Worth repeating: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: A Review (part one)

21 November 2019

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: A review

Marie Kondo is back in the news, having launched a store on her website that sells her favorite things. I don’t want to go into the seeming incongruity of that. But it seems like a good time to re-run my 2015 review of the book that launched her success. You might also be interested in this post, where I describe trying out her system and this review of her Netflix show, which I did enjoy.

Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo? She’s the Japanese “tidying consultant” whose book has sold over 2 million copies worldwide.

I initially resisted reading it because I was irked by all the attention it had garnered. (It has received loads of media attention, as well as bestseller status.) But a couple of people mentioned that the advice in the book echoed much of what I write about, so I thought I’d better check it out. I was also intrigued by how it seemed to really prompt people to take action.

I bristled as I read the first couple of chapters, because the author spoke in absolutes with a “my way or the highway” attitude. She basically said that if you follow her method you will succeed and never backslide. And if you deviate from her method you’re pretty much doomed to failure.

My clients know that I don’t speak in such absolutes and that I’m all for custom, not cookie-cutter, solutions.

But I kept reading. And as I read, I found myself nodding along at many of her ideas. I’m not necessarily thrilled with the directive way they’re expressed (which could be attributed to culture differences or simply the translation), but I saw truth in much of what she wrote. For example:

  • Keep only those things that spark joy
  • Decide what to keep, not what to let go of
  • Let go of excess in order to cherish those items that are important to you
  • Don’t start organizing until after you’ve decluttered
  • Keep storage solutions excruciatingly simple

She and I deviate on a few points as well. For example, I don’t agree with these points:

  • There’s one right way to do things—the organizing method should not be changed to suit the person using it
  • You should aim for perfection
  • It’s a bad idea to declutter a little at a time
  • Storage experts are hoarders

I also felt like some of her advice, while viable for her clients living in small spaces in Japan, might not be realistic for many of my clients’ larger homes. For example, she advocates storing all like items in one area, not spreading them throughout the house. In a 5,000 square foot home, it doesn’t make much sense to me to have all your pens, for example, in one desk.

All that aside, there’s one thing I can say for this book: It does spark action. I read it on an airplane and was itching to get home to do some decluttering as soon as I finished it. I’m looking forward to trying out some of her methods, and even exploring her uber-simple paper organizing method (papers to be acted on and papers to be saved; the latter is divided into two subcategories, infrequently used papers and more frequently used papers). She made me want to discard all the old seminar notes that are cluttering up my bookshelf—because it’s true; I never look at them.

And I can’t wait to try out her signature question, “Does this item spark joy?” during the decluttering process in my own home. I’m back from my trip and today I’m going to give Marie Kondo’s advice (which she has named “the KonMarie Method”) a shot. My home is in need of some decluttering attention, so it’s the perfect chance to give it a try.

I’ll blog about the results on Thursday!

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About Janine

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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