Saturday, March 26, 2016

#16 [2016/CBR8] "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo

I vacillate between a compunction to organize and an amazing ability to be a procrastinating slob. At the moment, I'm leaning more towards the compunction to organize: my condo, my life, my finances, and I thought Marie Kondo's book might give me some tips. And so I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (2014).

Organizing seems pretty straight forward to me, and began reading wondering how Kondo would have enough to fill a book. How many different ways can you tell people to get rid of what you don't need and straighten up what's left? At first, this book felt like a repetitive sales pitch. You can change your life! Your skin will become shiny and bright! Your life will all come together and you will discover wonder and happiness! All you have to do is ask yourself, one at a time, whether your things bring you joy. It was a little much, and I didn't feel like I was learning much.

However, as the book continued, Kondo dove a little more deeply into specific techniques. Although I had a viscerally negative reaction to some of her suggestions, I really liked her end goal. Kondo's basic premise is that you should get rid of everything that doesn't bring you joy. When everything is pared down, you just organize by storing like with like. The end goal is to be surrounded by only things that you love. I think we all have that special piece of clothing or dish that makes us happy every time we see it. We love what it looks like, how it fits, or the memories they bring. Imagine how much you'd love your home, if the only things you had were things that made you feel this way, and you didn't have the clutter of the unnecessary and unwanted weighing you down.

I am enamored with this idea, but it's bound to be pretty expensive if you take it to the extreme. I own some crappy sweatpants that I wear in my house. They fit and they're comfortable, but I don't love them. Do I want to spend the time and money to find the perfect, fuzzy pair of lounge pants? And when I get tired of them, do I need to throw them out and immediately run out and find new ones? What about cleaning supplies? How much joy do cleaning supplies bring? Sure, the idea of only having things you love is great, but it's not realistic. However, I have tried to change my mindset and focus on surrounding myself with things that bring me joy. Maybe I can slowly make my way toward this ultimate goal.

Kondo consistently anthropomorphizes our things. She says, "Think about how your clothes feel, stuffed in the back of the closet and out of sight. They want to be used. Books want to be read. They are happier to be of use, so you should give them away to someone who will read them. I guess this is a memorable way to keep your things in good repair and in sight, but it also felt a little weird.

The paragraphs that had me gasping in indignation, however, had to do with books and directly contradicted all of Kondo's happy talk about the feelings of our things. Kondo is a fan of getting rid of most of our books. As someone who loves to read but almost never reads a book twice, I agree that hanging onto books isn't worth the hassle. However, Kondo said that when she was reluctant to let go of books that she had really enjoyed she would rip her favorite pages out before getting rid of the book. Seriously?!? What happened to all those feelings she was just talking about? How can she ruin perfectly good books just because she liked them? She eventually decided that she never went back to look at the ripped-out pages anyway, and it wasn't worth it, but it was too late: I was shocked and offended by the very idea.

I feel I may be coming across a little more negative than I actually felt about this book. Sure, I had some problems with it, but Kondo had some interesting ideas I want to try, and I appreciate her overall vision. If I can stay focused, I can turn my condo into a place that I can enjoy and appreciate much more than I do now. Finally, I am unsure about Kondo's ideas about folding, but I'm willing to give them a try.

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