Book Review


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - cover.jpgTitle: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Author: Marie Kondo
Format: Audiobook (narrated by Emily Woo Zeller)
Start Date: October 24, 2016
End Date: October 26, 2016
Rating: 4 stars

Tidying is just a tool, not the destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.

Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a book I first heard about several months ago. I put in my request on OverDrive (my go-to library app) for the audiobook, and proceeded to wait, as I was sixteenth in line. The book quickly went to the back of my mind as I went on with life: reading other books, starting a book blog, etc.

I was skeptical when I first started reading this book, and quite possibly a bit defensive. As a closet hoarder – from a family of hoarders – how was I to trust this little Japanese woman’s advice to organize my two-bedroom apartment? Surely, she could understand none of my struggles, since from a very young age, Kondo was passionate about tidying. When I was younger, my  method of cleaning used to consist of stuffing any undesirable objects or things I did not know what to do with under my bed or in my closet; upon rediscovery of these “lost” items, I would be overcome with a wave of nostalgia, but eventually those same objects would be hidden away much like before.

Although I am much better today – or at least more cognizant of my pitfalls – I still struggle with holding on to too much. I moved out of my parents’ home over a year ago, yet there are still one and a half closets and half a bedroom full of my things, dusty and forgotten. I was hoping that Kondo’s tips about tidying up – under the moniker “The KonMarie Method” (adapted from her name) – would inspire me to tidy both my apartment and my parents’ home, as well as to organize my life.

The advice Kondo gives is simple: “Start by discarding. Then organize your space – thoroughly, completely – in one go.” Her rule for discarding is to first collect everything in one place, and then tidy in the order of categories shown below.

marie-kondoOne 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. When we disperse storage of a particular item throughout the house and tidy one place at a time, we can never grasp the overall volume and therefore can never finish. To escape this negative spiral, tidy by category, not place.

The Correct Order of Tidying (from Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up)
  1. Clothes
    • Tops (shirts, sweaters, etc.)
    • Bottoms (pants, skirts, etc.)
    • Clothes that should be hung (jackets, coats, suits, etc.)
    • Socks
    • Underwear
    • Bags (handbags, messenger bags, etc.)
    • Accessories (scarves, belts, hats, etc.)
    • Clothes for specific events (swimsuits, kimonos, uniforms, etc.)
    • Shoes
  2. Books
    • General (books you read for pleasure)
    • Practical (references, cookbooks, etc.)
    • Visual (photograph collections, etc.)
    • Magazines
  3. Papers
    • Discard everything that doesn’t fall into one of three categories:
      1. Currently in use
      2. Needed for a limited period of time
  • Must be kept indefinitely
  1. Komono (Miscellany)
    • CDs, DVDs
    • Skin care products
    • Makeup
    • Accessories
    • Valuables (passports, credit cards, etc.)
    • Electrical equipment and appliances (digital cameras, electrical cords, anything that seems vaguely “electric”)
    • Household equipment (stationary and writing materials, sewing kits, etc.)
    • Household supplies (expendables like medicine, detergents, tissues, etc.)
    • Kitchen goods / food supplies (spatulas, pots, blenders, etc.)
    • Other (spare change, figurines, etc.)
      1. Make “into your wallet” your motto
    • (If you have many items related to a particular interest or hobby, such as ski equipment or tea ceremony articles, treat these as a single subcategory”
  2. Things with Sentimental Value

The reason for this order is that clothes are usually much easier to discard than things with sentimental values, and also clothes are usually in a central location while other things like papers are scattered throughout the home. This order allows the user to both collect things as they go while simultaneously honing their decision-making skills.

The most important question to ask when discarding, says Kondo, is to ask if a particular item “sparks joy.”

Kondo, Marie - Spark Joy - illustration for sparking joy.jpg
Ask if an item “Sparks Joy” (from Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up)

After discarding comes organizing. According to Kondo, “I have only two rules: store all items of the same type in the same place and don’t scatter storage space.” She also advises storing things vertically rather than piling them (like clothes) because it is a constant reminder of what you have.

Kondo’s book was helpful. After reading, I felt inspired to tidy my apartment as well as the things remaining in my parents’ home.

I also really liked how the book was organized. Each chapter was broken into individual sections, and each section often had important thoughts bolded. It would be easy for someone to skim this book just to get the main idea of what Kondo was trying to say.

I’ve only ever read one or two self-help books before in my life. Part of me resists them because they tend to point out flaws to the reader, and like a lot of people, I like to sit in my little bubble of ignorance, or at least sit away from those that shine a spotlight on the negative things about myself that I already know. Although sometimes a little blunt, Kondo delivers her tips with personal anecdotes from her own life and the lives of some of her previous clients, showing the reader that they are not alone.

While I think Kondo offered a plethora of good advice, I don’t agree with everything she says. She does seem a bit too nit-picky, especially fond of throwing away sentimental items. She also seems to dismiss the idea that hoarding can be a mental disorder, though I imagine that she does not deal with a lot (or any) extreme hoarders. The point of a self-help book, in my opinion, is to gain a new perspective and improve yourself. This book is not a by-the-letter book on how you have to tidy, even though the author suggests that it is more helpful to have one system rather than adapt the system for individuals.

In the end, her book is a good jumping-off point. I felt that she offered a lot of good tips for tidying, as well as provided inspiration and motivation for me to move forward with a distinct goal in mind. I am excited to start putting her tips to good use!

As for you, pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life. I am convinced that putting your house in order will help you find the mission that speaks to your heart. Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.


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