Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

978-1-60774-730-7

Book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Series: –
Author: Marie Kondo
Genres: Non-fiction, self-help, organization

Synopsis (from Amazon book page):

“This #1 New York Times best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing. 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.”

Notes of Interest:

A non-fiction book, for once! I mostly read and review very imaginative fiction like fantasy and sci-fi, so this is a departure from my norm (these days). It was recommended to me by my cousin, who found it useful before her move. And since I face a big move in the upcoming future, she thought I might find it useful, too. Have I tested the KonMari method? Not fully — not yet. I have dabbled. And I think most people who read this will dabble, which is precisely what she advises against. But for some of us, life does not have a pause button to make time to do things like this. Perhaps I will be more fortunate in the future to afford the spare time to get better organized. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn a thing or two that I could use right now.

What could have made it better for me:

I have no critique on how this book could have been better. It’s well-organized. (And I chuckle as if I just stated a pun.) It has a good flow for comprehension and future reference as a handbook, of sorts. It’s not boring. It’s actually kind of quaint. But I suppose that’s getting into what I liked about it. So …

What I liked about it:

This book had some special attractions for me as to why I enjoyed it. For one thing, I do love to be organized. And for the most part I have always been a tidy person. But I do feel like I’m falling behind these days because I have to devote 120% to finishing one stage of life before I can cope with starting another. That has lent itself to stacked dirty dishes, missed laundry days, towering magazines I have yet to read, and things in the fridge that have more hair than I do. In the next couple of years or so, I will need to move from a large, three-bedroom house to a small apartment. Just thinking of it makes me feel like puking some days. And I fear it will take me at least a year just to sort through everything and get rid of most of it. Hence, the recommendation and reading of a book on minimization and organization.

For another thing, this book’s author and business are Japanese. I used to live in Japan. Out of twenty-two addresses over the course of my life, Japan was my most favourite place in the world to live. So, many of the things mentioned in this book felt familiar, gave me a chuckle, or made me feel warm and cozy all over with good vibes. Japanese minimization is different from Western cultures. It is an art form. Western decluttering seems to clear away some stuff not being used, so that you have more space for new or other stuff. But Japanese decluttering focuses on what is beautiful, necessary, and uplifting … or what sparks joy. I love that most of all about this book, I think. This is where the “quaint” feeling comes from. It’s as if the author is a good friend helping you sort through your accumulations and helping you select what warms your heart the most, as opposed to most organization methods that feel sterile and impersonal. And yet her organization suggestions are rather stringent.

But even if I wasn’t moving, or hadn’t lived in Japan, I would consider this book a lovely addition to my home because it is practical. And that is its most important feature. Her ideas are doable, include a hint of feng shui, and yet they are unique. She claims it is doable for everyone, and perhaps it is. But I think it would be difficult for someone to stick to it without some deviation. For one thing, she insists that you do everything at once for each category of items being sorted. This is non-negotiable if you wish to break bad habits. But, as I said, I don’t have time to not do other things in my life that are on deadlines right now, so that I can give organization my undivided attention. And it’s not really my habits that worry me; it’s my circumstances. So, I tested the water by trying out her ideas for sorting clothing … just a little. I love the results, so I might be willing to dive in completely when my circumstances are different. I reorganized my closet and drawers about two months ago, and they are still the way I organized them. I have been able to more easily let go of excess that does not bring me joy. And I’ve found it easier to shop when I do need something new. I can take one look at my closet now and see I have nothing yellow, except two shirts that don’t fit very well. So, I know those two shirts have to go as soon as I can replace them with a new yellow shirt that fits better. They’re good shirts, but if they don’t fit well, I never wear them anyway. And every time I open my closet this is reinforced with a one-second glance because I no longer have to search for anything.

The book claims that using the Konmari method of organizing teaches you to trust your ability to make good decisions. I would agree with that. I have noticed I have an easier time questioning why I hold onto things. And it’s easier to let them go.

My only word of caution about this book has to do with “minimalist lifestyle” changes in general. Simply put, I am a tree-hugger at heart, so the consequences of consumerism is something I consider with every purchase and every release. I also grew up in poverty, so I will never be able to brag about how many trash bags of stuff I threw out because throwing anything out that might be helpful to someone else feels like a waste. If you are at a place in life where you are ready to purge your belongings, put on your “good steward” cap and try to think of better ways to get rid of your stuff than sending bags and bags of trash to the landfills. Our planet and the lives of people who live near these ever-growing mountains of trash are affected by them. Most items can be recycled or reused via donations to shelters, thrift stores, or other forms of second-hand sales. Just remember there is no such place called Away. When you throw something it always goes Somewhere. And since nobody wants to live in trash or have their drinking water polluted with it, dumping your trash in someone else’s river or backyard isn’t a wise or compassionate solution. Landfills should be last resorts when deciding what to do with things we get rid of. (Okay, hopping off my little soap box now.) 🙂

Recommendation:

I really appreciate this book. I had fun reading it. I had fun attempting to put some of the principles into action. I did learn new behavior and get a neater closet and drawers out of it, and so far those changes are holding strong. I’m looking forward to using it as a handbook in the future when that big, inevitable move comes. Fitting an entire house and lifetime of memories into a studio won’t be easy, so I’m glad I will have at least one helpful resource to survive it. If you are already a tidy person, this book will enhance your appreciation of your possessions and organized spaces. If you are not a tidy person, this might inspire you to roll up your sleeves and get down to the business of learning about who you are and why you possess the items that you do. The “spark joy” concept may seem flaky to some, but it’s a principle that every aspect of our lives could benefit from. Who are we and why do we hang onto old, tired things, jobs, relationships, dreams, etc. that no longer serve us or help others? Sometimes we have to endure things that don’t bring us joy. That’s just life. But if we do have a choice, why not truly let go of what clutters our breathing space so that we can better appreciate that which we truly love?

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