Thoughts on 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up' by Marie Kondo

3 years ago
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I just finished the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, a Japanese home organization expert. As an American, the idea that the Japanese have a problem with clutter is oddly reassuring. If the Japanese with their orderly culture and teensy-weensy homes have this issue then what hope is there for Americans who have made self-storage a 24 billion dollar industry? Amazingly, Kondo recounts many examples of Japanese clients who have thrown out up to 80 bags full of clothes from those tiny homes.

Kondo’s take on organization (or as she puts it, "tidying up") is absolutely visionary. She disdains organization plans and storage systems. Instead her advice is to look at every item in your home and ask yourself one simple question: "Does it spark joy?" If it doesn’t, get rid of it.

The book itself is a masterpiece of tidiness. A spare volume that is full of mind-altering inspiration.

Kondo freely admits that as a shy and reserved child, she found comfort in tidying up her home and classroom and relates her own failed search for the perfect storage system. After years of working on this issue she had her biggest realization: If you are always reorganizing, then the job is never truly finished.

Kondo’s radical plan commands you to go through your entire house in one fell swoop. If that isn’t possible then you must go through an entire category at a time.

She recommends starting with all of your clothing, retrieving them from every corner of your home and going through them item by item. For the pieces you decide to keep, Kondo has marvelous tips on storage, including a paean to the magic of folding.




Once you are done with clothes, Kondo moves you onto harder categories, such as books, papers and lastly all of those items of sentimental value. Remember that burlap underwear that you wore as a fraternity pledge? Does it spark joy or is it in an attic box gathering dust?

Kondo’s take on inanimate objects is fascinating  and probably stems from centuries of Japanese folk belief that plants and inanimate objects  possess a spiritual essence. In her eyes, those unloved clothes stuffed in the back of the closet (tags still attached) secretly long to be worn; the items overflowing the bins in your basement yearn to breathe free.  Your task is to grant their wish and thank them for the service they have rendered you.

Kondo points out that in her role as an organization consultant she is never the one to say something should be tossed. The owner must make the decision for herself and be at peace with that decision.

Some how the very act of thanking an item reduces the stress of parting with it and brings closure. Through this act of thankfulness Kondo proudly states she has never had a client backslide into clutter.

It all makes sense.

Though Kondo is not fluent in English, this delightful translation by Cathy Hirano really brings Kondo's personality to life as she takes you through her plan and relates personal experiences to bring that plan home.

At the end of the book, a thought-provoking revelation: What you own is actually a question of how to live your life. Is it an “attachment to fear and the past” or is it an “acknowledgement of those fears,” allowing us to take an honest look at our possessions and see what is really important to us.

Kondo relates that many of her clients lost weight, regained their health or even took a completely new direction in life once the clutter was swept away. One story that hit home for me was that of a management consultant who realized she was missing out on her true vocation after scanning the selection of books she decided to keep.

My own personal journey that led to opening my vintage shops and starting this blog began with with cleaning out a closet.

What sparks joy for me is almost always something vintage, both in the fashion I wear and the items that hold a place of honor in my home. Their presence reminds me of that special shopping trip with my mom or when I found that one neglected treasure in a dusty corner of an antique shop. Whatever the reason, the pieces I keep in my personal collection truly spark joy.

In our lives there are some obligations that must be done regardless of how they the make us feel. As for the rest?

Love and Hats

Madge is the nom de plume of Pamela Lappin who lives La Vida Vintage by writing a blog on vintage stye - and running an online vintage shop aptly named - MadgesHatbox.

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