Book Report: the life-changing magic of tidying up by marie kondo

The life-changing magic of tidying up, by marie kondo, is the latest is a slow stream of decluttering and hoarding recovery books, and probably the most successful one so far.

You can pick it up used for around $8 on ebay (buy my copy here).  The general method described is to discard everything, except the things that give you joy. The tactics are rigid, but that may work for many people.

Objects are classified into categories: clothes, books, papers, objects, and sentimental objects. There are also subcategories, which is detailed in the book. All the objects of a category are gathered, and placed in a pile on the floor, and then each is held. If it brings you joy, you keep it.

Kondo goes into her philosophy, and I won’t get into it here, but by the middle of the book, you’ll know what “joy” means, and what it means for each category. It’s as much a literary device as a decision-making technique, because an torn pair of pants may give some people joy, but Kondo would disagree. Into the disposal pile it goes. No joy for me, but “joy” it is.

Each object that’s kept is then put into it’s place, and folded or arranged as prescribed by Kondo.  Again, she goes into detail about this.

Kondo’s focus on getting rid of things is the main genius of this book. Too many books and articles are about organizing your objects so they can be enjoyed. She advises that many of the objects should be eliminated.

In one short chapter, she dismisses “storage experts” as “hoarders”; she’s correct, because organizing storage enables hoarding, but neatly.

Throughout the book, there’s a strong leaning on intuition, rather than numbers. You keep things that make you feel joy.  You stop disposing when you feel you’ve reached the right amount. What’s clever is that the process of working through the book is supposed to help you develop this intuition.  It’s intuition grounded in practice, and the practice is the process; Kondo claims that this is a once-in-a-lifetime process, where you dispose of many things once, and then, after that, you’ll be clutter free.

Maybe it’ll work for you.

Criticisms

  • Kondo assumes you can afford to toss everything, and buy things as needed again. If you don’t have much money, this may not be an option.
  • Japanese homes generally have clean floors because they either walk barefoot inside, or sit on the floor. Americans should probably dump the objects on a table.
  • I think this method would fail for hoarders, because one of the characteristics of hoarders is a difficulty categorizing objects, and getting “joy” from hoarded objects.
  • Some people point out that there’s a lot of Shinto going on here.  It made me think of this song:

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