Forrest's Reviews > The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō
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Jun 20, 2017

really liked it

My mother is a hoarder. There's no two ways about it. She never saw a thing she didn't want to keep. I don't want to go too deep into the psychology of it all, but mental illness plays a part in this.

Thankfully, I didn't inherit the hoarding genes. I'm not a neat freak, either, not by any means. I, like most people, fall in the middle somewhere. I do recall, however, a time in my life when everything I owned fit into a military duffel bag (no, I was not in the military at the time). This lasted for about a year and, you know what? It felt good. Really good. But you fall in love, you get married, you have kids, and next thing you know, you've got stuff. Again, I'm not a hoarder, so it's not like I'm overburdened with my stuff. But we have a small home (I wouldn't have it any other way) and from time to time you just need to get rid of stuff.

Most years, I will do spring cleaning of my wardrobe. This means I will toss a t-shirt or two that has become full of holes or a sweater that's become unraveled. If I'm feeling really ambitious, I will use the "three year rule" - if I haven't used it for three years, I get rid of it, unless I have a really good reason to keep it.

This past year, I didn't do my normal spring cleaning. Also, my income is a lot more steady and I've earned a little extra from various writing projects, so I've had the luxury of buying a few more things, mostly books, as you might imagine.

So when I stumbled across this title, I thought what the heck, I'll give this book a shot.

I admit that, at first, my eyes rolled completely around in my head (I saw the inside of my skull) when I read the cutesie manner in which the book was written. But Kondo had some solid ideas, and if I set aside the "twee," the book was actually pretty captivating and read very quickly.

I'm not going to go into all the details of Kondo's methods, but they seemed to work for me. So far, I've only gone through my wardrobe, but I took two large bags of clothing to the Goodwill down the road from us and felt really good about it. The main gist of Kondo's method is "if it brings you joy, keep it, if it doesn't, don't". Now, I added the practical caveat that if it's something I use regularly or that serves a specific task that nothing else can serve, keep it. But by and large, she's got it right. Why saddle yourself with stuff that doesn't bring you joy?

But what about those sentimental/nostalgic items? This is where I found her advice really useful. She notes that the joy of receiving gifts is mostly in the receiving. How many times have you kept something you didn't really want because someone gave it to you? They're happy about having given you something, your relationship was probably solidified by the giving of the gift, and you're better for having participated in that interaction. But do you really need to hold on to this thing that you don't really like and that serves no practical purpose in your life? Nope. Get rid of it. And do it all at once - don't try to nip and tuck, just suck it up and DO IT! That's how I cleaned my clothes out. One day. No time to get overly sentimental. Just do it.

One thing that makes getting rid of these (and other) items more palatable seemed really cutesie to me, at first, but in looking back on the experience, this one "trick" helped me a great deal: Thank your item for the purpose it served. Yes, seriously, hold the item up and thank it. "Thank you for serving as a great pair of shoes for so long," or "thank you for bringing my friend joy by her giving of you to me". It sounds ridiculous, but there is something psychologically freeing about saying the words aloud.

Now, I need to go through my books. I love books. Some of them I love dearly. And some of them I have paid a good amount of money for. But when I look back, I have to ask myself: "Which of these can I get from the library or online, if I really need them?" and "Which of these have I re-read, really?" There are a few volumes that I've re-read multiple times and some that I know I must read again. Some are reference books that I use for my own writing (see my caveat above). But, in all honesty, I can sell off or give away a good portion of them and not miss them, if I'm honest with myself. So that's the next step. I don't have a certain number of books I want or need to get rid of, but I can quickly identify several that won't make the cut, that I will either give away or sell. Probably sell, so that I can buy others. And the circle continues. As some of you know, I've been trying to cut my TBR list down to about 50 titles. Some of those titles are rather expensive. So if I sell off a portion of the books I don't read, I might be able to afford some of those more expensive titles. And hopefully I'll love them enough to want to keep them. Or maybe I'll sell them off, in time, as well (hopefully at a return on investment - I'm sentimental, but I'm not stupid).

After having gone through my clothes and given a couple large bags full away, I'm feeling like a lean, mean, fighting machine. Not spartan, mind you. But not a hoarder, either. I have what I need and if I need more, I'll get it. No sense in being burdened by un-necessary stuff.

