There I was at the bookstore, haggling with my children over how many books they were allowed to buy, knowing that most likely my daughter’s books would be read before the weekend was out and they would just hang out on our bookshelf as clutter . . . and then I saw this lovely little title.
the life-changing magic of tidying up, by marie kondo.
It feels good in the hand, with just the right heft. The front cover is clear and lovely, and the back cover has poetry and a pretty woman. A sneak peek inside showed me prose that was clean, smooth, and encouraging.
I bought it.
There’s a paradigm shift here. You don’t do it a little at a time, and you don’t focus on what to get rid of, and you don’t use reason to decide what to toss.
Instead, you tackle items one category at a time, in marathon sessions. You decide what you want to keep, rather than what you want to get rid of, and you make that decision by feel. Her rule of thumb is to touch each item to see if it sparks joy.
Most importantly, though, you change your relationship to objects. You treat them like living things, thanking them for what they have done for you. When you discard them, you are releasing their energy.
I’ve seen a lot of people talk about her book as “new agey” or “woo woo.” Actually, though, it’s influenced by the ancient Japanese practice of Shinto, which includes the concept that objects have souls, or energy. This is a very practical way to think, because it helps us treat them respectfully.
If you asked me if I thought objects had souls or feelings, I would have said no. But the reason I kept all that stuff in the first place was that I felt guilty for throwing it out. And why did I feel guilty? Who would it hurt for me to discard something that only I used? For good or ill, I have a relationship with my stuff. We all do. We anthropomorphize our objects.
Once I realized that, I was ready to go.
Two weeks later, and my relationship with my possessions is different. My closet and dresser are filled with only the clothes and shoes I want and no more. (About fifteen bags of clothes and shoes went to Value Village.) At the same time, I found all my nice dresses! My pantry doesn’t scare me any more. I can open two of my kitchen drawers without yanking. This is a good start.
The next step, according to Kondo’s recommendation, would be to go through the books. But I would really want to set aside a whole day for that, and I’m not ready. So I’m working on papers. Forty pounds recycled today, along with some emotional baggage they’ve been carrying. But within those forty pounds, I found some buried treasures. I revived good memories of courses I taught at the community college, and I found an article that is of immediate use to me.
I feel different in my own skin, too. I feel more free.
So would I recommend this book? It depends on what you want. I was the poster child for needing this book. When I got toward the end and read this passage I had to smile.
“Although I have spent this entire book talking about tidying, tidying is not actually necessary. You won’t die if your house isn’t tidy, and there are many people in the world who really don’t care if they can’t put their house in order. Such people, however, would never pick up this book. You, on the other hand, have been led by fate to read it, and that means you probably have a strong desire to change your current situation. . . ”
Yes, that’s me. Clutter has been in my top three list of stressors ever since my son was in preschool, and I was absolutely ready to let it go. This was just the right book, at just the right time.
At the same time, I’m pretty sure I’ve doomed myself to six months of intensive tidying! If that’s not what you want, don’t read the book.