Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up


I'm not sure where to begin this review. This week I finished The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up and the book was less of a literary journey and more of a life-altering, nay, life-CHANGING kind of read.


And yet, how much impact could advice have when it is incredibly, ridiculously basic?  When it comes to "tidying up," you only have to do two things.

“All you need to do is take the time to sit down and examine each item you own, decide whether you want to keep or discard it, and then choose where to put what you keep.”

Throw it away or decide where to keep it.

Got it. I should be done.

However, the reality of purging is often more difficult than it sounds.  Accordingly author Marie Kondo speaks about our relationship to things from a refreshing angle, beginning with a large perspective-shifting idea:

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

She argues when we are surrounded by clutter we live distracted and chaotic lives.  She challenges why we hold onto things which bring no joy. It's not organization that causes our problems, it's because we are hoarders.

“Storage experts are hoarders”

Clearly, she's a fan of purging. Kondo anticipates how purging things creates tension, so she calls out why we hold onto stuff.

“But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”

Wait a second. The past IS important, isn't it? I found myself having mental arguments with some of her reasoning.

“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.”

Hmmm.  I'm unsure about ditching so much of my past; still I decide to jump in and try her practical and unusual steps.

To begin, Kondo recommends going through your things by category, specifically with clothing.  You start by taking EVERY piece of clothing from EVERY closet and dumping it in one place.  For me, that meant a huge, unruly pile.


Next Kondo says you examine each piece of clothing and decide if it goes in the keep or discard pile.  The criteria?

“the best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.”

I have never sorted clothes this way, but it was shockingly effective.  By handling each garment and asking the question, I found a variety of reasons clothes didn't bring me joy...

too tighttoo datedtoo wornoh my, a stain!

Don't think about what you want to discard, think about what you want to keep.  Does it bring joy?

Kondo makes a point of acknowledging your clothes for their service before moving them along.  She encourages you to express your gratitude ("thank you for your service") then letting go.

“When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure. To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.”

My discard pile grew.  For half a second I was tempted to keep a bunch of casual, albeit not "joy-inducing" clothes, but Kondo cut me off at the pass.

“If sweatpants are your everyday attire, you’ll end up looking like you belong in them, which is not very attractive. What you wear in the house does impact your self-image.”



When I finished, I was surprised at the volume of bags.  Many of my discards were business clothes, but still...If you follow the program, the next step is the organizing.  This means folding. Kondo is VERY big on folding.

“The act of folding is far more than making clothes compact for storage. It is an act of caring, an expression of love and appreciation for the way these clothes support your lifestyle. Therefore, when we fold, we should put our heart into it, thanking our clothes for protecting our bodies.”  


I didn't really thank my clothes.  I wasn't feeling it, but I'm an ENTP, so that's no big surprise.  Instead I looked to the book for practical tips and I found them. The book prescribes a very specific method of folding and the way to arrange the clothes in a drawer.  The result looks like this:Even pants get folded. Notice how the pants are put upright, like spines of a book so they don't get wrinkled. I have previously kept my pants on hangers, but this method gives you more space.The overall result is remarkable. Rather than sorting through a bunch of dresses, there are just a few which I actually wear and love. I'll never miss my suits or styles which were just not right.After clothes, Kondo recommends books, then papers, then miscellaneous, then mementos.  She also recommends doing the entire process at once.

That's where I say no.

I am thrilled to have my closet back, but I have to gear up for the books.  In that chapter she has you take ALL books off the shelves before saying goodbye.  I read a book a week.  That's a ton of goodbyes.

Give me time to get there!

Until then, read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up if you're looking for a challenge.

Still, I'm tackling a different type of book next week!