Category Archives: Book reviews

Book review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up over the weekend because this book has gotten lots of buzz lately and I was curious whether it would live up to the hype.

You need to know one thing before beginning this book: the author is eccentric and self-identifies as such.  If you can get past the fact that some things that she says are really out there (to most people) I think you’ll enjoy the book a lot more.

I expected to enjoy the lessons in this book quite a bit, but not so much the actual reading of it.  I tend to shy away from books that fall into the “self-help” category because I find the writing style to often be tedious.  I have to say that, until the summary pages at the end, this book was very easy to get though.  The end got a little bit preachy and over the top but I suppose that’s to be expected.

This book got quite a bit of buzz in the minimalist blogger circle and even generated some mainstream buzz at the start of the new year.  The basic premise of the book is as follows: the ideal way to keep your home and life clutter-free is to only keep those things that you love, and find a proper place to store them in your home.

You can see how it appeals to minimalists, can’t you?  As an American I freely admit that we surround ourselves with and generally become comfortable with quite a bit of clutter.  I’m not just talking stuffed closets, but also kitchen gadgets, home decor, tools, books, makeup, etc.  I think the American Dream tacitly supports this.  Think about it: self-reliance can be stretched into meaning the need to have everything you could possibly need (who borrows anything from neighbors anymore?).  That’s not to mention the fact that single-family home ownership is seen as the ultimate trophy of being a successful American.

That’s a total tangent, but my point is that most of us probably have a lot of clutter around our homes.  And our schedules, if you think about it.  But that’s not something that Marie Kondo’s book goes into at all.

For the act of decluttering itself, this book is full of helpful-but-not-extreme tips.  Kondo’s opinion is that you should endeavor to clear the clutter out of your house in one go because that will insure that your house never gets cluttered again.  I think there is a lot of validity in that train of thought.  Cleaning house is also a more positive experience when you focus on keeping what you love, rather than focusing on what you don’t like and should therefore give away.

I’m much more of a meticulous organizer than a true minimalist and I agree with Marie Kondo about several of her points: storage solutions almost always mean that you have too much stuff, everything should have a specific spot in your home, and that rooms do feel fresher and lighter when they are less cluttered.  I disagreed with some of her ideas though: emptying out a purse or a tote at the end of each day seems like wasted energy if you’re using it the next day and I can’t imagine keeping my shampoo and shower gel anywhere besides the shower.

It was in the organization section that more of Marie Kondo’s eccentric ideas came out.  For example, she suggests letting your things rest and breathe, as if they have actual spirits that need refreshing.  That’s not for me.  And instead of being thankful to God or another deity for the blessings of her possessions, she chooses to funnel her thanks into the possessions themselves: she thanks her apartment, clothing and shoes for all of the work that they do for her.

In sum, I think The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up can be a fantastic quick read for anyone looking for the motivation to get cleaning their space.  If you go in prepared to find some of the suggestions pretty bizarre I think that you’ll be able to gloss over those and enjoy the book as a whole.  If you have read it, I’m curious to know what you think!