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

1209_kondo-bookCoverBack in December I wrote that I had been reading Marie Kondo’s book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ and that it was like she had downloaded my brain and written a book of my thoughts. Well, she is probably a millionaire by now, so if only I’d written the book before her!

Anyway, the KonMari method is all the rage and people are buying Marie Kondo’s two books in droves, and claiming it has changed their lives. There are KonMari groups on social media which are almost like shrines to the KM method (yes, it has its own abbreviation!), where you post pictures of your undersink cupboard (untidy and dirty before and gleaming, straight-lined, and half-empty after), and even your knicker drawer!

Angela Buttolph wrote in The Telegraph that she got rid of about 65% of her possessions, after ‘a whole freaking year of stress, confusion, humiliation, heavy lifting and bloody-minded determination’, that it changed her life for the better, and that she learned the valuable lesson that possessions just aren’t that important.

Yep, Marie Kondo has downloaded my brain.

And I can tell you, I loved (most of) the book. I honestly think there is a lot of wisdom in there about how not to be tied to our possessions, how to happily let go of things that are taking up space in our homes, and how to enjoy the free time that comes from having fewer possessions to maintain.

Then I got to the part where she talks about thanking your handbag and all that jazz, and I decided to ignore that bit. Since she herself acknowledges at the start of the book that objects don’t have feelings, why she goes on to attribute feelings to them is a mystery. Though I do think it would be good to be more thankful for the things we have.

Anyway, woo aside, I bought it hook line and sinker.

It was strange for someone like me, already quite organised and focused on decluttering unused and unloved possessions, to find someone like-minded but even more so. Kondo’s method is pretty extreme but, I think, can result in a much happier home environment. When you are surrounded by things you don’t love but keep out of duty/laziness/fear you might need them in the future, you can’t focus as much on the things you do love. You lose the trees in the wood.

For the past few years, since having my own home really, I’ve grown increasingly aware of the consumerist attitude which used to drive and control me, and sometimes still does. What is this consumerism? Why do we need all this stuff anyway? What’s the point? Aren’t we just living beyond the earth’s means?

I feel I can speak with some wisdom on this because I have a confession to make: I used to be a hoarder. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I kept everything. School books and papers, broken toys, pamphlets, and – the hardest category of all – unwanted presents. Because it’s hard to get rid of something which someone else chose for you which you really don’t like, isn’t it? After all, the person went to all the trouble of buying it for you, and it seems ungrateful to move it on to a new home. But as I’ve got older, I’ve become much less of a hoarder and truly my life is easier because of it. I always know where everything is, because everything has a place. I no longer have a sense of chaos at home, or of being weighed down by the burden of stuff. I don’t feel guilty rehoming things that I don’t use, even if I or someone else spent money on them, because it’s far better that someone else uses them than that they languish unused in my cupboard. If I didn’t have children I probably would have moved into a log hut by now (joke!).

I really value a simple life, unencumbered by meaningless stuff. I want to live well (see my previous post!) and I want the menial yet essential stuff to happen as if by magic so that I don’t have to spend time and energy thinking about it. A life that has the boring stuff sorted with absolutely no thought so that you can have time to do the things you enjoy. There are lots of ways to do that, which I have written about elsewhere, but possessing only what you need and love surely goes a long way.

I would highly recommend reading this book (except maybe leave out the last section about bowing to your house and things), because there is much wisdom in there. I’ve yet to truly implement the KM method (though I have released myself of quite a few craft bits and bobs which were lurking, making me feel guilty that I hadn’t done anything with them), but as my home is relatively tidy and clutter-free already, it doesn’t seem urgent. Little by little, it will get done. Next stop: log hut!

Living with less stuff is contagious, affecting all areas of life and helping us to get clarity about the things which matter to us. Plus, there is much less to tidy up at the end of the day, which is a big, big positive in my opinion!

To all this I would, however, add a big caveat: KM is for rich people. Kondo’s method focuses on the contents of our homes (rather than the furnishings), and advocates only keeping items which ‘spark joy’. She suggests the first category (she tidies by category, not by room) to tackle is clothing. Well, if I were to put all my clothes in a pile on my bed, sift through them, and keep only the items which spark joy, I would have hardly any clothes left. And I would have to then go out and buy more (joy-sparking) clothes. Perhaps housewives (her main clientele) in Japan have plentiful funds to do just that, but I don’t. So I’ll have to keep wearing my functional but non-joyous clothes for now, Marie.



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