Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
I did not find this book magical or life-changing. As someone who enjoys cleaning up and organizing my things, I was hoping for a windfall of advice on how to keep my minimalistic home neat and tidy. If you're like-minded, then I suspect that you'll find very little useful information in this book.
Within the first pages, the book did warn me that Marie Kondo was writing to people who need to develop the habit of tidying up. She makes the assumption that her reader is not already tidy, which is a shame. I'm sure there are many other tidy people out there who just want to maximize their tidiness.
If you're someone who's debating minimalism or struggling to keep your home organized, then this book may be the perfect solution for you. Of course, you do have to get used to Marie Kondo's unusual perspective on many things.
She requires that you pick up every item you own and ask yourself, "Does this item spark joy?" Anything that does not spark joy must be eliminated. I choose to interpret her baseline question as "Does this item serve a useful purpose on a regular basis that enhances my life?" That's the question I used over a year ago to declutter my belongings, all in one swoop within a few months. Worked pretty well.
Where Marie Kondo lost me was in her bizarre perspective that goes beyond items sparking joy. She thinks that socks have feelings. She writes that you should never ball up your socks to put them away. When would they rest? And, they don't like bumping into one another in the drawer! Those socks have worked hard to support your feet all day, so you should treat them better!
Perhaps Marie Kondo lives in a Disney animated movie where her socks were enchanted by a magical tidying genie. Balling them up hurts them and, an even more gross offense, makes hearing what they're trying to sing to you difficult. I, on the other hand, live in the real world where I don't ball up my socks because I find it easier to put them on if I don't have to unwind them. But now I kind of want to ball up every pair. Every pair!
Oh, another fantastic example of her oddball advice. If you find an old cell phone that you can't part with, text it a thank you message. Then you'll feel the freedom and be able to get rid of it or donate it. Maybe cell phone plans work differently in Japan, but I would not be able to text the old phone a thank you because my new cell phone would have that number.
Her attitude towards books is also appalling! She expects her clients to get rid of the books on their "to be read" pile. She writes, "The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it." I have no tolerance for this kind of small-mindedness. If people are collecting books to read, then let them. I know I earmark certain books to read at certain times of the year. I've even bought a few books I know I won't read until I retire. Plus, I constantly rearrange which book I'll be reading next. Unless book piles are blocking exit routes, get over yourself!
And her attitude toward cached items is also bizarro. She complains about certain clients who stockpile items. She mentions one client who stockpiled three months of toilet paper. And she's horrified by this catastrophic situation!
I do not understand why. I really don't. I became a minimalist, decluttered my stuffs, and now I have much more room in cabinets and in closets. If I find TP on sale for a good price, I'll buy a year's worth, crazy lady! It's not like her clients were stockpiling items that would expire. Buying at a good price point saves money. Plus, if I'm lucky enough to create a decent cache, then I don't have to venture back out to the store where I may be tempted to spend money on crap I don't need.
And she's woefully behind the times on tidying up papers. She advocates shredding many documents, including old check books, which made me laugh. Her aim is for the paper collection to take up less space. Has she not heard of digital organization? Scan those documents and store them in the cloud. If you're suspicious of the cloud, store the documents on your own hard drive, just be sure to back up to an external drive on a regular basis.
Much of the other non-wackadoodle words are pieces of advice you already know if you've ever read an organizing book or article.
- A messy room equals a messy mind
- Forget seasonal storage - keep all clothes accessible all year long
- Have a home for every item
- We can only cherish a limited number of things at a time
The one piece of genuinely helpful information I extracted from this book was her point about storing things vertically. Sadly, I didn't even need to read her book to access this point. Searching Pinterest for Marie Kondo boards produces a variety of blog posts and videos that give step-by-step instructions for the KonMari folding methods. I found one such video that demonstrated her KonMari method for folding t-shirts, which has allowed me to comfortably fold all of my t-shirts into one drawer. And now, I can see every t-shirt, so picking out what I want to wear is super easy.
If you're already tidy, you can skip this book. If you're searching for advice on tidiness, then this book can help you if you're willing to read her unique point of view on a good many things.