I recently finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.
Amazon describes it thusly …
Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again.
… and now that I’ve had time to ruminate upon it, I have thoughts.
This Book Is Maybe Not Aimed At You
I feel like the first thing that needs to be pointed out is that Marie is a “cleaning consultant.”
That means people HIRE her to help them tidy their homes.
THEY seek HER. (That’s key)
If you aren’t the sort of person who WANTS their life/home/world/whatever to be tidier? Then this book will do you no good whatsoever, and you will likely find it a handy subject for ridicule.
I say that because I’ve talked about this book with multiple people and the most productive and interesting conversations I’ve had have been with people who already strive for tidyness in their lives.
The people who aren’t ready to commit to a tidy lifestyle or who are perfectly happy with the way their lives are organized … mostly scoffed.
Which is a perfectly natural reaction to someone giving you advice you don’t want. =]
The Book Itself
The book itself is a lovely combination of self-reflective ramblings and a regimented recommendation for how to get your home ship-shape.
Marie talks you through her own personal journeys in tidying and the many ways in which they have failed her in the past.
This dovetails nicely into her KonMari method, which she developed based on learning from those failures. She posits that if you tidy ONCE (thoroughly and completely over a six-month period) then the dramatic change in the way you view your home/living situation will resonate with you in such a way that you will naturally want to keep it tidy thereafter.
Once you live in it, you will want to continue to live in it.
I won’t go into great detail on the exact method (clothes first, then paperwork, etc) because you can find that elsewhere if you’re truly motivated and I didn’t commit it to memory.
The Core Precept
The core ideal of the KonMari method is to touch a thing and ask yourself “Does this bring me joy?”
Note that I said “touch” — you cannot look at a book on a shelf and make this decision. You must take ALL of your books off of your shelves and put them on the floor. Only then (taken away from their natural habitat) can you pick up each book individually and ask yourself “does this bring me joy?”
If it doesn’t, then why does it need to be in your life?
I Feel Personally Attacked Right Now
I’m gonna take a step back here because I have a feeling I just lost some of you. /wink
When she got to the chapter on books, I found myself slumping into a sullen, unhappy blob.
She talked about clients who kept books because they might read them someday. Because they wanted to be the sort of person who did woodworking or origami or whatever. Because they were a gift. Because …
… well, basically all the reasons I have kept so many books, lol.
I am not going to lie, I was SO incredibly NOT on board with a book purge. I doubt I need to explain to YOU guys.
But then she said (and excuse me for paraphrasing because I don’t have the book anymore) something along the lines of, “Imagine a bookshelf filled only with those books that truly bring you joy? Can you imagine anything more magical?”
And I had to admit that no … I couldn’t. That sounded absolutely amazing.
I still … haven’t actually done it.
I DID go through them while still on the shelf and then them out considerably. I’d say about a third of them are gone now and I don’t miss them. I don’t think about them or pine after them or wish I’d kept them for later. (And if I ever DO get rid of such a book, I have the means to get another copy of it).
But I haven’t pulled them all down and done the Joy Test on all of them yet. I will, but this weekend was purging my clothes and documents (why did I keep the user manual for my old hair dryer? Or my rice maker?)
So yes. I realize that for many of you, the book bit will sting. And I’m not saying that YOU need to do this thing … that ANYONE needs to do this thing. But after I thought about it, I realized that -I- needed to do this thing.
Why Is It In Your Life?
Back to asking whether an item brings you joy or not.
Even supposing one doesn’t thin out one’s library, there are probably tons of things that you would feel confident chucking.
Makeup samples that have expired and you will never use. Spices that are expired or you never use. Clothes that you haven’t worn in years. Socks with holes in them.
There’s a lot of stuff that’s “obvious” when it comes to chucking it in the bin, yet we never do it. We hold on to it because we “might need it someday”.
And there’s the rub.
Because yes, you might.
But in the meantime, while you’re waiting for this lifestyle change that would transform you into the person who will use that spice or wear that makeup … you’re just … holding on to it.
You’re letting it take up space in your cupboards, which makes your cupboards messy and overflowing, which makes you not know what’s in your cupboards, which makes you buy more makeup and spices.
OR you never confront the fact that you’re probably never going to make a great deal of curry or probably never going to need sixteen different shades of eyeshadow and therefore you keep buying it because someday you might be that person.
I dunno. Maybe that’s just me.
