I can't imagine why I ever would have picked this book up except that everyone, everyone recommended it to me. At a recent dinner party a friend claimed to have bought two copies and did I want one. Yes, yes I did.
At the same time, I embarked on my annual winter clean out every drawer and closet campaign. Usually it lasts about a week and I get through two closets. This one has lasted a bit longer so I thought I would see what the Japanese had to say about organizing and decluttering as I was doing my own organizing.
I generally disdain the home organizing category of book because they are all written by purgers who have no idea why we hoarders save what we save. They think all objects are equal and all objects can be disposed of easily. Sometimes reading those books breaks my heart. (I have started another blog project on stuff and want to discuss a lot of ideas about things and stuff and objects. If you are interested.) But so many people recommended this and it was being pushed by Amazon so maybe this one was different.
Well, yes and no. Yes, Marie Kondo's big secret for organizing your life, finding happiness, realizing your true calling and losing weight (she can't prove it but people who use her method are thinner!) is this one secret. To decide if you should keep or dispose of an object hold it, touch it and decide if it bring you joy. If it does, keep it. If it does not, toss it. She believes that if you simply pay attention to what you are feeling you will be able to make better decisions about removing clutter from your life. Don't miss any item, take your time, but when you are done, put it in its place or throw it away.
So it sounds kind of cheesy but I think this is how I operate. I had just embarked on two days of moving and sorting and organizing my massive book collection and as I was doing it I knew instinctively which books I would not keep. Most of my books bring me great joy and I would hate to part with them. Just looking at them on the shelf brings me joy, but some of the books there kind of bothered me so they went in my donate pile. She uses her method extensively about dealing with ones overabundance of clothing. Clothing is not so easy for me to grapple with, and I have already finished my closet cleaning for the year so I will have to get back to you on that.
She also has some valuable advice about organizing by category instead of by room and she goes off on this wild tangent about thanking your things for their service to you. (I hang up my coat and say. "thank you for keeping me warm today.") On its surface this seems a tad weird but really she means, be thankful for what you have: treat it with respect. Kind of a nice thought.
But she really lost me on her treatment of gifts and letters and photos and memorabilia. I think of all the archivists and librarians who would have a cow if they noted how readily she wants people to part with things that maybe should be hung onto for a bit. I guess I am convinced that someone will want a record of how I lived someday. My grandchildren may way to read my journals to know who I was. They may want to see photos or see their mothers swimming certificate. I love coming across treasures like this. Does it bring me joy? Perhaps not, but I think it would make me sick to throw it away. I picture my photos in a waste can and I can only think I would have to go and fish them out.
She also pushes garbage bags. When ever I sort and declutter and dispose, I think really hard about where it goes. I donate and recycle as much as possible. She needs to pay more homage to disposing of things correctly. Perhaps your bag of old baby clothes will bring someone else joy.
She is a little too perky and self righteous for me. She doesn't pay enough attention to the fact that not everyone has as their career a home tidying business. I have a whole realm of items that are related to my writing circles and my work at the university and things I do for fun--they don't bring me joy but they can be useful. There is no room for utility in her method. Joy or no joy that is the only measuring stick.
But there were some great takeaways:
- Don't use storage bins. Those are for hoarders. She suggests if you must, use shoeboxes.
- All those convention notes and power points you save because you want to refer back to them, you won't. Toss them.
- Don't organize other peoples stuff. They get pissed off.
- Once you have determined what brings you joy--find a place for it and leave it there.
Anyway, I have more to say on this topic. I'll blog about it later. I will say that the reading of this book caused my stuff to increase by one and I threw away one set of conference notes that I had been hanging onto, so we have a net gain of zero. Happy organizing.