Have you heard of The Life-changing magic of tidying up?
Synopsis courtesy of Chapters.Indigo.ca – click image for link.
Neither had I until one of my favourite organizing bloggers mentioned it. She didn’t review the book, just commented in passing that she loved it. There’s a reason bloggers are called “Influencers” to companies – and true to title, her quick glimpse and trusted opinion had me wanting to read it too.
Now I’ll share my opinion with you and hopefully you’ll trust my review equally….
It’s a good book.
Not a stellar book, as there are substantial obstacles to overcome that I’ll chalk up to cultural differences. The author is Japanese and has a spirituality that I can’t relate to, so more than a few times I was left shaking my head thinking “this woman is borderline-nuts”.
I’ll give you an example – before she works with her clients to help them tidy their homes (and subsequently lives) she goes into their home and kneels in the living room floor and thanks the house for providing shelter for the family, for being a welcoming place for them to come home to, for unconditionally loving and accepting the people that live within it and on and on. She says her prayer lasts about 2 minutes and most of her clients stare at her in shock. She goes on to say that after sending out this gratitude the tidying process goes very quickly.
I’m going to suggest that the homeowners think you are crazy and will tidy as fast as humanly possible to get you out of their home. Just my opinion (because that’s what I’d do).
Throughout The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, which is only 149 pages long, she goes on to thank the clothing, the jewelry, the books etc. for the services they have provided and the joy they have brought the owner. I struggle with the idea of treating inanimate objects as though they are human (anthropomorphism) – but again, this may be a cultural or spiritual norm that I just haven’t come across before.
There are sections of the book however, that are very inspiring. She suggests organizing items by category (not by room) and purging based on a “does this item bring you joy?” criteria. So, if you are looking to pare down and organize your clothing, you should start by bringing all of your clothing into one room and putting it on the floor. Winter coats from the hall closet, out-of-season clothing from other rooms etc. It is only when you have all of your clothing in one spot that you can make good decisions about what you really love and need.
She also recommends a hierarchy for tidying – starting with clothing, then books, then papers, and down the line until your most personal items like photographs. The idea is that by starting your purging process at the items you feel the least amount of attachment to, you will learn what really “sparks joy” and cultivate your skill so that by the time you reach really sentimental items, you will have a strong grasp of what you really need to keep to be happy, and what the previous purges have done to release you from both emotional/mental burdens and clear out your space.
There are a lot of tidbits of information in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up that really will help you come to grips with what clutter and over-accumulation are doing to you, and how freeing yourself from the obligation of keeping every single gift and memento should not be seen as ingratitude, but as a task in appreciation:
“The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not “things”, but a means for conveying someone’s feelings. When viewed from this perspective, you don’t need to feel guilty for parting with a gift. Just thank it for the joy it gave you when you first received it.” “…surely the person who gave it to you doesn’t want you to use it out of a sense of obligation, or to put it away without using it , only to feel guilty every time you see it.”
I found these to be valuable as well:
“The most common reason for not discarding a book is “I might read it again.” Take a moment to count the number of favorite books that you have actually read more than once.”
“For people who stockpile, I don’t think there is any amount that would make them feel secure. The more they have, the more they worry about running out and the more anxious they become. Even though they still have two left, they will go out and buy two more.”
These were just a few that apply to my life, and I’m going to guess many of yours as well. I have books on my shelves that I’ve never read, but haven’t discarded because “I want to read them someday”. I have gifts from friends and family that I tuck away because I feel an obligation to keep something that someone has put thought, time and money into. I stock up at Costco because things are ‘on sale’.
What is this accumulation really doing? Is it making me happy? Is it contributing in a positive way to my life and/or my household? Or is it just creating a physical and mental clutter that I have to deal with each day?
She (the author) may have a point, and while I don’t treat inanimate objects as living things, I do treat them as obligations. Obligations to keep, store, tidy and use, that are perhaps weighing me down.
My suggestion for you, my readers, is that if the title – “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” – compels you, or if I’ve provided a quote that struck home – then you should read the book; there is something in your life and/or psyche that is telling you that perhaps it’s time to declutter. At 149 pages, you can finish this book in an afternoon and perhaps it will bring you tidbits that you can implement to make your life more organized and less burdensome.
If nothing here struck a chord, even one of curiosity, then don’t read the book. You won’t be missing out on the meaning of life or the cure to cancer, and buying a copy would just create clutter on your shelves anyways.
Overall: Interesting with tidbits worth noting, but I don’t understand why it’s a New York Times best seller.
05/09/2015 – I have to recant my overall review. Everything above is true, but after I finished The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up the points she made sat with me. I ended up thinking about it over and over and trying the KonMari method (without talking to inanimate objects) and can attest that this system really does work. Closet post here.