The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, Cathy Hirano
Published by Ten Speed Press on October 14th 2014
Genres: House & Home, Cleaning, Self-Help, Inspirational/Motivational
Pages: 204
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four-half-stars

This #1 New York Times best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).  With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

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“The Aurors are part of the Rotfang Conspiracy, I thought everyone knew that. They’re working from within to bring down the Ministry of Magic using a combination of Dark magic and gum disease.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Marie Kondo is the Luna Lovegood of tidying, and I love her for it.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a juggernaut among organization and decluttering books because Marie Kondo is a zealot. There is only one way to live in a tidy home, and that is the KonMarie way. She has a strict folding policy; she demands that you only keep items that spark joy; she anthropomorphizes her socks.

Marie Kondo is also a marketing genius. The treatment she demands for hosiery is the best way to show what works about this book and why it has so many fans.

Treat your socks and stockings with respect

Have you ever had the experience where you thought what you were doing was a good thing but later learned that it had hurt someone? At the time, you were totally unconcerned, oblivious to the other person’s feelings. This is somewhat similar to the way many of us treat our socks.

[…]

Never, ever, tied up your stockings. Never, ever ball up your socks.

from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This is classic Kondo. She leads off with an out-there observation involving inanimate objects, lectures the reader on their deplorable behavior, and then closes with a bright-line rule in bold.

At this point, you are either laughing or offended. I laughed because if nothing else, her imagery and language is excellent.

With the reader’s attention suitably drawn, she explains the reasoning behind the rule.

The socks and stockings stored in your drawer are essentially on holiday. They take a brutal beating in their daily work, trapped between your foot and your shoe, enduring pressure and friction to protect your precious feet. The time they spend in your drawer is their only chance to rest. But if they are folded over, balled up, or tied, they are always in a state of tension, their fabric stretched and their elastic pulled. They roll about and bump into each other every time the drawer is opened and closed. Any socks and stockings unfortunate enough to get pushed to the back of the drawer are often forgotten for so long that their elastic stretches beyond recovery. When the owner finally discovers them and puts them on, it will be too late and they will be relegated to the garbage. What treatment could be worse than this?

from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This is brilliant! I almost love this book more for her strategic and engaging writing style than its content. Again Kondo grabs the reader’s attention by beginning the lesson with wild declarations. In this case, we’re all sadists when it comes to our socks. Then she gives a brief home economics lesson on fabric care but does it in such a disarming way that a dull subject like sock care becomes appealing. When we roll our socks, we keep the fabric pulled and tense which, coupled with the friction caused by haphazard storage, weakens fabric elasticity and shortens the lifespan of your socks.

Same lesson, two different lesson plans.

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Once I figured out Kondo’s teaching style, my appreciation for the book skyrocketed. Kondo made home economics humorous and inspirational. If a quirky Japanese woman who sends her cell phone thank-you notes can do it, I can, too. She makes it sound fun, like there is nothing she’d rather do than fold socks properly. What she says isn’t too far removed from what I learned during two years of The William Morris Project, so I feel confident in what I have done and in what I am going to do.

I’m moving forward with my Thursday WMP posts, but I’m going to employ KonMarie methodology as best as I can. I won’t be 100% true to the book. I knocked off 1/2 star from my review because some aspects seem unrealistic or were vaguely explained. The KonMarie way has you purging all at once, yet she never explains what that means. The whole house? The whole category? She implies it’s the whole house, but I don’t see her clients working around the clock or taking time off work the complete an entire house purge. The size of my American house alone–and I live in a modest-sized home–prevents me from tackling everything in one day. This will be a long-term project lasting at least two months.

Her instructions to get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy” were also vague. I understood the concept–it’s similar to the William Morris quote–but I wanted a sharper definition. Additionally, many of us are in a position where there are items we must keep not because they “spark joy,” but because we can’t afford to replace them. My clothing, for example, and nearly all of the glasses in my kitchen.

This leads me to the final area I found lacking. Marie Kondo asks that we organize in the right order: clothes, books papers, komono, and things with sentimental value. Komono, Japanese for miscellany, is an enormous category that includes the kitchen. Absolutely not, Marie Kondo. Absolutely not! The kitchen is the lifeblood of most American homes and a hotspot for useless items and clutter. Komono sounds like the place enthusiastic organizers go to die. Tighten up that category, woman. It’s a balled up sock rolling around in a drawer and bumping into other categories.

I suppose that’s what the second book is about, you sneaky, brilliant woman.

All are welcome to join me as I delve into the KonMarie method and share their results in the comments. Next Thursday I’ll be posting the first step: visualizing my destination.

four-half-stars

Cravings

Sugar

I’m reading the book Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God; I like it, though don’t take that as a recommendation because I’m only half-finished. I would describe it as an amalgamation of Geneen Roth and books on mindless eating viewed under a lens of Catholicism. Good, though not new.

