ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



March 2015



The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars


I heard about the “KonMari Method” from a quick blurb in New York Magazine a few weeks back. Seeing as how I love to be tidy and clean, as well as the fact that I’m feeling a bit weighed down from all of our stuff, I ordered the book and started reading it on Sunday. I nearly finished it in one go, I enjoyed it so much.

First off, I must admit that this problem of having too much stuff is admittedly not a luxury everyone has. Duh. Just as pervious reviews of books about what to eat have been greeted with the occasional ‘nice to have that problem’ comment, I can imagine that this might cause more than a few eyes to roll. And that’s cool – you do you. But considering the fact that I, for example, love to write in my books, I often can’t go the library route, leading me to acquire and hold on to many more books than I actually really want to keep. I think most folks who have access to some disposable income can end up spending it on things they either don’t need now, or hold onto items they no longer need.

Ms. Kondo’s premise is that homes get messy because we have more items than we need, and instead of constantly buying clever containers, shelving units and even full off-site storage lockers, we need to cull what we have back to the items that bring us joy. Yeah, that’s right. Joy. Some reviewers get caught up on this – how could toilet paper, for example, bring us joy? Well, considering the despair I’ve felt over discovering I was out of toilet paper only after I’d put myself in a position to need it, I don’t actually think that’s a stretch. Same with, say, a kitchen tool. My bread knife doesn’t make my eyes sparkle, but man do I love the fact that I don’t smush delicate breads when I use it.

The KonMari method is, on the surface, simple. Touch literally every single thing that you own (in order – starting with clothes), and decide whether to keep it or discard it. Once you are sure you are going to keep the item, you find the right place for it, and that’s where it lives. You don’t go room by room as some places suggest; you do all of one type of item in one go. Anything in that category that you forgot to put in your pile for consideration gets automatically tossed.

She also asks us to be respectful of our things, to thank them for doing what they have done for us. This might be too touchy-feely for folks, but it worked for me. And it helps ease the pain of the slow realization that you aren’t ever going to read Ulysses, and that’s okay. You bought the book, and it taught you that reading Ulysses isn’t enough of a priority for it to make sense for you to hold onto the book. Thank it and discard it.

Yes, discard. That could mean donate, recycle, or even throw out. Does that seem wasteful? I think it might to some. If you bought a dress (or received it as a gift) four years ago and never wore it, her theory is it is more wasteful taking up physical space in your closet and emotional space in your mid than it is to donate it to Goodwill. And this does go for EVERYTHING – she even direct readers to take every photo out of every photo album and photo box, go through them, and only keep the ones that really speak to you. Brutal, right? But man, that sounds kind of amazing.

If anything I’m writing appeals to you, then I strongly recommend this book. I plan to tackle the clothing portion starting tomorrow night, and I can already tell that there are some items that I’m going to discard that a week ago I couldn’t have imagined. But the chance that I might need it for a Halloween costume in a decade isn’t a good enough reason to keep it around.

Her point is also that once you clean up the clutter from your house, you will have more clarity in other parts of your life. Am I expecting that once we reduce our stuff I’ll suddenly find my dream job? No. But I can see that there may be more subtle benefits. On the second-to-last page of the book, Ms. Kondo writes “The moment you picked up this book with the intention of tidying, you took the first step. If you have read this far, you know what you need to do next.” It might seem cheesy, but I do.

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