Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Review: "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo

This little book has sold over 2 million copies, so I finally caved in and bought it to find out what all the hoopla was.   I think I'm pretty organized ;  I have all kinds of storage systems, no drawers with free-floating junk, and hang my clothes by color.   Silly me!    Ms Kondo takes the tidying up to a whole new level.   I have read books and articles about organizing and storage , but none like hers.   She isn't all about the storage systems; she's about decluttering so you don't have so much to store in the first place.

It's no secret that most of us have too much stuff .  I'm not in hoarder territory, but we live in a large house , there are only two of us, and the place is pretty packed with stuff.   I stick to the rule, "If you buy one, you have to get rid of one",  and still have more than I need.  Clearly it is time to do some purging.   

Ms Kondo's approach is simple - touch everything you own and ask, "Does it bring me joy?"  If the answer is yes, it stays.  If the answer is no, it goes.  Her focus is not on what to get rid of, but what to keep.   The genius part (at least for me), is that she approaches this process by category - shoes, shirts, books, etc.  Choose a category, then go room by room and gather everything in that category.   I usually do the one drawer or one room method, but she says you need to see all the things you have before you start deciding what to keep and what to toss.  Plus, it will put you in the right frame of mind to purge when you see the how much you really have.

I started with jackets.  I used to have a job that required some "big girl" clothes and I love jackets, so I have LOTS of jackets.   I went through all the closets, found all of the jackets, and then started asking as I picked up each one, "Does this bring me joy?".  Turns out that one whole trash bag full did not!   I now have a whole rack cleared out, and some lucky shopper at Goodwill is in for a treat.  The purging wasn't painful since I only tossed things that got the "meh" rating.

Next up - tops.  Good lord - the haul covered the entire bed.  After the question - and - answer period, I looked at what was left and asked "Do I really need six black tank tops?".   Of course not, so I was able to toss a few more, honing in on the amount of joyfulness each one held.  (I'm not sure "joy" really applies to tank tops, but you get the drift).  Another trash bag full of stuff headed to Goodwill.

I have several more categories to do.  Ms Kondo recommends using this approach on all your things in a one-time mondo clear-out, but I can't take it non-stop.   I'm using the short-burst approach instead.  

Once the purging is complete, she does have  ideas for storing all that joyful stuff.  But she isn't a fan of elaborate storage systems,  her favorite being shoe boxes and tops.   When I first read how she stores things in drawers, I thought she had gone over into crazy-town, but then I tried it, and I am a convert.   She says not to stack things on top of each other, but to fold things and stand them on end so you can see each thing you have (and presumably be swept away by the joy of it all).   So you fold your shirts (or unders, or whatever) into rectangles and store them standing on end.  It's pretty simple:

Fold each lengthwise side of the garment towards the center,  Next pick up the short bottom end and fold to the top. Fold again to form a rectangle.  The goal it to have the item folded so it is as tall as the drawer.  For me this was really just making one more final fold than usual, so not big deal.

Amazing - takes up less space AND you can see everything you have.  Behold a couple of drawers I've finished:

The Captain's tee shirt drawer - more room and now he can easily pick the one he wants,

And mime - so serene, so pretty, so much easier!

She also has some thoughts on the "noise of written information".  Too many words - labels, product information, etc.  can add to our stress.   Now I know why my glass jars for grains make me happy - no advertising,  no over-stimulation from too much word "noise".   Probably why I turn all the jars and cans so the  picture is front and center - less written information.  Or maybe I'm just letting my latent OCD fly!  It does make sense that the constant onslaught of useless information is distracting and adds to our stress.

I did find some of Ms Kondo's  suggestions a bit much for me - like the daily emptying out your bag (purse, backpack, whatever you haul your junk in around) .  I am also not likely to thank my socks for their hard work nor my coat for keeping me warm - the anthropomorphizing seems a bit cray-cray to me.  But to each their own.  I'm just happy to have a better way of paring down and storing what I have.

You know something has caught on when the noun becomes a verb.  People are tweeting about "Kondo-izing" their things.   Who knew that a little girl obsessed with storage would grow up to be the organizing guru to the world?

Check out Ms Kondo in action:

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