Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: A Book Review

So this morning has gone much better.  It's rodeo week so I got HB dressed to look like a cowboy so he had no objections about going to school.  Yesterday, I updated the look of the blog (and added a disclaimer for Europeans about cookies).  Judging by the blog's tag, I haven't updated the look in nearly a year.  So it was time.

I recently checked out a copy of Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up."  It's a very popular book right now.  So let's weigh in.

The main premise of the book is that if you follow her method, the Kondomari method, you will never rebound and have clutter again.  The first chapter and the last chapter read like a sales pitch on the method so that pretty much made me dislike the book.

I thought how the book was organized was poor.  She mixes the feelings behind stuff and clutter up with her sections on discarding and organizing.  Maybe it's a translation issue or a cultural one, but I just had a hard time figuring out the point.  You really don't want a non-fiction work to be set up so that if you are looking for something you can just flip through and find it within a matter of a minute.  Instead there's an index which in a book this small shouldn't be necessary.

A large chunk of the book is based around Japanese Shinto beliefs.  She discusses setting up your house according to your life style.  This made me chuckle as I'm visualizing a cloister religious arching an eyebrow over needing to tidy up.  She mentions thanking your belongings for working for you.  As a Christian that just is weird if not against Christianity.  We should be thanking our Creator for our stuff and remembering that we are merely stewards of our stuff. So I see her point about appreciating your belongings, but at the same time it's based on Shintoism.  As a Christian we're called to practice detachment so again thanking your stuff is strange. Likewise she mentions that touching your stuff gives it power (hence the term 'magic' used in the title of the book).  I was starting to think I shouldn't be reading this book at all for that reason alone.

She also seems to contradict herself.  At first she says when you discard items, you should hold the item to determine if the item "sparks joy."  I thought, well, that would mean I need to get rid of my pots and pans because holding them definitely doesn't "spark joy."  Later on she says we should retain items that we love and need.  She also talks about getting rid of things that may "spark joy" for some people but one shouldn't really keep like seminar papers.  To me this was disingenuous.  Either you keep things that give you joy or you are practical about your stuff or some combination of the two which is what I believe she's actually suggesting.

Now that I've gotten the junk out of the way...Like I've said before with non-fiction books you discard the junk and take what you can from the book.  So let's look at the practical applications.

Skip chapter one entirely and scan through chapter two.  About the only thing I remember being practical about chapter two is to not let your relatives see how much you are getting rid of.  For some families this is stressful.  She also says to discard by category, which I think is a good idea.  Many people have no idea how much of one thing they have tucked away in different parts of the house.

The third chapter is really good as it tells you (in her opinion) what you should be getting rid of and why regardless of whether it "sparks joy."  Keep in mind that again she bases the books on Shintoism.  If you are discarding mementos for example you should be thanking God for the memories of trip and not thanking the object.

The forth chapter is also really good.  She explains how to organize your belongings. Read how to fold clothes. One of the things she says to do is turn things vertical including your clothing.  I've done that before and it lasted about a month.  I have children.  I'd be happy if they put their clothing back after looking for a particular item.  They aren't very good about keeping things neat and because of their ages I don't expect them to.  I do however expect the items to stay in the drawer.  My husband didn't care for the method and went back to stacking.  But I may end up reorganizing my stuff based on how she explained to fold things.  I'm also thinking about reorganizing the vast collection of games so that they are vertical.  There are many more tips like that that you may find are extremely helpful in organizing your stuff.  So if anything this is the chapter to read and mark up.

Ignore the last chapter.  It's a sales pitch.

Over-all how would I rate the book?  Fair.  There is certainly much to discard (ha ha) about it.  It can definitely be more condensed and the psychological aspect to it is not Christian.  That said the practical tips are innovative and could be useful to you when dealing with your house.  Does it do what it says it does ie no rebounding?  I doubt it.  It can certainly help but requires a level of maintenance that you have to demand from all members of your family.  If your family isn't on board, well then it isn't any different than any other organizing method.  I also don't think it helps people who are natural hoarders.  Those people have a psychological condition which makes them attach too much to stuff, which is why I rolled my eyes about keeping things that "spark joy."  They literally feel anxiety about getting rid of things and that anxiety must be dealt with first.  This is not a book for them.  Nor is a book for people who have shopping addictions (not just hoarders who retain stuff whether it has value or not).  Again it's very easy for a shopping addict to get rid of stuff and organize it, but find themselves stuffing more stuff in.  Those people need therapy to get a healthy perspective on stuff and deal with the underlying psychological reason for shopping addiction.  If you know of a family member who has either of those problems, buying them this book will not solve their problems.  The average person however can take some practical tips from the book and apply it to their lives. 

Have you read the book?  What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment in the comment box.  Happy Reading!

1 comment:

  1. Yes! I really enjoyed the book because it motivated me and the practical tips helped so much, but I did just ignore that two parts that were ridiculous to me which were the difference in how objects were looked at (all that energy stuff) and the parts where she goes on and on ad nauseum about how much experience she has organizing! I think that could have been cut to a tenth of what it was!

    However the practical tips helped me get rid of so much stuff that I totally still recommend it to anyone who can brush the fluff/silly parts away.


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