Monday, January 5, 2015

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

I read Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, at the end of last year. I liked some things about it, and I disagreed with some things. And some of what she says is pretty much nuts. I think reading ideas that I disagree with is great - it can make me clarify my own thoughts on the subject, or look deeper into why I believe what I do. Also, sometimes when I disagree with something, I'll keep thinking about it and maybe after a while, I'll see that some part (or all!) of the opposing idea works for me. 

Any time we're is trying to make a change, I think it's a great idea to listen to or read or discuss ideas that we don't agree with. If we already had all the answers, why would we need to make a change? There might be something that we need to change our perspective on, or something that we've rejected out of hand. So, let's open our minds and see what gets in there.

I think this quote sums up Kondo's philosophy on decluttering: "I can think of no greater happiness in life than to be surrounded only by the things I love.... All you need to do is to get rid of anything that doesn't touch your heart." (p. 202) Her strategy is that you should go through your entire house and make a decision about every item. So, no skipping over a drawer because you know you want everything in there - dump it out and touch every item and see if it brings you joy. Only keep the joy-bringers.

Kondo is a proponent of the uncommon strategy of going through your whole house as one project. She doesn't believe in throwing out one thing each day, or any other very gradual plans. Yes, it will take you a month or two, but declutter your whole house in one continuous, huge project and she says you'll never have a clutter problem again. You make a dramatic change and it shocks you into changing forever. 

Now, I think the gradual approach can be really great for people who don't have time to do much at once, or who feel overwhelmed with taking on the whole house at one time - or probably for tons of other reasons. But I love the idea of focusing on decluttering the whole house for a month or so and just getting it done. It would feel so awesome! I've done something similar in the past - every time I've moved. But I always skipped over some boxes, drawers, and categories of belongings, assuming that I wanted everything in there - or not feeling up to sorting through it all. This year, I'm going through the whole house and I'm going to try to really look at Every Thing.

I keep thinking about this next quote, and it might be helpful to keep it in my mind while decluttering: "The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life." (p. 182) Wow, thinking about it that way could really help me get rid of things that aren't relevant to me anymore. My old law school books? I will probably never look at them again, so why hold on to them? Do I want to think about "what-ifs" every time I see them? I think I just made a decision to get rid of all those big, expensive books. I don't want to keep thinking about other directions my life could have taken.

Rather than thinking you should follow someone else's rules for how many of each thing you should own, Kondo wants you to find out what you need. "As you reduce your belongings through the process of tidying, you will come to a point where you suddenly know how much is just right for you." (p. 124) I'm obviously a proponent of choosing a number and using that as a guideline (as I've done with choosing my capsule wardrobe components). But, I also tweak my list as needed, to keep it appealing and workable for me. I like that she leaves the quantity up to you.

Now, here are some things I don't agree with:

"When you stand in front of a closet that has been reorganized so that the clothes rise to the right, you will feel your heart beat faster and the cells in your body buzz with energy." (p. 79) I doubt it. I admit, I didn't try it. Please let me know if you do. I just organize by season and by type of clothes. 

Kondo suggests that we throw away ALL papers! I'm not down with that. She says you'll find any manuals online, which might be true. What about receipts? What about things I pull out of magazines that inspire me creatively? She's right that I could get rid of a lot of my papers, but I'm not even trying to throw it all away. 

Kondo says that every item in your house should have a place to be put away. I agree! I would love to establish that at my house. But she takes everything out of her purse at night and puts the contents in a box under her bed. I need my purse ready to go the next day! I also stash things in my car for myself and the kids: snacks, water, mittens, and blankets. She takes this idea too far for me, but I'd like for most things in my house to have a home base.

Here's what I think is kind of crazy:

"Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type, and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure." (p. 78) Yikes!

When you give something away, here's what she says becomes of that item: "Freed from its physical form, it will move about your world as energy, letting other things know that you are a special person, and come back to you as the thing that will be of most use to who you are now, the thing that will bring you the most happiness." (p. 192)

She is really into anthropomorphizing inanimate objects, speaking to them, and believing that they want to help us. If that helps anyone to appreciate their belongings, that's great! Reading about it in this book just made me roll my eyes. 

My final thought: don't buy it. If you liked what you read here, or if you just want to read a little different perspective on decluttering, it would be a great library read. It's easy to read and it's interesting to get a peek into Japanese life. Apparently they also love collecting stuff and buying organizational tools to keep it in. 

Oh, she also teaches how to fold up all your clothing like sushi! I didn't try it, but you could!

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