By Kumi Matsumaru / Japan News Staff WriterThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
By Marie Kondo
Translated by Cathy Hirano
Ten Speed Press, 224 pp
Marie Kondo says once you’ve succeeded in abiding by her rules, you will never relapse and will experience a dramatic life change. She even likens the results of her method to having a dialogue with yourself.
With this introduction, it might sound like she wrote a book about dieting. But her theorizing actually focuses on the way to tidy up and organize your home without reverting to clutter. In the first American edition of her best-selling work, Kondo says tidying your home will be the catalyst to confidently leading a life with a clear mission because “the question of what you want to own is the question of how you want to live your life.”
Cleaning consultant Kondo, who is dubbed “KonMari,” has built a huge following in Japan with the Japanese version of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Combined with two other series titles, her Japanese books have sold nearly 1.9 million copies.
With the book even being adapted into a TV drama in 2013, Kondo apparently regards neatness as her calling. She happily wrote she must be the only person who ever had “too much tidying” written on her medical record after suffering from sudden, serious neck and shoulder stiffness.
Among notable KonMari rules is to keep only items that “spark joy” when you take them in your hand. She believes the true pleasure of tidying lies in choosing things that inspire joy, and once you have experienced what it’s like to have a truly ordered house through the process, you’ll feel the whole world brighten. You won’t feel like going back to clutter, realizing what she calls “the magic of tidying.”
Her decluttering methods go contrary to conventional tidying advice. She suggests, “forget about flow plan” when designing storage but focus storage in one spot. Because, she says, deciding where to store things on the basis of where it is easiest to take them out is a “fatal trap.” Storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out, she says.
The book also answers what appear to be difficult questions, such as “How can I discard things that I could still use or have sentimental ties?”
Some of her decluttering advice may sound very Japanese or “too magical” for some readers since there is some spiritual — or animistic, rather — flavor to it. Kondo proposes to make the top shelf of the bookcase your personal shrine since she thinks tidying is making the home a sacred space, a “power spot” filled with energy.
She also says to “appreciate your belongings” (by literally telling your clothes, “Thank you for keeping me warm all day,” for instance) after reducing your possession until you come to realize how much is just right for you since they are now valuable items to you.
Still, the book is compact and space-saving (of course), and rules mentioned in it are easy to follow with key sentences highlighted in bold.
If you are able to discard things and create a clutter-free environment by following Kondo’s rules, the book itself may end up in a bin. Well, Kondo will have never been happier, since that is proof a reader has experienced the magic she advocates.
When to read
When you feel tired of living in a house overly filled with items, including books on organizing techniques.
Maruzen price: ¥2,777 plus tax (as of Jan. 29, 2015)