walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_the life-changing magic of tidying up_, marie kondo

I bought this hardcover at Valley Wild Books and plan on handing it off to my fellow cultofdomesticity member, D. probably later today. I have an e-copy now, too.

Advice in managing abundance does not change over time. Here is William Morris:

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Of course, the details matter. When Oprah was still on the air, she brought Julie Morgenstern to her viewers. Morgenstern's loving and compassionate off the cuff analysis of how people's homes reflected their pain and uncertainty -- and how going through everything in those homes with the SPACE approach could help resolve that pain and uncertainty -- was revelatory.

Marie Kondo's book falls within this tradition, but it also shares a lot with David Allen's own cult of time management, _Getting Things Done_.

Kondo's young, but she has been doing this for a long time. She has been obsessing over women's magazines and their ads and articles about storing and organizing since she was wee (five, by her account). She has come out the other side ruthlessly opposed to containerizing and organizational systems. She -- like every other hard core manager of abundance since at least William Morris -- is ruthless: ya gotta get rid of a lot of it.

So why Kondo now?

I don't know why Karen Kingston's _Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui_ never properly took off. I loved it, and I'm not even a big fan of Feng Shui. It's just an excellent, highly readable, motivating book about getting energy flowing again by getting rid of stuff. Kondo has a chapter on Feng Shui, but Kondo's spirituality and psychology is simultaneously much more pervasive in the book and much more concrete. People talk about the "spark of joy" that is the criteria for keeping an item. People titter about saying good bye to objects as one passes them along. They flat out object to thanking objects for their service. But I wonder if perhaps this concrete spirituality is more accessible because it is so resistant to an intellectual take down. You can mock it, but unless you know quite a lot about the tradition that inspired it, it is tough to rally a solid argument against doing what she advocates, and if you actually start doing it, it really will change your perspective. It is Sneaky. I approve.

I've name checked some excellent books in the same subgenre; I haven't named a dozen others that are not nearly so good. The good ones -- including Kondo -- all have basically the same approach. Collect all like items. (Sort). Get rid of some/most of them (Purge). Find a home for what you are keeping (Assign and Containerize -- in Kondo, this is basically put it in a shoebox in the cupboard, or some variation on that theme, but with the expectation that you will replace that shoebox with something else that sparks joy when it enters your life). Maintain (Equalize; Put Everything In Its Place, etc.). Kondo's weakness, predictably, lies in Equalize/Maintain. She asserts that if you Really Do This Thoroughly, you never need to do it again.

Morgenstern, I'm sure, knows much better.

That said, if you really do a thorough job of it, and if you do not experience a major life change (person in household changes: someone is born, dies, moves in or out, becomes chronically ill; household moves to a new location, possibly several times; fire, storm, etc. damage affecting most of household, etc.), then yeah, you probably won't have to do this again. (Note that long, long list, and remember that Kondo is young.) And once you have done it, you probably won't need to hire Kondo a second time. She believes it doesn't need to be repeated because she never has repeat customers while having an amazeballs international word of mouth business that, in true cult fashion, she has wound down in favor of training acolytes. It is arguable that Kondo does Equalize/Maintenance harder than any declutterer/organizer the world has ever seen. It's just that she denies the existence of maintenance. Which sort of offends me.

Super fast read, very entertaining. Also inspiring. She is so relentlessly mono-focused that you really cannot actually misunderstand the core point: if it doesn't spark joy, you probably should get rid of it. In a world where a lot of environmental messaging causes hoarding behavior in people who would otherwise not hoard (hey, if you can't figure out how to get rid of that filter for the appliance that broke, it is gonna be there in the basement for a long while; and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Kondo would say, that's what happens when you stockpile, and she is Not Wrong. In the meantime, I have directed husband to freecycle, where I suspect he will eventually find a taker for such otherwise difficult to donate items), a book like Kondo's -- a book that batters you into throwing away the shit you can't stand anyway -- is a Very, Very Useful Thing.
Tags: book review, decluttering

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