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

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date Read: September 05 to 10, 2015
Read Count: 1
Recommended by: ads at the library
Recommended for: people looking for new ways to get rid of stuff and my freshman year roommate

Hah hah hah…no, seriously. If I could find that roommate now, I’d give her this book, but you know, in a really nice way because girl definitely needed to learn how to let things go. There’s a joke here somewhere, but I haven’t had enough sleep to find it.

Anyhow.

This book started out well for me. The writing is straightforward and easy to follow, and the message is all you need is just enough to live, no more, no less. That’s the key to maintaining a tidy home. Marie Kondo is a lifestyle coach who specializes in helping people tidy up their lives, both literally and figuratively. She believes that having a clean living space will open your mind to creativity, lessen stress, promote a healthy lifestyle, and make you happy. Those are high expectations for a clean home. Whether or not they’re achievable is for you to decide. Overall, I like this book and what it’s trying to do–help people make a dramatic change and make cleaning a habit–and I like Kondo’s way of approaching it.

A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life transforming.

[…]

[W]hen you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t, and what you should and shouldn’t do.

The book opens with a bold statement: Kondo wants to revolutionize people’s attitudes toward cleaning and organization by sharing a fool-proof method she calls the KondMari Method, which I summarize as the get-rid-of-things method. If you follow it to the letter, she guarantees you’ll never have to clean again and, more importantly, you’ll never relapse. To start, she believes that you have to adjust your attitude and make cleaning second nature rather than an afterthought if you honestly want to keep your home tidy, and that cleaning and organizing aren’t just things to do when your home overflow with stuff; they’re things to do once in awhile because the point is to always keep your home tidy. Everything should have a place in your home, and you should put things back in their place after using them. This line goes out to my roommate especially. How hard was it to hang up your damn coat or stow away your damn shoes? 🙂

[The method] I describe in this book is not a mere set of rules on how to sort, organize, and put things away. It is a guide to acquiring the right mind-set for creating order and becoming a tidy person.

[…]

[N]o matter how hard I try to organize another’s space, no matter how perfect a storage system I devise, I can never put someone else’s house in order in the true sense of the term. Why? Because a person’s awareness and perspective on his or her own lifestyle are far more important than any skill at sorting, storing, or whatever. Order is dependent on the extremely personal values of what a person wants to live with.

But I now see why I couldn’t make Roommate put away her things on her own. She was like a toddler in a 19-year-old’s body, though that’s beside the point. The point is she needed to be the one to clean up her living space intrinsically, which sounds like a kids-gloves way of dealing with serial slobs, but I think Kondo is on the right track for the most part. You can’t make people clean because they have to want to do it for themselves.

This book might come in handy for someone who’s ready for a dramatic change, something to shake up their life, but it doesn’t do much for me because I don’t need a shake up. I don’t have a lot of things, and cleaning & organization is already second nature to me. What the book made me realize, though, is clean freaks are kinda scary. The more you learn about their cleaning methods and how they came up with them, the crazier they seem. I include myself in this because I’m pretty sure I’d sound just as bizarre if I had to explain to a stranger my personal organization systems. Yes, systems, plural.

So first things first. According to Kondo, you’re required to do a massive cleaning. Her advice is to divide everything your own into categories–clothes, shoes, toiletries, books, photos, misc.–and then take each item and ask yourself if said item brings you joy. Yes, every item. This process can take days. The belief is that once you go through every single item, you’ll be left with only the ones that bring you joy and they will then fill your home with joy. This massive cleaning is the hard part, but once you’re through, your home should be neat; it should be whatever you imagined your ideal space to look like. From then on, to keep your home tidy, you just need to put things back in their place.

Sounds simple, right? Maybe too simple? What’s the catch, you’re thinking? The catch is Kondo is anti-storage and offers few reliable solutions for keeping things you’re required to keep that don’t bring you joy, like certain paperwork. For this alone, her method is of no use to me because I was looking for a better way to store the stacks of paperwork I’m required to keep for work and/or legal reasons. Sometimes storage is necessary, and this is one of those times.

Kondo lost me completely when she delved further into her organization methods and how she came up with them. This is what I mean when I said clean freaks are scary. I wouldn’t say Kondo herself is “batty,” although there’s definitely a hyper, batty quality to her attitude toward getting rid of things. Then again, she lives in Japan where apartments are compact and storage space is a luxury, so the obvious way to deal with clutter is to get rid of it. I don’t object to getting rid of things you almost never use. What I don’t like is Kondo’s rigid, systematic way of getting rid of things and why her method may not work for many people, myself included, who need to hang onto things that don’t bring us joy, like piles and piles of paper. Sometimes storage is necessary (because you never know when you might be called to court and present those piles and piles of paper). So for people in similar situations, this book might not help much.

But if you want to try a new way to clean and organize, this might be a fun dramatic project to take on. Be prepared to get rid almost everything you own though.

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