This book has been much-discussed in the blogosphere, and before I even read the book, the discussion made me think more about why I clean.
I promised I’d share my thoughts about the book once I actually read it, so that’s what’s on tap today.
(I keep a running list of books I’ve read in 2015, along with short thoughts about each book, but I wanted to say a little more about this book than would fit there.)
There were some parts of this book that I loved and some that left me scratching my head.
Part of the head-scratching is likely due to cultural differences between Japan and the U.S., I think, and if I were more steeped in Japanese culture, the book would make more sense to me.
Also, I’m positive that some things get lost in translation, so if I were fluent in Japanese and could read the original version, that’d probably help.
How about we start with what I liked?
Decluttering books remind me that life is simpler with fewer possessions.
I know this, mind you, and if you asked me point blank, I’d always tell you that fewer possessions = simplicity.
But somehow, I keep needing to be reminded. It’s like I need to catch the vision again, and decluttering books/blogs help to reinvigorate me.
She declutters in order to free people to live life.
The point of decluttering is not to devote your time to decluttering. The point is to get unburdened so that you can spend time doing other things.
While a low level of clutter doesn’t eat up time, a high level does. When I can’t find things or have no space to work, everything takes twice as long, whereas a clean space helps me work efficiently.
She advocates decluttering rather than organizing.
This is key to maintenance, I think. Simply organizing stuff you don’t love or use is a little bit pointless because too much stuff, organized or not, is hard to maintain over the long haul.
She has good practical suggestions.
For example, she recommends decluttering by category (this works great with my kids), she advocates vertical storage instead of stacking, and she says you should put things on shelves and in closets in order to clear floor space.
So there’s plenty of solid, practical advice in the book.
I (sort of ) like her “Does this spark joy?” question.
I do this when I declutter with my kids, asking them to separate out the things that make them really happy. Keeping only the things you really love and getting rid of the ones you feel, “meh” about means that what you’re left with is a pile of super-happy possessions.
However, I think this breaks down a bit when you get to very practical stuff. Does my trash can spark joy? Do my sponges spark joy? No, but I do need them.
On the other hand, I kind of get what she’s saying when it comes to practical stuff. For instance, my washing machine is pretty old and ugly, but the fact that it does a great job and is almost endlessly repairable does make me happy.
In the same way, when you look at something like kitchen equipment, you’d consider a great vegetable peeler to be a joyful possession but a dull, flimsy one is something you’d get rid of.
Now, on to what I didn’t love so much.
I’m a little skeptical about never having to do this again.
Kondo promises that once you declutter using her method, you’ll never have to do it again.
I dunno…maybe my problem is that I’ve never been ruthless enough or maybe the problem is that I’m not good enough at stemming the influx of things, but I’ve never been able to declutter once and be done forever.
Take clothing, for example. Even if you DO go through all of your clothing and only keep what sparks joy, what’s to say those clothes will still spark joy in ten years? What if you change? What if your size changes? What if styles change? If any of those things happen, you’ll have to go through your clothes again.
I think she goes past what is practical and helpful.
I’m all for cleaning and decluttering to the point where it serves me and my family. But Kondo seems to go a bit farther.
For instance, when she comes home every day, she completely empties her bag and puts everything in a dedicated spot (her train pass has a spot, her wallet has a spot, etc.)
This seems pointless. Why would I take out all of the things that I will just put right back into the bag the next day? I mean, if it makes her happy to do this, I don’t begrudge her this at all, but I definitely am not going to spend my time packing and repacking my bag.
She also recommends removing all products from the shower each day, drying them off and putting them into a cabinet so that they will not get slimy.
Maybe this is necessary in Japan’s climate but at least where I live, I do not find this to be an important task, and besides, I have no room in my tiny bathroom cabinet to store shampoo!
She overstates the benefits of decluttering.
Years ago, I listened to a talk about the benefits of reading aloud to your kids, and the speaker pointed out that children who are read to are less likely to end up in jail.
Now, I’m a fan of reading aloud, and I don’t doubt the statistic, but I’m pretty sure that our read-aloud sessions are not what will keep my kids out of jail (correlation, not causation!)
Anyway, the last section of the book reminded me a little of that.
Kondo claims that decluttering your stuff is detoxifying (you may get diarrhea, she says!) and she says her clients have slimmed down and gotten clearer complexions after decluttering. They’ve also found love, started a new career, and increased their good fortune.
I’m a fan of decluttering, but I’m not really sure it’s quite that life-changing, aside from the fact that life is simplified with less clutter.
The anthropomorphism is a little…whoa.
I don’t know if this is a cultural thing, but Kondo treats possessions as though they are living things. She talks to them, thanks them for service, and thinks about how they might be comfortably stored.
I’m all for taking care of things and treating them well, but there is no part of me that believes my possessions are sentient beings capable of hearing and understanding what I say.
I don’t regret reading this book as it was somewhat helpful, especially the first 3/4, as the oddities emerged more in the last 1/4.
I am a little surprised that this book is such a smash hit, though, as I’m pretty sure that a number of other decluttering books I’ve read are better than this one (and no one speaks to their clothing in those books!)
Alrighty. I’d love to hear from those of you who have read the book! What did you think??