Thursday, 11 February 2016

Thoughts on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying

I realised just how popular Marie Kondo's book was when I asked nonchalantly for "that book about tidying" at my local bookstore, and I was given it within seconds by a teenaged shop assistant who couldn't have been more unlike Martha Stewart if he tried. It seems everyone has been seduced by Kondo's message of paring back one's possessions to only what 'sparks joy'. Today, I won't be rehashing the whole book (that has been done at length by many, many people), but instead I'll share three thoughts I took away from reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying.

Empty your bag daily
As soon as you get home for the day, Kondo suggests taking everything out of your handbag, putting it in its place and storing your bag for the night. I initially suspected that this would be a waste of time and an added chore to have to repack everything each morning. I have, however, been pleasantly surprised - it takes mere seconds every evening and morning, and it allows me to bring only what I need with me on that particular day. For example, I probably didn't need to bring my pencil case, replete with two different coloured highlighters and a whiteout, on a quick trip to the supermarket, nor did I need sunglasses in their bulky case to go to the cinema at night. It also prevents build-up of 'lost' items swimming at the bottom of my bag, like faded receipts, loose change and bus cards.

Quality over quantity
There's a quote, which is attributed (I hope accurately) to artist William Morris, which I have always liked: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful". This aligns perfectly with Kondo's message of having only things that are of high quality or sentimental value, rather than masses of worthless stuff. This is her criterion for editing down what you already have, but also for acquiring new items, be it clothes, makeup, books or furniture. I managed to pull together a surprisingly large pile of things I no longed needed or desired that I've since donated, or in the case of old bank statements and report cards, thrown away. I feel much 'lighter' for it. In the same vein, I'd rather spend a bit more on one luxury item than lots of worthless stuff that would occupy precious space.

Discard unread books
Quite possibly the biggest purge I undertook was of my bookshelf. There's a chapter entitled "Unread books: 'sometime' means 'never'", which urges the reader to do away with books they've been meaning to read for years, but have never quite gotten to. I was very much guilty of this - I had quite a collection of secondhand classics printed in 8-point font that I'd never quite mustered the motivation to get through. Has anyone actually finished Anna Karenina? (Please say no and make me feel better about myself). I felt a lot of mixed feelings about clearing out so many books, but I also felt much relief at having that obligation lifted off of me and only keeping the books I actually wanted to read. Should I wish to finally peruse The Pickwick Papers sometime in the future, I could always borrow or buy a new edition. No need to keep loads of unopened books that make you feel guilty every time you pass by them.

I, for one, quite enjoyed The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, although I don't agree with everything she says - something I've read and heard repeatedly from those who found her philosophy too extreme, or find it bizarre how she holds her socks in such high reverence. I don't feel the need to empty my shower everyday of all the products I keep in there, as she suggests, and there is no way I am parting with my sizeable collection of cosmetic samples. I do appreciate, however, her focus on surrounding yourself with beautiful, high quality things. I would recommend you 'pick and mix' from the ideas that resonate the most with you, as I have done.

I know Kondo is a controversial figure, so I'd love to hear your thoughts - whether you love what she stands for or you're not swayed one bit by the minimalism craze, let me know below.

P.S. If you enjoyed the book, I'd recommend checking out Light By Coco's blog and Youtube - she deals with the same themes in a slightly less, well, eccentric way.

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