Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying

I learned of this book from a review on Viktoria's blog. It sounded like a fun way to approach the subject, and Viktoria sent me her copy to try. (Thank you!)

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo takes the tack that you should go through your possessions by type instead of location, so you gather the clothes, for example, from all over your house and go through them item by item instead of tidying your house one room at the time. She has you choose which items to keep based on whether or not they bring you joy, then you get rid of everything else. She says the process will take about 6 months to complete and then will never have to be done again. You won't ever again have to tidy a little bit every day. You can read an excerpt here.

I think Kondo's system is worth trying. I'm working on clothing now, and have bagged up clothes that either no longer fit or that I'd forgotten I had. I do find myself wondering as I look at my 2 closets which remain full, if perhaps joy comes too easily to me. She may think this is a one-time activity, but I think I could go through this process again with the clothes I have left and discard more. Perhaps I need to re-define "joy" for the purpose of this process.

I've been going though a process these past couple of years of paring down my possessions, but my system is extremely gradual. Every day or so I go to my bookcases and pull down a book that I think I probably won't ever read again and donate that book. I do the same thing with my DVD racks. Honestly, after a couple of years, I can tell a difference but I don't think anybody else can. I have managed to pare down to five 7-foot tall bookcases, leaving room for knick-knacks on some of the shelves. While I work on the clothes I find myself passing the book shelves and taking down some books as I pass, saying, "Who am I kidding, I'll never read that again." The DVDs seem hopeless, with ten 7-foot-tall DVD shelves full and stacks of DVDs on the floor not yet watched.

I haven't tried emptying my purse when I come home, which is part of her plan. One of my issues is that I actually keep my purse by my bed with my wallet/phone/keys handy. I don't know, maybe that long-predicted earthquake will happen in the night, and I'll need my purse.... I'm finding the purse-emptying idea to be a bit stressful for whatever reason.

I have adapted her system in several ways:
  • I prefer to hang everything that can hang. All tops and pants I own are hanging in my closet. No clothes except socks, underwear, and sleeping clothes are in drawers.
  • I don't like her system of folding. I have given it a try, but I prefer to roll my sleeping clothes and stack my underwear instead of standing things up. I don't know how she keeps clothes that are stored standing on edge from falling over once some are removed.
  • I hang clothing in outfits with tops and pants/skirts together. I started doing this when I realized I tended to wear the same thing every day and that my tops are not wearable with all the pants. I matched my clothes up in top/pants outfits that went together and hung them up that way. My jeans hang at the far right of the closet and are worn with those tops that don't have dedicated pants/skirts. Now when I take off my clothes I hang them on a hangar and put them at the right side of the closet next to the jeans. The next day I pick something from the left side of the closet. It works wonderfully for me, but that means I'm ignoring her system of hanging clothes.

Her order is clothing first and keepsakes/mementos last. I have an attic full of keepsakes once I finish with everything else. That'll be tough. I'm giving some to the kids as they marry (silver candlesticks, crystal vases, milk glass, etc.), and I'll keep passing them on gradually, but I can't see just getting rid of most of the keepsakes.

I found a few videos that inspired me before the book came. She has several presentations that I watched. This is her folding method:

Marie Kondo discusses her history with organizing and describes her current methods in this talk:

Here's how she does a bookshelf: praises the system and says, "Kondo's method really can change your life — if you let it." The Guardian has a positive review. The WSJ has a lengthy and glowing report. The New York Times reporter jumped in with both feet and tells of his joy: "My weekend was lost to Ms. Kondo. After three days, I had given four bags of clothing and two bags of shoes to the Salvation Army...."

Psychology Today recommends it highly and says,
I do encourage you to pick up the book (downloading means no additional physical clutter) or get it from the library, because her Eastern philosophy is critical to understanding why the rules work and why they make sense (and will seem a bit wacky to some Westerners). Her book also helps with the emotions around decluttering things like gifts people have given you, or important paperwork.
NPR has an excerpt. Slate has an article by Kondo.

