the life-changing magic of tidying-up

Originally published March 2015

The book had beckoned silently for weeks from the Target bestsellers book rack for weeks.

“Buy me,” it said. “You know you want to. You know you need to clean up. I promise, once you read me, you won’t be able to stop tidying. You neeeeeeeed me.”

So finally, I threw it in the cart. Well played, Madame Kondo.

the life-changing magic of tidying-up” by Marie Kondo is deceptively simple—small, aesthetically-pleasing cover, easy to read. Don’t let that fool you—the author is a demon on a mission to create trash mountains, one landfill at a time.

Here’s the thing—it would be really easy—REALLY EASY—to take potshots at the book and parody the effort. Put my dishes on the porch to dry? Please. Get rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy? Catch me on a PMS day and the entire contents of my house could end up on the curb. My long puffy jacket? I’d love nothing more than to torch that mofo right now. But, Ms. Kondo, I LIVE IN CHICAGO. It’s winter 9 months of the year here.

And the one thing I absolutely can’t get behind? Discarding books. You’ll have to pry them from my cold, dead hands.

All that said, there’s some relevant life advice between these pages. “Human beings can only truly cherish a limited number of things at one time.” Kondo is right—and given we are a nation of consumers, and most of our garages could be featured on an episode of “Hoarders,” there is something to be said about the theory that we can’t really enjoy what we have because it is buried under all the shit we have.

Kondo also acknowledges there are people that are perfectly content not being tidy—and that her book isn’t for them. But for anyone who really wants to take a step in the direction of clarity and joy, the willpower to get serious about clutter might be within these pages.

Here are a few things you need to know before diving in:

  • Kondo does not subscribe to the “throw one thing away at a time” method. This girl is all about diving in and throwing it out. All.At.Once.
  • Kondo attacks tidying by category—as in, “Get every single piece of clothing you own in one room and go through it right then and there.” She isn’t into the room-by-room method that so many of us are used to. Frightening, in that I would most likely be repulsed by how many clothes my family owns. But, the visual is probably what makes it easier to throw things away.
  • It’s all about sparking joy. Kondo is a big believer in surrounding yourself with things that bring joy, which I can dig. Just looking in my closet, I know there are things I hold on to for the “Well, I might wear it someday” reason, but I don’t really like that much.

Time to toss.

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