Thursday, July 2, 2015

book review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano

The basics:  "Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles? Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again."--publisher

My thoughts: If you would have told me that a Japanese book on cleaning, written by a cleaning consultant, would be one of the books to have the biggest impact on my thinking, I would have laughed loudly for a long time. I am not saying The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is the best book I've read this year (it's not) or that it has necessarily changed my life (yet), but it did change the way I think, and it's rare for a book to make me rethink and reevaluate so many things in which I believe. Granted, I don't devote much time or energy to cleaning, so this thinking that changed is in some ways minor, but there's something magical about a book you expect to dismiss having such a deep impact on your thinking (and I hope my life.) I highlighted eighteen passages. I also rolled my eyes about eighteen times. This book might just change my life.

I could best describe my approach to cleaning as "if it looks dirty, I clean it." But Kondo isn't talking about dirtiness and cleaning; she talks about clutter and tidying. This book is about how much stuff you have and where you put it. My prior method of tidying is giving away and throwing away massive amounts of things I forgot I had each time I move. Now that we own a house (and we intend to live in it for 30+ years), I knew I needed a new approach so Hawthorne doesn't have to one day deal with all of our possessions.

Here's how this book has the potential to change my life: I'm planning, by the end of 2015, to get rid of approximately 75% of my possessions. Clothes, books, papers, and things are leaving. Even weirder (to me): I'm really excited about the actual tidying. Instead of it feeling like an obligation, Kondo has transformed my thinking to excite me about the process because I'm excited about the results. So far the process has been cathartic, and we're in the very early stages.

Kondo is a bit hokey for me at times, but I agree with her ideas, even if I find her seriousness about the feelings of objects to be silly:
"That particular article of clothing has already completed its role in your life, and you are free to say, “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you,” or “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me,” and let it go. Every object has a different role to play. Not all clothes have come to you to be worn threadbare. It is the same with people. Not every person you meet in life will become a close friend or lover. Some you will find hard to get along with or impossible to like. But these people, too, teach you the precious lesson of who you do like, so that you will appreciate those special people even more."
At the beginning of this passage, I find myself rolling my eyes, but as she extends the metaphor, it makes complete sense to me. I don't let guilt guide me in life, so why should I fill my home with objects that make me feel guilty (consciously or not?)

Here are my three biggest take-aways from this book:
  1. Every object in your home should be bring you joy.
  2. "Clutter has only two possible causes: too much effort is required to put things away or it is unclear where things belong."
  3. "But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future."
Favorite passage:  "Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out." (a complete a-ha moment)

The verdict: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is the most surprising book of the year for me. I can't quite say I loved it, but I do love so many of its ideas, and I'm already incorporating them into my life. It's a simple, straight-forward book filled with fascinating, transformative ideas. At times I wished desperately for images or diagrams, particularly for the Japanese way of folding clothes in drawers, and I'm excited for the sequel, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Life-Changing KonMari Method, which will be published December 29, 2015--after Christmas? For shame!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 224 pages
Publication date: October 14, 2014
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up from Amazon (Kindle edition.) 

Want more? Visit Marie Kondo's website.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. Agree with everything you said. I did Konmari my house after reading this, and honestly, I wish I could do it again. I was exhausted after doing it, but I had a blast going through everything. It was fun to reminisce quickly and let go. I find myself more selectively shopping and really putting some thought into everything I bring into the house. I love the sense of knowing where everything at all times. More importantly, that idea of of loving everything you have on hand, is just so freeing. Good luck on your journey! It is very much life-changing!

  2. I read this book earlier this year and wrote a really similar review. It's life-changing. I haven't gotten to declutter too much yet, but I plan to. This book is always on my mind!

  3. I liked this one a lot too. So far I've gotten rid of a ton of clothes and shoes and some books, and have been planning to go through every kind of item in my house over the next couple of weeks/months.


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