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Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (2/5)

13 Sep

I saw an interview with Marie Kondo on Goodreads a while back and thought her little book on tidying up sounded like a cute little self-help book. I had lost the hold on an audiobook I was really enjoying and needed something to fill my time. This seemed like the perfect choice. I really really didn’t like this book. It was very detailed and violated a lot of the beliefs I hold dear. I do see the point to some of her advice, but others left me reeling.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Summary from Goodreads:

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 best seller 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.

This book did not win me over. There were parts of it that made sense to me and others that made me angry. I liked her idea of only keeping the things that make you really happy and of throwing everything else out. I thought about throwing out and donating a lot of things I don’t need or use (socks that I don’t like or a 2015 calendar I just found) and to some extent, I’ve done these things. I was able to thin out my closet and I have a little space in there now. I even have some space on my desk now that I’ve gone through and gotten rid of some old checkbooks. However, I think Kondo takes things too far. I have a stash of sticky notes, a product I use frequently but not as quickly as I go through other things. Should I throw them away because they don’t make me happy and I bought a bulk package? I don’t think so, but Kondo does. Should I never buy in bulk again? Kondo thinks so. Should I ditch my yarn remnants? She thinks so. There are some things I can’t see myself parting with but her argument is to toss them all. While I appreciate the urge to look at my things in a different light, I’m not going to thin out 2/3 of my possessions anytime soon.


I understood why some of Kondo’s clients held on to things. Some things I own might seem like garbage but make me happy. I have a collection of turtle figurines that seem silly and are a pain to move. More than half of them are gifts and I treasure them. People have brought them to me from all over the world and I love looking at them. I understood why some people wanted to hang on to things that made them happy or that they stocked up on. I don’t see a problem in buying in bulk and having things that I don’t need frequently but I need once or twice a year. I’m not going to get rid of my hiking gear because I don’t use it in February. I found it hard to think of parting with so many things. Looking around my office now, I see some things I could part with, but I also see some things I would have a hard time giving up.

There were some helpful things in this book to be sure. I’m not sure about folding my socks the way Kondo described, but I see the point in storing clothes the way she describes. It would help me keep better track of what I have. I found a pair of jeans in my drawer one time I hadn’t worn for two years and they were my favorites. I see the point in going through all of my clothes and in taking a hard look at what I’m keeping.

For me, I stopped listening to Kondo when she talked about thanking your possessions. I’m not going to thank my shoes every day for keeping my feet safe or my bed for a good night’s sleep. I don’t want to talk to my apartment when I get home and tell it I’m glad we’re together again. This, for me, was way too far and I couldn’t take her seriously after this.

The audiobook was narrated by Emily Woo Zeller. I thought Zeller did a good job. It’s hard to really critique for a non-fiction book. She pronounced the Japanese words with an accent but as I don’t speak Japanese, it’s hard to know if she did it right. This isn’t a very exciting topic so really, her neutral inflection fit quite well.

Kondo’s theory is that once you’ve experienced a space that is tidy, you’ll never want to experience life any other way. I get that, I do. Once I’d had cream cheese for the first time, I never wanted a bagel any other way. I just didn’t like that she had the single answer for how to organize a space. I was kind of offended that she was the self-declared expert on tidying. I see her point, but I didn’t agree with it. I think a tidy space would leave me more time to focus on things I love to do but I don’t see how her way is the only way to be able to focus my time on things I love.

Writer’s Takeaway: My biggest problem with the book was when (I felt) Kondo went off track and talked about appreciating your possessions more than she talked about tidying. Some parts of the tidying process she explored in-depth such as sock folding and handbag storage. She didn’t talk very in depth about how to organize a bookshelf. I felt it was inconsistent and off topic and that took me out of the book.

While I didn’t like the book, I found some of the information useful. I’m shedding possessions left and right now. It feels kinda good, I won’t lie, but I’m unlikely to throw out bags and bags of things. Two out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Getting Rid of Stuff: Marie Kondo’s ‘Life Changing Magic of Tidying’ | Cultural Life
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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo Book Review | Dre Reads