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Book Review: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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Book Review: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

By Diane McCurdy

Marie Kondo is sort of like a Japanese Martha Stewart in that she dispenses helpful advice on housekeeping only her field of expertise is more specific. She parcels out advice on how to be tidy.Her paperback-sized book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has sold over two million copies, mostly in the U.S. and Japan but recently the U.K. and Germany have also jumped on the bandwagon and the little advice text remains stuck on the prestigious New York Times best seller lists thereby sending myriad bunches of industrious homemakers to shuffle through drawers and closets and cupboards to rid themselves of anything that does not “spark joy”. Miss Kondo’s methods, better known as the KonMari system presents us with the ultimate clutter buster philosophy. The theory is if possessions are sorted and discarded or at least streamlined the serenity of order and organization will carry over into one’s daily life. What a concept! This lady, this neatness guru, was actually named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

She begins by touting her successes. Organization has freed people from bad marriages, helped them attain better jobs and aided them in weight loss. Fastidiousness is an art that isn’t usually taught. So she will be the teacher. To begin, sorting one’s personal property should be done by category not location. Do not begin your cleaning binge by cleaning a specific room; instead select, for example, all your clothes in whatever closet or drawer in whatever room they may be lurking, assemble them in a heap, and then make choices. Your criterion for salvaging anything is, of course, to ask yourself if the article gives you joy. If it doesn’t, toss it. Be intense. Be complete. If you can’t let go, there are only two reasons that would prevent you: attachment to the past or fear of the future. If one chooses to retain a piece there are certain rules for storage. She prefers vertical positioning. She is anthropomorphic and gives inanimate things feelings imagining that socks do not like to be “balled up” but would prefer to be folded.

In our society we used to call people who were inordinately attached to things “hoarders” but now in an era of gentle correctness we call them “keepers”. Marie Kondo is their polar opposite. She appears to be obsessive compulsive and maybe a tad neurotic in her mania for simplicity. Can’t there be something in between? A happy medium? I also wish she had addressed the issues of donation or recycling. She gives us some really helpful tools to attain some kind of methodical arrangement for our “stuff” but maybe she has dispensed her wisdom with an overwrought zeal. I want my possessions to be in order to facilitate my life but I don’t want that urge to be so obsessive that it becomes the driving force of my life.