Book Review – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, which was written by a Japanese decluttering phenomenon named Marie Kondo. I’ve hesitated to write about the book, though, because I LOVED it and don’t know where to start! I highly encourage you to read it if you’re interested in decluttering and organizing your belongings…ALL of your belongings.

This book really resonated with me. Kondo advocates a comprehensive, ordered, and one-time-only “tidy,” or major decluttering session, that works through all of your belongings with the ultimate goal of keeping only those items that “spark joy” in you. The overall premise is similar to many other decluttering books (i.e., “keep what you love and discard the rest”), but Kondo is more stringent about keeping a tight timeline for this process and adhering to certain parameters so that you only have to do the process once (possibly over several days/weeks/months) before developing the tools for life-long maintenance. In the process, Kondo stresses, a kind of magic happens. You make faster, better decisions. Your home better reflects you and supports you in the life you want. You “wake up” the energy of the house and breathe new life into your home.

Does this sound a little New-Agey? Well, yes, but Kondo is also so practical and no-nonsense that she’s easy to trust and follow. She talks at length about the best way to fold clothing, for example, and she specifically addressed several of my sore spots: Cosmetic samples. Used checkbook registers. Good clothing that is never worn. There are slight elements of fung shui in the book, but Kondo’s approach is tactile and physical, too.

A few of Kondo’s points especially struck me:

Kondo’s advice on paperwork? As a general rule, throw all papers out. All of them. Just throw…them…out.   This is a radical and exciting thought to me. I collect, file, and keep so much paper and feel so responsible for it, so I love the idea of throwing it all away. After all, what do we really need to keep? The list is short—passport, birth certificate, mortgage, titles, tax returns and supporting docs, insurance policies, etc. Kondo says that required paperwork will fit into a single file folder…and she’s right. I keep circling back to this idea and I gotta say—I like it. I’m tempted to gather and box up everything I don’t truly need so it’s ready for the next community shred day. And if I should ever need a paper I’ve discarded? Kondo says that most people will use the same or less time getting the information from the source (doctor, company, library, expert) than they would retrieving it from extensive files.

Recognize your belongings for their work, thank them, and release them. Kondo unapologetically anthropomorphizes objects. She encourages her readers to verbally thank objects for the work they’ve done, the lessons they’ve taught, and/or the joy they’ve brought before “releasing” them into retirement from service. It may sound somewhat kooky, but this anthropomorphic philosophy didn’t turn me off. In fact, I totally buy into the idea that certain objects have a kind of energy or spirit. It may sound silly, but I do. For example, I sometimes thank my car for being so faithful and hardworking. I pet the steering wheel and say thanks, and I try to take care of my car mechanically in return for its service.

Kondo’s book is a quick, easy read and I’ve found myself referring back to it several times already. Kondo is straightforward and authoritative, and her method is inspiring. She’s simple but strict, so that only the best of the best will remain in your home—and in your life.

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