Books: you're next. I love you guys. But some of you will be even better loved at another home.

Then, after the books, it's all the miscellaneous stuff. Actually, I can't wait to get to that. I'm guessing that this whole process will probably take me until the end of the summer or so? I did my clothes in one day. Books will take one full day. The other stuff? I dunno. That might take a while. But I'm going to do it. I feel too good after leaning down my clothes to the ones that give me joy to not do this with my other things. Cutesie or not, Kondo is on to something.
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Reading Progress

June 13, 2017 – Started Reading
June 13, 2017 – Shelved
June 13, 2017 –
page 34
15.96% "Every spring or do I get in the mood to get rid of stuff. Last year, not so much. So this year, I'm going to get some instruction here from Ms. Kondo and buzz through my stuff this summer. This might even involve (gasp) clearing out some books."
June 15, 2017 –
page 120
56.34% "This book is way too easy to read and has consumed my reading time. Problem is, I want to put some of these things into practice NOW, but I don't have time yet. Soon. Soon . . ."
June 20, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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message 1: by Carol. (last edited Jun 21, 2017 03:22PM) (new)

Carol. Fascinating review. Thanks for sharing so much. I too have a mother that veers into hoarder territory, although it has improved a lot under constant management/encouragement. I like your commentary on her 'letting go'/'thanking' aspect.

I've never been a 'stuff' person (really, I find much of it oppressive; one has to maintain 'stuff' whether by dusting, storing, cleaning, repairing, etc), but books have always been my exception. Still, I'm trying hard to keep my sci-fi/fantasy loves to three bookshelves, and to those ends, I've also tried to be clear about nostalgia versus true re-read versus quality/favorites. It's sad that reselling books command so little money from HalfPrice Books. I did the clothes clean-out this summer. Nostalgia is the hardest one, of course, particularly with a bad memory--sometimes a particular item triggers a host of nice memories.


Forrest Thanks, Carol. Yes, the point you make about nostalgia versus true re-read versus quality/favorites is a good one. Sometimes those lines get crossed when I think back and it's good to parse them out. I don't take a heartless approach to getting rid of stuff I don't need, but I am trying to take a more logical approach. And, yes, as my memory gets worse with age, those objects do act, in ways, as "containers".


message 3: by Carol. (new)

Carol. That's a cool way to think of it--'containers of memory.'

What a writer. ;)


Forrest Carol. wrote: "That's a cool way to think of it--'containers of memory.'

What a writer. ;)"


:)


Terris I liked this book and love your review! Thanks for sharing :)


Forrest Terris wrote: "I liked this book and love your review! Thanks for sharing :)"

Thank you, Terris. Glad you enjoyed the review!


message 7: by Cecily (new)

Cecily No one can argue against keeping things that give you joy, but that's true of ALL my books. Seriously. I have joy from reading them, from having read the, from anticipating reading them, from the look of them on the shelves, the feel in my hands, the smell in my nostrils.... I guess I'm a hoarder: both the target audience - and not.


Alexandra Blomerus Great review. I think I am going to handle getting rid of the sentimental stuff by taking digital photographs so that if I want to look at it and remember it again, I have the means to do so. I can't wait to get started. I'm abroad at the moment and. Ow can't wait to get home.


Terris I think the photos are a wonderful idea!


message 10: by Forrest (last edited Jul 31, 2017 05:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Forrest Alexandra wrote: "Great review. I think I am going to handle getting rid of the sentimental stuff by taking digital photographs so that if I want to look at it and remember it again, I have the means to do so. I can..."

Thank you! And that's a great idea!


message 11: by Laurie (new) - added it

Laurie just started this one


Forrest Laurie wrote: "just started this one"

Curious to know what you think.


Miriam Forrest wrote: "as my memory gets worse with age, those objects do act, in ways, as "containers"."

That what happens when I try to declutter -- I find forgotten objects that remind me of occasions that had slipped my sieve-like mind, and then I put the things away to repeat the experience in a few years.

