At long last I have read the Marie Kondo book so I can weigh in! It has been a publishing sensation, selling millions. As you would guess, it’s a short book about decluttering, organizing and storing your stuff. I have been reading books, blog posts, and magazine articles about these topics for years. I wondered how Kondo could possibly have anything new to say.
I doubt that anyone who is “lazy or messy,” (the author’s words) will pick up this book and read 200 pages on the topic. Anyone who is just curious would lose interest quickly. It will mostly be read by people like me, a self-professed neatnik, looking for even better organizing tips. The author is a fanatic. She has lived and breathed household organizing since she was five years old!
For me, the best part of reading the book was the author’s voice. When talking about herself and her weird childhood (spent organizing her family home, to their great irritation), she sounds endearing and vulnerable. By the end of the book, she has embraced animism, thanking her possessions for serving her. This aspect of the book was so whimsical/fantastical compared to my Western sensibility that I thought it was very sweet.
The author talks only about personal possessions – her categories are clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, and mementos. That’s it! 140 pages in, she recommends that you “start by sorting only your own things.” Household functional items like dishes and rugs are barely mentioned; I imagine that storing things like lawn mowers and snow blowers would be entirely out of her league! She refers often to the tiny size of Tokyo apartments and the way they are laid out, especially their typical bedding closets. There is no emphasis at all on frugality or “buying quality;” in several places she suggests discarding things and to “buy a new one” if you need it later (at one point even saying that a shirt with a missing button is probably ready to be discarded anyway).
Much of the book is not relevant for a big, North American family home with a yard and a garage. I would recommend it only if you are an aficionado of Japanese culture. I read it in one day and enjoyed that aspect of it.
However, there are some significant statements buried in there that deserve airing:
- Choose a category (such as clothing), place every single piece in one room, handle each and every item, and make decisions about them. I like the idea of pulling things like clothes and books out of their usual habitats and being required to look at and to feel each one. I think people underestimate how much stuff they have when they never have to look at it, move it, or examine it.
- For mementos, such as photos, letters, heirlooms, and gifts, “By handling each sentimental item…you process your past. To put your things in order means to put your past in order.” I believe this!
- KonMari advocates living in the present and minimizing sentimental attachments: “The space we live in should be for the person we are becoming now.” Possessions are meant to support our lifestyles.
I am a fan of Peter Walsh (do you remember Clean Sweep on TV?), and he espouses many of the same beliefs and practices. But KonMari has developed her approach into a very marketable, adorable cultural product. Kawaii!
Have you read it, and if so, what did you think? Are there any other organizing books you swear by?
PS – Am I planning to insert all my T-shirts into my dresser drawers edgewise? No.