The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: Debunked
Listen, I love good ole Marie Kondo and her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up as much as the next millennial, but there’s some stuff just plain wrong with it. I’ve put together this book review to loop you in on the down-low and help you figure out if this is a book you need taking up space on your bookshelf.
What is The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up even about?
Well, it’s about tidying up. That’s it. Okay, I mean there’s a little more to it than that. The book basically walks you through cleaning out your entire house, meaning going through every little thing you own from the scrap of paper from your first lottery ticket to the pan your mom gave you when you moved out. And boy, is she tough.
The book starts out with quite a bit of anecdotes of Marie’s life and people she’s helped who never thought they could have a clean, organized household. The intent of this seems to be to hype you up and get you all prepared that 'Yes, you can do this!’
After all of the anecdotes Marie walks you through her process of asking yourself if each item “Sparks Joy” in your life. And if you haven’t heard that phrase by now, sorry for the spoiler alert. Marie really gets into the idea of things “sparking joy” and how that should affect your decisions.
Finallyyyy, you get into the actual cleaning out part. There is A LOT of buildup to this, which may or may not be helpful. I’ll get into that more below. You’re walked through the major areas to clean out: clothing, sentimental items, books, papers, miscellaneous items, etc. And you’re strongly recommended to follow the exact order of the book.
Towards the end of the book you are given some tips on storage and organizing, but this is pretty sparse section of the book, frankly.
Overall Rating: 3.6/5
What sucks about this book?
Kinda a lot. There are 5 things I found not very helpful, although I would still recommend the book for those just starting a more intentional lifestyle.
The anecdotes at the beginning can get very redundant and repetitive. Once you’ve heard one story of someone who struggled to clean out, you’ve heard them all. I do recommend reading through all of them if this is the first time you’ve read the book, though. If this is not your first time, I would read one or two to get in the zone and then move on.
Marie is pretty dang harsh on sentimental items. She really seems to advocate for having as few of these as possible, which I like and dislike. I’m a sentimental person, but I have also kept some pretty silly stuff. This helped me cull my collection, but it also made me feel bad about how much sentimental items I still had. Don’t feel pressured to have as few sentimental things as possible.
Once you’ve cleaned out, you want to organize what you have left, right?! This is a part of the book Marie really skips over. There are some folding tips (that I don’t follow and you can read here why) but overall not much. She does sell a separate book for organizing, which I’ve read and strongly do not recommend.
Building on the lack of organization suggestions, Marie suggests that you don’t buy organizational items (boxes, separators, etc). She thinks that these just take up more space and cost money, if you need them you can make them yourself. I mean, I guess? But I prefer something nice for $5 from the store over a cardboard box that looks ugly, does NOT spark joy, and cost an hour of my time.
The whole “Spark Joy” concept is harmful. I’ve read this book multiple times, so I think I’ve got a good understanding of it and the spark joy concept still gets me. Basically, it makes you think something must make you soooo happy you only want that thing. Well, a lot of impractical things and clothing like evening gowns spark joy for me. My favorite jeans and a well read book spark a different kind of joy, which isn’t covered in the book, in my opinion. Be careful with this concept.
How can this book help me live intentionally?
This is pretty straightforward. The book, despite its shortcomings, can help you just tidy up your life. It’s not a book that someone who is already a minimalist should take to heart, but if you’re just curious and wanting to get rid of stuff in your life, definitely pick up this book.
When I read this book for the first time, I had about 15 garbage bags of stuff from my veryyyy small house to get rid of, so I can attest that it works. I’ve read it more since then, and while it is helpful, I no longer follow it to a T. But overall, it’s worth picking up and taking a weekend to devote to practicing it. Let the cleanout commence!