Review of Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”


I know I’m about 2-3 years behind trend. That’s typical for me when it comes to anything cultural. But I just discovered Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”  and devoured it in a couple of hours and I now see what all the hoopla was/is about.

If you’re like me and you missed it when it came out, Marie Kondo, a Japanese cleaning consultant shares her KonMari method of clearing out and cleaning up.  She explains  the transforming affect that tidying up your home can have on your life. She explains her system and shares stories of how her client’s lives have been impacted by her method.

Her Japanese respect for all things blends with her childlike heart and to hear her share about thanking her belongings for serving her and describing how she greets her house and thanks it for sheltering her just makes me want to hug her. It’s a precious book.

I read it with an open mind and with a desire to find a better method for ridding myself of all the stuff that’s weighing me down. And that is part of what she presents, that if you rid yourself of excess stuff you can find out who you truly are, what you truly love and what your purpose is.

She has many ideas that I agree with. I agree with her philosophy behind discarding and cleaning up for the most part. I do believe it can be transformative, that it is a dialog with oneself and that the things we keep and throw away can be very telling. I also  agree that when discarding things it could be helpful to ask one’s self, “Does this spark joy?” I think that is a reasonable approach to making the difficult decision whether to throw something out or not. I agree wholeheartedly with a point I also said, “Your family doesn’t want your stuff” so don’t try to unload it on them.

However, there is one major part of her plan that I don’t agree with, and that is doing it all at once. Kondo proposes that a person go through their whole house all at once and that is the key to the transformation and the ability to keep your house tidy.

I agree with her that it is a benefit to do the big clear out while one has the momentum and excitement about it. I also agree that it can be a positive shock to one’s system to see their home suddenly all neat and tidy thereby propelling them to keep it that way.

However, for a person my age (though Kondo says she has clients in their 50’s) I think it would be too overwhelming. I think it would be too much pressure not to mention physical work. By the time you’re in your 50’s and your kids are adults and gone and you’ve retired or changed careers, you have a LOT of stuff (that is emotionally charged, I might add) to sort through. I just don’t see how it can be done in one fell swoop.

I consider myself a “thrower-outer” therefore I don’t think I have a ton of stuff, but it would have been impossible for me to go through my whole house in one or two days. My plan of making “sweeps” through my house has been a great help to me because I have been able to do an initial throw out session, then make 2 or 3 more sweeps after removing a little at a time. I can take an hour (or less) here and there to discard more. I will admit it does take mental effort to maintain a minimalist mindset at the beginning. You can take a break, but you have to make yourself get back to task.

For example, I did an initial sweep to my book collection. In the following days, I walked by my shelves and as I did I’d see a book that I thought could also be discarded. I’d think some more and then when I had the time I made a second sweep. I removed more books. I didn’t feel the pressure to have to decide in one day. And then just today, probably months after the initial sweep and a week after a secondary sweep,  I walked by my shelf again and I pulled a book out and put it in the box by the door to be donated.

I feel by giving myself time, making my “sweeps” I am actually developing a minimalist mindset and subsequent lifestyle.

I think the “all-at-once” method is really the only thing that I had a problem with. I think she has some great ideas on the order in which one should approach discarding. Starting with easier items such as clothes and saving the emotionally charged items after you’ve gotten used to throwing things out is brilliant. Going through your things by category instead of room is great (I address that in my plan when I tell you to take everything to the place where it will be stored. That way you get everything all in one place before you go through it.) I think she has some great ideas for storage. I think she has some beautiful thoughts on gratitude and ways of thinking about living our lives in the present.

Don’t get fooled by her sweet voice, she’s a tough cookie. She’s pretty brutal about throwing some things out!

I have a few places in my home that I’m still working on, but when I make another sweep of my clothing, I’m going to try her method for discarding and storing clothes. I love the idea of NOT having seasonal wear! Can it be done? I’ll let you know when I get there.





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