Book review and confession: the life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo

★★★★ 5/5

Confession

I’m not going to misrepresent myself as a tidy person. What happens is that I get so excited about my next project, I fail to really clean up before I start the next one, which unfortunately leads to strata of materials and research papers. I also love certain types of clothing- flannel shirts, for example. These can become like old friends.

Once, I had a red flannel. I loved that shirt so very much, I think I wore it every day straight for 4 winters. One day, due to laundry probably, I wore a different flannel. My friend said, with mock alarm, “You’re not wearing your pink shirt!”  I didn’t have a pink shirt, and I had no idea what he was speaking of. As time would have it, my red flannel had faded to a tired, uniform pink, and had none of the cozy fluff, with the exception of a short fringe around the many holes and threadbare regions. When I looked at the shirt, I still saw the red fuzzy flannel. I didn’t see the pink rag that it had become.

Every time I tried in earnest to pare down on my things, it was impossibly difficult to part with stuff. Not physically, but emotionally. It was very taxing to shed things that were once useful, but that no longer served purpose. Maybe it was because I was sentimental, maybe because I lived hand-to-mouth for so long when working as an artist. If I was going to live tiny. I needed help, I needed a system. What I didn’t know was that I needed Marie Kondo’s book!

Book Review

I purchased the book on the basis of other reviews in desperation for a solution to my ‘stuff problem.’  The transition to tiny would be impossible without a solution. The book cover is attractively designed, the book small in the hands, and printed on thick paper. It feels kind of precious to hold- more like a poetry book than a cleaning tips book, and as such is conducive to rumination, at least for me.

The thesis of the book is that you should have things that give you joy, and let the rest go. Really, this is a philosophy one can apply well beyond your closets and cupboards. It can apply to activities, mental habits, careers, even people in your life.

She gives the very pragmatic suggestion of holding items when making the decision to keep or not. She uses the criterion: Does the item spark JOY. Well, not a lot that I have actually sparks joy. My closet thinned out mighty fast using this criterion! I still have some thread-bare flannels, and I got rid of some expensive stuff in perfect shape, but my closet now sparks joy, and I like it that way!

She acknowledges that parting with some things will be difficult. And she makes the surprising animist suggestion that you thank the item for its utility before disposing/gifting/donating. Some folks will certainly laugh heartily at this, but these folks may not need that extra step to let go of things. For individuals that can wallow in sentiment (like me), this step has become critical to actually following through with the process of culling my stash. Thanks a great deal for this surprisingly liberating and sensitive suggestion, Ms. Kondo!

It isn’t often that I’d say a book changed my life, and I feel a little strange saying that a book about about housekeeping did this to me, but honestly, it is true. Without some of her systematic techniques for evaluating and eliminating belongings, I simply would not be able to transition to tiny living.

I recommend this book if your life is cluttered of stuff, activities, or people.

podzol

I own a small business, Seed-Balls.com. I have degrees in Sculpture, Forestry, and Soil Science. I like nature, I love to learn.

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