I had to put the book down when I felt forced to make a decision I want to avoid. Years ago I lost 50 pounds by attending OA meetings. OA is structured like any 12-step program, though unlike AA or NA, you determine your abstinence and your meal plan.

The definition of Abstinence is the same for all members but the details of the Plan of Eating for each member may differ depending on what compulsive food behaviors we engaged in while practicing our disease, such as overeating, under-eating, and purging. A Plan of Eating is a Tool to help the OA member to maintain abstinence, i.e., to refrain from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors and to work toward or maintain a healthy body weight. There are as many “plans of eating” in OA as there are members and a plan may change over time for each member. Dignity of Choice has samples of some of the many plans of eating OA member’s use.

I joined because a reader emailed me and suggested I try it, with her sponsoring me via email. It was the most unexpected and intimate thing I have ever done with a stranger. To this day, I have no idea what possessed me to go so outside my comfort zone. I did well for the first six months. I followed her abstinence and plan of eating, which meant no sugar or flour. I was taught to believe that I was aaddicted to both. A part of me wondered if that was true, but I soldiered on. I had a goal–a 6-month chip–and I earned it and the weight I lost. I felt healthy and in control for the first time in a long time.

Then, two things happened simultaneously: I achieved my 6-month chip and I lost my sponsor. I am nothing without goals and a to-do list. It’s after I reach my goals and cross off every item on my list that I flounder. I walked every day for a year until the year was over.

Being in a 12-step program is like mountain climbing with a group; you are tied together by a rope and if your partner falls, there is a possibility you will, too. I fell. Very, very slowly. It took me 6 years to hit the bottom, but here I am.

It took me a long time to fall because I tried other programs (CEA-HOW, wasn’t the same) and started reading more books on mindless eating. For a while met regularly with a nutritionist who believes in intuitive eating. Going back to work, first as a volunteer and then the following year as an employee/volunteer, put a stop to that. The last two years I was truly on my own. The bottom came up on me right quick.

One of my few walks in Lake Tahoe.

We listened to podcasts on our way home from Lake Tahoe, and one of them featured Gretchin Ruben and her new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday. I took her quiz and discovered I was an Obliger (as if there was any doubt).

Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner expectations. They’re motivated by external accountability; they wake up and think, “What must I do today?”

Obligers excel at meeting external demands and deadlines, and go to great lengths to meet their responsibilities, so they make terrific colleagues, family members, and friends. Others rely on them tremendously. However, because Obligers resist inner expectations, it can be difficult for them to self-motivate—to work on a Ph.D. thesis, to attend networking events, to get their car serviced.

Obligers depend on external accountability, with consequences such as deadlines, late fees, or the fear of letting other people down. In fact, Obligers need external accountability even for activities that they want to do. Behavior that Obligers sometimes attribute to self-sacrifice or lack of self-esteem—“Why do I always make time for other people’s priorities at the expense of my own?”—is often better explained as need for accountability.

The weight of outer expectations can make Obligers susceptible to burnout, because they have trouble telling people “no.” They may describe themselves as “people-pleasers.” They may, in fact, reach the point of Obliger rebellion, a striking pattern in which they abruptly refuse to meet an expectation. They may rebel in symbolic ways, with their hair, clothes, car, and the like.

Hearing that description made my OA/dieting/walking “failures” easier to understand. I wondered if I should give OA another shot. I contrasted the idea of believing I have an incurable addiction with the intuitive eating/eat whatever you like approach. Obviously, the latter sounded more appealing. I decided I wouldn’t make any decisions until I finished reading Cravings. (Rubin talks in her book about our ability to make loopholes–I suspected this was one.)

Which brings us full-circle to the moment I put down the book. The author just had to share a story of a woman who went to OA, stopped all sugar and flour, and has maintained her 150 pound weight loss for 15 years. She shared other stories, and I’m not sure she believes in sugar or flour addiction, but that story is still in that book. Taunting me.

I’m still not sure I believe in food addictions. The science goes both ways, much to the dismay of my INTJ heart. I’m thinking–always thinking–considering all my options and trying to retain my objectivity as I inch closer towards a decision. I have all the meeting times and dates memorized, if that says anything.

The Return of the William Morris Project

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Those of you on Instagram or Facebook know I bought The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo in February, around the same time as the rest of the world. I started it, stopped it, and lost it. That’s right, I lost it.

We’re back, safe and sound, after a couple of weeks in Lake Tahoe. It was nice (minus that one week) but we’re glad to be home. I, especially, wanted to get home and tackle this book and my house; I planned to read, review, and hopefully drink the Koolaid everyone has been going on about for almost a year.

I searched for this book the morning after we got home and have been searching for it ever since. I can’t find it, and that means it’s time to change the way I do things around here. My first item on the agenda: start doing things.

