The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (2014)

The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

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Two different people who saw me reading this book asked me, “are you reading a book about cleaning?” The answer is yes and no. Marie Kondo’s book is, on one level, a book about how to tidy up your home; but on another level it is about the psychological relationship we have with our possessions and the ways that those items might be interfering with our happiness. The result is a book that deep and insightful, as well as practical.

“When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state. You can see the issues you have been avoiding and are forced to deal with them.”

Kondo introduces readers to an extremely simple two step process for tidying your entire home (or office) which she promises will never need to be repeated: discard all but your most beloved, useful possessions and then find a specific home for those remaining items to permanently reside. Her argument centers mostly around her belief that we all own far too much stuff and that mountain of stuff is making us unhappy and disorganized. By unburdening ourselves of all of the surplus in our homes, we can reveal our true selves: the books we truly love and use; the clothes that make us look and feel our best; the mementos that bring us true joy; and the tools that help us live our best lives.

Tidying is the act of confronting yourself; cleaning is the act of confronting nature.”

Told in a no-nonsense manner, Kondo explains why we need to discard almost everything we have been struggling for years to organize or store and then we will have no need to find a place for all of it. Gone are the mementos we have convinced ourselves we must keep to remember friends and events! Gone is the “aspirational clutter” that does not inspire us to learn new things, but rather causes us to constantly reflect on who we are not! Broken items, duplicates — gone and gone! Paperwork — all gone! Books pared down to just a few most treasured volumes!

The end result is, Kondo tells us, a home that is a place filled only the few treasured items that bring us joy every day. With so few possessions, she argues, there is no need to tidy…simply put the remaining items where they belong and your done.

While it does seem excessively simple, there is something profound about Kondo’s approach. The connections she draws between our mental state and the state our home feel momentous. If our home is messy and crowded, if we are in a constant battle to find things or methods to corral all our junk, then we live a life in which we are too busy to reflect deeply on our choices. By overcoming our messes, we can create room for our true values to shine through.

This is a wonderful book filled with great ideas and lots of interesting insight in to modern Japanese culture. It might be worth picking up a copy if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to tidy up your home.

“When we delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear of the future. The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

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