The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – My Thoughts
With over 2 million copies sold, 35 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and a three-month waiting list to become a client, Japanese professional organizer Marie Kondo has clearly hit a nerve. If you’ve been living under a rock, her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has been riding a tidal wave of success while teaching people how to declutter and organize their homes. Clients and friends alike have been asking me what I think of Ms. Kondo’s book. So, at long last, here are my thoughts on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Marie Kondo, known as Kon Mari, has great ideas on how to really look at each item in your home and help you learn to discern what to keep and why. She asks you to take a moment, focus on the item in your hands, and ask yourself if it ‘sparks joy.’ If the item doesn’t spark joy, you’re instructed to thank the item and toss it.
While this ‘spark of joy’ concept may work with the vast majority of our possessions, all of us have things that we need to keep, but definitely wouldn’t spark joy. Important things like tax returns, and divorce settlements, and credit reports. The only way that this book addresses that is to tell you that ‘if something is necessary, then it makes you happy.’ Hmmm.
The book says that if you always say your spouse or kids aren’t organizing their stuff, you’re doing it wrong. And to stop worrying about their spaces. While I’m all about picking your battles, this is a really tough one for most people. And I’ve worked with numerous clients whose marriages are being adversely affected by differing ways and definitions of ‘organized.’ I’ve seen very few ‘magical’ transformations of resistant spouses.
When asked about hoarding, Kon Mari says it is ‘not important to me if he has too many items or not. It is more important if the person is happy. I would recommend that person to imagine his ideal lifestyle, then make purging decisions from that.’
I’m sad to say that I’ve met people who struggle with hoarding who are perfectly happy not having working plumbing or electricity and being walled in by their clutter. It doesn’t seem Kon Mari has much experience or insight with hoarding disorder. That said, education on hoarding is still very new in Japan, and this could be the reason.
When asked how often someone should purge and organize, Kon Mari’s response is clear: Only once. The problem with that is that our organizing needs change. You have a new baby. Your aging parents move in. Your children continue to grow and their needs change. Life changes, and your way of organizing might need to flex and change to reflect those changes.
How About New Stuff?
Even when you have learned to be very mindful of what you bring into your newly organized home, there are still new items that come in. That’s life, right? Unfortunately, I didn’t really get a sense that this is addressed at all in the book or her subsequent TED Talk. And in my opinion, managing the flow of stuff coming in is one of the biggest factors in your ultimate success of having an organized home.
A Few Final Thoughts
One of the things to keep in mind while reading the book is that the average Japanese home is just 1023 square feet – the size of an average one bedroom apartment in the US. That alone will force you to really assess every item you own!
One of the biggest things she really nails is the focus on eliminating unnecessary things. So many people think that decluttering is separate from getting organized. To me, it’s the most important part of the process!
Most professional organizers I know have agreed that Kon Mari’s basic concept works. But we all have a few differing opinions and thoughts – which is awesome. Most of us are devoted to always learning new ways of helping our clients. One thing we all agree on? That having an organized home can definitely be life-changing magic!