Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying UpIn the wake of the new year, I decided I might try to read up on how to get more organized. One of the first books to come into my field of vision was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Its a thin volume with a very repetitive set of instructions on how to best de-clutter and the order in which to tackle the task.

As I was reading it, there were some keen observations. I specifically liked thinking about her suggestion to “hold each item in your hands and ask yourself if it brings you joy”. While this is appealing in theory, the practical application is not. I read Tif Fusel’s review of this book and her husband’s response: “my leaf blower and lawn mower bring me no joy, i do not need to hold them in my hand to know that. shall i thank them, then get rid of them so we can slowly be buried under a pile of yard waste?” And this, is the crux of my issue with the whole book. There are lots of things that we keep in our homes that bring us no joy — snow shovels, for example — but that we need to keep for those moments that require their use. We might be required to dress in a certain way for work that may provide us with no joy but is required like a suit or uniform. Though I suppose from the book, we could glean that we should limit how much this un-joyful stuff should take up in our homes and our hearts.

However, we also keep many things in our homes that bring us no joy, that we hold onto out of obligation (“But grandma gave it to me for Christmas!”) and things we think we might need one day (I really want to learn to arrange flowers, needlepoint, whittle, play the harp, etc). These are the things that Ms. Kondo is trying to convince us to unburden ourselves of keeping.

There is a large focus in the book about weeding out excess clothing, books and papers that is at the core of many people’s personal clutter. She did not go into any detail about how to balance the clutter of work-at-home offices or anyone with a specific hobby that may occupy a good deal of space. She filed all of this in her “miscellany” category which I think is a bit short-sighted.

As a product blogger, much of my excess is in the form of piles of notebooks, pens, inks and other office supplies.  I have some ideas about how to remove a lot of the excess from my stash but it will require time and effort on my part which is why I haven’t tackled it yet. Sadly, for me, its not laziness but a limit to the amount of time I have to accomplish MANY tasks and a need to prioritze which gets done this week and what has to wait. I think that applies to many people as well. Whether its cleaning out a clothes closet or sorting through bank papers — how much time to we have to devote to these tasks rather than spending time with friends, family or a favorite book.

Ms. Kondo also talked repeatedly about removing bags upon bags of garbage. The environmentalist in me got itchy at the idea of all this stuff ending up in landfills. As I attempted to integrate some of her ideas into my own life, I made bags and boxes for charity and put my paper shredder to use so that most of the paper materials I got rid of could be recycled. I’ve already taken three bags to charity and four boxes to the second-hand bookshop and that’s just the tip of my efforts to get rid of excess.

In the end, the perspective that she provided about thinking through what we own and why we hold onto things was enlightening. And her parting message is that by clearing away the detritus — those unloved, ill-fitting, no-longer-interesting things from our lives — we leave room for new things and new experiences. This is that part that was appealing.

Written by

13 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I’d like to know how to get rid of books: I love them all!

    “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
    ― William Morris

    1. I started buying ebook editions of some of my favorite books. That way, I have the book with me always on my Kobo and I clear some space off of my shelf. But its hard to get rid of them all!

  2. I have done it. All the way.
    It was the biggest relief of 2014 and it cost me a whole week. It was really hard with books and fountain pens but I am so happy.

    For the books: I just kept what changed my life. Sounds stupid but most books are just mediocre or have no real effect. They are maybe great classics or state of the art but have no impact on the way I live or think. I read and enjoy them once. I kept 35 books and sold or gave over 400 away.
    My pen collection is down from 30 to 3 pens. In the end: I always use just three pens in one day, so it is quite pointless to keep the rest. I am always disappointed about the nib, the feed, the feel or something else and use only my three best pens.

  3. Ana, whittling leads to mumblety-peg :<} .

    One thing I've learned I can do without is cheaply made stationery. No more dollar store writing supplies for me. Nine times out of ten it is utter crap.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I had to look up the term mumblety-peg. It was a child’s game? So, are you implying that tidying and removing clutter will lead to knife throwing? I hope not. But I completely agree good stationery is difficult to find these day but worth the effort. Put all the poor quality supplies in a bag and donate it to charity.

  4. Thanks for this review! I don´t find it so hard to choose what I don´t need any more but what to do with it, e.g. where I live the charity only take the most fashionable clothes, because everyone wants to get rid of their old clothes and they have more than enough. But what I did learn is to try not to let in so much stuff that will become clutter. It´s good to let everyone know before Christmas what you don´t want to get… Also I made it a rule for me to buy only things that I like 100% .

  5. I am kinda stunned how much steam this book has. The library copy has 300+holds. All my librarian friends are reading it and I just got my library copy this weekend ( library books reduce clutter!). I’ll let you known what I think and how it will apply to my more unique clutter/hoarder situation.

  6. I need something to de clutter what I already own. I ask myself whether or not I want to be its “caretaker” for the remainder of its lifetime that really impacts many potential purchases I otherwise would have gone ahead with if I had not questioned them.
    … That’s a great idea, library. Lol, they’re far away and Amazon is easier among other reasons besides tending to forget.

    And you are right, it takes time to de clutter certain things. I’d rather not waste valuable time. So far I do it in spurts. I just wish I could go faster. My goal is to one day have a minimalist looking house. Hehe. But right now how the heck is that accomplished with children?!!?
    What happened to Laura Ingalls pining over a Doll of her own to 10+ American Girl dolls/other brand dolls for the typical kid?

    Kinda reminds me of the whole “Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend” DeBeers campaign

    And I think I’ll add that to my 2015 Resolution, ask that Christmas presents be minimal/specific. I never had the courage to do it to anyone (I didn’t want to be the one to rain on someone’s love language/temperament) but I really can’t stand anymore useless gifts from my MIL in particular!!

  7. It is really hard for me to get rid of books but I think it is the right thing to do! Books are made so they can be read and usually most of the books don’t get a second glance after they’ve been read once! I started giving away my books to friends. Very nice post! Thanks for sharing! Now I feel even more inspired! May be I should donate some books to the local library! 🙂

  8. Seems like a very nice book! It is true that in the nowadays society possession is really important and people can’t stop buying and having more and more. Thumbs up! It seems really nice!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.