The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

By Marie Kondo

Kondo’s minimalistic manifesto is a delightfully simple explanation of her KondoMari process for tidying up the home. Though often repetitive, and at times difficult to relate to because of the imperfect translation from Japanese, the message of the book is clear: for Kondo, the path to emotional clarity is physical cleanliness, and to feel in place in life is to know that all of one’s belongings feel in place as well. The book is an inspiring How-To in optimizing your home for yourself, not for anyone else, and so there are no hard and fast organizational rules, but rather suggestions up for interpretation that allow the reader to decide what “sparks joy” in his or her life. These suggestions are encased in layers of encouragement (you really will turn your life around!) and logistical directions (always start by sorting off season clothes).

The book is written in a quasi-lecture/instructional style that would seem suggestive of objectivity, but it is firmly grounded in the biases of contemporary Japanese culture, with references to Japanese-specific tidying problems (like religious tokens) and social myths (like personality types based on blood types). In some sections I found this detrimental; the idea of respecting the emotions of my home and belongings is outlandish enough to cast some doubt onto the book’s other ideas. However, having finished reading now, those sections seem necessary to establish the voice of the author, and her personal commitment to improving the lives of her clients and of their possessions. I might just have to start thanking my purse every day and see what becomes of it.