A Small Life Book Club: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up


We’re opening up the book club with the #1 best seller: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing* by Marie Kondo. I’ve heard so much praise for this book. I had to find out what it was all about.

Full disclosure: I listened to the audiobook because I’m a busy lady. That may have colored my review. I didn’t love the reader’s voice. It was robotic and put me to sleep several times. Not even kidding. At one point the reader broke from the deadpan and did several different voices to represent different testimonials. It was such a 180 that I laughed for a good 10 minutes. I even backed up the audiobook to listen to that part again. So there’s that. Anyway, on to it!

Kondo’s approach to “tidying” is this: keep only items that bring you joy. Honestly, I found that idea to a bit far fetched. Do any of my socks bring me joy? No. Do my washcloths bring me joy? No. But both are necessary for life. At one point, she suggested that we throw away our sweats and women should dress elegantly for bed. I was cussing up a storm after that one.

But Kondo did present a few gems of decluttering wisdom. She suggested that we only declutter our own stuff. I love that approach and always suggest it to friends/family who want to minimize. The best way to help others declutter is to set an example. It’s dangerous and rude to throw away other people’s things. It leads to mistrust and you could really harm someone’s emotional ability to get rid of stuff in the long run. I also liked her hippy-dippy theory of thanking items for their use when getting rid of them. It takes some of the guilt away.

On the other hand, I’m not 100% sure I agree with her approach to decluttering. The “KonMarie Method” suggests that instead of moving room by room, one should declutter by item type. For example, you’ll first find all the clothes in your house, gather them in a pile on the floor, then ask if each one brings you joy. If not, the item is thanked for it’s one-time purpose and put in a bag to be thrown away. In theory this seems like a good idea, but I only live in 188 square feet and I am overwhelmed by the thought of finding every single piece of clothing I own and dumping it in a pile. She also claims that none of her clients have ever rebounded into clutter. That just seems unlikely.

We are having a canned food drive at work so I tried the KonMarie Method with all my canned goods. (That’s not one of the items on her list, but I thought I could try to see if it was applicable to other situations.) I took all the canned goods out of my pantry and put them on the floor. I asked myself if each one gave me joy. They were food, so the answer was “yes” for almost everything. I got distracted half way through and ended up leaving a pile of cans on the floor for half a day. That’s something else I didn’t love about the system, there’s no estimated time line. I know it will take a different amount of time for different people, but it could take some people months to go through all their clothes that way. I don’t know without a personal organizer standing behind them that most people could keep up that kind of momentum.

Overall, I give this one a big, fat “MEH.” Was it “life-changing magic” for me? No. Will it work for some people? Yes.

Did you read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments!


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22 thoughts on “A Small Life Book Club: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

  1. thestreamlinedlife

    Hey Melanie,

    I read the book about a month ago and felt the same way. There were a few novel ideas in, but I’m not sure I would recommend it. There are much better minimalism books out there for sure.


  2. Mary

    I am agreeing with you ladies. I didn’t understand why this book is raved about so much. I don’t believe she can have 100% of her clients not rebound. You wouldn’t get in to a cluttered mess if you didn’t have a tendency (or compulsion) to clutter/hoard. That doesn’t just go away! As for piling stuff, specifically clothes, to go thru …. that would completely overwhelm someone like my mother, who would never deal with the clothes, and they would still sit there 6 months later! That’s where I have to follow her recommendation of you can’t throw out other people’s stuff. But that is also not a new recommendation …

    1. melanie Post author

      Mary, yes! I’m not sold on piling stuff on the floor. I understand the need to touch every item, but piling it on the floor and then getting distracted with something else is a likely scenario.

  3. Terra

    I listened to the audio book too. The narrator was so bad! I agree that it was just meh. There were some nice ideas in the book. I like that the main focus is on purging. After that though I didn’t like some of the suggestions, like ripping pages out of books for the quotes you like. Ahh that one hurt my soul a little. It seemed like such a waste when someone else might enjoy the book. Also clearing out your handbag everyday to let it rest was something that would stress me out more every morning when I had to reload it. I can’t help but wonder if some of the “magic” was lost when the book was translated and if I’d have found it more helpful before I’d finished my major purges.

    1. melanie Post author

      Terra, yes! The tearing out pages horrified me. I also didn’t like that she focused on throwing things away instead of recycling or donating. I get that throwing things away is faster, but take the extra ten minutes to drive yourself to the local Goodwill. There’s enough stuff in our landfills.

