Monday, January 11, 2016

Tidying Up

I finally read the KonMari book this weekend. I figured I'd already read/heard so much about it that there wouldn't be much new to the book, which was mostly true, but I did find it a quick & engaging read. Here is my brief review:

Pros:
  • I like the term "tidying". It rolls of the tongue & encompasses both "cleaning" and "decluttering" none of which feel enjoyable; together, as "tidying" it is a satisfying and somewhat soothing endeavor
  • DEFINITELY discard before you organize. I like that she advises strongly against buying specialty "organization" products. If you get rid of most of your crap, you don't need to go buy drawers and boxes and shelves
  • Go through things by CATEGORY rather than space. Yes. I cleaned out some bins in our living room, bought more envelopes & tape, and then realized we have duplicate items in the study. Similarly we keep some kitchen items in the pantry---if I really want to know all the baking supplies we have, I need to gather them from all over.
  • Storing things so you can see them all. Ever since I heard of her clothes-folding method, I started rolling up my clothes in my drawers (her vertical folding method is too complicated). LIFE-CHANGING for real! I can see everything at once, which makes me more likely to wear certain things (I used to just continuously wear whatever was on top) and no more having to fling clothes all over the place hunting for that one black camisole I need to wear under that one top. Also, I sometimes open the drawer, see something I haven't worn in a while and chuck it into the give-away pile. I now want to roll my tights into cinnamon buns, too. Better than the "tangled noodles" method I have going on!
  • The idea of keeping only what "sparks joy" really works in regards to personal items, like clothes/accessories/make-up. I had a tendency to keep things "just in case" or because I felt guilty about buying it and not using it (I've begun to embrace the "sunk cost" mentality) and then I'd force myself to wear a dress that makes me feel frumpy when I have 3 other perfectly confidence-boosting joy-sparking dresses in the closet. Who has space in their life for that? doesn't work so well when it comes to kitchen goods but I guess you consider the joy that is sparked when you use a proper tool for its given purpose.
  • The idea of "thanking items for their service" is really out there. Who TALKS TO their clothes? But...the foundation behind this advice---to acknowledge that the item has served its purpose and thus feel comfortable letting it go, makes sense to me. This works especially well with gifts---the purpose of the gift is for the giver to feel the joy of giving and for you to experience the thrill of opening. What happens after should not matter; you aren't under obligation to keep it forever. A clothing or jewelry item that you ended up not liking may teach you to hone your style or to not let your friends talk you into purchases. 
Cons:
  • And this is a big one: I completely and totally disagree with her central assertion that you can tidy your whole house ONCE and be done FOREVER. HOW does this make sense? The only way you would never again need to purge clothes or toiletries or medications is if you were continually doing a micro-decluttering every day so that things didn't build up. Of course clothes are going to wear out, stop fitting, become out of style after a few years, even if your tastes don't change. You are going to accumulate things---through buying or receiving---and unless every single gift and purchase is 100% spot-on and you use it until completely worn out, you will have to get rid of stuff again. I'm not even mentioning kids' stuff here because that is of course a given.  
  • Her views on paperwork are a bit cavalier. Really save NOTHING? No one would EVER need to read a manual for an appliance? (she didn't say find the e-version or scan it in, she specifically said no one ever uses them). You can save a ton of money looking up minor fixes and parts. I keep the manuals for all of our appliances. I also keep paperwork on any repair done on the home (even if not under warranty), any medical tests/procedures on any 2-4 legged inhabitant of our home, I actually had to submit my college transcripts when I applied for credentialing here---I am so glad I had them! We've pared down a LOT, but we do have one drawer of a file cabinet filled with "keep forever" and another drawer of "keep for a year" that we chuck after taxes as well as "tax documents" that we file away with a copy of our return for 7 years in case of audit.
  • Some of the out there stuff is just plain weird. Like saying hello to your house every day, or how your things "need to rest" so you need to empty your purse every night. I'll admit that maybe that is a relaxing routine for her, to greet her home, remove everything & gently put it away as a transition period from work to home. But its weird advice to give EVERYONE. The section about women who declutter their home having "bouts of diarrhea" that somehow indicate a kind of physical cleansing---"and then they lost weight!" "found a new job" "met a new boyfriend!" WEIRD (and gross!)
  • She is overly averse to bulk buying. She told supposed "horror stories" of women that had 2 years worth of toothpaste or 3 months worth of toilet paper. How only having a few of items ended up spurring her clients to "being more creative with substitutes" when they run out. Sure---makes sense when you are talking food and being creative with recipes. I do not want to know of how one can be "creative" when you run out of toilet paper or toothpaste, however. Those are the exact 2 items I ALWAYS have a stock of, I have a real scarcity mindset here and want back-ups for my back-ups!
  • The waste. The lack of a single word about the environmental impact of throwing away tens of 45L plastic trash bags worth of stuff from a single room. Not a single admonition to change your buying practices to avoid such disgusting waste in the future. No mention of recycling, donating, passing on, upcycling or otherwise finding a way that everything doesn't end up in a landfill. And how to assuage the guilt you feel about this if you really do need to shed this stuff from your home.
What I actually found most fascinating about this book was the brief glimpses into her psyche. At the age of FIVE she was "tidying" her house and classroom. She came home from school and immediately began tidying EVERY DAY. Clearly she was an anxious child and this activity was soothing in some way. She mentions how others often use tidying to delay tackling something else---like studying for a test, or ending a relationship---but she never explicitly discloses what existential need her compulsive tidying fills for herself. Not sure if she lacking insight or just brushing away the clear fact of her neuroticism (then why talk about the childhood stuff in the first place?). I also found a particular story about meeting a client on a hike to do "waterfall mediation" (you apparently stand under the waterfall and let it pummel you) really interesting. She made some parallels between the mediation and the way she felt while tidying---that it was a form of meditation for her---that I kind of sort of related to? I've definitely had periods in my life where I "stress tidied"---stayed up late sorting through, getting rid of, and re-organizing things during stressful times. I haven't done that in years---I have no energy for that anymore! But I get it.

