“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” – Book review

“Don’t focus on reducing, or on efficient storage methods, for that matter. Focus instead on choosing the things that inspire joy and on enjoying life according to your own standards. This is the true pleasure of tidying.”
-Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Like me, you may have read a few books on organizing and decluttering. They basically say the same thing: get rid of stuff and organize better.

But The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is different enough that I’d recommend you reading it. Instead of focusing on discarding what you don’t need (which you’ll still need to do—it’s step 1), it focuses more on holding on to what brings you joy and where best to keep it.


Author Marie Kondo suggests not tidying room by room, but rather category by category. She recommends this order: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany), and lastly, mementos.  

She gets very specific on how to work through each category so I’m going to re-read this book in 2015 to work through it closer. Not all of it will be useful (there were parts I couldn’t relate to at all either practically or philosophically), but for the most part, it is an inspiring book.

Here are some tips from the book . . .

“If you think tidying is an endless chore that must be done every day, you are gravely mistaken. There are two types of tidying—‘daily tidying’ and ‘special event tidying.’ . . . The purpose of this book is to inspire you to tackle the ‘special event’ of putting your house in order as soon as possible.”

~ * ~

“Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved. But sooner or later, all the storage units are full, the room once again overflows with things, and some new and  ‘easy’ storage method becomes necessary, creating a negative spiral. This is why tidying must start with discarding.”

~ * ~

“People who can’t stay tidy can be categorized into just three types: the ‘can’t-throw-it-away’ type, the ‘can’t-put-it-back’ type, and the ‘first-two-combined’ type. Ninety percent [of my clients] fall into the third category.”

~ * ~

When you attend a seminar, do so with the resolve to part with every handout distributed. If you regret recycling it, take the same seminar again, and this time apply the learning. It’s paradoxical, but I believe that precisely because we hang on to such materials, we fail to put what we learn into practice.”

~ * ~

“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.”

~ * ~

Truly precious memories will never vanish even if you discard the objects associated with them. We live in the present. No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important.”

~ * ~

“A common mistake many people make is to decide where to store things on the basis of where it’s easiest to take them out. . . . Storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out.

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Never pile things: vertical storage is the key. . . . I am particularly obsessed with this point. I store every item vertically if possible, including clothes, which I fold and stand on edge in my drawers, and stockings, which I roll up and stand in a box.”

~ * ~

The most common item I use is an empty shoebox.

~ * ~

“But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.

~ * ~

Human beings can only truly cherish a limited number of things at one time. As I am both lazy and forgetful, I can’t take proper care of too many things. That is why I want to cherish properly the things I love, and that is why I have insisted on tidying for so much of my life.”

* * *

Do you have a favorite organization book? A tip for decluttering? Please share here.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for my review copy

7 thoughts on ““The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” – Book review

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    It is an interesting approach, but in reading the excepts, it still seems like tidying becomes an end in itself.

    The problem, as I see it here, is that it’s used to keep “good stuff”…which is fine, as far as it goes…but our lives consist of the good and the dreadful, and sometimes it is very valuable to be reminded of the things we’d rather forget. A ‘memory hole’ that wipes away the unpleasant does us a disservice by reducing the moral chiaroscuro that defines our lives.

    I’d also take issue with the meaning of gifts being in the giving and receiving. If that’s the case, I could give my wife a fossilized stick of gum for her birthday and call it cool. It’s the thought, the remembrance that counts? No, not really. What counts is the time I take to select something that I hope will be meaningful to her, that has some resonance in our relationship.

    Obviously, there’s a limit; it really doesn’t go for pro forma “office Christmas party” gifts. But in a box in my shop is a book given to me by my in-laws. It wasn’t really the kind of book I read…but it was a reflection of who they thought I was, and, perhaps, who they thought and hoped I might become.

    I feel a twinge of guilt when I see it, and even unread, it’s a spur to be the best husband to their daughter possible.

  2. Jean Wise

    I have this book on hold at the library and do want to read it. I have this thing for organization books and finding that little tidbit that saves me time someplace. That gem I didn’t do before. Someday all will be perfect. LOL

  3. Barbara H.

    This sounds like it has some good tips. I know some folks who are so into decluttering and “simplifying” that they seem tied to a system and their lives seem anything but simple. But these quotes, at least, seem more balanced. I do tend to keep too many sentimental things and it is true that the more of that kind of thing you keep, the less you look at it. I agree too with the fact that the keeping of papers and notes can tend to keep us from assimilating the information on them because we know we have it tucked away on paper (or in a computer file) if needed.

  4. Carrie, Reading to Know

    Ohhhh yes! I like the sound of this one. As Barbara said, I know so many people who think that simplifying means getting rid of practically everything you won and, in some specific cases, denying yourself any pleasure whatsoever in owning something because it would somehow make you less holy. We need a more balanced view of things. This book doesn’t sound completely “fool proof” but it does sound like it offers an interesting perspective on “living simply” and I am very much intrigued!

  5. Sharon

    I am a clutter-hound, a pack rat – and I think this book would be a great read for me. Thanks for the recommendation!

    And, your timing is impeccable – the day after Christmas seems to bring some “messes,” huh?! 🙂


  6. Teresa

    This sounds like a good read for 2015. I also like I Used To Be So Organized by Glynnis Whitwer. And Flylady has some decluttering and cleaning tips that really work

  7. David

    I like some of these ideas a lot. — but books are the #1 clutter in this house (I am in a little cave of temporary bookcases as I write). ho ho.

    It seems like a book to dip into for ideas and energy. If I could put the ebook on my iPad I would buy it.


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