I’ve always had a compulsion to rid my closet of excess materials–clothing that has never been worn, books that have never been read, and papers that don’t provide any value – emotional, informational, or otherwise. While friends and family continued to collect clutter, I remained baffled at how they could sleep at night with messy bedrooms, kitchen cupboards so full they couldn't close, and desk drawers stuffed with random gadgets and trinkets that would never be touched again. Over the years, I believed myself to be the odd one out, forever plagued with a compulsion to clean. This might be the case, but I’ve finally found an alliance with Marie Kondo, the New York Times best-selling author of the life changing magic of tidying up.
In her compact book, Kondo, a business consultant who, for a living, helps clients transform their workspaces and homes into “spaces of serenity and inspiration,” details how everyone can benefit from decluttering their lives–and how to go about doing it. Consulting with Kondo is probably the best, and most guaranteed, way of changing your house from a literal material dump to one of spaciousness, but her waiting list–which, at the time of publication, was more than 3 months long–might not make that feasible. So, this book is the next best thing.
the life changing magic of tidying up is compiled in a way where you can start with a question, and have it answered–without necessarily reading the book front to back–thanks to Kondo’s thorough Contents page. But, I recommend that you do read the whole thing. Here’s why:
- Kondo is convincing, even in her introduction. Her most moving sentence is this: “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too.” This is explained in more detail throughout the book, sometimes plainly as fact and at other times using anecdotes from Kondo’s consulting business.
- This past weekend, I decided to clean my bookshelf. Rather than take down all of the books, I simply removed the ones I didn’t want from the shelf. Kondo explains that this is not the best way to declutter, however, and her reasoning is explained chapter by chapter. As chapter 2 states, “Finish discarding first.” Meanwhile, chapter 4 is a how-to on storage. Kondo warns that many people find new ways of storing items, rather than actually taking unwanted items out to the trash. Reading Kondo’s book in sequence will prevent you from making the mistake that I did!
- In the process of tidying your home and removing items from your closet or cupboards (or garage, for that matter), it might be tempting to give your items to a family member or friend. But, Kondo warns, if you’re doing that out of guilt from throwing something away, you’re simply putting the burden of “stuff” on someone else.
Perhaps the most useful section of the book appears is chapter 3. In “Tidying by category works like magic,” Kondo breaks down the chapter into separate categories that actually focus on categories of cleaning. For example, are you thinking about keeping old clothes to wear around the house? Forget it, says Kondo. “Downgrading to loungewear is taboo.” Ready to transition to a summer wardrobe and pack away your winter clothes? “It’s time to abandon this custom and keep all our clothes ready to be used year-round, regardless of the season,” says Kondo. Most importantly, chapter 3 discusses komono, the Japanese word for miscellaneous items (not to be confused with kimono, a traditional Japanese garment). Here Kondo explains exactly what to do with items that we keep “just because”: gifts, cosmetic samples, electronics, wires, and cords (don’t get me started on the cord drawer!), spare buttons, free novelty goods, and a plethora of other knickknacks that most people keep. “I urge you to take stock of your komono and save only, and I mean only, those that bring you joy,” summarizes Kondo.
the life-changing magic of tidying up is one of those books that can be read over a long afternoon and be used for years to come because of its practical advice. Then again, Kondo herself might urge you to give it up after it’s been read. After all, the question remains: does it spark joy? If so, keep it. If not, you’ll know what to do after you read this book.
For more information on the author, check out Marie Kondo’s website here.
Check out her interview with Tim Ferris (mentioned in this article) for more information and inspiration.
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