“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” is a self help book written by Marie Kondō, translated from Japanese to English by Cathy Hirano. The New York Times bestseller was first published by Ten Speed Press in 2011. Spanning two hundred and twenty four pages, the American edition was first published in 2014.
What is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up all about?
The book is precisely what its title says it is. The self help book offers a comprehensive guide to declutter. The focus is a home or household but the guide is also relevant for an apartment or those who all their possessions are in one room. The approach to decluttering as shared in the book may not be entirely relevant for offices or commercial settings as the examples are limited to possessions found in residences and are more personal in nature. However, the philosophy can still be used to organize an office space.
Marie Kondo is a Japanese cleaning consultant. She a specialist at decluttering and offers a substantial sneak peek into her expertise and approach through the book. One of the standout attributes of the book is that it is not advocating an ongoing exercise. Cleaning and organizing is usually a never ending chore. Marie Kondo comes up with a holistic method to declutter your home and organize everything in a simple manner, which will effectively avert the need to clean, declutter and organize again in the near or distant future. The book details techniques that are part of what is called the KonMari Method. It is a room by room, category by category and little by little system. The objective is lasting results.
Who is Marie Kondo?
Marie Kondo is a Japanese author and cleaning & organizing consultant. She is the author of five books, all addressing the practice of decluttering, organizing, simplifying, storing and cleaning. Four of these books have sold millions of copies. Her works have been translated to English, Chinese, Korean, French, Indonesian and German. Her books have been published in over thirty countries. She is a celebrated author in Japan, Europe and the United States. Time’s recognized her as one of the hundred most influential people in the year 2015.
Marie Kondo is well known in Japan, especially Tokyo, where she practices her profession. She has a record of having no client lapsing on their journey to declutter, organize, clean and store their possessions neatly and adequately. She usually has a waiting list running into several months, a clear indicator of how popular her expertise and services are. It should be noted that Tokyo is one city where space is a huge concern. Apartments in Tokyo should not be perceived through the context suburban homes in the United States or even the attached and detached residential properties across the United Kingdom. It is unsurprising why her approach to declutter, clean and organize homes has become a phenomenon for those living in Tokyo. Her efforts have helped people transform their lifestyle for the better.
Key Takeaways from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Marie Kondo recommends decluttering, not just as a way to free up some space in the house but also to attain calmness, to develop a motivated mindset and to seek inspiration in life to pursue goals that really matter. Her objective is to usher in joy for her clients and through the book for her readers. Kondo does not write about decluttering as just a cleaning exercise wherein all old, used and dated stuff are got rid of. It is not a purge without any emotional consideration. At the very outset of the book, Kondo asks her readers to realize if something they own sparks joy in them and that sets the tone for the rest of the book.
This is the singularly most important takeaway from the book. If something does not spark joy, then it is futile to keep that possession, unless it has an absolute essential necessity despite being a cause for no happiness. Interestingly though, Kondo does not address this aspect of possessing something anywhere in the book.
Marie Kondo writes a lot about how she goes about her job. She visits the homes of her clients, speaks to inanimate objects hoping to connect with them, tries to get a true feel of the entire setting and then comes up with recommendations. Each project is different though as what sparks joy for one client may not do so for another. Kondo approaches her own possessions in the same way. She writes about how she takes care of all her belongings, how she connects with the various items, attends to their needs as they also serve hers, remains proactive, active and reactive to ensure she does not misuse her possessions and only continues to use what she needs and what keeps her happy.
At the crux of the book is a philosophy that does not recommend complete renunciation but does prescribe to let things go and move on if something has no value any more. Kondo believes and tells her readers that every item one owns comes into their life for a reason. It serves a purpose and hence the reason persists. Then comes a time when its utility is no longer relevant or it is beyond use and thus it should be allowed to move on to the next phase of its existence, which may very well be no existence at all.
This philosophy is helpful for those who find it hard to let things go. Not every item in a house has emotional value. But many items continue to be around for years, decades even. Possessions that have emotional value need not be gotten rid of. Kondo does not recommend that. She simply writes about getting rid of all unnecessary possessions. These unnecessary possessions take up space that can be used for more productive purposes. These unused and effectively valueless possessions clutter the space, cause problems in mobility and can lead to stress too.
The KonMari method is a significant takeaway from the book. The method focuses on assessing everything on the basis of whether or not it sparks joy. If something sparks joy, then that stays and if it doesn’t, then it must go. Kondo recommends taking all the clothes and piling them up on the floor before the decluttering begins. There is no need to have a category or type here. Kondo asks the readers to pick up one piece of clothing, to ask themselves if it is sparking joy and if the answer is assertive, then that apparel or accessory stays. She recommends this method for everything in the house but of course utilitarian or necessary items are excluded. There may be devices, papers, books or systems in your house that you may not like but they serve a purpose.
Kondo’s book is split into a comprehensive introduction, there is a lucid process detailed to guide people to declutter, the tips are helpful and the conclusion does end the whole process rather well. The book is straightforward with some lifestyle hacks, such as how to fold and store stuff so they look good and are also easily managed. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up can be helpful for all those who are unable to declutter, who are unorganized, do not have the motivation to clean and sort everything, families that keep on piling stuff upon old possessions and anyone who simply wishes to regain control of what they want to have and do not wish to keep.
Review of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
The book is a gentle take on decluttering. This kind and compassionate approach may not appeal to every reader. Some people will find it odd that she speaks to inanimate objects. Some people simply do not wish to entertain a philosophy that delves too much into the reasons, values and perceived ramifications of material stuff in other aspects of life. The approach itself can also be discussed and debated. The method does not necessarily work for everyone. It is not always as easy as asking whether something sparks joy or not and to decide accordingly if that item stays or goes.
Marie Kondo has a short and crisp book that is easy to ride. A lot of it is interesting but the book also has plenty of fillers. This is surprising since the book is anyway short, not even two hundred and fifty pages. For someone who is a cleaning expert and a specialist of organizing things, the fillers do not really make the final book a tidy piece. Despite such issues that may turn off some readers, there is more than one lesson for anyone who is even remotely interested in decluttering. Cultural differences will influence how the book is perceived in many western societies. Many real life examples used by Kondo may appear to be outlandish and unintentionally funny, ridiculous even. Those familiar with the Japanese way of life or even some other South Asian cultures will have not much of a problem relating to those instances.