Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
By Marie Kondo (Translated by Cathy Hirano)
Ten Speed Press, Hardcover, 9781607747307,  Oct 2014, 213pp

The Short of It:

Interesting concepts shared by a Japanese cleaning consultant with no kids <smirk>.

The Rest of It:

This is one book that nearly everyone I know has heard of. Japanese cleaning consultant Maria Kondo has been all over the news and has made appearances on several TV shows to talk about her revolutionary KonMari method. In case you didn’t know, this method of simplifying and organizing is based on the fact that your possessions should only spark joy and if they don’t, then it’s time to thank them, get rid of them and move on.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I get all excited about organizing and decluttering. I do it often and it relaxes me but I have to admit, with four people in the house and a dog who tosses her toys around, I spend a lot of time organizing and according to Kondo, I should only have to do this once. Once! Not every week. This alone blew my mind.

In the book, Kondo takes you step-by-step through her process which has everything to do with discarding and a little to do with organizing what’s left. Discard everything that doesn’t bring you joy and whatever you have left should pretty much take care of itself if you did the first part correctly.

Yes, when it comes to clothes there is the added component of proper folding. She has a very unique folding method that allows you to see everything at a glance. This, I have been doing for years on my own but  not to the degree she has you doing it in the book.

What absolutely blew my mind, is the discovery of why I continue to organize and never feel done.  It’s because I organize by room and not by item type. I have medicines upstairs and downstairs, my daughter’s hair ties upstairs and downstairs, two linen closets, upstairs and down. I have things split up and they are meant to be organized and kept together by type.  You might think, “What’s the big deal?” Well, this means that I don’t always put stuff away where it truly belongs even though in theory, I’ve made it easier to put stuff away by having more than one spot to store it in,

Kondo makes some excellent points but the translation, and I do think it’s due to the translation, makes Kondo sound a little kooky and childlike. Some things that stuck out:

  • You should say “Hello, House!” when you return home.
  • You should thank your clothing after wear.
  • You need to touch each item and ask yourself if it sparks joy.
  • Don’t buy storage bins. Use shoe boxes and try to keep all boxed storage in the closet.
  • Much of what she talks about relates to small Japanese apartments but can be adapted for anyone.

The other major thing that stood out for me is that at the time the book was published, Kondo was not married, had no children and was living with her parents. I don’t mean to be critical but what kept coming up in my mind is how anyone could do this with other people living in the house with them. Kondo is now married and has a baby daughter so I am curious if her method still works for her.

In the end, I enjoyed it. I do think that I got something out of it and learned a few things. I got so excited about it that I immediately went into my garage to begin the process and that is when I hurt my foot! Clearly, I have too much stuff.

Kondo has a new, illustrated companion book that just came out, Spark Joy. Check it out if you want the illustrations.

Source: Gifted to  me by another blogger!
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

46 thoughts on “Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”

  1. Totally true about “how anyone could do this with other people living in the house with them.” Even when my husband (a.k.a. Pig Pen) sees me folding things (I fold like she does) he is not convinced he shouldn’t just ball things up. Plus, so many times I have gotten rid of stuff I thought I didn’t want or need, only to be desperate for them a couple of years later! I don’t know how one anticipates that though….

    1. My problem is that in my head, I am a minimalist. In reality, not so much.

      My daughter comes home every day and tosses her socks into the middle of the room. My son does laundry but never takes it out of the basket after collecting it from the dryer so he has a perpetual mound of clothing in his basket at all times.

      When I was off for the break, the house was clean because as these things occurred, I took care of it right then and there or yelled at them to do it themselves. But during the work week, it piles up. I would like to get a maid but I would have to clean the house first which would defeat the purpose.

      1. LOL! “I would like to get a maid but I would have to clean the house first which would defeat the purpose.” I wonder if everyone does this. We had a maid come over right after my delivery because we were expecting visitors and the house was a mess. And we still cleaned the house so that the maid wouldn’t think bad about us or our house.

