I read a book. This doesn’t happen often for me. It’s not because I don’t like to read. I actually really enjoy it, but somehow it fails to make the cut on my list of priorities.
The title alone, the life-changing magic of tidying up, the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing, is pretty intriguing. I’m all for life-changing magic.
I happen to be someone who enjoys organizing things and decluttering, so I wasn’t sure how much I was going to learn. I knew that the “tidying” part was the thing I needed to work on though. Author Marie Kondo completely surpassed my expectations for this book. She offers you an entirely new lens through which to view your world. No matter how good or bad you are at keeping your home in order, she addresses you, and reveals how anyone can tidy. It begins by reducing what you have. Here is some of her wisdom:
“When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure.” (p 61)
“The amount of storage space you have in your room is actually just right. I can’t count how many times people have complained to me that they don’t have enough room, but I have yet to see a house that lacked sufficient storage. The real problem is that we have far more than we need or want. Once you learn to choose your belongings properly, you will be left only with the amount that fits perfectly in the space you currently own.” (p 133)
As you read along, Kondo also instructs you on the most sensible ways to store the things you do keep. I felt particularly chastised for my poor choices in the realm of clothing. She talks about folding clothing with care, and in a manner that allows you to stack clothes on end, vertically, so that you can see all of them in a glance.
“…folding clothes after they have been washed and dried is an opportunity to really notice them in their detail. For example, we might spot places where the cloth has frayed or see that a certain piece of clothing is becoming worn out. Folding is really a form of dialogue with our wardrobe.” (pp 73-74)
She then discusses with some importance, how to store socks and stockings.
“I pointed to the balled-up socks. ‘Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?” That’s right. The socks and stockings stored in your drawer are on holiday. They take a brutal beating in their daily work, trapped between your foot and your shoe, enduring pressure and friction to protect your precious feet. The time they spend in your draw is their only chance to rest.” (p 81)
Guilty. I have balled my socks since childhood, but eager to be a good student, I opened my sock drawer. After discarding several joyless pairs of fuzzy socks, I set to folding, and then arranging by color— dark to light, just as Marie says. I have to admit, I was a little giddy as I beheld the results:
There was now so much extra space! This drawer used to be stuffed to the brim! Of course, I then folded my husbands socks too.
Just as with the socks, one thing Kondo is consistent about is assigning a sort of person-hood to things. It’s sort of whimsical. She talks about how she thanks each item for how it has helped her, and says hello to her home when she walks in the door. Whimsy aside, she makes a great point in regard to how we treat our things:
“…we often hear about athletes who take loving care of their sports gear, treating it almost as if it were sacred. I think the athletes instinctively sense the power of these objects. If we treated all things we use in our daily life, whether it is our computer, our handbag, or our pens and pencils, with the same care that athletes give to their equipment, we could greatly increase the number of dependable ‘supporters’ in our lives.” (p 170)
“When you treat your belongings well, they will always respond in kind. For this reason, I take time to ask myself occasionally whether the storage space I’ve set aside for them will make them happy. Storage, after all, is the sacred act of choosing a home for my belongings.” (p 171)
I have always considered myself a minimalist. I did not suspect that reading this book would lead me to dispose of very many things. I was surprised to be very wrong. And what a relief it was! Kondo’s reasoning for why we keep what we keep, makes the discarding so liberating. I no longer feel obligated to hold on to something out of guilt because it has hardly been used, (even though I have no intention or desire to use it), or because it once meant a great deal to me. The question Kondo puts forth repeatedly is, “does it spark joy?” When I find that the answer is no, I feel no guilt in discarding something that serves no purpose in my life, nor adds any joy to it. The joy then, is in bidding it farewell!
I have not been through every area of my house yet, using this “KonMari” method, but each time that I finish a spot, I am amazed at how satisfied I am with the space—not just how it looks visually, but how deeply I appreciate and am conscious of every single item. Kondo touches on this feeling at the end of her book and relates:
“After tidying, many clients tell me that their worldly desires have decreased. Whereas in the past, no matter how many clothes they had, they were never satisfied and always wanted something new to wear, once they selected and kept only those things that they really loved, they felt that they had everything they needed.” (p 195)
I think this book has the potential to be life-changing for some. It really offers a down-to-earth, not-pushy, introspective way of tidying your belongings. Kondo writes in a casual and personable tone, like she is having a friendly conversation with you, which makes it a quick and easy read. Honestly, I would avoid the 3 month waiting list at the library (yep, really) and own it for less than $11. I would absolutely consider it a resource to reference many times over.