Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Let me share a secret. The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life. 
I'm very torn about this book. Kondo's writing periodically made me roll my eyes so hard I though they would get stuck, but I've tried some of her strategies, and they do seem to work. In broad strokes, she recommends getting rid of as many of your belongings (everything from clothes to books to old love letters) as you can--anything that doesn't "spark joy."After that, tidying of your minimal possessions becomes easier once you assign a place for everything and create routines around returning each item to its place.

That part basically works. I followed her guidelines for purging my closet and desk and plan on moving on to my books at some point. It really does help! The "sparking joy" element is a little obnoxious, but being given permission to rid yourself of things you no longer love or use is liberating. I also found that after having gotten rid of the clothes I didn't love, I appreciated the things I kept that much more. Getting dressed is much easier in the morning, and I'm being more reflective when buying new things: is this just something I'm going to get rid of a few months down the line? My desk is much easier to keep clean and organized, and I actually do feel calmer and more at peace looking at my nicely organized closet and clean slate of a desk.

Kondo has a real thing for personifying objects. Of the socks you've been balling up and tossing in your sock drawer she says: "Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get rest like that?" Apparently not. Kondo has strong opinions on how to fold things (make everything into a nice, neat rectangle!), how to store (vertically!), and what to hang in your closet (basically nothing. Fold everything!). Also, we are to thank our clothes and accessories for their service as we take them off in the evening. All this (and the entire section about shrine tokens) was a little much for me. She is right about some things, but she ascribes some serious pseudo science to the emotional and physiological consequences of living in a clean, uncluttered home.

Overall, this book is worth a read if you're working on tidying up your life, but take it with a largish grain of salt. Getting rid of stuff you don't need is worthwhile and freeing; worrying about how your socks will feel if you don't thank them at the end of the day and making sure you stop storing your shampoo and conditioner on the rim of your bathtub seems less useful.

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