I’ve just finished reading a book, I have to write about. Even as I made notes and underlined and laughed while reading it, I thought, “I can’t wait to blog about this….”
I need to qualify all that I’m about to write by saying, this woman is nuts. But it’s a good nuts. Pretty much every chapter had me shaking my head and muttering, “What a lunatic,” but I said it with a smile on my face. I adore this woman and her ideas. I just wouldn’t ever want to live with her.
The book is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s been all over the news lately. It’s a small book that’s selling like hot cakes.
Most of us are enamored with the idea of organizing our stuff, but this book goes beyond that. It preaches that you get rid of huge amounts of your belongings – anything that doesn’t “spark joy.”
I loved this concept that we should only wear clothing that sparks joy for us and we should only keep things in our home that spark joy in our lives. Sure, there’s the stuff you need that maybe doesn’t spark a lot of joy – a spatula, the paper-towel holder, the sheets for the guest room bed – but it’s something to strive for. My teenage daughter has a ladle on her Amazon wishlist that is shaped like the Lochness monster. She loves it. It sparks joy. Maybe it will grace her kitchen someday. She also has a tea infuser that looks like a shark swimming around your cup as it makes your tea. My kid definitely gets the sparks joy concept.
I’ve been trying in recent years not to bring anything in to my house that I don’t really love. No furniture to serve a purpose – it needs to be something that makes me happy.
Our living room is large, there’s room in there for lots of furniture, but currently there is only a couch (it sparks a tiny flicker of joy only because my mom recovered it for me and I remember that fun weekend, but it’s filthy and it’s days are numbered, but it’s the only real seating left in the room, so there it is.), a coffee table (which does spark some joy because Nick refinished it and it’s functional, simple, and pretty), and the dog’s recliner (an ugly, worn out, hand-me-down recliner that our incredibly untrainable dog sleeps on most nights – we hold on to it so that she won’t get on the other furniture.). I know we need some seating, but I’ve yet to find anything I can afford that even remotely sparks joy.
We moved the screened porch furniture in for the winter, so for now there’s lots of seats, but as soon as it warms up that room will be barren again. No matter – I’m not buying anything until I find the furniture that speaks to me. Kondo backs me up on this and I love her for it.
When it comes to clothing, Kondo spends almost half the book on her system.First, she says, repeatedly (and there is a lot of repetition in this book, so if you’re an impatient person it might irritate you), you must sort through your clothing in one go. You can’t do it a little here and a little there. This forced me to put off the challenge until this past weekend, when an unexpected snow and a change of heart for my college-visiting son, gifted me with a free day.
Basically, she instructs that you pull out ALL of your clothes – everything, even the “fat” clothes, the clothes you keep in the under-the-bed box “just in case,” the off-season stuff and the things you hung in your kids closet because you never wear it, but you couldn’t possibly get rid of it.
Once you have everything piled in one place, you pick up each item, one at a time and hold it in your hands and determine whether or not it sparks joy. It’s critical that you hold the item. It gives you a distinct feeling. Whatever doesn’t spark joy, goes. Kondo says many of her clients end up offing two thirds of their wardrobe.
Okay, confession. I understand what she’s doing. And I had every intention of doing it, but….I’m lazy. And I’m in a hurry. So I didn’t hold every piece of clothing, just some. I did manage to get rid of probably one third of my wardrobe. It was a start. I’ve decided that I’ll do it again at the end of summer.
The other big impetus of the book is storage. Kondo is a big proponent of “vertical” stacking. You can put nearly twice as much in each drawer if you stack vertically. Plus, you can see all your options without rifling through everything else. I struggled to understand this concept. How do you vertically stack a sock? Reading it, only made me skeptical, but once I tried it, I was a believer. Here’s my sock drawer (which is only half-full now but was previously spilling out – combination of purging the unsparking socks and vertically stacking).
(Did you ever imagine you’d see the inside of my sock drawer? Me neither.) How about my running clothes drawer?
Or my good t-shirts drawer?
Speaking of socks, I have to mention this other gem in the book. Kondo believes that we must treat our clothing with respect and kindness. To that end, it is not kind or respectful to ball up your socks. All my life I’ve always kept my socks in little bundles by folding one out over the other, like this-
But Kondo says that stresses the sock. It’s constantly stretched, which is wearing and exhausting for the sock. (I’m thinking it’s not the sock specifically, but probably the elastic in the sock…). She exhorts the reader, again and again, to treat their belongings with respect and kindness. Empty your purse every day – how would you like to be left “full” all the time?
My only real issue with this book is that Kondo constantly talks about throwing things away. Of course that grates my soul. Almost anything can be recycled. If you take her advice to heart and start purging your house of belongings, please, please, please don’t simply throw things away, no matter what she says. There are options beyond the Goodwill and the recycling bin. Consider listing things on Freecycle or Craigslist. I’ve given away the most random things you can imagine on Freecycle (plastic candy fish molds, a box of broken crayons, a DVD/VCR that only plays DVDs). There are people who will take your stuff, and sure, I realize they might be hoarders, but there’s also a chance that they’re not. Either way, it keeps your stufffrom clogging up the landfills. Facebook has also opened up avenues for giving unwanted things away. Do a search for a local yard sale page and you’ll find a multitude of outlets.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has changed my attitude at least, if not my life. I’m even more careful about what I bring home. I’m slowly sorting through my belongings. I do want to have a house filled with only things that spark joy for me. Living with four other people means that sometimes I have to put up with items that don’t spark joy for me, but do for someone else. That’s part of communal living. Kondo doesn’t really address this fact, but I believe she’d understand.
Kondo has systems for everything – mementos, books, papers, even the kitchen sink. You may not agree with her recommendations, but it will make you think about why you keep the things you keep and how you store the things you have. Kondo goes so far as to say (per the title) that tidying up will change your life – it will give you confidence and help you figure out who you really are and what makes you happy. Tall order, but I have to say she’s on to something. What we surround ourselves with and how we care for them does say a lot about a person.