Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The life changing magic of tidying up: review

In the midst of feeling completely overwhelmed by all the stuff in our house, I heard of this title, published last year in English (translated from Japanese): The life changing magic of tidying up, by Marie Kondo. I jumped on the holds list at the Brantford Public Library when it was only a few people long; now there are almost 20 in line behind me.

the konmari method of tidying - book reviewI'll get right to the point: reading this book was a good experience for me. Entertaining, thought provoking, and very likely useful in helping me to keep a better house. At the beginning I was a bit shocked at Kondo's obsessive behaviors. As I read on, I became impressed that she made herself so vulnerable by sharing these things. I found the book very readable, and wasn't turned off by some of the zanier suggestions she makes, such as communicating with your house or thanking possessions for their service to you. I am fine with these things.

I respect that Kondo sticks to her mission, in focusing totally on tidying and discarding (the latter of which is really the main event). In its directives, the book is very simple and I don't think I will have problems following the instructions even after I return it to the library. However, I think she does have a blind spot; there is a lack of comment on responsible disposal of your discarded stuff. If you slow down to recycle and re-home goods, will it impede the discarding process? Possibly. She doesn't discuss this. While she is impressed with the number of garbage bags that her clients discard, I cringe at the thought of throwing out 60 bags at one go.

Donate it, you may say. While I do use trips to the thrift store as a way to destash, I often feel like this is making my garbage problem someone else's problem. You may be aware that unsold thrift store goods are sometimes donated or sold in developing countries, where in some cases they may be supplanting local textile industries. Eek. What started as a way to be environmentally friendly - recycling your clothes - can have a whole other set of consequences for people in southern countries. Value Village states on its website that they ship unsold product to "developing countries to help supply economies with a steady stream of high-quality goods." However much negative impact this has at a local level I am unsure of, but it makes me wary. What about locally made products? I haven't ever thought of my used t-shirts as "high-quality goods".

But really, is my problem with disposing of things in a manner that I feel comfortable with Marie Kondo's problem? No, not at all. She stays on topic. While certain things in this book don't feel realistic (turning over a seasonal wardrobe is fairly important in a country where temperatures spread over 60 degrees Celsius, for one), I also believe that things hold an energy, and that having too many things often means you don't get to appreciate the ones you have. There are many Konmari before and after pics out there, but this set from the New York Times is particularly good, I suspect because it shows a room Marie Kondo worked on herself. I'm not ready for before and after pics yet, but I do think I will start with getting rid of some items. Once I figure out where to send them.