Tidying Up: Can Marie Kondo Really Help?

I’ve toyed with doing a post on this book for awhile, but put it off, thinking that by now, everybody has already read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. Still, the buzz continues, so here goes:

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What is it about this little book? For the last few months I’ve been observing the runaway phenomenon surrounding it, albeit in a sort of bemused way. As a veteran reader of organizing, feng shui and simplifying books, I’ve come across pretty much every strategy, and wondered if there truly could be anything new.  After all, the phrase “Keep something only if it is beautiful or useful” is a well known truism. Keeping something only if it “brings you joy” sounds like a similar, albeit narrower, parameter to apply to purging.

My first intro to the book and the sweet-faced author was the North American publishing trailer. If you haven’t seen it, here it is:

Now, having read the book (which is surprisingly illustration-free) I can say that my cynicism wasn’t really warranted, because there is new here: Kondo approaches decluttering with an almost mystical bent, anthropomorphizing objects, imbuing them with consciousness, and speaking to them. Once you get past your first side-eye, you may realize that if you’ve had trouble letting go of things, attributing emotions to them could help.  After all, if your unworn, ignored sweaters are literally sad, making them happy by handling and thanking them will alleviate your buyer’s remorse, and you can heave them out with a clear conscience.

Joking aside, gratitude is not something to be mocked; applying it in this manner may be unusual, but this is where the “life-changing magic” comes in, I think. By handling, acknowledging and thanking absolutely everything we own, we confront the vast material abundance surrounding us, and the often mindless consumption that brought us to this point. At it’s core, this is minimalism. Existential questions of what we truly need and value in this life cannot be ignored, and addressing the guilt that hovers in our subconscious for past needless or unwise purchases is freeing.

Marie Kondo

Kondo, in a client’s closet. Wow. That’s a mess. Photograph: AP

Beyond her way of “relating” to your belongings, the “KonMari” method of de-cluttering differs also by recommending dividing the job into categories, not rooms, as is usually done.

She suggests starting with clothing, pulling out every item residing in every room in your home, and placing everything on the floor. Then, pick up each item and decide if it “brings you joy”. If not, out it goes.  After clothing, tackle books, documents, miscellany and then photos and mementos. Her promise is that if you do each category separately and completely, you will finally accomplish the elusive “done”, and will never have to de-clutter again.

Once the gargantuan de-cluttering task is accomplished, organizing is the easy part, with storage tips that make use of what you probably already own, rather than purchasing new systems.

The fly in the ointment of Kondo’s practical technique – and probably why I haven’t yet put it into action – is that it would be most easily accomplished if one lived alone, in a small dwelling. Without a family-sized garage full of tools, and family-sized closets full of other people’s stuff.

As with anything, the adage “use what you need; leave the rest” applies to “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, and some of her ideas will continue to percolate in my mind until I’m ready to apply a modified version in our home. I’ve always been pretty good at sporadic clearing out, so we aren’t really drowning in clutter. But the threat of it is ever-present, and the promise of “never again” is seductive.

Have you read her book, and has it helped you?

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4 thoughts on “Tidying Up: Can Marie Kondo Really Help?

  1. Wow, Cherie…you are a phenomenal writer. The pen is your friend! As I said, I have only gotten to page 40 but from your post, I can see why Abigail really likes it (she tends to attribute feelings to inanimate objects). I did find it cute that our socks really don’t like to be balled up. Funny! Abigail has organized her desk at school already. Actually, Marie Kondo’s way of thinking does give you a different perspective on our things by enabling us to look at them with more respect. As a self-proclaimed pack-rat, I am not going to find it an easy journey and, like you, it will be more of a modifed Kon-Mari approach. I can’t wait to feel ‘done’ and lighter as well though!
    All the best,
    Jocelyn

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Jocelyn! What a great comment. You’re a not-too-shabby writer yourself, my dear! And you’re very kind:). I’m looking forward to hearing about your journey – keep me posted!

    Cheers,
    Cherie

    P.S. Abigail is a wise little girl – already on the path of an organized, less stressful life!

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  3. I did some major decluttering in my previous home and brought that thinking into my current home. I never saw the above book, but when I was decluttering, my mindset and focus become very much about keeping and celebrating special items. And I did feel happy as I donated items that were sitting in my basement for years, knowing that someone would enjoy these items again. I like your reference to consumption – The big thing to remember is not only to get rid of stuff, but to be mindful of one’s purchases to begin with. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment, Carina! Moving is a great opportunity to de-clutter – forced, perhaps – but very valuable, nonetheless. It’s the upside of having to pack! Like you, I find it really satisfying to think belongings will be enjoyed again, by someone else. To imagine them continuing on their own journey, as they should;)…

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