Book Review: the life-changing magic of tidying up

“I am convinced that putting your house in order will help you find the mission that speaks to your heart. Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.”
— Marie Kondo, the life-changing magic of tidying up

978-1-60774-730-7Marie Kondo’s the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing is a fascinating book. If you ask around or research online, it has pretty mixed reviews — some people swear by it, while others say things like: “…the author is bat-shit crazy.”

Inspiring and endearing, albeit a little extreme, this book takes you step by step through how to declutter your life and make room for a little more joy. 

From the correct order to tidy (clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items, mementos), to the correct way to properly store all of your things (store all items of the same type in the same place), the life-changing magic of tidying up is packed with endless practical — and also occasionally impractical, but thoroughly amusing — tips. It’s the kind of book you want to re-read over and over because of all of its concrete ideas, like using the top of a shoebox in your pantry to hold your oil & vinegar bottles and keep the shelf from getting sticky.

Marie Kondo reminds me of Stacy London from TLC’s What Not to Wear, except more grateful, petite, and adorable. Despite her endearing nature, she can still be pretty cut-throat. If you suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), either stop reading or buck up.

It took me a little while to come around to this book. I first encountered the little hardback in an indie bookstore a year or two ago. Adorned with calming cover art and minimalistic spot gloss on the tiny red title, it called to me to pick it up. Immediately engrossed, I think I read a good portion of it then and there! That said, I also remember coming across a part that turned me off. I think it might have been the part on page 81, in all bold, that says “Never, ever ball up your socks.” Imagining myself a year or two ago, I would have met that line with a giant eye roll and put the book back on the shelf.

Last Christmas, I decided to get my mom a copy of the book. It seemed like something she would appreciate. I was right. “You have to read it!” she urged me. Having heard a lot of buzz about this tidying phenomenon, I was intrigued, particularly given my recent interest in minimalism and uncovering new ways to cultivate happiness. So I read it.

I have to admit — despite the occasional “bat-shit crazy” suggestion (like emptying out your purse every night), I really enjoyed reading this book. Concrete tips aside, what I especially liked about the book were the positive undertones about living your life in a more fulfilling way. In summarizing some of the themes for this post, here’s what I came up with:

Focus on a Positively-Oriented Mindset
“Take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.” — Marie Kondo (page 41)

Express Gratitude As Much as Possible
“The act of folding is far more than making clothes compact for storage. It is an act of caring, an expression of love and appreciation…Therefore, when we fold, we should put our heart into it, thanking our clothes for protecting our bodies.” — Marie Kondo (page 73)

Pursue a Present & Mindful Lifestyle
“Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.” — Marie Kondo (page 21)

Empower Yourself & Take Ownership
“The urge to point out someone else’s failure to tidy is usually a sign that you are neglecting to take care of your own space.” — Marie Kondo (page 53)

Utilize Tidying as a Form of Therapy
“By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past.” —  Marie Kondo (page 116)

Stop Clinging and Start Living
“Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something.” — Marie Kondo (page 187)

One other final thought: having considered the various Myers-Briggs personalities lately, I couldn’t help but observe which personality type would be most likely to enjoy what Marie Kondo has to say. “Follow your intuition and all will be well,” she says. “If you have read this far, you have probably noticed that in my method your feelings are the standard for decision making” (page 125).

To me, it’s obvious. This method probably comes easiest for NFJs. Kondo wants you to trust your intuition, use feelings to make your decisions, and organize your entire life? If you are an STP and have put this method into practice… I am SO impressed with you!

Last Monday, I took a stab at decluttering my own wardrobe, and I have to say, it brought me joy. As long as you take Kondo’s advice with a grain of salt, and remain aware of your own tendencies — the life-changing magic of tidying up is totally worth a read and a try.


Want to read more on how tidying up can help bring you happiness? Check out my tip about making the bed.

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