An Honest Review of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

A few weeks ago, I watched a video on KonMarie’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, thought I should buy it, and surprisingly the next morning my READS ebook hold on it became available. I’d been on the hold list for months.

I picked it up and have noticed several things. First of all there is nothing overall Japanese about this technique. It’s based off a course created by the author. KonMarie is a decluttering expert (as we call them in the US), and she’s trained in Feng Shui and a few other practicalities- however she really only covers her course premise in this book.

As a Feng Shui Practicioner, books on tidying, cleaning, organizing, energy, and Feng Shui, are regulars for me, as a sort of research. I’m always looking for new ideas and perspectives. KonMarie is definitely not looking for new ideas or perspectives. She has a very prescribed set of instructions for her process.My eight year old daughter asked me what I was reading, and after I read her the title and a few lines,
she said: “Does that make sense to you?”
E: “I like some of her ideas, but some of it sounds a little obsessive.”
R: “I don’t have to touch our cats to know they don’t need to be discarded. What about all the items in the kitchen or the hangers?”
In the light of “takes one to know one” as I read Kon Marie’s description of her childhood and her stealth attempts to tidy and declutter for the rest of her family, lying about it, and getting in trouble, I see warning signs of obsessive compulsion. She mentions in her section on Loungewear clothing that she can be ruthless in not allowing her clients to keep normal clothes for loungewear.
I’ve only seen videos of KonMarie speaking Japanese. I don’t know if she is fluent in English. I’ve also seen some reviews of her book basically making fun of it, for her concern for the energy of rolled up socks not being able to breath and relax.
I enjoyed this book, however, I wonder if something wasn’t lost in translation. Some parts come across very ridged in their rule enforcing, and in others it seems like she might have been trying to make a joke-but it got lost in the curves of Japanese to English. I also think something might be lost culturally. I think Japanese readers might take her over-enthusiasm differently than Americans.
Read it or Not?
I’m not sure I’d buy a copy of the Life Changing Magic of Tidying, as this is readily available at most libraries. (I utilize our library endlessly so that we don’t spend our housing budget on books through.) I think she has some great tips. If you are able to pick it up and take away what works for you, and not feel guilty or oppressed when you don’t subscribe to all her sock-loving thoughts, I’d suggest picking it up. If it’s just going to become another volume in the stack of decluttering books, take this away- when you clean an area, clean all of it. Dump the drawer totally out, and hand things one at a time.
P.S. Folding is fun.
KonMarie claims that folding is fun, and that all but one of her clients has come away from her course having subscribed to that theory. I just have a difficult time believing this one. I give Riley $5 a basket to fold our laundry.