I’ve been talking a lot about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up lately, so I thought I’d do a more concise “review” of it – at least a look at why/how it resonated with me and at some of her key points. I do recommend it, and think it was definitely worth reading; even as much as I think/read about wardrobe minimalism and paring down in general, this book inspired me to look at things in completely new ways. Books, especially.
I read the book in a few hours, sitting in my chair in my office, looking out the big window and at my bookshelf. As she spoke about books and photos and papers, I started to think about what those things meant to me, and why I was holding on to them.
A lot of my books were part of my past, and looking at them made me feel guilty. I also had quite a few books that were meaningful to me, but hadn’t been cracked open in years, and that I thought someone else would appreciate.
Ultimately, if I try to boil down what this book did for me, it is that it made me realize that things are just things. They can have meaning, and indeed, they do serve a purpose, but to me, right now, the “things” I thought were important to me, are not. The books I thought I’d hold on to forever? Thanked, and sold so someone else could enjoy them. My college papers (printed out, because it was before there were thumbdrives)? Re-read and discarded.
My family, Dagny, my career, my health, and my plants (yes, technically things, I guess) are important to me. Along with a few other “things” but only because they have a purpose right now in my life, not for their memories.
Before reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I hadn’t thought about my books in a way that would ever let me get rid of any of them, unless I was moving; the last hold outs were exempt and would be with me forever. My books were a part of me. They defined me.
Yet, I’m still here after discarding nearly all of my books. And even happier without them. Free. To create a new me? I don’t know, but maybe.
That is the “magic” Ms. Kondo speaks of I think – the freedom to choose new things and go in the direction of your heart once your space is un-cluttered:
when your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state
Scary, yes. But necessary, for some of us anyway. Those of us who are just a little discontent and need a push. Or a lot discontent and need a shove. Start with the discarding, then the re-organization, and you will finally see what comes next. More magic…
I hope this has inspired you to read the book yourself, but in addition, here are some more of the “notes” I made while reading it – please attribute all quotes to Marie Kondo.
Avoid the rebound effect – by doing it all at once, discarding FIRST, then organizing thoughtfully & completely in one go
1. picture the lifestyle you dream of – visualize it, make it concrete
2. identify WHY you want to live like that? (why do you want to be tidy?) to be HAPPY
3. examine what you own
a. what to discard? when it ceases to be functional, and/or is out of date
b. shift focus to what you want to keep, not what you want to get rid of.
decide to keep an item when you “feel a thrill of joy when you touch it
Figure out what each item you own or and/or consider discarding has taught you – then thank it for it’s service and send it on it’s way. This was crucial for me in purging my books – this, and knowing that my discarding them, I would be making them available to someone else, for them to enjoy and perhaps find meaning in.
thank you for giving me joy when I bought you
thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me
Every object has a different role to play – “NOT ALL CLOTHES HAVE COME TO YOU TO BE WORN THREADBARE” (emphasis mine) <--This. Soooo much this. I think this statement was one of the most impact-ful in the entire book for me. I analyze, and then over-analyze whenever I buy anything because I want it (or think it should) to last forever. And the truth is, that nothing is perfect, and of course, nothing will last forever – and why should it? Something should be in our wardrobes, in our lives, only until it no longer serves its purpose. If that is when it is threadbare, then so be it, but more than likely, it will be when we get tired of it and it still has some life left. Which is okay.
Wen you come across something you can part with , think carefully about its true purpose in your life – MAYBE it has already fulfilled it?
Free items from the prison to which you have relegated them, and let them go with gratitude.
