Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying

When I saw The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying on a Waterstones shelf I was in two minds. Why on earth would anyone ever think to write a book on the subject of tidying?

My masochistic mind soon went into overdrive. Isn't this a skill your mum teaches you from birth? What could you possibly learn that might be so groundbreaking as to warrant an entire book on the subject?

However, part of me, upon finishing the book, was pleasantly surprised. If you can see past the general insanity of the author, whom can only be described as suffering from an acute bout of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, there are a few very clear rules/tips that will help you sort your life out. After all, 3 million readers can't be wrong can they?!

To save you from reading the entire book (albeit a quick read) and then needing to jab your eyes out with sharp sticks, I thought I'd summarise a couple of the key points for you.

Tidy Once and Once Only

What the...? Tidy once?! She must be pulling our leg!

Marie Kondo claims that to maintain a tidy house you must perform one complete tidy but this must only come after a complete purge of every possession in your life you don't really need.

If I didn't have context or a point of reference for this book, I'd have put it down a few chapters in and relegated it to the discard pile. However, in my recent guest article on Simple Programmer - Achieve Supercharged CEO Productivity I talk about the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology by David Allan.

GTD similarly suggests you perform a one-time purge of all those things in your life (collating and organising all the things you need to know and discarding the rest). The fact I'm seeing parallels in two different disciplines by two separate authors suggests to me this shouldn't be completely branded he type of book that might be suggested at the mad hatters tea party.

Keep the Things You Truly LOVE

During the initial phase of purging, Marie suggests we handle every one of our possessions and evaluate whether we really truly LOVE it.

Does this piece of clothing instill joy? Will we use it? What's leading us to cling on to our possession? Fear of the past or fear for the future?

This includes everything from our clothes, tops, socks, books and DVDs to our furniture, electrical equipment and photographs. Any possessions we can't say with certainty we love - we discard.

After all, if we really loved them, we could always buy it in a few months and make sure we appreciate them next time.

Keep Only Things That Speak To Your Heart - Marie Kondo

Consider Each Item in Turn

Every item we own we form an association with. Maybe we were given it as a gift from a friend or relative but in real fact we've never used, or we bought it at a special time in our life. Actually, often we don't feel an affinity to our possession because of what it is, but more because of what it reminds us of.

That's why we should handle each item as we decide on it's fate. There's a much higher chance of us keeping things we don't need if we consider many items at once.

For example, if we started looking at books on a bookshelf, we must first move them onto the floor. The very reason for this is because if we contemplate an entire shelf, or several books at once on the shelf, then it dramatically increases the likelihood we'll keep them.

By contemplating each in turn we can discover what our attraction is to each book.

Why do we hold onto it?

Often, if we second-guess whether we need something we should probably throw it away. After all we can always buy another.

In retrospect this sounds squanderous and wasteful, but actually it will teach us to be more appreciative of the things we have so we're less wasteful in the future.

The Importance of Order

In the KonMari method, it's suggested that we save the most precious items , the ones that we are most attached to, until last. We will find it hardest to part with the pictures or possessions that are one-in-a-million or worst still irreplaceable.

However, it's the memories we're hanging on to not the possessions. We've already experienced those memories so hanging on to the possessions makes no sense at all.

Cherish the memories, give thanks to the possessions and the time they've given you. Wave to them goodbye.

Everything In It's Right Place

Another key rule of a tidy living space is to delegate a place for everything you own. Put everything of the same type near each other. If you need to take a bunch of things together when you go to work each morning e.g. keys, wallet etc. - pack them in a box where you won't forget them each morning.

One major side benefit of this approach, aside from the obvious de-cluttering and ordering effects, is that it means at all times you know where something is located.

Interestingly, when sorting through papers Kondo recommends not to bother ordering some papers such as old bills or papers you need access to very infrequently.

It sounds counter-intuitive but if you think about it subcategorising things you don't access often is unnecessary. Much better to throw away as much as you can and keep it to a smaller more manageable single pile.

Tidy Place, Tidy Mind

Whilst this was an odd book in parts, because of the authors seeming obsession with cleanliness and order, there are a lot of good strategies to take from it.

It was a fairly quick read and some of the insanity of it did make me chuckle at times but ultimately it was worth reading for the strategies you can employ. I'd argue though, it could have been half the length it was if she'd removed the unnecessary repitition.

As with any self-help book how useful it is all depends on how you implement the advice it suggests. If you act on it the benefits can be HUGE.

As the age old saying goes "tidy place, tidy mind."

James Murphy

Java dev by day, entrepreneur by night. James has 10+ years experience working with some of the largest UK businesses ranging from the BBC, to The Hut Group finally finding a home at Rentalcars.

Manchester, UK
comments powered by Disqus