Timothy Rice

⭐The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.

Rating: 4.5/5 – Recommended without hesitation
Read if you want: A user manual on the untaught skill of tidyness.

For most of my life, I’ve believed that I was a naturally cluttered person – every space I’ve occupied has inevitably descended into a cacophony of disorder. Of late I’m coming to realize that I just wasn’t taught the skills of tidyness.

The general assumption, in Japan at least, is that tidying doesn’t need to be taught but rather is picked up naturally. Cooking skills and recipes are passed down as family traditions from grandmother to mother to daughter, yet one never hears of anyone passing on the family secrets of tidying, even within the same household.

Think back to your own childhood. I’m sure most of us have been scolded for not tidying up our rooms, but how many of our parents consciously taught us how to tidy as part of our upbringing? Our parents demanded that we clean up our rooms, but they, too, had never been trained in how to do that. When it comes to tidying, we are all self-taught.

Marie Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Recently someone pointed out to me that the key to keeping a tidy space was designating a home for every object and always returning that item to its home. This was a revelatory insight for someone who had been taught nothing at all about keeping a tidy space!

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up contains that wisdom and more, and is a user manual for keeping a tidy life – especially useful for people like me. For those that don’t know, the KonMari Metthod of tidying up is basically two simple steps:

  1. Discarding items (famously those that don’t “spark joy”)
  2. Deciding where to keep things

Discarding should take up the bulk of your time and effort and must be completed entirely before moving on to storing. This is apparently the most difficult step for most people, as Marie Kondo says:

People who can’t stay tidy can be categorized into just three types: the “can’t-throw-it-away” type, the “can’t-put-it-back” type, and the “first-two-combined” type. Looking at my clients, I further realized that 90 percent fall into the third category—the “can’t-throw-it-away, can’t-put-it-back” type—while the remaining 10 percent fall into the “can’t-put-it-back” type. I have yet to find someone who is purely the “can’t throw it away” type, probably because anyone who can’t throw things away will soon end up with so much stuff that their storage space overflows. As for the 10 percent who can discard but can’t put things away, when we start tidying seriously, it is soon obvious that they could discard much more because they produce at least thirty bags of garbage.

Marie Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I think I’m pretty good at discarding, and have almost no difficulty getting rid of items if I can take the time to seriously question their value. I identify most strongly as a “can’t-put-it-back”, and have realized that most of my tidying paralysis comes from not knowning where to put something. This is most acute when I have something new and it doesn’t have an already defined home. The secret that I’ve learned it to just throw away most of these items or, better yet, don’t acquire them in the first place.

That’s not to say that I couldn’t get better at discarding. I managed to pick this book up exactly when my wife and I decided to do a moderate size clean up effort of our house, which probably contributed to how much I loved it. Listening to it while rummaging through my closet looking for clothing to get rid of definitely helped me dispose of more than I would have otherwise.

The only knock I have on this book is that it contains a fair bit of woo, mostly about the energy that our things possess and their affect on our personalities. I could have done without it, but it’s easy enough to ignore. Some of practices, like greeting your home when you arrive and thanking your belongings as you get rid of them, I think might actually be useful. I was able to finally get rid of some sentimental shirts I’d kept since college by acknowledging that they had served their purpose and thanking them for the memories.

I’ve made a lot of progress since my adolescent days of living in a pigsty and I plan on continuing that progress. This book was a great help and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to do the same.

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