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What I thought of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

review of the life changing magic of tidying up

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.

(It turns out it’s because I want to.)

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.

clean school desk

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.

napco plygem window warranty

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??

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Louie Miller

Monday 5th of March 2018

I just finished the book, and agreed with your review. At times, I was thinking, "Is she crazy?!" And I wondered a lot about the size of Japanese homes compared to many American homes. I have a friend who is drowning in her stuff, but she's got four levels of a large home to tackle. Not gonna happen all at once for an overweight person in her 60's!! I totally agree with her point about storage; not good to keep storing and storing. Get rid of all that does not spark joy is helpful, too.


Wednesday 4th of March 2015

Ironically I just finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago. I loved it. I looked past the talking to your things. In regards to the things you didn't like about it, hear are my thoughts:

1. never having to do it again - I think the whole point is to make sure that every single thing has a place and that it goes back to that place. Of course as time goes on you can get rid of things that don't spark joy, and when you buy new things you need to find a home for them, but the BIG crazy decluttering session should only happen over one period.

2. past what is practical and helpful - It seems as though she uses a different handbag on a daily basis, like people used to do in the 90s and before, so it makes sense for her to unload her bag every day. Wouldn't make sense for me! I have found some of those crazier ideas to actually be helpful to me though. For example, I now shut down my computer completely at the end of the day. I keep my once a week shower stuff in my bathroom cabinet and my bathroom looks so much neater with only my daily shampoo/conditioner/husband's shaving cream/body soap/face wash in the shower. etc.

3. overstates the benefits - I agree with you, but then I wonder a little more about it. maybe these people that are hiring her have homes in such a state of disarray, clutter and dirt that they really have those symptoms as they declutter? Some of the photos that have been posted with her articles are absolutely disgusting, and I can't imagine EVER living that way.

We are going through her method category by category, and despite living pretty neat/organized/clean lives we've already discarded a bunch of stuff that we've been keeping for no good reason.

Thanks for this post - loved hearing your perspective.

and PS - In googling things about the KonMari method I came across a blogger who added that she now does the "one touch" method. So instead of draping her coat across a kitchen chair, then moving it to the couch at dinnertime, then finally hanging it, she puts things away with "one touch." I love that concept.


Wednesday 4th of March 2015

Oh! I had no idea there were pictures out there. Must google!


Monday 2nd of March 2015

You may appreciate this article that has had one too many encounters with this way of thinking


Monday 2nd of March 2015

Yes! A friend shared that and I love it. So funny.

Clara B

Sunday 1st of March 2015

One of the things I really liked about the book was that she emphasized sorting by category rather than by room. That makes complete sense to me. I also agree with the author that the solution isn't better storage systems, it's less stuff. Apparently Americans aren't the only people with way too much stuff!

I also found the anthropomorphism a bit strange, although it helps to know that it's a cultural difference. It does make me realize, however, that we need to treat our belongings with care and respect, as they are part of creation with which God has gifted us. It gives me new incentive to hang up my clothes...


Saturday 28th of February 2015

I really like her idea of declutter/organize so you can see the floor. It is a pain to sweep/vacuum around stuff even in a closet. Or if something falls behind a bin, there is little motivation to go fishing for it. Thanks for sharing!

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