Tome of the Month: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is having an enormous success worldwide. As I am attracted to minimalism, and am now adjusting to what might probably be my final and permanent home, this book came just at the right time.

The idea behind it is very simple, and can be summed up in a few points:

1) The discarding process must be done in one session, and only once in a lifetime.
I see her point and agree. The operation must be on a large scale and quickly completed in order to cause two shocks:

First, it should leave you wondering at how many things you own, and admitting with yourself that most of them are unnecessary. This is only attainable by taking everything out and piling it up in the middle of the room, because you don’t actually realize how many things you own as long as it is stored inside the furniture.

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Why did I even buy all these clothes, when I have almost no social life?

Second, the shock of seeing how much space has become available, and how calm they feel being in that room after the visual clutter has disappeared.

It is a healthy little trauma: if it makes a lasting impression, it is more likely that the process will lead to a change of habits. Discarding a few things a day, as suggested by other decluttering experts, won’t make a difference. The person will lose motivation and fill the void with new stuff.

2) Another good point is that you should not involve your family, unless they want to take part in the decluttering “festival”. In doubt, it’s better to avoid interference, at the cost of not getting any help. Many of our possessions that we would gladly let go continue to take up place in our houses because we feel obligations to dear ones who gave those to us. You don’t need more guilt-provoking complaints by your mum who tries to talk you into keeping that horrible coat because it’s such a good quality fabric.

3) Don’t organize; just toss. It’s no use buying more containers to effectively organize things: it will only prompt you to buy more stuff. You need to let go of a large portion of your possessions, and what’s left will fit in the furniture you already have. It’s much easier to keep things in order when you only have few: that’s a no-brainer. It’s amazing that we needed a book to tell us so. The solution may appear simplistic, but it’s probably the only one that works in the long run.

It may also seem elitist, because not everyone can afford to keep only what “sparks joy” and dispose of, donate or recycle the rest. But what is more of an economical waste? Throwing away several bags of crap that will eventually dumped anyway when we are dead, that’s not a crime in the face of the poor. The real crime would be replacing it with new stuff. It doesn’t matter if you get rid of 30 bags of clothes or just one, as long as you break the cycle of buying new things that you’ll only wear once or twice before they end up at the bottom of the pile and are forgotten. I am skeptical that putting away every object after use will alone keep the house tidy. What’s missing from the book is advice on shopping more wisely after the purge. Hopefully, there will be a sequel?

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The glossy feel of this green top definitely sparks joy…

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…and so does the checkered pattern of this shirt.

I was appalled to find out that there are adults out there who need to be told that clothes must be folded and not thrown loosely inside the closet. Skimming reviews and comments on the web I saw so many grown-ups who can’t be bothered to fold socks. They claim they have no time for that. Seriously, people?  Performing this very simple action literally takes 2 seconds, you only have to juxtapose the two of them and fold them in half. If you’re not convinced, think of the time lost trying to reunite the pair when you’re rummaging in your drawer of random underwear while getting dressed in a hurry in the morning.

Folding clothes is, again, a no-brainer: but there is obviously a market for that kind of tutorials, and Kondo made a couple videos that provide the practical explanations which are completely absent from the book. People can’t take care of themselves and use children as an excuse for their bad housekeeping. Starting from such a mentality, it’s quite easy to make a dent for Marie Kondo’s system.

I didn’t read this book because I have an organizational issue: my house is certainly not perfect, but everything has a place, more or less. Even so, it feels wrong. Let’s just say that I’m good at playing tetris. For instance, I can’t exercise because I have no space to place a mat on the floor and move comfortably, without being in the way between my family members and the TV. Also, my precious books had to be boxed and exiled downstairs, until I finally decided it was too much stuff even for the garage. Last year I threw away a large number of tomes, but I’m still very, very far from Kondo’s 30 books (which is not my goal – I DO value culture and education).

So, I did the purge. Did it work? In part.

