The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

Life-Changing Magic

“[T]he secret of success is to tidy in one shot, as quickly and completely as possible….”

– Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Several months ago, I put a hold at my library on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. It finally came in, so I was able to see what all the brouhaha is about.

I didn’t think I’d like the book much. After all, Kondo is adamant that gradual minimalism doesn’t work (“Tidy a little a day and you’ll be tidying forever”), and here I am, writing a blog about my experiences as a gradual minimalist.

As you may know, the “KonMari method” involves a “once in a lifetime” tidying (as opposed to the daily tidying of putting things back where they belong). Surprisingly, despite this fact – and the fact that Kondo insists there is only one right way to do pretty much anything – I enjoyed reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

“Perhaps influenced by her Shinto background, Kondo’s approach is intuitive and animistic, sensing and respecting the intelligence present in our surroundings and encouraging us to do the same.”

– Pranada Devi

My favorite thing about the book is how Kondo focuses on gratitude. I recently wrote about my being flummoxed by her insistence that we keep only things that spark joy, until I read her solution for the problem of needing to keep certain things that aren’t all that thrilling – like the toilet plunger. She said we should learn to appreciate how these things are contributing to our lives.

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she talks about respecting what we own in a way that’s probably not familiar to most Americans.

She says we should express our appreciation to every item that supports us during the day. We should tell our clothes, “Thank you for keeping me warm all day” and our accessories “Thank you for making me beautiful.” We might tell a bag “It’s thanks to you that I got so much work done today.”

She advises occasionally opening the drawer of out-of-season clothes, letting them know that we look forward to wearing them. She also suggests telling items you’re decluttering, “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you” or “Have a good journey!”

I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t talk to my inanimate objects, other than cursing at them when they don’t work. It’s strange that I have no qualms about telling the computer it’s stupid when it isn’t working, but would never dream of thanking it for its help.

Food for thought.

“As you reduce your belongings through the process of tidying, you will come to a point where you suddenly know how much is just right for you.”

– Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Kondo has lots of suggestions that may be helpful for your particular situation. These include decluttering by category rather than location.

You probably keep all of some items in one place, but have others that are kept in multiple sites. For example, we have some basic tools in the kitchen (pliers and a screwdriver), although most of the tools are in the garage.

She provides the order in which categories should be reviewed, with the gist being to go from easiest to hardest. That’s why sentimental items are last.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up also has directions on how to store clothing, saying that most should be folded in a particular way (learn how in these videos).

Although I’ve always thought folding underwear is completely ridiculous, I tried it just because I’d seen photos from bloggers who tried the KonMari method, and the drawers looked so pretty and organized.

While I wouldn’t say it sparks joy, exactly, I do feel better looking into a drawer of neatly folded panties and socks, and the folding takes about two extra minutes a week.

“The essence of effective storage is this: designate a spot for every last thing you own.”

– Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Kondo explains that once you’ve decluttered, you need to choose a place for each thing – using the “ultimate simplicity in storage.” She gives specific instructions for storage, some of which wouldn’t work for me.

Despite her explanation of why things shouldn’t necessarily be stored in the most convenient location, I am not going to “store all items of the same type in the same place,” as she insists.

I enjoy having books in my living room and in my bedroom. I like that my regularly worn shoes are in the garage on the shoe rack, but the rarely worn heels are on the top shelf in my closet.

Having a couple of tools in the kitchen drawer while the rest are in the garage is especially convenient since getting to the garage involves going down a flight of stairs.

I do agree with her statement that there’s no need to buy dividers and gadgets. Her favorite organizer is an empty shoebox. She uses them to store socks and underwear in drawer, as well as bottles of cleaning items.

Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? If so, what did you think of it?


11 thoughts on “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

  1. After reading so many reviews, I also thought I wouldn’t like the book. But I actually really enjoyed the tone she uses, it makes the whole process seem quite straightforward and not stressful.
    I didn’t enjoy the way she insisted the order of things must be done just as she says or (to my interpretation) you are just wasting your time.
    But I did really enjoy the section about choices made because of an attachment to the past or a fear for the future. Food for thought!

  2. Hello Christy, I have not read the book, but I think I can see why it’s so popular. Kondo certainly has some interesting, and even philosophical things to say about the topic. Thanks for sharing! Carol

  3. I’ve had this on my list of books to read for a while now but haven’t come across it yet. I too have been interested only because of all the talk about the book more than actually needing to read a book about cleaning and organizing. I think I may try a bit harder to find the book now that I’ve read your review.

    As for keeping like things together I agree with you. I have pens next to my work space in my bedroom but I also keep a couple in a drawer in the kitchen. I have my larger tools in a closet but a few smaller hand tools I keep in a kitchen drawer (and I use the top of an egg carton to keep them organized), I have two pairs of shoes, one for summer and one for the rest of the year. The off-season pair are stored in my bedroom closet while the other is next to the door to put on when leaving the house.

    Btw, I’ve always folded underwear it’s how I was raised but my children don’t and see no point in wasting the time to do so.

    • I’m sure they’ll have the book at your local library. Mine had lots of copies – it was just that there were hundreds of holds on it.

      Funny, we were raised to iron pillowcases (which I no longer do), but weren’t brought up to fold our underwear.

      Thanks for mentioning the egg carton lid – both sides of an egg carton are great for organizing.

  4. I’m glad you wrote again that it’s worth a read and you enjoyed it, Christy. I’d only heard the stuff that turned me off towards reading it–like the things you shared before about “everything must spark joy.” (I’m not so sure about all of that talking to inanimate objects either…) Sounds like it’s a library book for me as well–might as well give it a skim, right?

    • Yes, personally I’m glad I didn’t buy it (I buy very few books, anyway), but it was a good little read. It’s a short book and easy to skim. I just took her “must-dos” as “suggestions.”

  5. I had mixed feeling when I read her book but I have implemented some of her ideas. I do feel more grateful though I don’t say so to my things. And putting the things under the sink into a shoe box made it much easier to get to the ones that used to slide too far back to reach. Like most systems for doing most things, I picked the parts that worked for me. It’s been several months now since I read her book and I’m feeling the need to read it again to see what I pick up this time. Fortunately, I bought the ebook version so it’s waiting on my iPad to be read again. And I was fascinated to learn my husband read it too.

    • “Like most systems for doing most things, I picked the parts that worked for me.” – This is exactly how I do things. I’m always open to new ideas, but don’t feel I have to follow one system as presented. I just take the parts that fit my lifestyle and needs.

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.