I don’t know what will happen when school starts up again; I don’t even know if I have a job. But until then, Thursdays are once again my WMP days.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

My second item on the agenda: find a new quote. I thought the quote was clever when I read it a million years ago, so much so that I parroted it to my friend when her parents died (incidentally, their death inspired the project). Since then, you can find it in every home book, magazine, and blog. Enough. Too much. Overkill. Did George Costanza teach you nothing, Internet? Get out on a high note!

I’m also going to be sharing reviews on the many, many simple living and decluttering books on the market. So many of them say the same thing, but occasionally there are some true gems. Part of the reason The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up became so popular is because of its uniqueness in the genre–or at least that’s what I suspect if the rumors of folded underwear and sparking joy are true. I’ll know more for my review and project post next Thursday, after I re-buy the book on organization and decluttering that I I lost in my house.

Every Single Soul

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I stopped reading poetry years ago; I don’t know why. I used to write it, but that stopped, too. The last one I wrote I published here. I changed it to look more like paragraphs immediately after publishing it for reasons wrapped up in pedantic insecurities. So weird. I’m weird.

But today I was reading a book, trying to push out of my head the thoughts that were taking up too much space, and I was reminded of Mary Oliver’s famous poem, The Summer Day. If you have a pinterest account, you’re familiar with its most famous line. But in case you’re not familiar with the poem or don’t have pinterest, or are in need to a nudge, push, jab, here it is in its entirety.

The picture of the trees is one I took on a walk in Lake Tahoe.

The Summer Day


Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Reading and Cooking

Thank you so, so much for Friday. I’m doing okay and learned quite a bit in the comments. I’m so glad I hit “publish.” Thank you.

Since then, I’ve been reading and cooking up a storm, proving definitively that I am a stress reader/cooker. I’ve read at least 5 books and 3 cookbooks since last Monday, and while none of the books have stood out, a few of my kitchen adventures made it to Instagram. If it didn’t happen on Instagram, it didn’t happen in real life. Humble-braggers, unite!

The Rice Krispie treats didn’t make the cut. The boys had homemade treats for the first time on Friday. They’ve had Rice Krispie treats from the store, of course. They have grandmas. I don’t like Rice Krispie treats past the first bite, so I never make them. That changed on Friday, and when I bit into that marshamallow-still-warm square I moaned and said to the Mister, “It tastes like the 80s!”

Then I had a second bite and was like, “meh.” They’re too sweet. The boys were far more complimentary. I think. “Oh, mom,” Mikey said. “These taste just like from the store.”

Food collage

Here’s what I what I made that I showed off on social media while pretending I wasn’t showing off and looking for the right light: Veggie tacos and Strawberry Jam & Butter cookies. Neither recipe is my own.

The veggie tacos are Annie’s mom’s black bean burger recipe, which she shared here in the comments.

Sauté together 1 cup diced onions and 1 cup diced mild peppers. Place into a food processor. To the food processor bowl, add 2 cups cooked black beans (drained), 4 eggs, less than or equal to 2 cups rolled oats, some hot pepper paste (my mom makes her own, so substitute something you know is safe) if you like spicy foods, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (this could be omitted too). Blend together in the food processor until puréed, adding oats as necessary to firm them up.

Form into patties and cook in a few tablespoons of oil. Cook them covered in a cast iron pan or other heavy skillet. (My mom uses a 1/4 cup measure to drop them and spread them out into patties.) I would imagine these could be made ahead and then frozen, although they never last that long around here.

I made the burgers on Saturday, subbing cooked riced for some of the oats because I had leftovers I wanted to use up. Everyone, even Mikey, loved them. Thanks, Annie!

I made the tacos out of the leftovers, again because I hate wasting food. I took the leftover burgers and sliced them into strips that resembled fajitas. I reheated and crisped them up in olive oil. Then I slid the strips onto a corn tortilla and layered them with spinach, radishes, avocado, cheese, and hot sauce–what I had on hand. Mikey absolutely flipped for these things. They were really, really good. (Seriously, thanks, Annie!)

The cookies are the Strawberry Jam and Butter cookies from the back of the Bob’s Red Mill flour bag. I was at the store buying the ingredients for the black bean burgers, saw the recipe (don’t ask, not sure why I was in the flour section) and decided they sounded good. You can find that recipe here, on the Bob’s Red Mill site. I love the recipe because, at least until next week, I’m cooking at high altitude. I adjusted the recipe on my own and didn’t have any major problems–and they were a huge hit!

I also made a pie pastry to make a Spanish savory pie, but by dinner time I was over it. Frozen pizza saves the day! I used Against the Grain cheese pizza because it was the only frozen pizza I could find that was made in a dedicated nut-free facility. I wasn’t expecting much, but it tasted pretty good. The boys loved it, so that made me happy.

Other things that make me happy: writing what I could never say out loud, helpful comments, prayers and positive wishes, packing up to go home, and a happy and healthy family.