A Remember Wren Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Christmas decorations are packed away, giving our house a temporarily uncluttered look and I feel inspired to get rid of all our junk (wondering what to do in January when it’s cold outside? Uh, get organized, that’s what). I actually started some organizing projects many weeks ago, then I read this fantastic book that I’m dying to recommend to you, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. I’m seriously wishing I had read this before I started some of my organizing projects and I hope you read it before you start yours. It will change your outlook, I swear!

black and white closet

First of all, the book will inspire you because Marie Kondo’s advice is so simple in it’s approach. There is absolutely no wishy-washy mumbo jumbo on how you have to understand what kind of organizer you are, what organizing method works best, or determine the flow patterns of your house. She will not recommend that you go to The Container Store and spend hundreds of dollars or develop new filing and organizing systems. It all comes down to this:

“Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out.”

Think on that for a second. A place for everything and everything in it’s place. It’s so simple, toddlers can do it at daycare.

Kondo doesn’t think highly of the incremental decluttering a bit every day approach. She insists on a massive sort, something like you’d see on that TLC show from way back, Clean Sweep. You’re likely to have more success if you can see massive results right off the bat that will help you stay motivated as you progress to more difficult items to sort like personal memorabilia. She suggests that you look at everything like it needs to go, it’s headed to the dump or Goodwill, and you handle each item and decide if it deserves to be kept because you actually use it or love it because it brings you joy. If you decide to keep it, you decide where to keep it right then. So, if you are going to clean out your closet, you take every single item out and gather up all the other clothing items from around your house, then consider each item individually to see if it is a keeper.

black and white shoes

Some of the best advice in the book is to not sort by area of your house, but by category of item. Like items should be sorted together and stored together. Reading that, you might say, “no duh!” but when I look at my house, there are a total of five different places any family member’s shoes could be at any given time. No wonder it takes us extra time to get out the door. This idea also helps you to see how much of a certain item you have and keeps you from acquiring the same thing over and over again (you would not believe how many screw driver sets we have).

Her advice for people like me, who live with packrats who have no desire to tidy up, is to keep sorting your own items and lead by example. I’m skeptical on this point, but maybe my family will come around when the realize I always know where my stuff is while they can’t find anything they want.

You get the gist of her philosophy with what I already shared, but I also have to mention the following tidbits, which just struck a chord with me:

  • Storage experts are hoarders
  • Save difficult items until last
  • Discard all of your paperwork

Mind blowing, right? “Storage experts are hoarders!” Well of course they are! They know every container you should keep things in and where to find it, the little addicts! “Save difficult items until last” seems like excellent advice but my intuition is to do the hard stuff first. From Kondo’s point of view though, I see my mistake. Organizing is a big decision making exercise. You’ll get better at making decisions the more you practice, so best to get lots of experience before tackling that difficult box of childhood memories. I’m still having a hard time with the “discard all of your paperwork” notion. I’m an expert at creating “what-if” scenarios, so I have every credit card statement and phone bill from the last seven years. Really, I know I can get that information online if I need it and for the most part I haven’t needed any of it at all, ever.

Gosh, that just scratches the surface of this book, so I hope you’ll take the time to read it before you tackle your organizing projects. I found Kondo’s approach to be very enlightening. The book is translated from Japanese and Kondo refers frequently to all the bags of garbage she has hauled out of clients’ homes. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt and assuming that things were properly disposed of, whether donated or recycled. Ugh, where to take everything you discard is another matter isn’t it?

So what is up first on your organizing to do list? Read this book, hopefully, and then remember, not room by room, but category by category. Good luck!