The Life Changing Magic of Tidying


There are two types of housewives: those who prioritise cleaning over tidying, and those that prioritise tidying over cleaning. I fall heavily in to the tidying category, mostly because the house is small enough to be almost unmanageable when you are a woman in possession of a boy, a cat, a dog and far too many books and thus I spend many a merry hour chasing my tail in a demented fashion because people and animals seem really rather determined to live in my house: a fact I consider to be tantamount to outrageous rudeness, when frankly I would prefer it if they sat and looked pretty and did not go about needing to eat, and sleep and moult and play and generally add a layer of lovely chaos to my life that I could well do without.

So yes. Pop me firmly in to the tidying category because it is turning out to be my life’s work, though not, I must confess, to the same degree that one Marie Kondo has made it her business.

Kondo is you see the author of the Japanese best-seller, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying. A tour de force in the world of literary housework and the latest spark to ignite my urge to stuff everything I own in to bin bags.

Truth be told though: I struggled with the very premise of the book, perhaps because it is culturally different to my way of life and Marie Kondo writes with all the cheerful enthusiasm for tidying up, I can’t imagine clutter-busting could ever inspire in me. I like her. A lot. But this is a woman who started tidying and organising her entire families house when she was about six, and this strikes me as neither normal, nor even really human in a child!

So yes. She had no qualms about nipping in to her sisters room and throwing her things away when she was out, nor about losing most of her childhood to organising everything her family owned, while doing her best to reduce those belongings to almost nothing. It makes for quite bizarre reading altogether. And obsessional doesn’t begin to describe a trait that eventually became her stock in trade.

Kondo’s main focus is on discarding that which does not bring you joy and I have spent an age since finishing the book, struggling whole-heartedly with this concept. You see I think there is a world of difference between joy and necessity, and Marie Kondo really doesn’t seem to hold much truck with the essential, making frequent reference to the question of  joy when one is deciding whether an object should be given house room, when there are things in this life I am quite indifferent to but very much need in order to function domestically.

Furthermore her method for going about discarding everything she owns focus on what she calls “the correct order of categories”: namely clothes, books, paper and then “Komono” which pretty much amounts to almost everything else in the house. While I can get on board with this to a degree, it is in fact the Komono which causes me the most problems. Somedays I feel a bit up to my eyeballs in blooming Komono and then what’s a girl to do? She can’t very well stand everything she owns upright in a drawer the way Kondo consistently advocates now can she? No she certainly can’t. And furthermore, nor does she particularly want to  utilise many a cardboard box in the way Ms Kondo so frequently recommends either: for there it is in a nutshell – Kondo cares more for organisation than she does for any degree of aesthetic pleasure and I can’t quite buy into her vision of old cereal boxes organising everything I own.

So despite my reservations, do I still recommend reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up?  Abso-bloody-lutely. If only because it will inspire in you, as it has in me, a need to clear the decks of all the flotsam and jetsam we stuff so precariously into every corner of our homes. It will have you wandering the house with a bin bag in hand calling for volunteers for the skip and it will remind you that much of what you own inspires no joy at all.

And joy my darlings, should be our raison d’etre….

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6 comments on “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying

  1. Margaret on said:

    I bought the book for my Kindle not long after I retired and was going through a mass clear out. I couldn’t agree with you more about the book. I did enjoy reading it but found her to be bordering on the obsessive. Having said that it did help me.

  2. Marylene on said:

    I have read the book too. It is quite inspiring, but for me it seems to have been written from the point of view of a twenty-something person who still lives with her parents. The emphasis she puts on books and clothes, talking about her room so much, hardly considering some essential other things, is telling 😉 Also, if we are supposed to keep only things that bring us joy, does it mean we have to throw away all the things that are needed but not “joyful” and buy new ones? That would be irresponsible on so many levels…

  3. Gillian on said:

    It’s one of those books that gives you a much-needed nudge in the right direction, so I dip in periodically for a boost. Marylene is spot-on in her analysis of the perceived age of Marie. I’m quite happy to shout hello to my cat when I come home, but I draw my line at announcing to my home that I am home – after all, it knows already, it let me in!

  4. I prefer to clean over tidy…but between recent bad decisions and the insane decision to get a german shepherd – I didn’t know my future would not include a yard- The words clean and tidy are only in my dreams.

  5. chrissie on said:

    I tidy. My husband cleans around mess. He will hoover around grandsons toys and clean work surface around things… Then says what do you think ? As I struggle to see.

  6. Elaine P on said:

    I love this book. I have embraced her folding thing and feel ridiculously happy every time I open my lingerie/sock drawer as a result. I have even implemented it in The Great Studio Clearout of 2014 to help me de-stash papers/bits of computers/cables and plugs and The Great Airing Cupboard Emptying which has left it looking like some kind of snazzy department store. And I agree – NO to utility storage. I have storage boxes and bags (and vintage suitcases) that make me happy – not repurposed cartons. Also I find joy in a well-stocked and tidy Zombie Apocalypse store cupboard – so that’s that one sorted 😉

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