Prior to meeting up with my gal pals to make our Thanksgiving floral arrangements, I wandered around East End Market. I found myself tiptoeing into BookmarkIt to peruse books. With a new chapter on the horizon, I picked up a book that I truly wanted to devour over the extended holiday weekend. Several friends from around the globe, touted the miraculous machinations of Marie “KonMari” Kondo’s international best-seller, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. With the end of the year rolling in, I am gearing up to start 2016 a bit lighter in the possessions department. I’ve never been a strong spellcaster, but I am ready to start earning ranks in another job class.
When I showed Mom which book I had buried my nose in, we cackled together. All my life, I have been a hard and fast packrat, unwilling to let go of personal things and even worse about putting things away. My personal organization tends to cycle through tightest ship in the yard to post-riot looting chaos. My tidying method flip flops between STORE ALL THE THINGS and GET ME A BARREL AND A LIGHTER! Hence, Mom found it quite amusing that I had finally broke down and picked up KonMari’s guide.
Kondo really pushes for one to dedicate time daily to cultivating habits which will prevent one from accumulating too many things and provides a system in which should help one organize their life. As I read, I starting compartmentalizing KonMari’s premises and practices between what I found practical, interesting, and aesthetic. What I found to be “Japanese” about this “Japanese art of decluttering and organizing,” was its development by a Japanese woman and it’s targeting of the Japanese demographic of 18-46 year old women. The success stories peppering her book all speak about women she’s helped, but there isn’t a single discussion about any men. In Japan, the traditional husband/breadwinner and wife/household manager dynamic is still a quite strong one. The book isn’t inherently sexist, but it truly focuses in on a specific audience.
KonMari’s method of keeping items which only spark joy. I have so much stuff, and I can guarantee that at least 80% of it doesn’t meet this very unique requirement. The formula employed challenges traditional methods of home organization and cleaning unlike anything I had ever heard. I am curious to see if I can apply her magical method to tidy up my life.
I particularly enjoyed her description of how she transitions from her work outside into relaxation time at home. Her process is quintessentially Japanese, from changing her shoes, switching into loungewear, and dutifully unpacking her work tote. When I lived in Japan, I had a similar routine shedding my Karen-sensei Standard suits and skirts and putting on my Karen Casual athletic clothes and comfy pajamas. Reading the section made my quite wistful, flooding my head with so many wonderful memories. My biggest takeaway was instead of resigning clothes to the “home team” status (meaning they never leave the house), invest money in loungewear for specifically sparking joy while at home. I like having permission to celebrate my time at home, treating it with equal importance as my time away from it.
When I purged my closet earlier this year, I parted with three bags of clothes by donating them to Goodwill. Many of these items were outdated, no longer fit, or so well loved they were due for retirement. It felt cathartic to release so many things, and since I have been quite good about purchasing new items. My goal from here on out is to not only invest in quality pieces, but do my best to avoid “on sale” syndrome and impulse shopping. Over winter vacation, I intend to inventory my closet after the complete my joy purge, and make a list of items I really want.
The book is translated from Japanese, so the writing-style mirrors many self-improvement lifestyle books from Japan. For those wanting a comprehensive how-to guide check lists and concise rules, one would either need to pick up the accompanying workbook and Tidying Up‘s sequel, Spark Joy, or scour Pinterest for DIYers who have done their homework and cultivated their own freebie worksheets. There is an index at the back, but no quick reference appendices. The text is full of personalized stories which support her tidying methodology, but the book is clearly geared toward Japanese housewives, stay at home moms, and adult women living alone. Keeping that in mind will make the book easier to digest.
As an English literature degree toting bibliophile, the thought of storing my books in the back of a closet send chills up my spine. One of the biggest home design dreams of mine has been finally curating my home library. Take a look at any of my numerous Pinterest boards, and you can clearly see that I want nothing more than a wall of books to escape the world. Auditing my personal collection will be difficult, but I think I could release books that I doubt will have a second reading, and make space for books that truly spark joy in my life. I couldn’t find KonMari’s stance on reselling items as an appropriate release method, but depending on the theme, I would like to find appropriate places to donate in lieu of discarding.
Truly committing time to complete KonMari’s method is my greatest challenge. I am not keen on rounding up all like items because after years of need duplicates and triplicates of items, I have stuff stashed everywhere. I’ve always been a let’s tackle this one box at a time sort, so my concern would be the necessity of dumping out all the containers in my possession, only to divide, conquer, and repack. Currently, closet storage is a minimum and I do not have many furniture pieces which serve multiple function, including storage.
I have yet to put KonMari’s plans into action, and I think the biggest thing holding me back is worrying about disposal of items. I don’t want to throw away things that will wind up in a landfill, and unlike Japan, the U.S. has rather limited recycling programs. Consignment and secondhand shops in Japan are found everywhere, so selling and trading items is quite commonplace. In the States, we have a culture of donate or discard, so I often worry that many items which don’t make it to the donation resell shop floors wind up in the garbage anyway. I feel compelled to inventory items I decide to keep, purely to monitor how much money I can save in this new lifestyle choice.
I would love to pick up both the workbook and Spark Joy, to review over winter vacation. I have boxes upon boxes of items at my parents’ house due to my living overseas, out of state, and out of suitcases over the last 13 years. I can guarantee that when it comes to the items with sentimental value, I may have difficulty thanking them and releasing them.
Answer Me, These Questions Three:
- What are your thoughts about The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up? (If you haven’t read it, would you consider it?)
- Do you think KonMari’s Japanese tidying principles are universally applicable?
- Which of KonMari’s concepts would you find most difficult to employ in your tidying process?