Book review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Series: Magic Cleaning #1
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: AmazonGoodreads
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Source: Borrowed

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international best seller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home – and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

When I checked this book out from my library, I was dead set on learning something from it. “TEACH ME HOW TO BE ORGANIZED,” I thought. “SHOW ME HOW TO GET RID OF ALL THE STUFF I DON’T NEED!” After finishing this book (six days later, an incredible length of time for a book so short) I have to confess that I know no more about cleaning and organizing than I did last week. I am, however, considerably more irritated.

First, let me say that this book is translated from the original Japanese, so some of the quirks in language may be due to translation issues. Some of the suggestions that seem weird might just be due to cultural differences. But come on, the word “tidying” shows up about thirty times per page and Kondo is just. so. judgy.

Now, let me say that for a book that praises downsizing and has the main goal of getting you to trash everything in your life that you don’t absolutely need, it is so much longer than it needs to be. On how many pages, and in how many ways, can Kondo rave about her process? Yes, I understand. I must quickly, all at once (over six months), get rid of everything that does not spark joy in my life. Then I must properly store what’s left over in a way that is respectful to the item, and respectful to my home. It’s really not a very complicated method. Honestly, it could have been summarized with a few gifs in a Buzzfeed article. But for some reason, this book is more than 200 pages.

Much of the book is dedicated to little anecdotes about Kondo’s clients. Imagine paying this woman some obscene amount of money to come into your house and tell you everything you’re doing wrong. “Does it spark joy?” she asks you. “Yes, absolutely,” you say. “Are you sure? It’s kinda ugly…” she responds. At this point, I would find myself showing her the door.

But that’s not all. Kondo won’t let you keep excess anything. One client has a toothbrush stash. Another person stockpiles toilet paper. “Get rid of it all,” she says. “You don’t need it. It’s fun to see how long you can go without it!” Um, we are talking about toothbrushes and toilet paper, right? I can’t say that a toothbrush or a roll of toilet paper has ever sparked joy in my heart, but I certainly miss them when they’re gone.

Oh, and don’t forget about that time you invited her into your home to help you purge your unnecessary possessions and got diarrhea. That’s now immortalized in her international bestselling self-help book. Congrats! (Don’t worry, it’s just a side effect of cleansing your home of toxins.)

Prepare to be judged about your wardrobe:

The worst thing you can do is to wear a sloppy sweat suit. I occasionally meet people who dress like this all the time, whether waking or sleeping. If sweatpants are your everyday attire, you’ll end up looking like you belong in them, which is not very attractive. What you wear in the house does impact your self-image.“

You know what? I don’t even wear sweatpants, but I am tempted to go buy some just to spite Marie Kondo. Let people wear what they want. Life’s too short to worry about whether some random author thinks your pants are attractive.

And then the heresy. The blasphemy. The worst paragraph I have ever read in any book:

“Books are essentially paper – sheets of paper printed with letters and bound together. Their true purpose is to be read, to convey the information to their readers. There is no meaning in their just being on your shelves.”

But, Marie, what if beautiful bookcases spark joy in my heart?

This woman really has some kind of grudge against books. I mean:

“If you missed your chance to read a particular book, even if it was recommended to you or is one you have been intending to read for years, this is your chance to let it go. You may have wanted to read it when you bought it, but if you haven’t read it by now, the book’s purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it.”

She has clearly never done a #killingthetbr challenge.

And she’s super into wasting money. Everything about this book is wasteful. But especially this:

“Only by discarding it will you be able to test how passionate you are about that subject. If your feelings don’t change after discarding it, then you’re fine as is. If you want the book so badly after getting rid of it that you’re willing to buy another copy, then buy one – and this time read and study it.”

Or, you could, y’know, not throw away the original? By the way, she also advocates disposing of “tangles of cords” (because it’s too hard to find the one you need in that mess, so you might as well throw them all out and rebuy) and pennies (so they don’t get moldy, and since no one has ever used a penny ever).

You’re also supposed to wipe off your shampoo bottles and store them outside of the shower so they don’t start dripping with serratia (since your shower is that dirty) and hang your sponges to dry on the veranda (because everybody has a veranda, and it’s not like it’s ever winter).

I mean, I guess the book does make some good points. We can all use a little downsizing. This book, unfortunately, isn’t for everybody. And it certainly wasn’t for me.