Home & Garden · Nonfiction

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

Two stars

I am so disappointed in this book. I really wanted to like it. I watched Marie Kondo’s Netflix show last year and was inspired to declutter my own home using some of the tips and approaches she talks about. I wanted to go a little deeper, so I checked her book out from the library. It’s a slim volume, and written in an approachable voice.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up might very well transform your life if you have the privilege of lots of vacation time, a family that buys into the concept and possibly the most important one – no mental illness that affects executive function.

Now, you might say to me, executive function disorders, those sound serious and rare! Wrong, my friend, wrong! Mental illness affecting executive function is one of the more common reasons people live with a messy house. Depression, Anxiety, ADD, ADHD (which is grossly underdiagnosed in women, especially adult women, who are often the homemakers…) and a slew of other mental illnesses come with a side of executive dysfunction that makes it very challenging to tackle basic things sometimes.

Okay, but what does that have to do with Marie Kondo’s book? Well reader, the most frustrating thing about her book is that in all however many pages the book has, she doesn’t acknowledge the existence of mental illness as a factor even once. Not a single mention in the entire book. It’s such a gross omission.

Her book reeks of privilege in other ways too. She insists that the only way to properly implement her method is to do your entire home all at once. That will take the average person DAYS if not WEEKS of time. The average American doesn’t have that much vacation time and for those who do, they’ll generally want to spend it traveling or doing something outside of the home.

Kondo also insists that if you throw something away and later regret it, just buy a new one. Because people are made of money, right? And can afford to just buy two of things, nevermind that many things are limited edition or otherwise rare and hard to replace.

I understand what she’s trying to do, but she leaves little room for utility and leaves no room for one to be a collector or hobbyist. She gleefully recounts her own experiences of throwing out her own collections. As both a collector and a hobbyist, her approach is nightmarish. How dare I want to store the materials for my crafts. How dare I want to keep collections of silly things. Oh but you’ll say, if those things spark joy, you will keep them. And while that is somewhat true, she makes it clear through her writing that she looks down upon those decisions.

Finally, her approach will simply not work unless the entire family buys into the process. Try telling a 16 year old she must go through all of her belongings and get rid of things. And then she has to keep her space tidy forever again. Teenagers are fickle. She hates the shirt today and will love it next week only to hate it again next week. If one person in an adult relationship does this and the other doesn’t buy into it, it will never stick.

Aside from those issues, Kondo has a charming worldview where objects have feelings and it is important to thank them for what they do for you and have given you. I don’t think she’s off the mark here entirely. While I don’t believe my shoes have feelings, I feel that her suggestion to thank the items in your life can be transformed into the idea that one should spend more time considering the objects in their life and their utility. Are these shoes appropriate? Do they accomplish the job I need them to. If not, get them out the door and find more appropriate shoes. If so, I should take care of them so they last as long as possible. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to encourage people to care for their belongings and to also work toward having belongings that accomplish what they’re needed for, rather than being worked around. Your belongings should enable your lifestyle not impede it.

All of this is to say, I was very disappointed in the book. No organizational method will work for everyone (though she certainly claims hers will), but this was a huge letdown from her positive attitude in her show.

One thought on “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

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