What she says about photos – “cherish who you are now”
*I think this goes for everything though – even clothes – dress for who you are at this moment, dress for the size you are right now, dress for your current lifestyle – not your past, or future
TOUCH everything – handle everything letting it move you, or not
“honestly confront” everything you own and act on the intuition you feel
On stockpiling – (multiples):
even though they owned a huge stockpile, they always felt as if they didn’t have enough and were anxious about running out
Reduce until you feel the point where “something clicks” – you will reach the point at which you suddenly know that you have enough – that this is “just the amount i need to live comfortably”
once you reach this point, you will find that the amount you own never increases – you will never rebound…
On clothing –
Do not keep clothes you know you’ll never wear outside as loungewear. don’t “demote” your clothes – buy dedicated loungewear. – it merely delays parting with clothes that don’t spark joy (to demote them). This has always resonated with me; I relish my “home” clothes and never hesitate to purchase things exclusively for wearing at home…
TIME AT HOME IS STILL A PRECIOUS PART OF LIVING
its value should not change just because nobody sees us – “precisely because no one is there to see you, it makes far more sense to reinforce a positive self-image by wearing clothes you love
“as you run your hands over the cloth, you pour your energy into it”
folding clothes after the laundry gives you a chance to connect with them; to notice any rips or tears or loose buttons that need to be fixed – you have a dialogue with your wardrobe
Respect your clothes
“clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar”
Treat socks with respect – un-ball them so they can rest & relax (I thought this was sort of funny, but I do it now….)
Avoid the need to store seasonal clothes – or switch closets
designate a place for each thing
routine for arriving home
thank everything for its hard work
take everything out of your bag, putting it all in its place, allowing your bag to rest (also gives you a chance to carry a different bag more frequently!!)
the existence of an item without a home multiplies the chances that your space will become cluttered again
“once you learn to choose your belongings properly, you will be left only with the amount that fits perfectly in the space you currently own” – MAGIC
…why do we have too much stuff? Usually it is because we do not accurately grasp how much we actually own
Remove tags from your clothes immediately, to welcome them into your home as your personal belongings – I would amend this to say that once you receive something, or get home from the store with it, you should first, try it on with other things you own, to make absolutely sure that it fits in your wardrobe, then, once you are, remove the tags. Do not even put things in your closet with tags on them! If you’re unsure, then send it back.
Appreciate your possessions, say thank you.
When you put your house in order, you discover what you really want to do:
*letting go is more important than adding
*confidence in your decision-making ability
*grateful to be surrounded by what you love
*reasons why we can’t let go: attachment to the past and/or fear for the future
*learning that you can do without
*everything you own wants to be of use to you
*affects your body – has a detox affect – contentment
There is no greater joy in life than being surrounded by what you love – people, things, animals…
I’m going to leave this here so we can discuss it more in the comments – because I think there is a lot more to say on this subject, and on her book. Her ideas are not revolutionary, of course, but I did appreciate the concise and sort of “funny” way she articulated them. And although she does personify things a bit more than I’m entirely comfortable with, I have always thought of my things as having some sort of life, hating to store them away not getting used, or being appreciated.
Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? What were your thoughts on it? How has it impacted your life/space?
(next book review: End Closet Chaos by Recovering Shopaholic Debbie Roes! Read along with me!! And if you have any suggestions for other books I should review, please let me know!)
See The Minimal Closet in the WSJ! Then read more in The Minimal Closet series:
I read this book over Christmas and truth be told I’m on the waitlist at the library for it again! (I should probably pay the money and buy it) I’ve already done a pretty good job on books, clothes and kitchen stuff. However I really only have one purse and one tote bag that I carry at a time. I don’t really see myself emptying them every night just to give them a rest but maybe I should give it a try. My son has way more toys than he needs or plays with but what doesn’t spark joy right now is bound to become something that does in a week.
I really want to give it a second read.
Thank you so much for this review. I’m on the wait list at the library…I may need to buy it also.
I read this book two weeks ago. It was very interesting to see things from a different perspective and found her attitude toward her possessions interesting. It helped me to lose the guilt over giving away perfectly good but unworn or unloved things. Knowing that someone else will welcome them into their life was helpful.I really had this attitude anyway, but thinking that the clothes themselves were being liberated from my neglect was new. Also the idea that the objects had already taught me the lesson I needed and to thank them for it was a new way to think for me. I am going to go “full on Konmari” in March when I usually do my biannual closet clearout. But this time I will not stop at my closet. I am going to go through my whole house. I am a little fearful of what I may find out about myself when I can no longer hide behind my stuff! I am hopeful that it will be life changing in a positive way.
