do more often. (Thank the item for its contribution and release it from your care.) It sounds a little cheesy, but I think that making the conscious choice is sometimes all we need to be able to move past something. I’m legitimately excited to try out this method and hopefully get my house (and therefore my mind) in a clearer state.


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Filed under 4.5 stars, Book Review

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