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
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo | My Messy World
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo Book Review | Dre Reads


7 Responses to “Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (2/5)”

  1. Laurel-Rain Snow September 13, 2016 at 10:42 AM #

    Sam, I absolutely agree with you about this book (which I haven’t read, by the way), but which I’ve heard a lot about. You are generous to concede some points to her methods, but I guess that even the most ridiculous ideas have some merit. lol. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sam September 13, 2016 at 10:44 AM #

      I thought about starting with one or two spaces and using her method but I can’t decide what! My desk at work could be the best, or my car. But honestly, I’ll never thank my chair every day, haha. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. beckylindroos September 13, 2016 at 4:58 PM #

    Like the others, I’ve not read the book but have seen a couple reviews which have essentially said the same thing. I think about my own stuff – what in the world would I get to fill that corner where I have an old computer desk/bookshelf piled with stuffed animals and books? I do NOT want that corner empty – that would be ugly. I have to learn to say, “Thank you old computer desk for holding up a few beloved stuffed animals and books – for keeping a couple pieces of luggage under your table part. You and I had great times several years ago, but I retired and don’t need you at school now. You were beloved and I much prefer seeing you instead of that empty corner.”

    There. Now I don’t have to get rid of it. 🙂

    I’m not worried about being tidy – I’m pretty tidy as it is. I’m not going in for some minimalist version of housekeeping. My stuff is fine and there’s a kind of rhythm to keeping and tossing – the clothes go to charity about every 6 months. Actually, I would like to get rid of that ugly (ugly) stoneware I got for a wedding gift – yes! Kondo just gave me permission. (And maybe I’ll get something I “love.”)

    So that’s the trick. I don’t have to get rid of everything which does not bring me joy – I should get rid of those things which bring me disgust – replacing with stuff which brings me pleasure to see. lol – (But I think that’s what I’ve been doing for probably 50 years now.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sam September 13, 2016 at 5:56 PM #

      That sounds like a much better system! I don’t think cough syrup is going to bring me joy, but I’ve got to keep it. I see a lot of holes on her system when applied to entire homes. Maybe it would apply in my car?


  3. my messy world September 13, 2016 at 5:27 PM #

    Thank you very much for linking up to my page 🙂 Your book review is very interesting. I think one thing to consider is that Marie Kondo is Japanese – she has been brought up very differently and their way of thinking is worlds apart from ours. I think by keeping that in the back of my head I was able to get a humorous and loving approach to her book. While I don’t agree on everything she explains either, I feel she’s helped me a whole lot to manage and understand my mess and where it comes from. I can totally see where she’s lost you, by thanking her items and all, but I have to admit that every now and then I also come home and find myself greeting my home. I do it with a winking eye yet it still holds a deepish meaning to it as my new home brings me so much utter joy that it feels like a nice way to express my appreciation and gratefulness. I admire the people who manage to follow her book and rules at once and therefore manage to get a supertidy nice home because I still find myself struggling with some categories and things, but I’m sure that step by step I’ll be getting closer to my vision of a nice and tidy home 🙂 There’s a chapter also where she explains that some things you just have to keep not because they spark joy but because they are necessary – so of course, stick with your sticky notes! There are good ways to store them nicely and if you find good deals in bulks – why not saving yourself some money by getting those! It’s all just a guide to feel comfortable in your own surroundings and to make the other things around you spark joy, then you can deal with the necessary things better because they’re just, well, necessary 😉 Thank you for your book review 🙂 ! Cheers!


    • Sam September 13, 2016 at 6:01 PM #

      I didn’t necessarily feel that Kondo’s method allowed for exceptions. She seemed to push her clients to get rid of everything. I got caught up on the section about getting rid of books you haven’t read. As a book blogger, I have a literal shelf of these books and I really do intend to read them all. I felt her method was not flexible for people with a strong passion for a material possession. There were some parts of the book that had a very culturally-Japanese feel, the part about shrines for sure. Though I didn’t feel I could think some of the pets that bothered me could be written off as foreign. If her book wasn’t meant to be applied to American or British homes, it shouldn’t have been translated. I’m glad you’re getting more out of the book than I did. Every book has its reader, and I’m not Kondo’s reader. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      • my messy world September 14, 2016 at 5:00 PM #

        I see what you mean. But that’s exactly what she means on the other side – they spark joy to you, that’s your passion. You KNOW you’ll read through them, so you need them to stick around 🙂 I see that as a full permission to keep stuff 😀 I keep trying to get rid of the LOT of xy, but the purge doesn’t seem too drastic since I just love those things too much and they spark joy to me 🙂 But I still get to purge some and it definitely feels lighter and easier 🙂 Thank you! Happy blogging to you as well – I shall come back and go over some other book reviews of yours ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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