  2. I think you know this was my 2016 First Book. It is VERY Asian in its way of doing things. I didn’t give it the best rating… it just seemed to scold me for being a “greedy American”. You can’t be happy where you are and how you live? I’ve divested myself of over half my library in the past year and I’m a lot happier. I want to take her and shake her and say you aren’t your stuff

    1. I see your point. I do feel that I am a prisoner of my stuff sometimes. I seem to have a lot of joyless junk in my house. LOL. It was very Asian in the telling but I blame that on the translation. All that stuff about Hello, House! Oh my goodness.

      I moved some years back from a small house to a bigger house and before that move, I dumped huge amounts of trash. Two large dumpsters full, the size that fits in a driveway! We moved 1/10th of a mile away but had to hire a mover because we had a crap load of stuff still! The movers said they had never seen so much stuff for such a small family. I was a bit surprised. I thought it was normal but maybe not.

      I don’t even buy hardly anything anymore. I need to figure it out.

  3. While I do like keeping things in their place—I have a lot of things. Do they all bring me joy? Most of them, yes. But I also don’t like clutter so I try to keep it as simple as I can. BUT because I’m older (not old….just older) than most bloggers who are so excited about this book, I’m not going to read it. Not to sound cynical but I’ve seen books like this trend off and on thru-out the years. (sigh) Now to organize my coat closet. LOL

    1. It’s true. Books like this one come out every now and then. I was gifted it but I was also curious about it. She did point out one thing that I had missed about organizing by category instead of by room. Which kind of blew my mind because I seriously never considered doing it that way. I also tackle a room at a time. I had a friend call me a Stepford Wife once. Actually, more than one have called me that before and I just laugh. I am not slob and constantly clean and declutter but it’s a rare day when my house looks pulled together.

  4. I still want to read this book, I like books that help get me motivated to organize. I seem to fight the biggest fire/squeakiest wheel each week but getting organized which I so desperately want to do falls to the bottom of the list. I fold kids shirts the way she suggests but the problem is as soon as you take one out, the stack falls and by the end of the week it’s not so neat/joyful anymore. Ha! Yes totally, easy for a single woman living with her parents to stay organized. I live with 4 boys who are always moving stuff around!

    1. I hear ya. I think the main take away from this book is that we typically own too much. That’s it. We have too much stuff and therefore it is always all over the place, needing to be put away. When I go to Ikea I love the sparseness of the showrooms but my friend tells me that that is how they live in Sweden and some other countries… minimal at best. If you don’t have stuff, it can’t be a mess. I really want to get rid of it all.

  5. I laughed about your comment regarding her single/not-a-mom status. I’m very tidy by nature. Always have been. There’s never been a picture, a stack, a counter, a drawer that I didn’t need to straighten. That being said, it’s a lot easier now that my daughter is grown up and gone. She is not necessarily ‘tidy by nature’. She’s not a pig, just not obsessive about it, like her Mom. And I’ve had to take my share of grief from both my husband and daughter over ‘getting rid of’ things they wanted to keep. My husband even has an area that he can put things and I won’t throw them away or give them away. LOL

    1. My daughter is a collector of things and lazy as heck. I’ll admit it. When she was younger, I bought her a chest of draws to put her things in, thinking “out of sight, out of mind” but her drawers were full to bursting within a week and to this day, she just continues to cram stuff into it. She must have 100 hand sanitizers from Bath and Body Works in there.

    1. That’s true. Some things are highly functional but bring me no joy. I have so much though that I HATE! My main issue is really sentimental stuff. Stuff that should not be all that sentimental like children’s car seats. You cannot use them again or even give them away because of recalls and stuff like that but I finally tossed them and you know how old my kids are!

  6. I am reading this now. I do want to organize, but I have two kids (aka Husband and 4-yr. old) in the house and a dog that throw stuff everywhere and where ever. I know about keeping things in a couple of places, but I do like the idea of discarding by category. It makes more sense to have everything in one category in front of you before you start, then you can see how much you really have.

    I’m still reading this, but it’s interesting.

  7. I couldn’t get through this one. Although, it did help renew my interest in decluttering more. I had such a hard time with Kondo’s attitude in the book. I don’t imagine I will return to it.

