Interiors, Lifestyle

The life-changing magic of tidying: Book review

The life-changing magic of tidying by Marie Kondo has been on my reading list for some time now. I absolutely hate clutter, yet despite this fact I seem to accumulate a lot of it. So naturally my interest was piqued, when I found a book that claims to offer ‘a simple, effective way to banish clutter forever’.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, settle down with a cuppa and let me tell you what I honestly thought. Will this book transform your home – your life even? Will it ‘spark joy’? Read on and find out.

The life-changing magic of tidying review

What is ‘The life-changing magic of tidying’ about?

Well obviously the clue is in the title! Japanese author and professional declutterer (yes, that’s a thing) Marie Kondo has developed the KonMari method of tidying. A simple solution that will ‘transform your home into a permanently tidy, clutter-free space’.

The book is divided into five sections. Kondo first outlines the reasons why you can’t keep your house in order, which I definitely identified with. Followed by discarding, tidying by category, storing items and how tidying the right way can transform your life.

In the first chapter Kondo establishes the ‘KonMari method’ which basically translates to deciding whether to throw or keep every item you own and if you keep it, find it a home. Sounds straight forward enough when you put it like that, doesn’t it? The criterion for choosing whether to keep items – do they spark joy? In other words does it make you happy?

My initial thoughts

Whilst I do like the idea of being surrounded by possessions I love, alarm bells are ringing from a practicality point of view. My TV remote doesn’t exactly spark joy, but it sure is practical and I am partial to a bit of Netflix. Come to think of it neither does my can opener or my cheese grater. These practical things aren’t really addressed.

Despite enjoying Kondo’s description of her childhood obsession with tidying and organising, I did start to wonder how she would string those basic principles out for the rest of the book. I also had to fight the overwhelming urge not leap up from my seat grab a ton of bin bags and throw out all my worldly possessions immediately, seduced by the promise of one huge tidying up marathon and never having to tidy up again (more or less).

And then there was my scepticism creeping in. Whilst I’m fairly sure I could totally get on board with most of what she’s proposing – I don’t live alone! I’m not exactly sure I can teach the KonMari method to a husband who likes to decorate every available surface with the contents of his pockets or a 4-year old. Again these important details are glossed over.

What I liked

The book was incredibly easy to read and you really get a feel for the author, I was able to read it in two sittings. Kondo illustrates her points with several clients case studies, which make’s for an interesting read.

A key message repeated throughout is that it’s OK to part with your possessions and that’s an important one for me. Don’t feel bad for getting rid of that scarf a friend bought you, but it’s not really your taste. Don’t feel bad for not keeping every single picture your child has ever drawn. And don’t keep things just because! Be purposeful with the things that take up space in your home.

One thing I really like about the KonMarie method is its simplicity, it’s a real no-frills approach. No fancy labels or storage solutions required. In fact Kondo’s opinion on storage is that they are ‘a means within which to bury possessions which spark no joy’. Well damn, I think she has a point! I am borderline obsessive about storage solutions, but this really struck a chord with me. What am I storing all this stuff for? I’m sure I’ve forgotten I own at least half of it (probably more).

Another suggestion I think makes great sense, is to sort by category, rather than room. Kondo recommends starting with clothes, followed by books, miscellaneous items and finally sentimental items. I know it sounds like a mission, but seeing the sheer volume of items you own together is bound to help the discarding process.

The life-changing magic of tidying is packed full of good practical tips for organising your things, such as folding methods and not storing the same item in multiple locations.

What wasn’t so great?

Call me a spoil sport, but I really don’t think I’ll be thanking my handbag for all it’s hard work on a daily basis. Kondo’s notion of treating items as if they are alive and thanking them for the work they do, is just a bit wacky for me. I agree that you should appreciate your possessions and I sure have a lot of love for my handbags, but I think I will draw the line at talking to my cats as if they understand me. That’s normal, right?

Although the majority of the book talks about discarding huge amounts of your things, she doesn’t suggest that you should sell, donate or recycle it. That seems incredibly wasteful to me, when I have my big clear out I will certainly be donating anything I think might appeal to others.

The life-changing magic of tidying really doesn’t go into any detail about what to do if you’re a parent either. An entire room full of brightly colour plastic doesn’t ‘spark joy’ for me. I would have liked more guidance on how this can work from a family perspective.

I also think the folding methods would be better illustrated, rather than described – but perhaps that’s just personal preference as I’m a visual person.

Would I recommend it?

Honestly, I’m still on the fence about the life-changing magic of tidying! I think it depends a lot on your specific situation. If you live alone or with someone completely on the same page (who will ideally also read the book), then yes. But if you’re a parent, then I’m not quite sure how it will work and I will definitely report back and let you know how it goes for us.

If you want inspiration to declutter your house, it’s definitely motivating. I think there are some great ideas and principles that will really make a difference if you follow them. If you hang on to items, even if you’re not exactly sure you’ll ever use them, then definitely read it.

I genuinely enjoyed reading this book and I definitely aim to try out the principals Kondo suggests (well, more or less – my TV remote is going nowhere).

And thank you if you’ve made it to the end of this rather epically long post, high five!

Want more book reviews? Here’s what I thought about The little book of hygge and Styled by Emily Henderson

Have you read the life-changing magic of tidying? Is it on your reading list? Let me know in the comments below! 

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6 Comment

  1. Reply
    Anne Marie
    June 21, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    I hate when after reading a book I feel exactly the same as before I read it. I’m glad you found some tips for yourself at the end but it doesn’t sound like you’ve been jumping with excitement. Such a shame. But thank you for your honest opinion and you might just have given me an idea for a new post 🙂

    1. Reply
      June 21, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      I’m definitely on the fence about it, but I’m going to give a shot. Who knows, I may completely change my mind! Glad it gave you an post idea. x

  2. Reply
    June 21, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who feels this way, I haven’t read her books but heard enough about them. I’ve been helping other people do a lot of decluttering recently and the ‘does it give you joy’ thing doesn’t wash with me if you’re talking about something you might have as a memory of someone passed, or if you have a few too many pyrex dishes or whatever, then that argument doesn’t hold. I agree we need to understand why we have the item (so like you mentioned, is it practical, is it useful, does it remind me of my childhood or whatever it is). But I don’t feel joy when looking at our 4 frying pans. unless there’s bacon in them 🙂 Great post!

    1. Reply
      June 26, 2017 at 3:44 pm

      Thanks Vikki. Sorry I’m slow to reply, we’ve been away. Yes exactly, I think I would change it to – does it spark joy or serve a useful purpose in my life currently. I totally agree about the bacon!

  3. Reply
    Lauretta Wright
    June 23, 2017 at 7:53 am

    I like the idea of this book but to be honest I don’t need any motivation to declutter – whereas my husband is the hoarder I tend to chuck things out when I can!

    1. Reply
      June 26, 2017 at 3:47 pm

      Yes, my husband is the same! I’m just going to leave my copy strategically on his bedside table.

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