Here’s my experience. After my divorce, when I moved back into my house, I threw out scads of things. Hordes of things. A junk container full of things. And what I kept, I knew why I kept it. This included clothing I’d owned for 40 years.
I don’t think it’s the stuff, per se, I think it’s our attitude to the stuff.
I recently fixed up my laundry room. I now have a nice basket in there for my dirty clothes. That makes a huge difference to my peace of mind. We’re each going to find a sense of clean and serene in our own way. That said, I know that my huge purge after my divorce helped, so perhaps it’s important to get to a kind of baseline empty before we work on the finesse of what we keep or what we get rid of.
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Beth Lee says
I’ve read it too, and I loved it. (I don’t totally agree with applying the joy rule to ev-er-y-thing in the house, especially the old photos category, because things are sometimes important while not being joyful, but that’s just my thing. I think there are photos that would be meaningful to my son in the future, joy or not.)
But I loved the book overall and she is so right about so much! I have ditched about half of my clothes, and I think I can take another run at them and get rid of some more. To be fair, I’ll go get a few new things, but I feel like they’ll be meaningful choices, and they’ll last. Next up: books (gonna need husband cooperation for that).
Tidying up your house is definitely, truly, more than tidying up your house.
Grechen Reiter says
absolutely agree – i know when i tackle what’s left of my clothes (not much…but still some to be discarded, i know), i’ll have to figure out what i WANT to feel to keep them. i don’t think it will necessarily be joy – because i do feel “joy” for some things that just don’t suit me, and vice versa, so i will use a combination of “joy” and what fits my lifestyle/body best when deciding what to keep.
Grechen Reiter says
yes, lisa, absolutely it’s the attitude towards the stuff, more than the actual stuff. if i didn’t feel so overwhelmed by my closet, or my books, then i wouldn’t have purged so completely. it’s all individual – how we respond to our stuff is what’s important, and for me, lately, it’s been overwhelming me. perhaps that is sending me another message altogether though – not just urging me to get rid of stuff?? that remains to be seen i guess….
Grechen Reiter says
i think it will be lori – it’s hard at first, definitely, but you will feel so “free” once you’ve reached your “set” point after purging – and that you have “enough” stuff. i did – and it cases me to think very very hard about adding anything new at all.
i’m slowly removing everything i can hide behind too – books, clothes, etc. and it is SO LIBERATING. good luck 🙂
Grechen Reiter says
i was on the waitlist at the library also, but got impatient, so i ordered it anyway…
Grechen Reiter says
you know, i thought i might try her recommendation to remove things from my bag up on returning home and putting everything in it’s “place” – since i don’t have books on my bookshelf anymore, I thought i could store my bags there, and just switch them out more frequently – i mean…if the stuff is already out, what’s the problem to put it back in a different bag?
but so far i haven’t done it. i just don’t want my bags “out” i guess or where i can see them, creating more clutter. and i sort of like carrying the same bag every day, and not having to put everything back in it every morning. but i can see her point….
I read Kondo’s book about three weeks ago and was surprised by how much I liked it and how useful I found it! I’ve been embracing her “KonMari Method” the last two weeks and have gotten through clothes, books, and papers . . . I have miscellany and mementos left to evaluate and purge. I’m a big bookworm, too, and I get attached to my books, but after using Kondo’s questions as a guide, I found it easy and freeing to let go of many of my books, too (which is perfect timing–I’m preparing for a big 3000+ mile move in two months!). Anyway, Kondo’s book has definitely impacted my space, and I am the better for it!
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Great review, Grechen! You touched on key points that make me want to read the book. It sounds like it would be helpful to anyone desiring to live a simplified life. That would be me. But I’m not sure I can “anthropomorphize” my socks!
