Book Reviews

Review — The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
by Marie Kondo
Translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano
Ten Speed Press (Random House)
October, 2014
Hardcover, 204 pages
Source: Library

View on Goodreads.

About the book:

This #1 New York Times best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.

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 bestseller 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.

The review:

Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing consultant, and the KonMari method is pretty simple: only keep what brings you joy in your life. She wrote a book about how to tidy efficiently and effectively, and this little guide is definitely a cute learning experience. I’m sure all of us have way more things than we actually need, old possessions we keep stored in the closet but never look at, items we keep around just because we might use them someday. But Marie says that these things don’t belong in your home unless they give you joy right here and now and are useful to you. If you need something you don’t have immediately, you can almost always go out and buy it.

Her method goes like this: Start with all the clothes in your house (this is the first category she recommends tidying). Collect every single article of clothing from every single nook and cranny, because anything you find after you finish tidying you can say goodbye to — it obviously wasn’t important enough to keep if you forgot about it or was too lazy to hunt down. Pile it all on the floor and then go through every piece one by one and really think about if it brings you joy when you hold it and feel it. Ask yourself why you love it and drill down a few “why” levels. Put in a garbage bag right next to you anything you’ve grown out of, isn’t your style anymore, has become too shabby, is something you haven’t worn in a while and probably don’t see yourself wearing again any time soon, and anything else that you’re hesitant about and don’t love here at this very moment. Go through and discard first. After you’re done weeding, then you can fold or hang everything back up and put it away. This same process goes for all the papers and files you have, books (agh! No! I can’t get rid of all my books! This is the one category I won’t force myself to tidy ruthlessly!), kitchen/office supplies, makeup, miscellany, memorabilia, etc. Collect everything in a category from all over the house and sort it all at once. Then, put away everything in that category together in one place.

Marie also believes in a specific storing method of stacking clothes or fabrics vertically, and teaches you how to fold your clothes correctly. This way wrinkling is much less likely occur, it’s easier to see everything you have, and it’s easier to get out everything you have. (Be honest: how often do you wear the shirt on the very bottom of the stack? It’s just too much of a hassle to get it out and then it’s prone to wrinkling because of all the weight of the shirts on top of it.) She loves shoeboxes as shelf dividers, and believes in emptying your purse every time you get home and making sure everything has a specific place to go. She says to throw away old receipts, money statements no longer useful to you, beauty product samples you’re honestly not going to use, hundreds and hundreds of photographs that don’t spark joy when you look at them (be ruthless; if you can’t immediately remember where a picture was taken or why you took an uninspired photo of scenery, throw it out. This way, you’ll only keep an average of five photos from special days you want to remember), stockpiled items because it’s just better to buy what you need when you need it instead of wasting precious space storing it all, and saying hello to your house whenever you return home.

That’s the KonMari method in a nutshell. Now let’s talk about the book. It’s a cute read that makes you think about tidying your house in a different way than you’ve probably done before. However, there is a huge amount of padding to be found here: the book often repeats what’s been said a few chapters back, and it really could have been all compiled into one very long blog post or magazine article. Still, it’s a quick read bursting with the words “tidy” and “tidying” every few sentences, and is littered with facts about Marie’s own life and the habits of her clients’. Marie actually seems like a very OCD woman, and who was probably a very strange child: At age five she started reading home magazines, and thus began her obsession with tidying. She tidied not only her room, but her siblings’ and parents’ rooms, as well as the entire house. Eventually she was forbidden from ever tidying any room that wasn’t her own. Gee, I can’t imagine why! (Sarcasm.)

The book might not be brilliant, but it opens the door to a new method of tidying and organizing that may work very well for some people and give them the push they need to finally clean their whole house. I felt and still feel this way: During and after reading this book I desperately wanted to tidy my room. I’ve tidied a few parts of it already (desk drawers, jewelry, makeup), throwing away items that I don’t ever use and won’t ever use, and items that don’t spark joy or at least a warm feeling in me when I look at them or touch them. The one category I’m not going to touch, however, are my fiction books. I’ll tackle my academic bookcase, but it’s the novels I own that all spark joy in my heart and I can’t bear to let them go. Oh, the problems of a book blogger! (If Marie Kondo ever came to visit my home, she’d probably roll her eyes when she saw all the books I refused to tidy.) ♦

So tell me…

Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? If you haven’t, would you be interested to? When was the last time you had a tidying/organizing urge? And do you even like tidying? Comment below letting me know! And, as always, happy reading!

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4 thoughts on “Review — The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

  1. To me, this kind of book is the sort I might pick up but never read, or read but never actually follow–but then I haven’t read and as of yet cannot sympathize with the extraordinary desire to tidy up (mine comes in waves and ebbs quickly).


    1. It’s a quick read, and definitely makes you think about organizing and cleaning differently, but I totally understand what you mean. I would never had read this if my mother hadn’t borrowed it from the library and I saw it on the couch. I only read it because I’d read a magazine article about Marie Kondo and was curious about her whole “does it spark joy” motto. In terms of cleaning urges, I tend to only ever want to vacuum late at night, and then I can’t because of potentially sleeping neighbors, haha!


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