Paring Down and Tidying Up

marie_kondoI’ve read several reviews of Marie Kondo’s best seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  Many focus on making fun of the touchy-feely aspects of the book (thanking your belongings for their service, the idea that your complexion might clear up if you tidy your house), but several friends whose opinions I respect and who are not usually given to sillyness got a lot out of the book so I read it in spite of my suspicion that I might be too rational/analytical for it.

I’m glad I did make the time, because getting sidetracked into the opportunities for poking fun would miss the truly helpful and insightful aspects of the volume.  I tend to lean more towards minimalism anyway–I get stressed out by visual clutter of any kind–and so I’m not sure how the book would sit with people who don’t mind clutter or who are pack-rats, but because Kondo’s approach emphasizes understanding why you have things and arranging them to make them easier to keep tidy, I think it might work for a variety of personalities.

Here are a few things that stuck out to me:

  • Disposing of an item does not negate your identity.  This insight was so helpful to me, because I realized I was holding on to stuff that didn’t bring me joy, because I associated those items with past experiences.  Obviously I didn’t get rid of the watercolor we bought on our honeymoon–that sort of momento does bring me joy.  But the shiny gold toga I had in a drawer left over from college parties?  Taking it out of my drawer neither caused my diploma to disintegrate nor made me less of the person who loved theme parties in college (and wishes adults threw them too).
  • “When we delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear of the future.”  In addition to attachment to the past (ahem: gold toga) this insight helped me to process the number of things I was saving just in case.  Did we truly ever scramble through the junk drawer when we needed a spare button or random screw? Not once.  Have I ever sorted through a tangle of old cords and actually found something I needed?  Never.  Do I flip through the manual to an appliance when something isn’t working?  No, I troubleshoot online or call the company. It hit me: I could just let all this stuff go. My kitchen drawers and desk are SO much easier to use as a result, and it actually does have an amazing effect on my clarity of mind.
  • We all have plenty of clothes–you’ll feel better if you only keep the ones you really love and that make you happy to wear and own.  I’m actually fairly ruthless about clothing in general, but when I sorted my closet and dresser drawers with the joy framework in mind, I was able to let go of a lot of things.  Why would I want to wear things that aren’t flattering, are worn out, or are out of style?  I sold some things, donated some, and threw some away.
  • Storing clothes and other items so they can be seen and easily accessed reduces stress.  I was most skeptical of Kondo’s folding claims, but two friends raved about it so I tried it.  Whoa.  I completely emptied one set of drawers and left space in all the others.  EVERY single shirt I own–for all seasons, including camisoles, maternity, and transition to and from maternity–now fits easily into one drawer.
  • You don’t need special organizers–shoe boxes work perfectly.  Using smaller boxes and lids to segment things has made my bathroom cabinet, dresser drawers, kitchen drawers, and storage area so much more efficient and simple to use.  It’s really amazing how a little thing like this can make me feel more peaceful as I get ready in the morning, get someone a new tube of toothpaste, or grab something to wear.

So is it life-changing?  Hyperbolic titles sell books, but often disappoint.  In this case, however–and I can’t believe my NT self is writing this–I really do think the book lived up to it’s title for me.  A lot of people live in my house and we have a lot going on.  There’s a reason why a book titled “Overwhelmed” resonated with me last month.  But paring down and tidying up really has had an impact.  I spend fewer minutes scrambling for a rubber band, searching for a particular shirt, or restacking things in the pantry–and that adds up to a nice little stress reduction.  I imagine that if you aren’t naturally given to tidying up or paring down, the book could have an even greater impact on how you live.

Although there are downsides toThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, overall I found it helpful, thought-provoking, and inspiring and I’d highly recommend it.  If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought!


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5 thoughts on “Paring Down and Tidying Up

  1. Thank you for this review. I’ve heard about this book and wondered whether it was worth bothering with. Based on your review, I’ll give it a go. Like you, I am extremely stressed by visual clutter and with a husband who has a tendency to hoard (and no natural inclination towards tidiness 🙂 ) and the mess associated with four children I feel very overwhelmed by ‘stuff’ at the moment. I’m very keen to rectify this, so hopefully the book can give me some pointers.
    Paula recently posted..Den Building

  2. I liked this book, but didn’t feel like it was life changing for me. I already try to get rid of stuff we don’t need or want. The one thing that annoys me is the ever growing stack of rubbermaid tubs of baby and kid’s clothing in our storage room. I don’t feel like I can let that stuff go until I know we are done having kids. How do you manage baby and kid’s stuff?

    1. Kids clothes are definitely tough. One thing the Kondo book said that struck me was that little sisters always have the most stuff because they get hand-me-downs that aren’t really their style or worth keeping. Since I have four girls, this hits close to home. I used to save everything, but then I realized that I don’t want my younger girls wearing worn out clothes. So now I’m only keeping things in REALLY good condition, that don’t look worn out, and that we love. I do laundry all the time, so they don’t really need 10 outfits. This means Eliza (the current littlest, the new baby girl will probably be more so) often wears a pretty dress because the play clothes are all worn out. But who cares? What’s the worst that can happen if she has on a pretty dress?

      For my son’s clothes, I’m only saving things I would want to pass down to my grandchildren, especially now that we know we don’t have a second boy. I do have to go back through things periodically because I get attached to the things they wore as babies.

      I don’t like tubs. I’m pondering something kondo said about tubs being the worst way to store things, and am trying to think of a better solution for kids clothes, especially as I have to store it in so many different sections by size/year from newborn to clothes for the 9 1/2 year old to grow into this winter. I think I would hate the season change much less if I had an easier way to get through it than rifling through tub after tub after tub.

  3. Hmmm….I think I got more out of your review of the book than I did the actual book. Ha! 😉 I think one reason it didn’t really help me (in this season) is that we are living on very little because we moved here with just suitcases so the paring down isn’t necessarily where I’m at right now. I, however, still have a ton of visual clutter. But..800 sq ft with only 3 closets in the entire house and 7 people might have something do with that. We’re moving this summer though to a larger space and I hope to implement the folding thing…eager to try that!
    Johanna recently posted..A homeschool wrap up

    1. That’s funny! Although I did get rid of some stuff, I was already pretty good at purging so for me the best part of the book was the way it challenged me to think differently about the things I keep. I was surprised at how many things I was holding on to because they felt tied to my identity. It was so helpful to disassociate that. And the folding truly is making me feel calmer every day! Now if only I could convince my children to do it!

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