  4. Poppy N

    I checked this out of the library, read it quickly, and returned it the same day. She seems enchanting 🙂 but I didn’t get much out of it. I like the idea of getting it all done as quickly as possible to really appreciate what a tidy room looks like (and to fall in love with a tidy room, and not go back to old habits). But ideas like “thanking” your stuff, emptying your purse, and storing your sponge outside (as I recall) seemed silly to me. My purse doesn’t need to REST. 🙂 I agree that it might be a translation issue. And the book DID make me yearn for a small, neat space. But I didn’t change the way I folded my T-shirts. And the very word “magical” was a turn-off. Get rid of your crap, form some good habits, and don’t postpone happiness too long.

    1. melanie Post author

      Poppy, I agree. I would really like to know what this woman’s flaws are– especially if she is dressing elegantly in the privacy of her own home. And a resting purse is strange. Also, I’m going to continue balling my socks up like potatoes because it’s efficient and I can find them quickly. I did donate a few items when I finished the book, but there was no magic for me either. I love your last insight– let’s none of us postpone happiness for too long, ever!

  5. Grazia Cacciola - Erbaviola

    Sorry for being so late but I had some hard days at work.
    I read the e-book in the Italian translation and confirm that there are the same things that I read in the comments above, so I doubt that it depends on the translation.
    I did an unusual thing for me: I underlined the reasonable suggestions in yellow, and used pink for the oddities like “put the computer, books and papers in the closet”, as suffering hanging clothes and bags always full. Away the “follies”, the book would be reduced to 5 pages of interesting tips.
    Japanese culture is very far from mine and perhaps this is the reason why I have not fully understood the book. But I was very heartened that it deems essential to keep only the ‘good’ things :)))) I sometimes step a little ‘strange because I do not want ugly objects, I want just a few and beautiful. This makes sense to me also for the peeler, the ladle, the bathmat … but I do not think that they feel happy or sad when I change their place.

    1. melanie Post author

      Grazia, that highlighting suggestion is genius! I really like the idea to keep things that you love and that are beautiful too. I hope you’re relaxing now!

  6. Laura

    I used her method for sorting through my clothes and my books, and actually did find it to be helpful. (Some of my socks certainly bring me more joy than others!). However, it’s time to move on to papers, my kitchen pantry, etc. and I just can’t see it working. I’m appreciative of some of her ideas, but I don’t think it works in every part of my life

    1. melanie Post author

      I’m glad to hear it worked for you with the clothes and books. I did think it was weird that she lumped everything other than clothes, books and papers into a big “miscellaneous” section. Miscellaneous would describe most of my house.

  7. Jocelyn

    I also listened to the audio book but I loved the readers voice. I also like KonMarie’s quirkiness with regards to possessions but I don’t agree and never will with some of the things she says. I like my socks balled like potatoes and some clothes in piles and some on hangers and all this folding things to stand up seems unnecessarily time consuming and frustrating. There is definitely magic in tidying up and I will do it in my own way and take as long as I like about it ^_^ However, I enjoyed the book, loved her stories about her childhood and will listen again.

    1. melanie Post author

      Jocelyn, you’ve got some good points. Maybe I should have looked at her view as more “quirky” than insane. Haha. It’s interesting that you loved the stories about her childhood, I’ve read a lot of reviews that didn’t like that part. I will still be balling up my socks like potatoes too. 🙂

  8. Lauren B

    I was so looking forward to this book. I don’t even know if i got 1/4 of the way through. Unfortunately, since there is a waitlist I was unable to renew the book at the library and had to return it before I was done. I was bored with this book from the start though. The author said a lot of words without actually conveying anything of value. I felt like she just talked about how great she is and how her method is the only method, etc. I have read a few other self-help type books like this and have never enjoyed them. I wish I would have had time to delve a little deeper, but I don’t have any interest in checking out this book again. The biggest message I got from this book is to have less stuff. That always helps!

    1. melanie Post author

      Lauren, for sure! I don’t know if I would have finished it if I didn’t know that I needed to discuss it. And I was totally bored with the stories too. I don’t know how other people got “charming” out of that. I felt like the book could have been like 20 pages– have less stuff, roll your clothes, declutter by type. The end!

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  11. Planet Millie

    I also didn’t like Marie Kondo’s book. In fact, I haven’t seen a minimalism blogger who has liked it. I don’t like the idea of de-cluttering by item, and I can’t imagine that it works for someone who already keeps most their belongings in check. I wonder whether the people finding value in this book have never de-cluttered at all before, and therefore don’t have any approach to tackling the mess in their lives.

    Having said all of that, I’m glad there are some people engaging with the book as that would suggest that they are starting to streamline their lives and making the decision not to buy so much junk. Always a good thing!

    1. melanie Post author

      Yeah, it was kind of weird in spots. Overall, I’m all for having less stuff, but I’ll never clean out my purse every night or quit balling my socks.

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