Spirituality and Practice says,
Kondo firmly believes that serious tidying up cannot be done in baby steps of 15 minutes daily or throwing out a few things every day. Her philosophy is to do it all at once. Kondo's criteria for tossing or keeping something is, "Does it spark joy in you or not?" There are many other tips in this very helpful book but we are recommending it highly because of the spiritual practices it offers for use in the home and with possessions.


  1. I had to laugh at the undies drawer. Sally had so many socks it took TWO drawers (BIG drawers) and a huge bag of left overs that hadn't been sorted. Then she rolls one sock cuff over the other, which to me stretches the cuff or whatever you call the part that goes over your ankle. And she won't get rid of a single sock, even if there's no matching sock for it. She even says she doesn't care, because her pants cover her socks, so they don't have to match. I don't like Kondo's way of keeping her bras, either, but that's just me.

    I would have trouble with Kondo's way, although I think it might work for Sally, in that she says it should all be done at once. Sally doesn't seem to be able to piecemeal anything, so getting rid of stuff while she's in the mood worked well, at least for SOME of her clothes and shoes. Unfortunately, there are MANY things that Sally loves. For example, I was hanging some of her coats the other day and I counted 33 coats that were in ONE closet alone. She has another coat closet in the basement that is filled to the brim and beyond. This from someone who doesn't even own a coat, and NO, I don't want one, either.

    I wonder what the advice is for getting rid of excessive amounts of kitchen equipment. One ONE counter alone, are a convection oven, a microwave, another portable oven I have no idea what it does, and a pizza oven. Add to that her THREE George Foreman Grills, and TWO Keurig coffee makers. Her explanation for TWO? The web site didn't tell her that you can't use the same coffee and the same pots because they are not interchangeable. You would think she would have read that, but apparently, she thought she had been duped. So now, she has two coffee makers and two sets of those "cute" non-refillable coffee containers. LOTS of the, in fact.

    I hope the book works for you, because I seriously doubt it would work for me. You have found a way to hang your clothes to your liking, and I have found mine. I keep all summer items in one closet and all winter items in the other, along with my nightgowns. I have gotten rid of all but about six tops that aren't either sleeveless or long sleeved. I don't wear anything with short sleeves, if I can help it. And all my clothes are hung on colored hangers that are the color of my outfit. For example, right now I have a red hanger and a purple hanger that I've placed with the others in my laundry room. I know I have a red dress and purple dress in the wash. BTW, I color code everything and use ROY G BIV when I do. I even hang my outfits that way. I can look at my hangers and know what color tops I am looking for, since I have one small walk in closet and another one that is even smaller. Other than that, my craft room closet holds craft supplies, as does the closet in my basement studio. Have I mentioned I am driven by color (grin)?

    1. Socks! lol I have one drawer just for socks, but I only have white, black, and shades of brown/tan. I keep stray socks until I'm sure the mate won't show up. I had 3 coats; I got rid of 2 of them, keeping my bright red fleece hooded Lands End coat. I do have a light-weight hooded jacket in the car, though. I'm like you in keeping only seasonal clothing in one closet and off-season clothes in another.

      I feel like my kitchen is crowded, too. I hear Kondo is coming out with a new book just on kitchens as she doesn't cover that in this book. We don't have any Keurigs or Foreman grills, but the countertop is covered by the toaster, the drip coffee maker, the electric tea kettle, and the countertop oven. We've found other space for the things we use less often. It sounds like Sally could have an online shop :)

      Kondo's book is wonderful even if the system doesn't work for you as is. Her attitude of keeping only those things that "spark joy" is mind-opening. I tend to feel the joy easily, but even so, I'm finding the attitude transforming.

  2. "perhaps joy comes too easily to me" LOL Certainly, that can´t be a bad thing! Perhaps the whole idea with books like these is that they make us think differently about the stuff we surround ourselves with, and it doesn´t matter so much if we follow their ideas to the letter. Whatever works, I say! (I am actually wearing more of my clothes these days, after re-organizing my closet in opposition to Kondo´s method... ;-) ).

    1. I've added this question when I've answered "yes" to "Does it spark joy": Would you be happy to pay someone to move it for you when you downsize?" ;)