tidying-upI know I’m not alone in finding myself inexorably drawn to each new “organize your stuff and improve your life” book that crosses my path. Books about organizing and reducing clutter are perennially popular at the library where I work. Getting organized seems to be the Holy Grail of modern domestic life. Certainly clutter – both physical and mental – is one of the more visible hobgoblins of my own daily existence. So when I read a description of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (Ten Speed Press/Random House, 2014), and learned I could get my hands on a free review copy through Blogging for Books, I decided to go for it. One more approach to getting the mess sorted out couldn’t possibly hurt, and who knows? This just may be the one that finally works.

The book’s subtitle is “The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” and Kondo is not only a highly successful organizing consultant in her native Japan, but her book has already sold more than two million copies there and in Germany and the UK, prior to its publication in the United States. This little nonfiction guide has even been adapted into a Japanese television drama. Apparently, it’s not just we ugly Americans who suffer from a junked-up existence, and pursue an elusive dream of clearing out and starting fresh.

Kondo calls her approach the KonMari method, and touts it as an altogether different way of thinking about and tackling clutter. It’s true that there are a few key elements to the methodology that I don’t recall seeing elsewhere. One is Kondo’s insistence that the “tidying up” process must be tackled and accomplished all in one go, rather than piecemeal. Another is the directive to tidy by category as opposed to by location. She also recommends that the first step must be to discard, and that no amount of tidying or organizing can take place until the discarding has been 100 percent completed.

If any of these ideas sound fresh and inviting to you, then you may find The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to be a useful book. Kondo’s tone throughout is conversational and intimate, as she lays out the reasons why you may have failed to keep an organized home thus far, leads you through the process of discarding items, goes one-by-one through the categories of objects to organize, discusses her philosophy of storage and strategies to implement it, and reflects on the ways that getting your house in order can change your life and dramatic and unexpected ways.

On the other hand, if you have limited patience with assertions about the spiritual life of your possessions, and the benefits of engaging in conversation with inanimate objects, you might have problems engaging with this book. Additionally, certain key aspects of Kondo’s methodology may seem impractical to carry out in the real life of a typical American: notably, the notion that it is possible to complete the entire discard-and-organize operation for a whole household “in one fell swoop,” rather than in stages. The author admits to a lifelong obsession with tidying, and anecdotes of her childhood recreation hours spent discarding her siblings’ belongings and organizing their rooms offer a revealing (and somewhat disturbing) glimpse of how Kondo found her calling. Her assumption that others might choose – or be able – to spend so much of their time on this single-minded pursuit may not sit well with all readers.

In any case, it’s a slim enough volume, and a quick read. Readers on a quest to slay the clutter demon may benefit from picking up The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and adding some new ammunition to their organizing arsenal.


Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. No payment was received in return for a review. The receipt of the book had no influence on the opinions expressed in my review.