I’m going to start by saying that this was one of the most interesting and fun reads I’ve had to date. Given this is a book about tidying up, this may come as a shock for those of you who know me!
Few books have had the ability to inspire me such that I’m instantly willing to change personal habits and my view of the world. Even fewer have left me feeling like I’m a better person and wondering how I ever lived before reading it. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo has done the unthinkable.
The first thing I think needs to be clarified is this: do not begin reading this book expecting to get a static list of steps and tips for tidying up. If that’s what you’re looking for, go find something else to read. I believe this is why you’ll find a very split community of reviewers out there. My guess is that people can’t appreciate the Magic of Tidying Up (seriously not typing the whole book name every time) for what it’s meant to be.
If it’s not about Tidying Up then…?
The charm of the Magic of Tidying Up is that it isn’t just a list of tidying tips. It’s like nothing written before it. It all comes down to the author, Marie Kondo. She isn’t some random person who enjoys tidying and decided to write a book about it. She’s someone who lives and breathes tidying. This sounds extreme but it’s really no different to any of us deciding we want to work on cars or computers for the rest of our lives. Marie demonstrates her love and passion for maintaining a tidy life through recounts of her childhood attempts at battling her family’s clutter.
She takes these stories and wraps them in a unique and very spiritual philosophy on the appreciation of things. Seriously. It may borderline on crazy at times but stick with it, it’s incredible!
Rather than waffling on about tidying tips, she welcomes you into her own life and walks you through why we’re untidy and how to get ourselves into a mental state such that we drop our messy tendencies. No more hoarding!
Mindfulness and the Appreciation of things
Marie does have a method but it’s so different from the usual formula of mindless reshuffling of stuff from room to room to make things look tidier. It’s extreme but give it a chance. Read on.
We start with clothes as they’re the easiest to work with. Take every single item of clothing that you own, from every room in your house and throw them in a pile on the floor. You can start with your main clothes like shirts, dresses and pants. Once in a pile, pick up each piece of clothing and decide whether it’s worth keeping, whether to donate it or throw it out. Simple right? Wrong.
It’s so much harder than it looks. As you handle each piece of clothing in your hands you’ll instantly recall memories attached to it. A great teenage memory; the fact it was a gift from someone special; you wore it on a special holiday and so on. Suddenly you’ll be a lot less willing to throw it out or give it away.
This is where the book comes into its own. Marie doesn’t just throw you into this activity. In fact, by the time you get to this stage, you’re already well into the book. She spends the first few chapters preparing you for this. When you do start handling your clothes you’ll be equipped with the mental tools you’ll need to overcome the memories and feelings.
It sounds so incredibly sappy and weird but it’s liberating. You’re encouraged to embrace the feelings and memories and make your decision based on one truth: “Does the item inspire joy?”. When you’re handling the item of clothing, are you instantly overjoyed from having the item in your life? (Again, extreme. Roll with it.)
Does it? By having that dress or t-shirt, do you honestly feel happy?
Marie also personifies your items and encourages you to view existence from its perspective. We keep clothes in our closets and drawers for years without them seeing the light of day. Is that really the way to treat something that you apparently can’t live without? Show that t-shirt some damn respect! (Funny but seriously!) What good is that dress doing anyone hanging in your closet for 5 years with the tag still on it? If it could talk, what would it say?
It’s such an amazingly different and effective process. Handle your clothes one by one and see if they instantly inspire joy. If they once did but don’t anymore (literally) say thanks and be grateful that you had it in your life. Let it go and put it in the donate pile knowing that it’ll be put to good use by someone who needs it.
The personification is intense and seems insane as you read the book but forget the craziness of it all, forget the possible embarrassment and just do it. You’ll develop a new found appreciation for everything that you have. It’s a wonderful feeling!
Marie has actually made a career out of tidying up which is exactly why there’s some validity to what she teaches in the book. There are many recounts of the customers she’s helped and how they’ve been freed from the restrictions of their own belongings simply by following her steps. Some of the stories are (scarily) quite familiar!
There’s really not much else to be said. I wasn’t able to put the book down and blasted through it in a matter of days. I found everything she discussed so intriguing and motivating that I wanted to take action straight away. To date I’ve been able to cut down my clothes such that all t-shirts and pants fit into one drawer in our dresser. ! I’ve also thrown out bags of computer parts and cables that I’d been hoarding without even realising it!
If you’ve read the book too, let me know what you think!