It’s been almost a year since I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I had to ask myself—has it really been life-changing for me? To be fair, when I read it I wasn’t anywhere close to needing a clutter consultant to help me with my life, but maybe most of her audience identify as hoarders. So with 2016 winding to an end, I wondered if she’s had any impact on this year.
Here are a few of her basic tenets; have any miracles been wrought in my life because of them?
I managed to squeeze a few bags of clothes into a friend’s car and drop them at Goodwill, but this act hasn’t done much for me except to make room in my closet to store camping equipment from that same friend whose car I borrowed. Net-net, neutral. Perhaps I’m not getting the full benefit here because I didn’t follow her instructions of dumping every piece of clothing into a huge pile and touching each one to see if it brought me joy. Instead I looked through my closet and pulled out things I haven’t worn in years, then gave those away. I gave my clothes the amount of attention equivalent to their importance in my life (e.g. not much). I think Kondo has a much bigger obsession with fashion and appearance, thus she spends about 75% of her book talking about clothes. Verdict: not life-changing.
Nope, don’t even get me started. Kondo prefers that you only keep about thirty or so books around. This would be the equivalent of starving my brain and depriving me of my best friends, so I rejected her advice here outright. So no life-change except a fiercer determination to line my walls with bookshelves filled with books. I even put this photo up on my refrigerator to help me visualize my goal in life—to have a personal library of this scale. Verdict: not life-changing.
This was a short section in her book, but it seems critically important. I already was of the touch-it-once school of thought, handling bills and mail as they come into my apartment and not creating stacks of various to-dos. I’ve continued my practice of minimal contact and storage of any paper that comes in. The only sheet of paper I saved during the six weeks was my jury summons, which gets me off the hook for jury duty for the next year. This is an area Kondo didn’t offer much advice on, but luckily I didn’t need any help. Verdict: not life-changing.
I admit that I have not gone near the few boxes of photos and letters that I retain, but I swear that if and when I do, I will remove any printed photos of unidentifiable scenery that don’t have any people in them. But we’re not talking about a lot of “mementos” anyway. Being of the generation that straddled the physical and digital photo realm, I do have lots of physical photographs that are trapped in a box in my closet. I think I’ll get a lot of joy out of going through those when I do find time—much more joy than scrolling through a gallery of digital images, that’s for sure. So perhaps I should ditch the digital images and hang onto the physical ones? I think I’ve done a reverse-Kondo on this one, attempting to hoard these mementos and ditch the intangible ones. Verdict: not life-changing.
Ok, I have to admit that I did hold onto some tips from Kondo in this area. I now fold my clothes and stack them on their edge so they’re like book spines or file folders. It doesn’t take that much time to fold and put away clean laundry in this manner, so the big push is getting all your clothes like this in the first place. Once you do that, just maintain, maintain, maintain. And my clothes are now hung in the Kondo-approved rise to the right, so the heaviest and longest are on the very left, then everything gets progressively shorter as it rises to the right. But would I say that this has been life-changing? I guess I have a much higher standard for what that means. Verdict: not life-changing.
Overall, it’s clear that the “life-changing” aspect of this book is not appropriate in all cases. I was already relatively clutter-free, and no huge improvements showed up in my life once I ditched a few more items that were in my closet waiting to be recycled to a more appreciative owner. I will admit that my own Kondo-journey inspired others in my life who ended up overhauling their apartments, scheduling a curbside pickups of junk, buying a few bookcases, and generally restoring 50% of their space from storage to productive use. Perhaps this is what it means to spread the Kondo gospel.