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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing Hardcover – October 14, 2014
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing Japanese organizational consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly declutter your home once, you'll never have to do it again. Whereas most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, the KonMari Method's category-by-category, all-at-once prescription leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo's clients have been repeat customers (and she still has a three-month waiting list of new customers!). With detailed guidance for every type of item in the household, this quirky little manual from Japan's newest lifestyle phenomenon will help readers clear their clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home--and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.
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Typically I'll catch an episode of Hoarders, fear that I'm one incapacitating injury away from being the focus of an episode (if I can't clean up all those strewn papers, they'll just pile up to the rafters, after all!), and then go through a stack of junk in a fit of unhappiness. Not the best way to deal with it all.
Marie Kondo's book is the opposite of that. It's a breath of fresh air and positive energy that brings real joy to the process of "tidying up."
I was only about halfway through before I tackled my clothes. She's right to begin there. My clothes are all mine (which also means that they're in nowhere near as terrible a state as other things in my house), so going through them affects only me and involves only my own feelings. Her advice may sound silly at first, but if your belongings inspire feelings of unhappiness, guilt, etc., her anthropomorphism of them can really help you change your viewpoint in a positive direction. I finished up with three bags for Goodwill and one for the garbage man. My drawers and closet, which were never very messy, are now exactly as I want them, and I feel fantastic!
My one quibble with her instructions has to do with folding. I've always disliked rolls of items. Instead, I fold so I can line things up like files. This makes it easy to pull things out without everything falling over. For my five-year-old, I fold his t-shirts so the front image is visible on the fold, then file them in the drawer so he can see exactly which shirt is which. (Here's an example: [...]) This works well for socks as well as t-shirts, pajamas, etc.
Most of her advice and content is really focused on a Japanese audience. There are many things in the book that won't translate as well culturally for a Western/American readership. For example, she suggests that you greet your home much as you would a Shinto shrine. That is likely to carry a different level of meaning for someone in Japan than in the U.S. Other references to spiritual practice and feng-shui are not likely to resonate the same way for an American audience. I even wonder if the preference for rolling clothes is cultural, since I have such a strong reaction against it and instead prefer folding and filing!
The examples in the book also tend toward the childless female. There is a lot of discussion of travel toiletries, but very little about kitchen utensils, toys, or other items found most often in a family home. The home workshop, which is a particular problem in my home, gets no mention at all. Don't Japanese people own countless drills, boxes of screws, and electrical tape?
But the reason for reading this book is not the specific advice about t-shirts and cupboards. It's about changing your relationship with the stuff you own. The tone of her book is so upbeat and positive, it's infectious. It's hard to keep reading it to the end, because you want to jump up and start using her methods immediately. I had little trouble adjusting her suggestions to match my own cultural perspective and physical home.
In the book she mentions that it'll take 6 months to fully tidy your home so that everything left inspires joy. I'm now a week in, and 6 months seems like hardly enough time to tackle all the junk in my house, but I can fully see how this can be a life-changing process.