Men have been removing their wallet, change and keys from pants pockets for years, but I doubt they think of it as “giving their pants a rest”! It’s a practical thing, but for me, removing everything from my bag each night would cause great anxiety. And…my bag might feel lonely. 😉
I want to go through my entire house, too, Lori. But it’s SO frightening to think of all the STUFF I’ll find that has been packed away through countless moves. Not just the things I don’t miss, like pillows, lamps or clothes from another time, but the baby books, photos, mementos of my 34 yrs together with my husband.
I’m not sure I understand the concept of what you do with photographs – not thumb drives – but framed photos of loved ones, some here and some gone. Can anyone enlighten me?
Grechen Reiter says
she recommends getting rid of photos completely…as least that’s what i understood. the ones that don’t “spark joy” that is…
i wouldn’t go that far, i don’t think (i haven’t gone through photos yet…), but i think if you were going to get rid of any photos, i would scan them, or take pictures of them first, to have a soft copy anyway.
Grechen Reiter says
ha! true…my husband leaves his stuff all over the place.
in theory, it sounds interesting to remove things from your bag every night, but i think i would tire of it
I feel like it would be a massive waste of time to take everything out of my bag when I get home and put it away, only to put it right back in there in the morning, especially as a person who stays in bed until the last possible second. I am not a person who overstuffs her bag, and I have a table in the foyer that my bag lands on the second I walk in the door.
I absolutely LOVED this book, and took 2-day staycation to KonMari my entire apartment, but I don’t think some of ideas translate well to other cultures. If I remember correctly, she mentions numerous times about having one central closet in Japanese apartments, and everything is stored in there. I live in a 500sqft apartment and I have some creative storing solutions for things such as pots, pans, shoes, purses, and such. I dream of having one central place I could store everything.
I will give props to the folding of clothes though. I used to have a drawer each for socks, underwear, and bras/camis. Now everything fits in one drawer. GENIUS.
Grechen Reiter says
i CANNOT get the hang of folding clothes her way!! i’ll admit, i haven’t tried hard enough, either, but still. i do have plenty of space in my drawers, so i’m not worried about it, but it all seems rather confusing LOL
and i agree on taking everything out of your bag when you get home. i was going to try it, but never have, because i don’t see the point i guess. in that way she might have taken the personification of things a bit far. my bag “rests” as it’s sitting in it’s cubby, i don’t think i need to take everything out of it for it to TRULY rest. as if it needs to anyway!!
I just learned of this book from your blog, went to the library to request it, and their multiple copies are either held or out, so I ordered it. I am looking forward to reading it before I do my summer “purging.” This may give me a different mindset. In the meantime, I would like to comment on photos. We have about 20 photo albums my husband has put together. I had always intended to go through and keep the best photos since he put everything he develops in there. Two years ago we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. For the party, I bought a bride’s book. I went through our photos and put one or two for each decade of our marriage. I also included one each individually of my husband and me when we were 2 years old and one each individually of us as skinny 18 year-olds on the beach. We did not meet until we were in our 20’s. Now when I think of going back through those albums, thinking of down-sizing to retirement living, I know that it has already been done. I also have an album for myself, for my husband, and for our one son, devoted to pictures of just us. If I need to let go of photos completely, I will have these 4 albums to keep.
My friend purchased hand held albums like people carry in the purses to show photos and made one for each decade of her mother’s life, when her mother was in a nursing home and could not hold much. I suppose they hold about 10 photos each and are a wonderful documentary of her mother’s life.
Grechen Reiter says
that is such a great idea carole!! i love that you’ve downsized your photos already. i’ll admit that’s something i haven’t tackled yet. i don’t have a lot, really, but i’ll have to be really “ready” to go through and get rid of any. but i really love that you separated out the very special ones into albums you kNOW you want to keep. the hard part is already done…
thank you for sharing that!