If you haven't read it, consider borrowing a copy. Its definitely a fast & amusing read. Life-changing and magical---no. I have no plans to do an extensive whole-house tidying jamboree. But I will incorporate her methods when I do sporadically tackle our excess of stuff.

17 comments:

  1. My thoughts were very similar down to the thoughts about her psychology. Several of the things she described seem compulsive to me & I found her childhood descriptions sort of weird as well.

    I did her method on my clothes and am very happy. Having only things that fit and are flattering is life changing! But I stalled out after that. I'd stil like to tackle books, photos and CDs but it's not going to happen anytime soon.

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    1. yeah, I've only done clothes so far, and I did it last year at some point. I want to go through my jewelry, actually, I've NEVER purged anything, I have a few deep boxes just piled with stuff (all costume!) I never wear. It takes up so little room, but it also keeps me from actually enjoying the things I may actually like!

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  2. It sounds like a book I might like to read (if I could get past the whole diarrhea thing... definitely weird). Maybe I'll pick it up before we tackle organizing the basement at the end of the month. Better yet- I'll try to get my hoarding hubby to read it before we tackle the basement. That's an even better idea- he might actually let me get rid of some stuff that way. Thanks for the review! :)

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    1. I dunno...the woo-woo stuff may throw your husband off it completely. There are summaries & tutorials all over the internet that distill the information. but I think what you are leaning towards (from reading about your desire for simplicity) is minimalism---there are lots of blogs/books dedicated toward that and get more at the WHY you want to simplify & go about it in a more eco-friendly/ethically responsible way. Marie Kondo, to me, gets more into specifics of one method for getting rid of stuff---once you've already decided to do it.

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  3. This is the best review of the book that I've seen!

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  4. Thanks for the review! Even though I am pretty good at decluttering, I do have a hard time letting go of certain things, like gifts. I actually like the idea of "thanking" the item for its service!

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    1. this was probably one of the most useful things in the book, and it was buried in there!

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  5. I also think not every object needs to bring 'joy.' Some things are just practical necessities.

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    1. I agree, for practical stuff its more about "does this do the job its intended for without being annoying". I need to throw away some body lotion that is too greasy/smells weird. the one I like is very plain, not really "joy" inducing, but does the job.

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    2. Yep, some practical necessities. Especially things like toilet paper! (Especially if household members will have the side effects to decluttering that she talks about!)

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    3. I dunno, our toilet paper sparks joy-- the difference between nice TP and bad TP is pretty substantial and definitely something I'm mindful of. (Also we didn't skimp on TP even when we were living on grad stipends-- I was careful about shopping CVS deals for nice TP... we'd buy a bunch whenever it got below I think 50cents/roll, though I may be misremembering the exact price.)

      So I am only willing to purchase TP that sparks joy. Even though it's worse for the environment and way more expensive. (I feel a little guilty, but not enough to, say, move to family cloth.)

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  6. I want to tidy up and declutter so badly, but my issue is time. It is such a low priority that I never make time. And paper is my biggest issue. But I can't see getting rid of most of it -- it just needs to be better organized.

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    1. "But I can't see getting rid of most of it -- it just needs to be better organized." this is your fatal flaw, at least according to Konmari (and really any organizational guru I've read). You HAVE to get rid of some of it.

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  7. This is a great review of the book. I too was put off by her blasé attitude toward throwing out 45 bags of totally usable stuff, with no thought of giving it to others. And yes, her childhood was obviously...unique. I also found the "sparking joy" idea to be less helpful with kitchen appliances and things you use around the house. In fact, the kitchen is the one room I have not MariKondo-ed at all.

    I do think it's a great idea to take all of something from all over the house and see what you have and go through it that way. I did my clothes, books and other media that way and it was really incredible how much I had of each of those things. I wouldn't have gotten rid of so much if I hadn't taken the clothes from ALL the different closets around the house and thrown it into a giant pile in my living room. Same with books. I also fold my clothes in her way now and it has been REALLY helpful in keeping my drawers organized and allowing me to see what I have and wear more of my shirts. My sock drawer is still a little unruly, but it's a lot better than it was.

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    1. I can't really see myself doing the kitchen, either. though once in a while I get annoyed by our tupperware and take it all out and end up getting rid of some! Like I said above, though, I think the take-away for kitchen stuff is more "is it useful" and the "joy" comes from using a good tool to make good food (or something like that). I know, for example, my coffee maker does spark real joy when I have it pre-programmed & can come down to hot coffee. Our stupid can opener that barely works probably needs to go because it sparks annoyance.

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  8. I used to give my husband a lot of grief for keeping paper. However, this has been a huge help when applying for acceptance to a new bar (legal, that is). He has had to supply DMV information from 20 years ago, and said state didn't even have the correct records.

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