And I didn’t go CRAZY. I didn’t throw out all my spices or my makeup. But I DID throw out everything that I haven’t touched since I bought it (years-plural-ago). And I don’t plan on replacing anything I threw out.
And from my bathroom alone I got rid of two garbage bags full of … I don’t even know. I don’t even remember what I threw away, but I know that now I can see EVERY single type of medicine and band-aid I own and that I don’t have to reach behind my spare toilet paper to try and find my spare conditioner.
And maybe I’ll stop buying floss because good grief, I have bought a lot of floss. I must’ve been worried I would run out or something, but if anyone needs floss, I’m your gal.
Gifts and Memorabilia
The hardest part of this is going through memorabilia and gifts, which she acknowledges freely. She recommends saving ALL of that for last, when you are more “experienced” at culling.
Because we are prone to keep things because they were a gift from someone. Or because they asked us to hold on to it for us. (Ever have your parents snatch up an item you were getting rid of … or worse, ask them to hold on to it for you? *raises her hand* Yeah, guilty as charged).
The person who gave you that gift would (probably, hopefully) hate for you to hang on to it for no other reason than because they gave it.
Your parents are not responsible for holding on to your stuff. (And parents, you are not responsible for doing so.)
If you want to keep it, you should keep it. And if it doesn’t matter if you own it/have it/see it/touch it … then why is it in your life? Is it bringing you joy?
An Item’s Purpose
Marie talks a lot about an item’s purpose.
We often feel like we need to keep things because of the effort that was put into them.
I spent the money on this shirt, therefore I feel guilty about not wearing it, therefore I can’t just throw it away (or donate it, whatever).
That guilt is based on assuming the purpose of the shirt is to be worn.
(I know, that seems pretty self-evident, but according to Marie’s method, it’s wrong).
Examine why you don’t wear it. Is the style not you, or does it not fit, or is it too heavy, (… or does it attract too much cat hair …) … WHATEVER the reason, delve into it.
I love that this book doesn’t recommend wholesale cropping of your stuff – it wants you to understand WHY you keep or don’t keep an item.
So let’s say the reason you don’t wear the shirt is because (as in my case) every time I wear it, the collar drops down and it becomes uncomfortable. I liked the design, the colors, the texture … but about ten minutes into actually wearing the shirt — BOOM, the “back of the neck” has crept south, making every other part of the shirt uncomfortable and binding.
The purpose of that shirt, Marie might say, was to teach me to be more careful when trying on shirts. Wear them for a few minutes, stretch my shoulders, and make sure it stays comfortable.
By learning that lesson, I will not spend MORE money on shirts like that. I can thank this shirt for what it taught me and allow it to move on. It doesn’t need to stay in my closet to fulfill its purpose.
(Yes, the personification of items is a recurring theme, and although I personally enjoyed it, this may be a thing you would gloss over if you read the book. YMMV, but I talk to inanimate objects all the time. Giving my socks time to relax in my sock drawer instead of balling them up into potatoes made sense to me … and yes, that’s another recommendation, though I won’t go into further detail, lol).
We sometimes punish ourselves for having spent money on an item by forcing ourselves to leave it in our lives.
And I think that’s no good. To be surrounded by items that you’re keeping just to punish yourself with is not a healthy home environment.
Only YOU can Tidy Your Home
I could keep going (and goodness, I certainly HAVE kept going) but I want to leave you with one more thought from Marie.
You’re the only one who can tidy your home.
Her book doesn’t tell you how to tidy.
Her book tells you how to figure out what tidy looks like for you.
It’s a subtle distinction, but one she calls out later in the book. No one else can go through your closet and know what to chuck and what to keep. No one else can go through your spice cabinet or your baking drawer and know what you love and what you never use.
The way YOUR home will look after tidying is a reflection of you, and that is why the “Does this bring you joy?” test is so important.
The end result shouldn’t necessarily look like it fits in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine — the end result should be somewhere that you are joyful to be in. A place that welcomes you and loves you and is a celebration of you.
I’ve gone on (and on and on) here, but I really did have a lot of Thoughts about this book. I would say I regard myself as a tidy person, and that the book was definitely “preaching to the choir” with regards to most of what it had to say.
Has anyone read it? Did you have any thoughts? (even dissenting ones, no need to pretend you liked it or keep from voicing an opinion … it wasn’t a perfect book or method, and I have a few nits I could definitely pick though I think we can all agree I’ve shed enough words on the subject for one blog post).