The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing

by Marie Kondo

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This book was my first real exposure to minimalism, and it completely changed how I feel about the possession of objects. It was super fortunate that my wife and I listened to it together on a road trip, and became equally enthralled with the idea of dumping all of our excess clutter.

all at once permalink

We have excess clutter because of a fundamental problem with the way we deal with possessions. This is difficult to solve with simple tricks like better organization or getting rid of one thing every day. She argues that the best way to overcome the clutter is by doing a one-time hardcore purge of the entire house. She spends a long time detailing what she calls the KonMari Method (which you can read about on her website). For us, doing this initial purge took us about two weeks. We spent several hours each evening, plus all day on both Saturdays. All told I think we got rid of like 15 garbage bags-worth of things from our two-bedroom apartment.

organization is just a coping mechanism permalink

Consumer culture has led people to approach tidiness with organizational products, rather than by tackling the actual problem of stuff. Storage containers, filing cabinets, and all kinds of organization tools are really better suited to office buildings.

our emotional relationship with stuff permalink

Kondo gets pretty metaphysical about our relationship with things, and she loses me a little with the excessive personification of household objects. But it teaches an important point, which is an awareness of our emotional relationship with our things. She wants us to greet our houses when we arrive and thank each object after use, and I can see how that might make us more aware of each object we keep in our house. This book made me understand how valuable it is to know what things you own and where each thing goes, and keep all of that in your head at once.

not a solution to consumerism permalink

A friend of mine recently pointed out that this book fails to address consumerism, the main cause of the problem of stuff. I think he’s right; the KonMari method is an approach to the output of stuff from the household, not the intake. But that’s what other books about minimalism are for.