    It makes more sense that you mention she was single when she wrote the book and did not have children. It would be interesting to see if she’s able to maintain her lifestyle at 100%.

    1. She is married now and has an infant daughter. I am dying to know how she manages now. Not in a spiteful way, just wondering if it’s possible to adhere to the recommendations with a family around.

  8. I am with you – I am forever putting things away and that is with an infant alone. I always feel that I should build my home as I go along because the people who construct these houses don’t work with my decluttering / organization principles. Someday, I will read this book – when the next urge to declutter hits me. Now I just do it on demand, but usually around Spring, I will likely want to turn the house upside down.

  9. I’m always up for organizing and decluttering – its my favorite thing to do. I’ve hear so many things about this book, but wasn’t too sure about it. After reading your post I don’t think I’ll be reading it. Seems like the main thing to take away from it is to keep things that spark joy. Glad you enjoyed it 😉

    1. Honestly, you could read any article about the book and know the basics. She’s been covered so much that it’s literally all out there for everyone to see. I’m surprised at how much discussion it creates though. It would certainly be a very non-traditional book club pick but I can see people talking about it endlessly.

  10. Aw, I love the idea of saying “Hello, house!” when you come home. Maybe I will start doing this. I know that I do need to set aside some time to go through my clothes and Kon-Mari method them, because there are some things I have definitely not worn in I don’t know how long. And maybe this would inspire me to try hemming some too-long trousers to see if I can make use of them (thus making them spark joy after all, and sparing me having to get rid of them and acquire new trousers of the same color).

  11. I wonder if I should try this book, but it doesn’t seem like it’d add too much more besides what you’ve summed up. I started reading up on minimalism about 2 years ago, and I’ve tried in starts and stops to get it going. When I moved out of my mom’s house into an apartment, I had two storage units (10×10 and a 10×15). Now that I’ve got a house, I filled about 2/3 of the garage (granted, the doors don’t work so I don’t feel like I’m forcing my car outside heh) and only have the 10×10. Slowly working on that though. While I haven’t gone through my stuff already in the house (in its place or in a box), at least with the incoming boxes I’m trying to divide up into things that are going straight to goodwill/equiv, or that I’m keeping. At least I feel a touch of effort there. I did notice after a particularly thorough sweep of my room at one point that it was a lot easier to keep tidy until I added more junk ;] I only live with one other person and we have the same goal, which does make it easier.

    1. Here in California, many people use their garages for storage. We have a really large two car garage and half of it is filled with stuff. Neat and organized by somewhat full. The other half is my creative space which, haha, never gets used. I clean it up all the time thinking, now I will use it and then it’s 112 degrees and too hot to work in there. Right now, it’s too cold. Ideally, I only have 5 months where it’s comfortable in there.

  12. I read it and it did sound a little kooky. I hate cleaning so I finally hired a cleaning woman but I did get rid of a lot of stuff that no longer fit or sparked joy” and it blew my mind how much happier I was in my apt. I also still have a cleaning woman come once a week and THAT makes me want to scream with joy. lol

    1. I guess getting bogged down with “stuff” can make a person unhappy. I stopped buying stuff a long time ago and what helped was canceling all of my subscriptions both online and snail mail. I’d see catalogs and want stuff. Now? Not so much. It helps.

      I would love to hire a cleaning person but I also get nervous about letting people into my house. First world problems!

  13. I always wonder about translations if I’m missing something because of cultural differences. The talking to my stuff feels a little Disney Princess to me. I might be a bit too practical.

    I did take some of her advice. I’ve given away a lot of stuff over the last couple of months. I’m scared of going through my papers and photos though. I have sooooo much of it!

    And yeah, I family adds a whole new layer to “tidying up.”

  14. Somebody tweeted their reactions to this book as they read it and the responses were hilarious! I’ve known people who have super tidy homes and I wonder where they put that stuff that doesn’t go anywhere and if you do file it you forget where you put it. I swear the mail comes in to the house and somehow multiplies as is crosses my threshold. Anyway, I’m doing better. But I’ve moved a lot. Moving helps. Plus we fantasize about living on a boat. The question is, ‘would we need this on the boat?’ and usually the answer is no. My husband likes to go on tirades about too much crap but he is a glass house guy – he only complains about my crap and never HIS crap. So I ignore him.