My parents also lean in a hoarderly direction. Each visit I try to surreptitiously toss some piece of trash that clearly hasn't been used in years (some boxes in the garage haven't been opened since the move 20 years back). This past weekend I found a piece of mail, for me, from a college classmate, which my parents hadn't bothered to forward (probably because they were too cheap for the 3 dollars postage): a long personal letter and a manuscript of the novel that he had begun when we were in school and promised to show me if it were ever finished. Sigh. I'll have to track him down and write an apology, hoping he recalls who I am.


Forrest Miriam wrote: "Forrest wrote: "as my memory gets worse with age, those objects do act, in ways, as "containers"."

That what happens when I try to declutter -- I find forgotten objects that remind me of occasions..."


Miriam, that sounds like the beginning of a novel in and of itself!


Miriam Haha, this friend appears to now be an author (nonfiction) with a goodreads account.


message 16: by Anna (new) - rated it 2 stars

Anna I love your review! What a great way to make this book and it’s approach into something more practical and sensible. On my first read through it, I thought it was ridiculous. But I also saw many claims of success. Your review puts it in a new light and makes me want to try it again without having to fold every shirt perfectly one way only! Thank you! I really needed some positive but realistic guidance in this area. I have a lot to deal with after caring for sick parents, a job traveling about 25 days/month for 10 years, and a couple years of serious illness. I’m a bit disorganized! And the memory thing has been a major reason I’ve held onto things, too. But again, your review gives me hope. Thank you. P.S. My books are favorite things, too, but I might be able to purge a few. I stopped buying physical books—I will purchase only if it’s really a special edition. :)


Forrest Anna wrote: "I love your review! What a great way to make this book and it’s approach into something more practical and sensible. On my first read through it, I thought it was ridiculous. But I also saw many cl..."

Glad the review was helpful, Anna. My parents both passed away recently (in fact, we held my Father's funeral two days ago and I'm typing this from his house). My wife and I have been going through their stuff and I must admit that having read this book has helped me a great deal in *not* keeping too much. First thing I did was collect family photos, geneologies, and reminisces written by my Mom and Dad. That stuff we keep. Then, there's everything else. And there is a lot of junk. But we've been able to manage it much better following the "rules" I've outlined above. It really is freeing. Anyway, glad you enjoyed the review!


message 18: by Suki (new) - added it

Suki St Charles I'm sorry for your loss, Forrest. My Mom lived with me for over 7 years-- she has Alzheimer's, and I was her full-time caregiver. She has moved into a nursing home because her illness has passed the point where I can look after her properly. I am having a lot of trouble dealing with the possessions she left behind-- it seems so disrespectful to get rid of her things while she is still alive. I had got off to a great start, but now there is a pile of boxes in my living room and another in my storeroom that I just don't seem to be able to deal with. I don't really want the stuff, but it was really important to her. I guess maybe I'll have to give this book a try. I'm not a hoarder, except where books are concerned-- now I'm thinking of getting a book about decluttering. That's funny. :)


Forrest Suki wrote: "I'm sorry for your loss, Forrest. My Mom lived with me for over 7 years-- she has Alzheimer's, and I was her full-time caregiver. She has moved into a nursing home because her illness has passed th..."

That is pretty funny!

It's not easy throwing out your parents' stuff even after they're dead. I think it's because you have an emotional investment of the stuff, even if it's something you don't like, maybe even because you dont like it. You own the dislike for that thing, even though your parent loved it. I have a bunch of things like that of my Mom's and Dad's, and I've already thrown some of it out. Honestly, in some ways it feels good to let go.


Miriam My mom is in the same situation, Suki. I've been taking things she likes over to her one at a time. She enjoys them in the moment, then loses them. So they are gone, but it wasn't be decision to throw them away. Maybe this is a cop out, but at least they get a last use.


message 21: by Robert Adam (new)

Robert Adam Gilmour I got rid of a ton of comics years ago and I overdid it a bit. I later ended up buying some of them again and there's still a bunch I've never been able to get again.

I used to feel bad about having literally hundreds of TBR books and TBL CDs but now I've just accepted that I'm going to want this stuff eventually so I might as well buy it while I can and just try to schedule it all as well as I can.


Miriam I took out a piece of weaving that I made as a kid and tried to throw it out. It was salvaged by a feral cat and is now a kitten security blanket.


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