The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: A Book Review

COVID-19 has forced us to stay inside our homes for a very long time. With each passing day, I am feeling more and more overwhelmed with the untidy condition of my home. My cupboards are messy and every piece of furniture is covered with clothes, books, etc. So finally, I decided to read the book by Marie Kondo – The life-changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing consultant and tidying expert. She has had a keen interest in organizing related activities since her very childhood. She has transformed her interest into a passion, and eventually an extremely successful business. She has authored multiple books on the topic. Recently she has also done a Netflix series. (The show is kind of a stress buster and joy inducer for me. Thanks, Marie).

The book — The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up — is part of a three-part series with the same name. These books were originally written in Japanese. Due to their popularity, they have been translated and published in multiple countries and languages. The first book of the series was first published in Japan in 2010. The book is around 250 pages long. I read the English translation of the book.

As the name suggests, the book is about tidying up and its benefits. The book is divided into five sections. The first section explores why people can't keep their houses tidy and highlights the lack of formal or informal training in the field of tidying up. This section also points out the various aspects of our thought processes regarding tidying up and flaws of them.

The next three chapters talk primarily about the various guidelines for discarding, sorting (categorized tidying), and storing. The second chapter focuses on the first step of the KonMari method “Discarding First”. This chapter contains the famous advice from the author: “How to Choose: Does It Spark joy?”. The next chapter talks about sorting things or as the author says: “How to Tidy by Category”. The fourth chapter deals with the storing process: “Storing Your Things for an Exciting Life”. The author also draws our attention to the themes of joy, respect, and gratitude through the process of tidying in these chapters.

The final chapter is about the many benefits of the process on various aspects of a person's life. This chapter mainly focuses on the emotional wellbeing and uplifting changes one might feel after tidying up.

Now, let us talk about the writing style of the book. The English translated version of the book is quite easy to read. The sentences are short and their structure is simple. The chapters are well segregated and organized. The sections within the chapters are also quite small, consisting of 6–7 short paragraphs. Every chapter holds a unique message within the bigger theme of tidying up.

Here are my thoughts about the book. As a guideline/self-help book, I find this book informative but not very exciting. I do not feel much excited about the presented information. The lack of excitement comes from the lack of scientific evidence concerning tidying up, history, and cultural references. The author has presented few anecdotes about confidence-boosting, emotional wellbeing, etc, but I think some experimental evidence would have added more weight to the claims.

The book is very targeted towards the standard mid-middle-class section of society. It does not significantly cover the broader spectrum of the socio-economic backgrounds, different genders, and different generations even within the presented group. There are just a handful of mentions of anyone else except mid-aged women. It would have been great to know the author’s insights about different groups of people such as, do different gender approaches organizing differently, or whether different socio-economic backgrounds influence the tidying process differently?

The book touches upon the topics of joy, mindfulness, respect, and gratitude through the process of tidying. I enjoy knowing about the pragmatic way of practicing these ideas due to my previous exposure to these themes, but the readers from different cultural backgrounds who may be less familiar with these themes may find the association of these themes with the process of tidying slightly surreal.

The final chapter is where the author reveals the magic of tidying up by highlighting the possible positive impacts on a person’s life. The author covers aspects like emotional wellbeing, confidence, good fortune, and many others. Although the section makes me quite curious about the whole process, I feel a lack of powerful insights and testimonials which leaves me in a state of lukewarm enthusiasm for tidying up. Few tangible pieces of evidence — such as an average increase in positivity or productivity, decrease in family expenditure on unnecessary things, or carbon footprint saved — due to mindful shopping by her clients would have given me a stronger drive and much more magical feeling about tidying. As a resident of a resource-constrained country, a slight focus on reusing and sustainability would have been an absolute delight for me.

I think additions of a few illustrations would have been great for readers like me who are more comfortable in visual learning. I also feel that a few before-and-after photos would have been amazing to give a push to my little motivation to take the mammoth task of cleaning and organizing my house.

Having said that, the book does a great job of being a guidebook for tidying for a middle-class mid-sized conventional family. The author covers a wide variety of things and categories of things in the book. The content is well categorized and organized which made the book easy to read and understand. The section about discarding, sorting, and storing explores many common misconceptions and behaviour patterns about the process which made these sections quite relatable for me.

I truly appreciate the simplicity of the guidelines and experiences shared in the book. The guidelines are clear and easy to understand. The book gives me a new perspective on how I look at my belongings and treat them. I also love the message regarding the themes of joy, mindfulness, respect, and gratitude. The book draws my attention towards the little opportunities of practicing these profound concepts during a supposedly mundane task like tidying up.

On a conclusive note, I would say that it is a good starting point for all readers who want to make their living spaces a little more manageable and joy-giving.Now I want to go to the next step of actually tidying up my two-bedroom house. I am hoping that I will be able to give appropriate love, care, and gratitude to my home which has always sheltered me and protected me, especially during this unprecedented crisis. I would also love to share my experience of actual processes which I am going to implement very soon. Till then stay tuned and take care 😊.