The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Marie Kondo

This is by far the most useful decluttering book I have ever read.  “Decluttering” may not be quite the right term.  I think “divesting” would be better. Rather than buying a new set of plastic bins, adding shelves, or finding clever ways to nest one item in another, Kondo tells you to get rid of your stuff.  Oh hells yeah!  She very astutely points out we hang on to tons of stuff we will never, ever use again (if you ever used them in the first place). The manuals to new technology? You can find the same info. online. Boxes and styrofoam for stuff you may want to return?  Wait, I don’t even own that computer any more… Stacks of cookbooks when you usually look up new recipes on epicurious? All of it can go.

Kondo’s rule is to get rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy.  I found this a bit silly.  My toothbrush, a colander and desk chair don’t spark anything.  But I’m not getting rid of them. Perhaps a better rule is to get rid of anything that sparks discomfort. The clothes that are nice but you don’t fit anymore? Don’t let them depress you, give them to St. Vinnie’s.  The baby quilt you started years ago for a “baby” that now plays in a rockabilly band?  Yeah, bundle that up with the directions and move it on out. The language CDs for the trip you took 8 years ago? Bit late now, isn’t it? The gift from the person you are no longer friends with? Why let it bring you down a notch every time you look at it?

Kondo suggests you go through everything in a day and just clear it all out.  This may be possible in a small Japanese apartment, but is totally unrealistic in an American home.  My decluttering took about two months. In the end I got rid of an entire bookshelf of books, huge tubs of old negatives, Christmas cards from people I don’t even remember, heaps of fabric I will never use, 20 shirts I was saving to paint in… and on and on.  I easily took 12 car loads to St. Vinnie’s and the recycling center.

I do have a lot more room now and I enjoy this. What is better is I don’t have a house full of objects that make me sad, upset or irritated. What remains does “spark joy,” or at least strains noodles without giving me any guff.