Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I received a free copy of this book a few weeks ago, via Blogging for Books (see disclaimer at the end of the review).

This small, delightful book by Marie Kondo, one of Japan’s foremost organizing and decluttering mavens, was a real treat to read. Her writing style is friendly and direct, making the reader feel like she is personally guiding and advising in the decluttering process. Her approach is simple, but designed to be effective and as painless as possible. She advocates sorting and decluttering in one fell swoop, instead of bit by bit over time, as most people are inclined to do. She also recommends a particular order of possessions to declutter, starting with clothes and ending with sentimental items, so you don’t get overwhelmed by the process and short-circuit it before you reach the end. (By following her order of categories, you also get a chance to build your chops on easy, low-hanging fruit such as clothes you never liked or which don’t fit – things that are pretty easy to throw away – before getting to the more difficult items, like that ceramic bowl Aunt Sally gave you for your wedding and which you’ve never been able to get rid of, even though Aunt Sally has been dead for 15 years.)

I found much of the advice in this book counterintuitive, but logical -- which makes this book a breath of fresh air. It’s clear that the author is not just going back over the same old tired ground that others have written about – she is thinking about the problem of clutter in new and even revolutionary ways. For example, a common piece of advice for preventing clutter is to think about the ways in which you use items, and then organize these items to correspond with your workflow, keeping them close at hand and easily accessible. Kondo says this is the wrong way to think about the problem, because clutter comes not when we get an item out, but when we are reluctant or unable to put the item away again. (In other words, it’s not a problem on the front end, but a problem on the back end, and I have to admit this simple shift in perspective blew my mind.) Therefore, her recommendation is to find a solution that reduces the effort to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out in the first place. Her rationale is that when we are getting something out to use, our motivation to find and use the item is high enough that we will probably not mind any difficulties at this stage of the process. But if putting the item away again is too challenging (because the item doesn’t really have a home, or its home is not a good one), then we will immediately just give up and put it anywhere, and it becomes clutter.

The book is also filled with what seems at first like quirky advice, but it definitely has its roots in things that the reader may already feel, but does not know how to name. One of Kondo’s big pieces of advice is to say “thank you” to your possessions after you are finished using them. Weird? Maybe – but then I think about every autumn, when I take my old green “Members Only” jacket out of the closet to wear for another year (hoping desperately that it’s still in style enough to actually wear), and I experience an emotion that is very close to Kondo’s “thank you” – a sense of fondness and joy for this piece of clothing that has been with me for a major portion of my life, and is still going strong. I could very easily see myself saying “thank you” to this jacket (especially if there is no one else around to hear me).

But “life-changing”? Really? Yes, says Kondo. When you reduce your possessions to only those things that you need and that give you real joy, you achieve clarity on what it is that you want in life. You achieve peace and freedom from excess baggage. And the process of decluttering, and the honed decision-making skills that result, will carry over into the other areas of one’s life. So yes, one’s life may very well be changed by the seemingly simple process outlined in this book. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a jumpstart on clearing and decluttering their possessions and their life.

Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of this book from the book's publisher via Blogging for Books (bloggingforbooks.org) for review purposes.  I did not receive any monetary compensation in return for the review.  All opinions expressed here are my own.

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