Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The nonsense of tidying up: A book review

The thrill is gone. The New York Times Best Seller List no longer impresses me. How low can American readers sink? Apparently quite low is the answer. This is my review of a book that has sold millions of copies and is highly ranked on Amazon—where currently it is ranked the #1 best seller in the Motivational/Self-Help category. I have read about half of the book and re-read sections just to make sure I wasn’t missing something. It is perhaps the most inane book I have ever read. Just to prove my point and to keep you from wasting money on this nonsense, here are tidbits of the author’s “revolutionary” and “life-changing” discoveries.

From The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo

Permit me to illustrate the author’s strange inclinations, even in her childhood:

  • “I started reading home and lifestyle magazines when I was five . . .”
  • “At school, while other kids were playing dodgeball or skipping, I’d slip away to rearrange the bookshelves in our classroom, or check the contents of the mop cupboard, all the while muttering about the poor storage methods.”
  • “The subject of tidying first caught my attention when I was in junior high school. . .” after reading a book entitled The Art of Discarding.
The author describes the stress and frustration in her youth as she tried to get rid of as much as possible. She even extended her decluttering efforts to her siblings’ rooms and the communal storage lockers at school—without asking the others if she could discard their things. She writes: “Far from apologizing for discarding their things without permission, I would retort, ‘I threw it out for you because you weren’t capable of doing it yourself.’” I only can imagine what would have happened in my home if I had thrown out my brothers’ possessions.

She had trouble deciding what to keep and what to discard. She became so stressed with her failed efforts that she heard a voice telling her, “Look more closely at what is there.” Then she fell asleep on her cluttered floor. That was the moment of her great epiphany. “Through this experience, I came to the conclusion that the best way to  choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.”

At that point, with this moment of clarity when she understood that possessions must “spark joy,” her decluttering system evolved and became her theory, the practice that resulted in a successful business and spawned this best-selling book. Some of the techniques that she insists her clients use (with the air of a demented prison matron) include:

  • When sorting through clothing, you should throw every item of clothing on the floor in one big pile.
  • If you decide an item does not bring you joy, you should gently touch each item and thank it for a job well done before discarding it.
  • She is not in favor of hanging most clothing. She recommends folding. “When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly, we are, I believe, transmitting energy, which has a positive effect on our clothes. Folding properly pulls the cloth taut and erases wrinkles, and makes the materials stronger and more vibrant. Clothes that have been neatly folded have a resilience and sheen that can be discerned immediately, clearly distinguishing them from those that have been haphazardly stuffed in a drawer. The act of folding is far more than making clothes compact for storage. It is an act of caring, an expression of love and appreciation for the way these clothes support your lifestyle. Therefore, when we fold, we should put our heart into it, thanking our clothes for protecting our bodies.”
And then she tells us, those of us who are among the uncouth, disgusting sock rollers, about the client who left her “speechless.” That client rolled her socks into balls, not allowing them a chance to rest. “The time they spend in your drawer is their only chance to rest. But if they are folded over, balled up, or tied, they are always in a state of tension, their fabric stretched and their elastic pulled. They roll about and bump into each other every time the drawer is opened and closed. Any socks and stockings unfortunate enough to get pushed to the back of the drawer are often forgotten for so long that their elastic is stretched beyond recovery. When the owner finally discovers them and puts them on, it will be too late and they will be relegated to the garbage. What treatment could be worse than this?”

What treatment could be worse than this? I feel like I’m being accused of tying puppies to a tree and leaving them in a blizzard with no shelter. Rolling socks and letting them bump into others in the sock drawer is the equivalent of genocide. I don’t feel guilty about the socks. I don’t regret not cleaning out other people’s lockers in junior high school. And I really don’t feel the need to caress my clothing and express my appreciation to that dingy old t-shirt before I throw it in pile for the thrift store.

So in my indignant little snit I close the book at page 92. Throwing the book in the trash might spark joy. My only regret is that I paid good money for this nonsense and I added one more sale to keep this ridiculous book on the New York Times Best Seller List.

1 comment:

  1. To me, the subtitle of this books implies throwing away junk is a part of Japanese cultural heritage comparable to forging a katana sword. Really insulting to the consumer, and to the Japanese I would guess. What's next Vito Genovese's Discovering the Italian Art of Vacuuming