Taking clothes out of the closet and mixing them kind of put them “out of context”, so I saw them in a different way. Spreading clothes on the bed enabled me to see flaws in two garments that I couldn’t have noticed by going quickly through the wardrobe racks. Also, touching an old, faded pajama top I was about to make into dusting rags made me change my mind and realize it was a keep. I wore it the following night and now I’m sure it was the right choice. It’s so comfortable!

However, the number of discarded clothes amounts to only 30 items. That is, one garbage bag and a half. The photos show there is no big difference in the closet, except the pile of sweaters on the left side has disappeared. It seemed a success at first, because I had managed to fit everything except the boxes in the right section of the wardrobe. Unfortunately, the comeback of a tracksuit and a few T-shirts form the laundry messed up everything again, and I had to occupy the empty space with those.

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Books were even more difficult. I filled a large shopping bag, but 33 volumes out of several hundreds is a drop in the bucket. The author says you should get rid of unread books because if you haven’t read them yet chances are you will never have the time or will to do it in the future. But I don’t “stock” on books. I have read every single book in my collection, and the dull ones have left this house long ago.

There are also individual reasons why the method hasn’t worked wonders in my case:

– I moved 3 times in the last 7 years, so I’d already had the enlightening experience of seeing the totality of my belongings scattered through the floor in all their impossible abundance;

– I had already thrown away some stuff before each move;

– I tend to dress in a classic style rather than following the latest fashion, which means most of my clothes don’t become outdated so quickly;

– I hand-wash clothes that are meant to be hand-washed, which results in a longer lifespan of the item.

I’d recommend The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to fellow aspiring minimalists because the simplicity of the method is what makes it effective.

However, I believe this self-help book will only work for people who buy on impulse big time, are extremely untidy or have never tried at decluttering systematically before.

If you’re just someone who has realized he or she has too many things and is affected by the psychological burden of owning too much stuff, the KonMari method is not likely to have a big impact. The change will be more noticeable in a house that is overwhelmed by chaos, than in one that’s simply too full.

P.S.: I would like to know more about the author. Does she cook? Does she have a garage? Are the Japanese not required to keep important papers such as receipts, payslips, warranty, documents proving you own your house? Hopefully she will translate more of her site into English soon.

The Konmari Method

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It’s time to end the tyranny

of things.

 

All that’s gross

will be tossed.

Half the stuff

is enough.

 

Family members who tend to hoard

will be thrown overboard.

 

You’re allowed to destroy

all that fails to spark joy,

and you will have to drop

unrealistic expectations

while you conquer your space

and rebuild your foundations.

 

The clutter on show

is the source of your pain;

you must let it go

then you’ll breathe once again.

Spread it all on the floor

and consider its volume;

then imagine right there

a relaxing, clean vacuum.

 

The room’s in a jumble,

you’re going to stumble.

You’re feeling the urge

the closet to purge,

but please do not start

too near to your heart.

 

The meaningless clothes

will first leave the nook;

then off to the rows

of precious, dear books.

Then paper and bills;

by now you can safely

address your mementos

without grieving painfully.

 

Get rid of the mess

of goods in excess.

Recycle, donate

but don’t ruminate.

 

You need only do this

once and for all;

what’s left then is You,

your self-made Future,

the white canvas of a wall.

Stuff

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I’m growing aware
of that suffocating feeling
when all the gadgets in the world
are piling up in your apartment.

Books, pots, pans, socks, DVD’s and jackets.
Hairy blankets, doormats, bills and furniture.
Toiletries, detergents, winter tyres, leads and cables.
Leftovers and plastic lids.
All those electronics you bought against my veto.
Screwdrivers, framed pictures, hardware, bits and pieces.
I’m overwhelmed by stuff.

If owning things is so important,
why won’t anyone take away this burden then?
I barter my belongings for some genuine
time and space.
Come on, what has become of the materialistic society?
Possession is overestimated.

I’ll have to burn the house down.