The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It’s 3 out of 3 for Japanese authors this 2015. I didn’t mean for the first quarter of the year to be Japanese author centric, but it somehow turned out that way–with the books I ended up finishing penned by Japanese authors.
I honestly have no idea how to rate this book. For practicality? Ease of use? How I felt about it?
An arguably short read, this has been one of the most stressful reads of my life. The KonMari method of disposing of everything that doesn’t give you joy goes against my need to always be ready for a plan B and always be prepared, and just thinking about the amount of things I’d be getting rid of gave me a quite a bit of anxiety. I also find her method of disposing (and then buying again, if it turns out you really want and/or need it) pretty wasteful–maybe this advice is better suited for developed countries like Japan and America?
As most self-help non-fiction books, this book is full of repetition. Half this book is the author repeating her mantra of getting rid of the things that don’t bring you joy, sprinkled heavily with her spiritual belief (that inanimate objects have souls, under the Shinto religion). It’s repeated so many times that you’ll believe it at the end of the book–not the animism (as I can hear sarcastic Western counterparts slamming this a thousands of miles away, though I do respect the author for explaining this in terms that are easy to relate to and understand–or maybe I’ve watched too much anime as a child and am too familiar with Japanese culture, who knows), but the selling point that you should only keep things that bring you joy and everything else (such as happiness when embarking on a new lifestyle) will follow because of the positivity of being surrounded solely by things that make you happy will bring (yep, definitely too much anime as a child).
I guess I should give a quick background on why I picked this book up. For quite a while, I’ve been feeling out of control and restless, a way of channeling my stress that isn’t at breaking down point (or so I thought), through cleaning out my wardrobe. Since that entry, I kept doing a bi-weekly review and tossing out items and do a one in, two out method (as one of the reasons of the closet clean up was to finally dress the way I want, which means building up my wardrobe). Add that and since this book, I’ve added two more garbage bag of clothes, one garbage bag of shoes, and one garbage bag of handbags to the donate pile, and have yet to sort out my jeans (because I am faced with the conundrum that those heat traps don’t bring me joy, no, but I like the fit of the ones I have left (jeans shopping is horrible and one of the hardest things for a girl with my proportions) and I need at least a pair or two for life in general, and especially on red days). I use garbage bag as a unit of measure; I look at them and I can already hear my mother’s voice in my head protesting that those items are still nice and usable.
It’s been four days since I cleared my closet and I’m getting used to the fact that instead of facing the stressful, daunting task of what to wear every morning, I am faced with options that make me feel, I look great in that, I look great in that, I feel boring in that BUT IT’S SUPER COMFY IT MAKES ME FEEL LIKE I’M ON CLOUDS AND THAT I CAN DO ANYTHING, I look cute in that, I look nice in that… It’s an amazing mood lifter and I am not a morning person.
The KonMari method is pretty strict on a lot of things–lay out ALL the clothes in the house on the floor, touch them one by one to see if they give you joy, discard those that don’t. Follow the given KonMari order of discarding, it is essential that you do it that way, do not do it any other way or else you won’t graduate from the course because it won’t hone your ~joy picking skills~ (never mind that things have varying weights of important to different people). Anyway, I’ve gone through most of my clothes, all my shoes and bags, all my jewelry/accessories–and well, I do feel lighter. But this is the feeling I like anyway, which was why I kind of got addicted to removing things bi-weekly since last year, the way your brain tricks you into thinking that removing something physically means removing stress space occupied in your head (Kondo Marie believes this, though).
While helpful, readers should go into this with a mindset of taking what they know can work for them. This book, for example, emphasizes folding clothes into rectangles and storing them upright. This assumes that all the readers of this book use drawers as clothing storage. In our house, we use cabinets and closets. Storing items vertically would be an epic waste of space in the types of cabinets we have, especially since you wouldn’t even see anything on the second row to the third since it’s be too dark back there. Not to mention the 16 inches height that’d end up being wasted!
My dream is to have a library when I have a place of my own, and let’s be real here, the chances of me finding my very own Prince Adam (aka Disney’s Beast) who’ll give me my own legit library is very slim, so I’m going to have to work for that on my own. I’ll donate the ones I planned on selling / giving away anyway (ones I won through a contest but have no plans of reading and the ones I read but couldn’t care less if I had them around [aka they don’t bring me joy]). For unread books, however, the KonMari method advises to get rid of them as they will never be read and they have already served their purpose–your happiness at the time of purchase. I read and reviewed a hundred books and manga volumes during a year of unemployment; I definitely know what’s unread now won’t be in the future, especially if I bought a physical copy of it. As she oft repeats, keep it if it makes you happy, for this is the way to reset your lifestyle. Well, my dream lifestyle involves a library groaning with well-curated books, so.
There isn’t much about keeping the things you need, just a reminder not to stockpile them in fear of running out. I admit, I have this tendency (which I know I inherited from my mother). I buy something I need (say, shampoo) and I always end up being one of the people who, when the item runs out, can’t find the one I use available so I’m forced to temporarily switch. Then, while I’m using my current one, I find the one I like so I buy one. Fast forward, while using that bottle, I see another bottle available at the grocery store, so I buy that as well in preparation. Then it snowballs into other things… So, starting today, we are avoiding this trap! Control! Thyself! Do not buy bleach powder the next time you go to the mall!
Some of her storage tips were helpful for me–particularly the one about designated spots. It is easier to keep track of things once they have their own spot and we should never ever have an “anything goes” spot because there lies the blackhole of clutter. This is also known as my bedside table.
All in all, this was a stressful read but I enjoyed it. Although it was repetitive, I never found it annoying as the tone she uses is very patient and encouraging. I will try to do a follow-up review once I finish tidying up. Wish me luck with my cleaning!
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