Recently, I attended local book club meeting held at an upscale consignment store. The book was “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, by Marie Kondo.
When I arrived, it was only to discover that the book club had been cancelled at the last minute. Disappointed, I decided to stick around and browse the shop for a little while. As I was chatting with the saleswoman and discussing the book, someone else came up and joined the conversation. Then another. Like the book itself, this topic had become a magnet for conversation around how to properly “tidy up”. On social media, within families and among friends, Kondo’s book has started a national dialog about organizing. We ended up having the book group after all, impromptu style, with quite a number of people joining in!
My clients often ask whether I have read the book and what I think of it. So here is my answer, in the form of a book review!
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up itself is not hard to read. Kondo’s writing style is extremely simple, and her tips and suggestions are clear-cut and very directive. There are many things I like and appreciate about the book, and a few that, for me, fell flat. For the sake of fun, I’ll divide my review into a list of Kondo’s tips that bring me joy, and those that do not.
Pros:Kondo instructs us to purge and organize the entire house in one go. Everything in each area is removed, every item touched and either discarded or put back. This may take weeks or months, but by the time you’re finished, the entire home should be in order. This method has proved to be much more results-oriented among my clients, and is one that I fully support!
Gather all like items together. Kondo tells us to gather everything together in one place before you begin. That means if you are organizing your closet, you would also do a sweep of the house, bring coats from the coat closet, storage bins of clothes from the garage and items lying around the house to the party. Everything must be considered at the same time – otherwise we don’t make accurate decisions about what we really need and love. This piece of advice is absolutely key to any organizing project.Keep only what “brings you joy”. This aspect of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has garnered the most attention of all. I’ll include it on both the Pro and Con list, as it both delights and annoys me, in equal measure. The idea of keeping only what brings you joy is just lovely. Why DO we keep things that don’t bring us joy? Because we think they will be useful someday. But is this reason enough to stash something away until it falls apart? When we follow Kondo’s advice on keeping what brings us joy, we allow the good stuff to rise to the top, and the things we really love seem to shine even brighter and become more useful.
Just because we haven’t used something, doesn’t mean it hasn’t served us. A shirt with a tag on it may have served its life by teaching us what we shouldn’t buy. Likewise, the purpose of a greeting card is to greet us, not to be stored until the end of time. Once it has “delivered its message”, we can feel free to thank it for its service to us, and let it go. I love this concept!
Sometimes, practical necessities don’t “Spark Joy”. Does that mean we should throw them away? As I mentioned, while I love the idea that what you keep should make you blissfully happy, there is also a practical limit to its application. My broom and dustpan certainly don’t bring me joy, but I’m not going to give them up. The “spark joy” rule is perfect for clothing, accessories, jewelry and other personal items. It also works well for anything for which you have a duplicate. Otherwise, it can feel a bit silly.
Throw away all the paper. The other aspect I struggled with was Kondo’s insistence that paper is an unnecessary aspect of life. While I agree that we really need very little paper in our lives, I felt that her approach was a little extreme. Her rule of thumb is to “discard everything”, and she goes on to claim that, since they will not inspire joy, papers should all be tossed since they are “annoying.”
Her organization strategy, once you have thrown virtually every paper away, is to keep important papers in a clear envelope (things like insurance policies, personal documents, etc), and reference papers in a binder with clear pockets. While I agree that it’s great to have reference paper easily at your fingertips (see our blog “Organizing The Household Paper Trail: Tip #1” on creating a household hub of your own), I don’t believe it’s reasonable to expect anyone with a family and children to keep paper for the entire family in one small envelope! Kondo’s experience is that of a single person with no kids, and I predict that if her family grows and her paper clutter increases, she will very likely be writing an amendment to that policy.
Scanning paper is a great way to organize it and keep it safe (just make sure you make duplicate copies on several USB keys if you decide to shred the paper itself). All household family paper should easily fit within a single filing drawer. We have about 80% more paper in the home than we really need. Reviewing all paper regularly and tossing things that no longer serve a purpose can help to keep the volume to a minimum.
My takeaway on The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? I really enjoyed it. The main reason to read this book is, in my opinion, to get you STARTED! Kondo’s clarity of voice and general bossiness will have you jumping off the couch and diving into the closet before you’ve finished. And that is what most of us really need – a little motivation and someone to give us permission to get rid of what doesn’t make us happy. Within reason, of course.
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below – we learn from you just as you learn from us.