‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo
There are few books I have read that are as divisive as Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. For those of you unfamiliar with this much-talked-about little book, it’s essentially about paring down your lifestyle and divesting yourself of the things in your life that do not “spark joy.” By getting rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy, Kondo argues, your home will become tidy, your life will improve, and you’ll even probably lose weight.
The book has been alternately raved about by people whose lives were changed and bashed by those who find her methods a bit too extreme. (An earlier, and angrier, reader of my library copy of the book actually wrote the following at the end: “This arrogant unintelligent person embodies the ‘throw away’ society! How did this book ever get published?!”)
Personally, I found the book to fit quite neatly alongside most other self-help books in that you can profitably take everything contained therein with a grain of salt.
As my grandfather was fond of saying, “everything in moderation.” And that fits in with Kondo perfectly. Yes, she’s drastic. Yes, she goes over the top. And, yes, she’s probably a little bit too obsessed with tidying. But, that doesn’t make her general message, taken in moderation, any less helpful. It honestly can’t hurt to take a second look at all your possessions and really question whether you need it all. We are a society with too much stuff (FACT) and often it just weighs us down rather than serving a helpful (and/or joyful) role in our lives.
Where I found Kondo rather less than inspirational was her section on books. (Surprise, surprise). Of books, she wrote:
“Books are essentially paper — sheets of paper printed with letters and bound together. Their true purpose is to be read, to convey the information to their readers. It’s the information they contain that has meaning. There is no meaning in their just being on your shelves.”
“For books, timing is everything. The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it. To avoid missing that moment, I recommend you keep your collection small.”
To me, these sentiments fundamentally misunderstand books and reading. Books are so much more than sheets of printed paper. And keeping shelves upon shelves of books in your home is as much a statement of joy, and hope for the future, as anything I’ve ever seen.
Throughout the book, Kondo is so fixated on eliminating that she entirely fails to see the joy that might be sparked by being surrounded by something you love, be it books, pottery, rubber bands, or busts of dead French poets.
It certainly can’t hurt to be reminded to stop for a moment and consider the role of your possessions in your life. (Do they spark joy?) But it’s also important to recognize that joy means different things for different people. That empathy is something entirely missing from Kondo’s book, but, if you take her words in moderation, you can still learn a lot from this book. And then, go for it and do just as she suggests: discard it!