    1. Living on a houseboat would definitely force you to carry only what you need. All of the onboard storage is so tiny.

      On Fri, Jan 15, 2016 at 3:10 PM, Book Chatter wrote:


  15. Kooky, is a grand way to put it. I have a cross-country move coming early 2017 and instead of asking if something brings me joy, I ask, “Do I want to lug you all the way across the G&^#$% country?” It’s done wonders for my collecting problem, even books.

    Y’all have me scared since I’ll be enlarging my family with that move by three kids. My hope is that will bring a whole new kind of joy….

    1. Your cross country move is at least across the country. My last big move was 1/10th of a mile away and I still had to do all that purging, even for a short move. At least yours will feel worth it. Don’t worry about the addition of the kids. They will have more stuff, certainly, but you’ll deal with it when the time comes.

  16. Yikes I have too many storage bins — Kondo wouldn’t like. I actually think my husband needs this book more than I do.

    1. I admit it. My closet is pretty neat but my room is a mess. The rest of the house is pretty good. I just can’t deal with my room. It stems from hand me down furniture. I hate it and I just don’t care how it looks. Plus when I get to it I am usually tossing myself into bed so who cares how it looks? Me. It bugs me so.

  17. Love the review, though the concept of the book sounds mumbo-jumboish to me. I’m extremely organized (with a touch of OCD as Hubs puts it) and I live with one boy and Hubs in a 3-bedroom house. I work my tush off to keep it neat and tidy, but it’s not as easy as that. My boys are quite messy, Hubs especially. He’s used to living in hotels (he travels a lot for work), where there are maids picking up after him non-stop. I’m a master at decluttering and getting rid of nonessential stuff, but I’d have to be at Hubs’ side 24\7 in order to prevent him from producing more … clutter. Coins, receipts, pencils, papers, candy wrappers, towels, clothes, dishes, etc. I cannot believe that there’s a method to prevent him from “spilling” stuff left and right. My house looks fairly neat, but – unsurprisingly – is never quite perfect. And, yes, kids should be factored in too. In the end, domestic mess is not about items, but people. It doesn’t sound like Kondo gets that 🙂

  18. I really enjoyed this book, and even went for the odd thanking of possessions because I think she means to at least acknowledge what we have rather than take it for granted. My own approach was to worry about the stuff I can control and ignore the rest. Are my kids exceedingly messy and disorganized? Yes, they are, and for my peace of mind, I don’t even glance into their respective rooms. Does my husband have problems with putting things away? Yes, he does, but that does not mean I have to do it. I gladly move his crap to a large pile on his dresser or nightstand, and I leave it there. The same with the kids’ crap. It gets put in their rooms, but I don’t do anything else. That way, I can keep the majority of the house clean and organized via the Kon-Mari method and not stress about the other three people in the house. What I did find though is that my husband is MUCH quicker to put his stuff away when his is the only pile in the bedroom. And having organized my kitchen, he is the first person now to do the dishes or put them away. So, don’t be too quick to discredit the process for family members. It is surprising what they adopt when you don’t make a fuss out of things.

  19. When this first came out, I wondered how you would do this with a family – turns out she had no idea when she wrote it how you would do that. My hubby’s recliner sure doesn’t spark joy for me but I doubt he’ll let me put it out at the curb. Everyone else’s clothes that I have to wash don’t bring me joy. But I do like the idea of every like thing in one place. We’ve kept pens in the desk in my family room & in my kitchen, twenty feet away from each other for years. It made a lot of sense when the kids were doing homework in the kitchen but it really doesn’t any more. Maybe there’s enough here for it to be work the price.

    1. I haven’t had the chance to really put anything into practice. I tried and managed to drop a book on myself so I haven’t attempted to go back and try. I will though. In the book, you know how she said she was 5 years old and crazy about organization and how we all said, what a kook? Well, I am that person. LOL.

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