I was totally skeptical of the title and hype behind the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo (Amazon). But I’ve got to say… it lives up to its name. This book has inspired me to look at my home and possessions in a whole new light.
I am neat by nature and have read dozens of articles on organizing and decluttering, but this book hits it from a much more radical perspective. Prepare to get rid of tons of stuff. The basic premise is to break down all of the items in your home by category, handle each object, and decide whether or not it sparks joy in you. If it does, you create a specific place for it and always put it away when finished. If it doesn’t, you thank it for its service and send it packing.
So while her method is to start with discarding, the focus is on what you want to keep. What brings you joy? Discard the rest and show more intentional care for what’s left. It’s a more emotional, thoughtful approach to decluttering. Less of a system, more of a new way of living.
RELATED: If this still feels like a huge, insurmountable project to you, check out our post on Decluttering Made Simple. Manageable and helps tackle the emotional side of decluttering.
Spark joy? That can be hard. I started with clothes, which is what Kondo recommends. Do these sweatpants that are 2 sizes too big bring me joy? Well, I don’t know. They sure make me happy when I pull them on and crash on the couch after a long day. (Obviously, I kept them.) But those t-shirts I collected, jeans I never liked, dresses I never wore, shoes I had forgotten. Gone, gone, gone.
In some areas, I am going less with joy and more with use. However, it is surprising how this has focused areas of my home that I used to think were purely functional. For instance, my kitchen. It might be hard to nail down joy when talking slow cookers and pot holders, but I went through each category. I got super specific, handling each utensil and bowl. Sounds crazy but it works. My kitchen now feels like a focused space, filled with just the things that I want. This process took me several months, but it was totally worth it. (Kondo recommends doing this process as quickly as possible for your entire home, around 6 months, start to finish.)
For me, the greatest hurdles in decluttering are things that are still useful (even if unused) and things that are sentimental. I used to use the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” when cleaning and decluttering. I still love his sentiment, but I realized that I was constantly decluttering and my house still felt full of useful, beautiful things that were just taking up space. I actually feel ready to tackle those items now, with a roll of garbage bags in my hand.
Granted, parts of this book felt silly to me (lost in translation?), as I am not one to consider my socks have feelings and my home has preferences, but I liked reading something different and slightly uncomfortable on this topic. I also had to figure in our lifestyle and adjust the advice accordingly. Kondo doesn’t look favorably on stockpiling items (I can’t imagine a Costco in Japan), but I don’t plan to give up my stash of laundry detergent or toilet paper. She also doesn’t factor in kids, but I think the same principle can apply to kids’ clothes and collections. I plan to walk my kids through this process in their bedroom. Stuffed Animals, we’re coming for you.
Also, if you are a Northwest native, you will cringe, in true Portlandia fashion, every time she writes about throwing away bags and bags of unused items. I just had to mentally replace it with sell, donate, recycle, etc. After all, why dump my junk in the landfilll when someone else might want to fill their home with it instead?
We all want our homes to be places of joy and rest and peace. Read this book if you need an extra boost in getting your possessions to match your goal!
Update: If you have read the book and struggled with some of the concepts or felt like they were just a bit too woo-woo for you (like thanking your
crap unwanted items for their service to your home, I watched Tidying Up on Netflix last year (no longer available, I don’t think?). It features Marie Kondo doing her Marie Kondo-type stuff, but with regular people in real-life situations and homes, which makes it feel much more manageable and approachable.
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I just checked Netflix, and nothing popped up for Tidying Up or Marie Kondo. Any suggestions?
I don’t think it’s on there anymore unfortunately! Bummer.
I read this book earlier this year and week by week was going through and selling off our extra items that were still very nice, but they were things we weren’t using and they weren’t bringing us joy. After selling things online for weeks we had a big garage sale for everything that was left and then had a local non-profit pick up the rest as donations. About 2 months later we’ve already filled up another closet with more things that we’ve continued to edit out and it’s time to start selling and donating again! Once we finished the initial once over, it’s been much easier to continue editing as we go, so we don’t get overrun with possessions again. Definitely a life-changing book!
Emily from Frugal Living NW says
This sounds really similar to what I’m doing right now, too, Amanda. I can’t believe how much stuff I have moved out of our house! My husband is trying not to panic, but I love the lighter feel already. I definitely have more work to do, though, so I like the idea of continuing to edit. Thanks!
I just bought the book today at Costco.
Oh, the irony!
(But seriously, thanks for letting us know it’s there. I’ll check it out the next time I’m in!)
I love the whole idea and cant wait to read the book. What about my husbands ugly stuff that I hate. is there a chapter on that?
Emily from Frugal Living NW says
I wish the book was stronger on working with your husband and kids. I think her advice would be to follow her system, even if they aren’t on board (there’s on example like that in the book). I don’t think that would go over well in our house. 🙂 So we’re doing baby steps. Well, my husband would say huge steps. As in, hundreds of books…
I’m KMing now! I read the book about a week ago and have been doing what I can with my still attached to me 5 month old and very “helpful” 4 year old. I’m loving it so far, even though my progress is slow. It’s getting me really excited about my house and what it could be. Highly recommended book and method.
Sheri Elmont says
I’ve been hearing about this book in blog land and just received my copy this week. I look forward to reading it and putting it into practice.