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the life-changing magic of tidying up

I finally got a copy of this 2014 best seller by Marie Kondo: the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. I read it in two days. It was interesting... at times, a little crazy. The author is definitely genetically different from the rest of the population of the world, in some way. She is OBSESSED with organization. But like many eccentric people, she brings something important into the lives of the rest of us. A decluttered living space where everything has a purpose and designated spot makes you feel peaceful and relaxed, just like this book - spend a weekend reading it, and you will be very chilled out.

I see myself as an above-average organized person anyway so I probably won't have my life changed by this book but I did note a few very good moments from the book I wanted to note. Here are my top 3.

1) Storage solutions. Marie Kondo does NOT approve of storage solutions! A million bins and boxes to tuck everything away? Bad idea, you can't see what you have and your stuff is harder to get to. When it's harder to get to you don't use it, and if you don't use it that's a sign you don't need it, so why store it? When she does need an extra bin or tray to keep things straight in a drawer, she uses simple shoeboxes, and lids. She actually devotes several pages in praise of shoeboxes. Everything else "clever" that we buy to maximize every weird space in our houses to store more stuff? NO.

2) Gifts. The theme of the book is that you should get rid of anything that doesn't spark joy within you. Gather the things you own by category - and she does carefully describe every category - touch each object, evaluate it, keep or discard. A lot of clients feel obligated to keep things that are gifts. I can see it. "It was a wedding present from my favorite aunt..." Kondo says that the purpose of gifts are to convey a feeling - once that's done, their job is done. This makes total sense to me and it's something I've talked about before in gift-receiving, when people are like "Why can't I just tell everyone coming to my wedding to give me cash?" or "Why can't I tell each baby shower attendant EXACTLY what gift THEY should give so I know the necessities are covered?" Because they're not giving the gifts just for you! They want part of their unique personality to be part of your marriage/baby/new house. If you can use the item, great. If not, send it on and don't feel bad, now I've got Kondo's words to add to my philosophy... "It did its job."

3) Parents. Several weeks ago Josie and I did a stuffed animal audit. We bagged up two huge bags of stuffed animals that she didn't love anymore, to send to the thrift store for other kids. I was really proud of Josie for being willing to send so many away. Then what happened? Marc saw the bags and did the, "But you're not getting rid of the squid/fish/buffalo/walrus!" thing. Kondo says parents have to be OUT of the "what to keep" equation, even as adults, they can be very oversentimental about the little kid part of your life. Your life has to be about your future, not your past... parents are sad to hear that. Marc's parents kept way too many of his art projects and gave them to us and I wanted to scream. But instead, after reading this book, I'm realizing I should have said, "Thank you for keeping these, you did a great thing, you're wonderful people, that was a great time for your family when he was winning this 6th place ribbons for paper mache." and then quietly recycled all of it... as Kondo says, that art project had a job to do, it did it for his parents, and now it is done.


I lately purged my podcasts because I was listening to too many that were about dealing with STRESS and they mostly start with the podcasters harping about how STRESSFUL life is... Stuff Mom Never Told You, Note To Self, Harvard Business Review, etc. The worst was Note To Self. It's a really popular one, but they did this special series on information overload that had its own special STRESSFUL THEME to show just how crazy full and busy our lives are before they'd issue these challenges to, say, turn your phone off for an hour or something revolutionary like that.

Marie Kondo's book is positive. It does not describe disasters, it goes straight to describing the beauty of folding everything in your sweater drawer. Simple. Possibly life-changing, probably not "revolutionary" unless you really can't handle the world outside your house. It's a self-help book that proposes cleaning and going through your stuff as a way to get to a better mental state. If you need that sort of thing, you will like her story.


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( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 6th, 2016 03:40 pm (UTC)
That does sound like a very Japanese ethos, and it has its advantages, but it's not how I want to live (either).

I like your take-away on gifts too, though!
Mar. 6th, 2016 04:37 pm (UTC)
I'm still looking for an overarching philosophy of 'stuff' -- especially moving as often as we do. But her's is not mine! *sigh*
Mar. 6th, 2016 04:50 pm (UTC)
Obviously the author is either a stronger person than I, or has very different relatives than I did. In my life, I could not get rid of a gift because the giver was very apt to say "Where is the XXXX I gave you?" and wish to see how it was being used!
Mar. 6th, 2016 05:58 pm (UTC)
I thought about this a lot because yeah, marc's relatives!

My guess is that she lives her life in a way that people around her know not to give her cluttery gifts, it's pretty darn obvious that she won't keep commemorative figurines on the shelf. If you're honest with people, they might hate you for a while but on the upside they won't get you any more big stupid things.

I kinda did that a little with my inlaws, after we got rid of the stuffed animals we definitely told them about it and guess what, next Christmas no stuffed animals were given. Actually they were even better than ever about asking us for opinions on the kids gifts.

I will totally admit that I have a t-shirt quilt my aunt made me when I graduated college, it's huge and doesn't exactly give me joy but I keep finding places for it just because, my aunt and uncle were convinced that that quilt would be the central theme when I decorated my first apartment and... uh no. I danced around that question.

And I have TWO boxes of baby blankets that people made us... that's the ultimate thing I can't get rid of, about two quilts in there Spark Joy with me and the others I just don't want anyone to know that their hand-crochet pink blanket is at the thrift store. Give me another year though, their time might come.
Mar. 6th, 2016 09:40 pm (UTC)
I'm sentimental and keep a lot of crap as memorabilia, but I like to have the option to *choose* what stuff to keep, not have an obligation to store stuff. It's bad enough I have the sweaters my mom made me; they are totally not my colors but I cannot get rid of them because I know they were made with much love. Then there is the afghan that is, well, hideous. I think I will give that to an old folks home or something one of these days; like you say, give me another year. Hah- she's only been dead 13 years.
Mar. 6th, 2016 05:55 pm (UTC)
I've been hearing so much about that book. As simple as the philosophy is, the "it has done its job" will probably go a long way with helping me get rid of items. I'm a huge sentimental hoarder.
Mar. 6th, 2016 10:56 pm (UTC)
I have heard of this book, but have not looked it up myself since I am already more organized than most people I know, and I find a lot of self-help books don't really tell you anything new. But if it's that relaxing, I might borrow a copy just for that :)

On the topic of gifts, I love re-gifting! If I'm not using something, I would like it to go to a home where it will be used and appreciated. I don't see why this is considered rude, or why I should hold on to things that will just gather dust. I've traded, re-gifted, and donated a lot of gifts to thrift stores. I agree that it had a job to do, that's done now, and it's best to move on and give someone else a chance to benefit from it.
Mar. 7th, 2016 12:33 am (UTC)
you know something funny? a baby gift that we're still using all the time is this booster seat thing that a friend gave me at my baby shower, wrapped up like it was a new present, but she got it at a garage sale. she's that kinda hippie who didn't care about a used gift. and it's awesome, and I wish the original buyer knew it was still getting love and good use! the world should not be weird at all about re-gifts!

those office white elephant "bring a $10 gift" exchanges, I always wrap up something around my house I don't want.
Mar. 7th, 2016 08:57 am (UTC)
That is great!
Mar. 7th, 2016 12:11 pm (UTC)
I like this woman's ideas! I'm not very sentimental, so have never had any trouble getting rid of gifts, but the same rule for parents being in the room should apply to your spouse. Getting rid of many of the stuffed animals my husband has given me over the years has been a trial!
Mar. 7th, 2016 04:21 pm (UTC)
I know a bunch of people who have read that book and used the ideas to declutter. I'm not really sure how much it will help me, since I already sort of follow those ideas, it's more just finding the time to want to bother. :)
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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