Friday, September 23, 2016

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Title: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
Author: Marie Kondo
Publication Date: 1/15/11
Pages: 213
Genre: Self-Help / Nonfiction
How I Found It: Everyone is talking about this book
Date Completed: 8/15/16

Summary: A plan to organize, purge, and tidy up your home.

What I Thought: This book has gotten so. much. buzz. It's insane. It was everywhere I looked there for a while. Nothing says first world like everyone buying a book to teach them how to get rid of stuff. 

Kevin and I are currently (slowly) working our way through a little purge of our own, just in an effort to get rid of things we don't need or want. Not inspired by this book, I swear; Marie Kondo would have some serious judgement about our methods. It was complete coincidence that I got my hands on a copy of this book in the midst of our fall purge. 

As Kondo notes, we have all heard and even adhered to dozens of organizing tips over the years. This idea is nothing new. We have too much stuff and getting rid of it can be so freeing, if not just downright necessary. 

Kondo's method requires a few ideas out of step with traditional tidying methods. First of all, she insists you must purge everything at once. No going through your home room by room or drawer by drawer. She argues this will only lead to the same type of item being stored in multiple places in your home. While I personally find this impractical, it does make sense to me, particularly if the person doing the tidying has let things get so out of control that they don't even know what they have anymore. Second, Kondo also insists on holding each item in your hand before making a decision about its future. She asks, "Does it spark joy?" In other words, does the item make you happy or add to your life? If not, she says, toss it. 

For me, this is where it starts getting ridiculous. I understand the sentiment, I really do. But I don't have to hold something in my hand to know whether or not I want to keep it. In fact, I would say that if I actually hold it in my hand and look at it, I'm more likely to keep it. It's easier to toss without much thought. Things that you're on the fence, sure, this method could work. Otherwise, I found it a bit pretentious.

Which, really, is how I felt about the whole KonMari method. It overwrought. I am 100% behind purging and simplifying. That's why we're trying to do it this fall. We have too much stuff, as do most first world citizens. Some of Kondo's thoughts were right on point with this. But, in my opinion, she just takes it too far. For instance, in her section on getting rid of books, she suggests not actually reading anything you're thinking of tossing. Don't open the cover, she says! "Reading clouds your judgement" Easily the most ridiculous sentence ever, even in her context. The whole chapter on books is one of the worst things I've read. She clearly has no understanding of WHY books matter to many people. Let's be real - telling me to throw out books without even opening them is a quick path to my bad side. And that's where I felt frustrated in many sections. While it's all well and good to toss clothes you don't wear often or purge old paperwork files or just generally clean things out, there is value in keeping things, too. Kondo has clearly been an ardent purger her whole life and it's evident in her writing that she looks down on those who cannot join her level of dedication. 

And that leads me to this point. The New York Times published an absolute fantastic article entitled "The Class Politics of Decluttering." I read it before I read the book and, admittedly, it swayed my thoughts as I read. But I'm glad it did! As the article points out, the effort to purge clutter is the height of privilege. Many don't have the luxury of tossing things out. Kondo never recognizes this. In fact, in all but a few references, she suggests throwing discarded items away rather than mentioning donation centers or ways your unwanted items may be a blessing to another person. She offers little thought to re-purposing old items, mending or tailoring old clothes, or the like. It's evident that she and her clientele live lives where purchasing a new item if you change your mind and want it after all is not a big deal. This is not how so many people live, myself included. 

I am certainly far from the poverty line and for that I feel incredibly blessed. But, my grandparents were raised in Depression-era Kansas and that mentality worked its way through the generations into my own home now. My husband and I are all for purging when that's the best option. We throw things away when we are sure no one else can get use out of them. The rest we donate. And we don't get rid of things that can be re-purposed or save us money in some way. As I said, this is not a matter of survival for us as it is for many in our country, but it is a matter of sensibility. The best way to reach that place of privileged is by making sensible, frugal decisions even in the small things. I know there's balance in all of this and I firmly endorse said balance. Kondo's message, to me, felt averse to this.

There were some good points and good ideas in the book. I don't want to completely trash it and leave you with the idea that there is nothing of value here. It was a good challenge and reminder for me as we go through our own purging exercises that I don't need most of what I think I do. Kondo has clearly given a lot of thought to this subject and developed a method very effective for herself and her clients. I would say 70% of the book resonated well with me and I support. It's just that 30% remainder which sparked my ire and I cannot set aside. 

Quotes I Loved:

  • "One reason so many of us never succeed at tidying is because we have too much stuff. This excess is caused by our ignorance of how much we actually own."
  • "Letting go is even more important than adding."
  • "Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something."

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Maybe sections, but probably not

A Reduced Review: Clearing out clutter is important and Kondo has some great ideas...right along side some extreme ones with which I simply could not get on board.


  1. I couldn't agree more about the chapter on books, I skipped it entirely. Oddly enough her ideas about the items sparking joy and avoiding shame regarding unused items were incredibly helpful for me. I donated 5 trashbags of stuff to Goodwill during our last move!

  2. I couldn't agree more about the chapter on books, I skipped it entirely. Oddly enough her ideas about the items sparking joy and avoiding shame regarding unused items were incredibly helpful for me. I donated 5 trashbags of stuff to Goodwill during our last move!

    1. Well that's great! (not sarcastic even though it totally sounds like it in text. lol) I certainly don't discount that for some people, those strategies will work. I just didn't like how cut and dry she made it seem - like her system is the best system for everyone. I think both of those concepts are good concepts, I just don't want to carry them to the length she did.