Most children will now be back at school. And most parents will be breathing a bit of a sigh of relief! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE having mine off, and enjoy being able to step off the term-time treadmill for a few weeks, but I am always glad to get back to the routine. I have one teenager and two precocious pre-teenagers in my household, and whilst I’m no longer in the zone of clearing up their toys every five minutes or spending all day and every day ‘entertaining’ them as I did when they were little (here’s to you if you still are), a low-level chaos still seems to take over the house when they’re off school. They leave ‘stuff’ everywhere, they change clothes multiple times a day, and once the disorder sets in it is so hard to rein it back.
A few months ago, I bought Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, in a flurry of enthusiasm; after having some work done in the house and finding so much irrelevant and pointless stuff lying around as I prepared for the builders, I felt a sudden motivation to “sort things out once and for all”. The family cowered and hoped I’d get over it quite quickly. I made a good start, organising both my own wardrobe and persuading my husband to do his as well. This is Marie’s Step 1. Step 2 is Books, so I’m psyching myself up for that one! Here’s my review of the book.
I’d love to know what you think, or if you have the same feeling of needing to reorganise once the Autumn comes around.
I didn’t think that the words “life-changing” and “tidying” could belong in the same sentence in anyone’s world, let alone adding the word “magic” as well! Don’t get me wrong, like many people, I enjoy the buzz I get from a clean tidy space, it’s the cleaning and tidying bit I don’t like. Marie Kondo is a different kind of animal, but she is highly likeable because she doesn’t try to hide it. She confesses that when she was a child she loved tidying both her own and other people’s things, and devoured women’s magazines with all their cleaning and tidying tips.
I felt vaguely uncomfortable at times with this book; I was worried that it was a bit of a throw-back, like I might turn into my mother whilst reading it! However, (isn’t there always one of those?) it IS actually more than that. Decluttering experts, psychologists and television producers all know that a chaotic domestic environment often says as much about our minds as it does about our lifestyles. It can also affect our minds and our lifestyle more than we realise. And that is where Marie Kondo is coming from, in her quirky, charming and guileless way.
Through her passion for tidying, the author has developed the KonMari method of tidying which she uses to help clients create clutter-free homes. She claims to have helped hundreds of clients transform their lives with this method, able to focus on realising their dreams once freed of the burden of ‘stuff’. There are two key elements to the method. Firstly, the Art of Discarding – acquiring the ability to ‘let go;’ of things which no longer serve us. She invites us to choose carefully what we keep, to ask whether it ‘sparks joy’ (her mantra). If it does not we are free to move it on to its next place, after we have thanked the item for all that it has given us. I find it hard to let go of things which may have cost a lot of money but I haven’t had much use from, such as clothes I haven’t worn much. Her response to this is that every acquisition teaches us something; perhaps we learned from that purchase that orange doesn’t really suit us.
The second core element of the KonMari method is that the tidying must be done in a very specific order and must be done in one big go, in order for it to be successful. She also rejects the ‘tackle one room at a time’ approach, insisting this leads to rebound. So, for example, she suggests that we do books in one session which entails putting every book in the house in one spot, touching every single one, deciding whether it has earned the right to be kept, and only then deciding where and how all the keepers should be stored. The room-by-room approach, she says, does not address the underlying issue; we’re just shifting dust otherwise. The order is critical, so you must start with clothes (includes shoes, accessories, handbags, etc), moving on through books, papers, miscellaneous items and finally photos.
It’s all very compelling and after reading the book I immediately started clearing my wardrobe, and I have to say, it was an effective approach. I even felt able to ‘let go’ of clothes I’d bought which either no longer or never did serve me well. I haven’t worked on anything else yet, but I’m willing to give it a go.
There is one deeply unsatisfactory element to the book though….families! Marie Kondo seems to be single and fairly young. Whilst I could imagine embracing her method for my clothes, books, etc, even my many hundreds of photos (this would have been much more useful when I was 30!), I share a house with four other people, at least three of whom use their bedroom floors for clothes storage! I am also married to an accountant who would have a seizure if I tried to throw out the papers that Marie suggests I don’t need. A friend of mine is married to a a medic and pathological hoarder; he described this book as ‘pornography’ when he saw her reading it! Fortunately for him she is a full-time headteacher and too busy to tidy the KonMari way!
Marie addresses this little conundrum; she says that you have to fix yourself first and once your family sees your new approach they will begin to adopt it themselves. This hypothesis seems a little weak to me. Also, family life brings with it a phenomenal amount of ‘stuff’ that does not seem to be part of Marie’s world. She does tackle, for example, the issue of the trinket your child made at pre-school. Keep it if it sparks joy, she says, discard it if it doesn’t, your kids will not care. That may well be true and I shall test that out, but she doesn’t tell me what to do with all the other detritus of family life, and my family’s inability to put things back where I have designated they belong.
This is more than just a book about tidying, it is about mindset, and to that extent it is a very worthwhile read. It has also made me think more carefully about what new things I bring into the home, whether I really need them. And the process of discarding throws into sharp relief the resources that have been consumed on things that have brought me little pleasure or use. I’m sure it is true that the less you have the more you value it.