The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: Review

the life-changing magic of tidying

We don’t normally do book reviews, but sometimes you have to share greatness where greatness is deserved.

Marie Kondo’s best selling book is an actionable life-changing guide on the art of tidying, decluttering and organising.

Admittedly I struggled to get few the first couple pages of the book, thinking that I had a good handle on what was to come. But I soon grew to appreciate the mindset of tidying and what it really means as it relates to minimalism.

After a solid pep talk, Marie delves into some actionable advice on how to tidy each main area of your home.

This is a fantastic read if you’re looking to declutter and organise your environment. Please note that we have no affiliation with Marie. I just felt compelled to share our take on her fabulous book.

Below are some of my key takeaways from the reading . I should also note that my summary is just that, a summary. I encourage you to block out some time this weekend and hook into this book. You’ll see things in your home in a completely new light.

Discard all at once (make it an event)

Marie advocates that if you follow her system, you will only need to make significant changes once. She’s not interested in slow gradual progress. She would prefer that you block out a few days and change the dynamic of your environment. No mucking around here.

All you need to do is look at each item, one at a time, and decide whether or not to keep it and where to put it.

Clothing

I’ve never seen someone talk about the art of folding the way Marie does. This part of the book is where you can see the influence of Japanese culture. She argues that you can store more clothes through the art of folding as opposed to hanging. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hang any clothes as there will always be items which are more suitable for that. But it does make you wonder if there are items which you’re currently hanging, that could be folded instead.

I was also interested to see that she doesn’t believe in off-season storage. This was interesting as most minimalists advise that you cap your articles of clothing at a particular number for each season. Marie on the other hand suggests that this method means making more decisions about where to store off-season clothes, and you also risk forgetting what you own, thus increasing the risk of purchasing unnecessary clothes.

Books

In this section of the book, Marie talks about the psychology of choosing which books to keep. This can be a tough decision as there are some books which you reference often whilst the majority of books you own are in your “read later” pile.

Personally, Masha and I own very little physical books, 27 between the two of us. We were ruthless with discarding books as we felt like the storage of them was weighing down our lifestyle. This doesn’t mean that we don’t read, we have plenty of books on our eReaders. In fact this book was read on my iPhone.

Papers

Marie admits that she’s not a fan of dealing with paper and she recommends discard as much as possible.

I recommend you dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely.

She also recommends keeping all of your papers in one spot only as you risk having them spread to other parts of the house. We have a slightly different take on this. We prefer to not have any papers at all (except legal documents, like birth certificate etc). With the development of technology there’s really no reason to have paper. We wrote a detailed post on how you can effortlessly become paperless.

Sentimental items

When trying to declutter, dealing with sentimental items is always the hardest. I know this is an area we struggled in when we minimising our lives. We ended up settling on having a sentimental box each which we currently keep at our parents houses.

According to Marie, this is in fact a bad strategy. She argues that storing things at your parents house is a big no no.

Your parents’ home is not a haven for mementos.

Whoops.

When you store things at your parents house you are only transferring the burden of clutter from one person to another. Instead we should think hard about why we should be hanging on to the past. Marie questions why we have a need to focus on the past when the present is more important.

No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important.

I couldn’t agree more. After reading this chapter, it has inspired me to revisit my sentimental box and see what I can let go of. I also want to take away the burden of leaving the box at my parents house.

Every item has a place

In this section, Marie teaches you how to designate a place for each thing you own. I found this chapter profound as she has a way of expressing gratitude to everything she owns. She explains what she does as soon as she walks through her front door after a long day at work. Just look at what she does with her handbag:

First I remove all the receipts. Then I put my wallet in it’s designated box in a drawer under my bed with a word of gratitude. I place my train pass and my business card holder beside it. I put my wristwatch in a pink antique case in the drawer as my necklace and earrings on the accessory tray beside it. Before closing the draw, I say, “Thanks for all you did for me today.”

Up until I read this, I had not heard of anyone who religiously emptied their handbag after using it for the day. I told Masha this and she simply scoffed and shook her head, “That’s too intense, even for me”, she said.

And for many people, this idea of having a little home for every single thing you own and thanking them for their service may be over-the-top. But I think there’s some wisdom in Marie’s system as it’s worked for 1000s of people around the world. Definitely worth a try!

The problem with storing before discarding

The last point I want to review of this fabulous book is the notion of discarding before storing. When faced with the challenge of spring cleaning , most of us are conditioned to store items first and possibly discard what is left over.

Marie argues against this mindset as she believes the hard work is done in discarding not in storing.

No matter how hard you tidy and no matter how effective the storage method, if you start storing before you have eliminated excess, you will rebound. I know because I’ve been there myself.

She goes on to tell you about her life-long obsession with storage. She used to read home decor magazines with extravagant storage solutions. This is what she saw as organisation. But each time she tried to implement a storage solution, she would fall off the bandwagon and go back to her old habits.

It’s not until she started ruthlessly discarding that she found permanent change in her space.

Go read the book!

There’s so much more I could talk about in relation to this book but I’ll let you dive in and read the rest. Wait till you read about her methodology around storage. It absolutely blew my mind!

I hope this review has given you a few ideas you can take action on. I’m curious though, have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? If so, let us know what you thought of it in the comments below.

4 comments… add one
  • Michelle 12/09/2015 Reply

    This book wasn’t even on my radar when it came out, but I’ve been seeing it mentioned a lot lately in seemingly unrelated areas. I actually had to look up what “konmari” was when I first saw the term on healthygirlsblog.com. It seemed mildly interesting, but I think your review has tipped me to the other side and I’d like to read the book. Although, as it stands now, I’m with your wife on the daily purse-emptying; that might be a bridge too far for the likes of me.

    • It’s definitely worth a read Michelle. But make sure to go in with an open mind and only take bits which you feel comfortable implementing. For example, I like the idea of better utilising shelf space by folding things properly. We’ve also got room for improvement in terms of having a dedicated home for each item. But it’s a slow and steady development.

  • Kathy Sturr 15/09/2015 Reply

    I think I must read this book – then donate it to the library? I am in the midst of a life changing self inflicted course. I want to reorganize, simplify, redo everything! In fact, I have blocked out the ENTIRE month of November to attack and move my office/studio into another room of our house that is slightly larger. I plan to merge and purge and organize and STAY that way. Currently I don’t even enter my office without anxiety – it is a war zone. This book might make for successful strategy.

    • I’ve also been thinking about the library thing for books. I think it’s a good idea, as books take up a ton of storage space. It sounds like this book will be a great reference for you in November. The whole idea is that you should only need to tidy-up once, than you just have to maintain the system. Good luck with the project and make sure to keep us posted, maybe some before and after shots?

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