I’m always game for a good organizing book, and I figured that this one, still with a months-long hold list at my library over a year after we got it, was a good candidate.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Ten Speed Press, 2014.
Paring your possessions down to just the ones that “spark joy” will change your life, claims Kondo. You’ll have a clearer idea of who you are and who you want to become. There’s a whole cult of Kondo now – the book has been an international bestseller, with Kondo making appearances all over the world. Still, she’s not without her detractors – one of my friends got so angry while reading that she threw the book across the room. I wanted to see what I thought myself.
Pros: I really liked Kondo’s central idea, that if you hold your things and let them speak to you, you’ll know if you really need them or not – the “spark joy” that’s also the title of her second book. Some people may find that too woo-woo, but I’m all for a little more concrete woo-woo in my life. It’s also a short, easy-to-read book with main points bolded and summary lists at the end of each chapter – very easy to read. I liked the piece of advice on not to pass your unwanted things on to family and appreciated, given that she says it’s better to go through and declutter in one fell swoop, that she gives a concrete order for this, based on experience. I’m very good at organizing small bits at a time, but I always lose steam before getting to everything. Especially those boxes in the basement that have been there since we moved….
Cons: her thoughts on books, papers and photos. I am both a book lover and a public librarian – which for me does mean going through my books regularly to make sure I love them all and that they will fit in my house. We have a wall in our living room devoted to tall bookcases (you can see a slice in my header bar), because I wanted it to be clear to visitors that books are important to us. I don’t really ever want to have so few books that they’d fit inside my closet with my clothes, as Kondo suggests. More dangerous are her suggestions about financial paperwork – maybe if you’re willing to scan them, or get them all electronically, you can do without saving them, but at least here in the U.S., you need to keep 7-10 years of financial paperwork for tax records, etc. Also on photographs, Kondo says that you’ll remember everything, so you don’t need photos. Yeah. So maybe I will get rid of some of those photos of college friends whose names I don’t remember anymore – but that in itself is proof that my memory is not that great, even when I’m still relatively young. I want to have enough photos to help me along when I’m old and maybe the photos will be all I have to remember when my kids were little, etc. (cue the violins.) Kids are another weakness, I conclude from talking with my friend Dr. M (a professional organizer) about this. Kondo’s clients seem to be mainly young childless professionals or empty nesters. She doesn’t offer much help to parents of children who really are still genuinely attached to the three laundry baskets worth of stuffies, say, or for dealing with the massive rotating quantities of stuff that kids need as they grow. She’s also very confident in her way being the right way – good if you’re either really wanting concrete advice or good at picking at choosing, less good if you want something that’s designed for you to customize it.
So it’s not perfect. I still found it hard to put down and immediately inspiring. I found about 8 garbage bags of clothes that weren’t sparking joy any more. If you’re looking for a push in the right direction to start you de-cluttering, by all means give it a try.
Here are some of the other organizing books I’ve read over the years:
Home Comforts: the Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson
It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh
Life’s Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets by Lisa Quinn