Friday, March 13, 2015

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Me: [Searching through house for a book.]
Sweetie: "What book are you looking for?"
Me: "The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up."
Sweetie: [Falls over with laughter.]

The book was found, sitting in a stack of other library materials. In my defence, it's a slim, small-format volume. I listened to the audio* edition back in January, then waited two months for the paper edition so that I could quote some of the lines that made me laugh. I'm not sure if Japanese author Marie Kondo intended her book to be funny or not.

By the way, no de-cluttering magic has taken place since reading the book, but, to be fair, I haven't tried her KonMari Method. It requires piling every single thing you own on the floor, handling each item, and then only keeping the ones that spark joy. Everything else goes.

"Do not even think of putting your things away until you have finished the process of discarding."

Apparently, once you complete the KonMari Method, there are no relapses. Your mind-set has been changed and you will never be untidy again. You will also be someone who anthropomorphizes everything around you. Is that a Japanese thing?

You will announce: "I'm home!" to your house when you come in. You'll take off your shoes and thank them for their hard work. You'll take off your outdoor clothes and tell them "Good job" as you hang them up or place them in the laundry basket. You'll empty everything from your purse/messenger bag/backpack/pockets and put each item away, expressing gratitude to each. You'll put the purse/messenger bag/backpack away saying, "You did well. Have a good rest."

"The purpose of a purse or messenger bag is to carry your things for you when you are away from home. [...] it carries them all without complaint, even if it is full to bursting. When you put it down and it scrapes its bottom on the floor, it utters no word of criticism, only doing its best to support you. What a hard worker! It would be cruel not to give it a break at least at home. Being packed all the time, even when not in use, must feel something like going to bed on a full stomach. If you treat your handbags like this, they will soon look tired and worn."

This is Rhoda.
When my sweetie and I spent an experience week at Findhorn back in 2001, we encountered an attitude something like that described by Kondo. My work contribution at the commune was to clean the floors with a vacuum named Buttercup. Buttercup was included in the prayer circle of intention and gratitude both before and after our shift was done. I had always disliked vacuuming, but treating the appliance as if it was a sentient helper changed that. When I got home, I bought a new vacuum--a red upright named Rhoda--and now I don't mind when it's time to clean the rugs. That, however, is as far as I'm willing to go with this business of personifying household objects. We all draw the line somewhere.

Okay, so back to The Life-changing Magic. Organizing has been a lifelong obsession for Kondo. She started reading home and lifestyle magazines when she was five. When she was in junior high, she became so absorbed in a book called The Art of Discarding (by Nagisa Tatsumi) that she almost missed her train stop on the way home from school.

I am in awe of her passion as she urges readers to aim for perfection, and feel swept up by the desire to be a better person. Then she shares another anecdote that makes me question her sanity.

"I visited the home of a client in her fifties. [...] when she pulled open her sock drawer, I could not suppress a gasp. It was full of potato-like lumps that rolled about. She had folded back the tops to form balls and tied her stockings tightly in the middle. I was speechless. [...] I pointed to the balled-up socks. 'Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?'"

"Vertical storage can be used anywhere. Messy fridges are common, but their content can be organized quickly and simply by standing things on end. [...] If you open my fridge, you'll find carrots standing in the drink holders on the door."
I tried Kondo's method of rolling
clothing and standing them up
in my dresser drawers. It's easy
and I like the immediate visual
access and efficient use of space.

There are things that I can learn from Kondo, like how to deal with the avalanche of paper in my house. Her rule of thumb is to discard everything. That's refreshing... and impractical. Under the heading "How to organize those troublesome papers that must be kept" she advises making three piles: 1) Currently in use, 2) Needed for a limited period of time, 3) Must be kept indefinitely. I'm willing to give this a try, since I'm losing library books under piles of paper.

And speaking of books, you must also pile these onto the floor before evaluating them.

"Just like the gentle shake we use to wake someone up, we can stimulate our belongings by physically moving them, exposing them to fresh air and making them 'conscious.'"

Kondo's method may be foolproof, but I'm not ready for it. "Putting your house in order is the magic that creates a vibrant and happy life." Someday, maybe.

*The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up Tantor audiobook is 5 hours long and read by Emily Woo Zeller. English translation by Cathy Hirano.

5 comments:

Kathy said...

Oh,no... I had read about this book and thought it might be my saviour, tidyness-tips-wise. Thanks Lindy for saving me from a bitter disappointment.

Lindy said...

My feelings about this book are mixed, as you can probably tell. Getting rid of a bunch of stuff is actually good advice for most people.

shanta said...

I find Marie Kondo does not so much anthropomorphize the everyday objects around her as elevate their status in our lives. So, our purses, our stacks of books, our sock drawer, the paintings on the wall, the beam of sunlight that floods my kitchen when I have my morning coffee, aren't just background objects against which our life unfold, but intrinsic to how it unfold. I find this quite profound. In fact, if objects were inert background, I suspect we would never feel the urge to unclutter in the first place.

Lindy said...

Thank you, Shanta. I hadn't looked at it that way.

A single mom's adventures said...

I must admit I'm down to the last of her method photos.. I see a huge transition and look forward to coming home everyday and love being home.