Books // The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Oh my gosh, it is SO HOT in Portland right now.
The high was 104 yesterday and the high is 102 today. Yeah.
As much as I love summer, I’m getting pretty excited for fall…

Anyway, enough about the miserable weather here…I want to pick up on where I left off in my last post.  I didn’t want it to come off that I’m totally neurotic and need to have some perfectly clean house all the time because that’s definitely not how I feel. My main frustration is more that I’m tired of feeling like a hamster on a wheel when it comes to housekeeping, constantly scurrying but not really getting anywhere. In an effort to change that, I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and I wanted to share my thoughts, as well as they impact it’s had on me…

As you can see from the cover, this book is quite popular and has garnered a lot of buzz over the past few years. It’s been on my list for awhile, but when my friend Kelsey raved about it I decided I needed to see what all the fuss was about. The book is written by a Japanese home organization guru and it makes some pretty hefty claims. Basically the author’s philosophy (or the KonMari Method) is that you need to go through everything in your home not room by room but category by category and get rid of anything that does not “spark joy.” She really emphasizes the fact that you need to do a big massive purge all at once vs. doing things little by little and she claims that if you follow her method you will never relapse and your home will stay tidy forever. So it’s definitely a little extreme, but I think that’s a big part of the reason it’s so popular. The first section is all about why people can’t keep their houses in order in the first place, the second section explains to you how to get rid of things, the third section explains more specifically how to tidy by category and how to store things, and then the end section is the impact that tidying will have on your life. She makes a lot of very thought-provoking points and so I thought I’d just give a quick rundown on what I personally liked/didn’t like about it…

-In the beginning of the book, she talks about how she works with her clients to understand why they want their home to be tidy in the first place and asks them to envision in lots of detail what their life would be like if their house was like that all the time. I feel like this is extremely motivating to think through what your life would look like if your house was the way you wanted it and what you would do with that extra time.
-She has a whole section about family and the complicated relationship that can exist when it comes to clutter, which I think is an important thing to address. Basically she says if you don’t need something, chances are your family members don’t need it either so don’t pass it off to them just because you feel guilty about getting rid of it. I think lots of people are guilty of this, not really wanting to part with something so they take it to their parents’ house when really it’s just burdening loved ones with extra junk. Also, I’m totally guilty of taking things from family members when offered, specifically my sister when she’s getting rid of clothes. Granted, she has given me some awesome stuff but then she’s also offered things that I had no business taking aka clothes that don’t fit me, both in terms of size and personal style. The stuff ends up just sitting in my closet and taking up space, so it’s a good reminder that just because someone is getting rid of something doesn’t mean you need to take it.
-She has a section of the book titled “Storage experts are hoarders” which I thought was funny. Basically she says that you don’t need to come up with all these super creative ways to store things in order to have your house be tidy, you just need to get rid of excess stuff, plain and simple.
-She talks about the reason so many people hold on to things they don’t need is they feel guilty getting rid of them, but I like how she talks about giving yourself permission to let things go by acknowledging that although the item in question is no longer something needed, you can thank it for the lesson it taught you about what you like and don’t like.
-She advocates for being extremely critical of what you keep in your house and really encourages you to get rid of as much stuff as possible. One thing I really liked was her suggestion to just get rid of all manuals that come with electronics. I always save stuff like this but her point is that chances are if something breaks, you can go online and get the info you need on how to fix it or you’re going to end up taking it somewhere to have it repaired, so either way you really don’t need to keep the manual.
-I also like how she explains that it’s better to err on the side of throwing more things away than less and that if by chance you do get rid of something you needed later down the road, there’s usually a way that it can be fixed.
-When if comes to her suggestion about tidying by category, I do think this makes sense as it is super easy to have belongings spread out across the house and not realize how many of something you have. I also liked how she advised starting with things that are easy to throw away in comparison to starting with mementos that you’re going to want to sit and look at and reminisce about.
-I liked how she really encourages thoughtfulness and appreciation for the material things that you own. After all, these are the items that you use each day that serve various purposes to support your lifestyle and so taking the time to be thankful for them is not a bad idea.

-My BIGGEST issue with this book is that the author doesn’t really address the issue of kids, because that’s a game changer when it comes to trying to be tidy. Kids have a LOT of stuff, and it can be tough to manage the onslaught of material things that go along with having a child. I wish she would have touched on this because I feel definitely an issue for people that causes them to have a problem with clutter in the first place.
-Going along with that, my other issue is with her method is how she strongly recommends making tidying a special occasion and tidying everything in one fell swoop. I totally agree that’s great in theory but when you have kids, it can be tough to be able to find the time to do a major cleanout like that.
-The book is somewhat repetitive, which I’ve found is typical for non-fiction advice-type books.
-It’s also very clearly geared towards a non-American audience, which is not bad, it’s just the writing style and some of the tips (like how to make a shrine in your house for your religious statues) were not super applicable to me or my life.
-Some of the stuff just sounds straight up wacky (to me) and it was hard to take it seriously, like when she describes clothing as having various human characteristics. I realize she’s coming from a place of having different beliefs and therefore may look at material things as more than just things…but when she goes into detail about how you need to fold your socks a certain way because they’re tired and they need to rest and essentially take a vacation when they’re in your sock drawer, it was hard for me not to roll my eyes just a little.
-She constantly claims how all the clients she’s helped have adopted her method perfectly and no one has ever relapsed, and I feel like this is very intimidating. She’s so all or nothing about the way her system works and it can be a little intense.
-Finally, I wish she would have spent more time detailing how to keep from accumulating too much stuff again in the future thus preventing a relapse because I feel like she kind of just glosses over this aspect a bit.

As for the impact this book has had on me, I have not done the full KonMari method and my house is still a work in progress. But I did do a big closet cleanout that was partially motivated by this book, and it’s been amazing. This weekend, Cameron and I took a bunch of stuff to Goodwill and made some headway with getting the house to be more tidy. However, with Henry we can’t always spend hours and hours doing that sort of thing, so we still have more stuff to go through…but we are working on it!

What I’ve really taken from this book is that there is a big difference between tidy/messy and clean/dirty. When I get frustrated that I feel like I don’t have time to clean, it’s because I’m spending so much time trying to get our house tidy first. So ideally, if I could get our house to be more tidy all the time, I could more easily do things to actually keep the house clean…that’s the goal anyway! This summer, I’m really trying to continue to be aggressive in getting rid of things we don’t need so that way our house can become a more tidy (and as a result, a more clean) place. As for the book, I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a quick read that will get you motivated to get your house in order!