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The Life-Changing Magic of Giving a Crap

September 15, 2015

The book came up three times in conversation and Facebook in a week period. I knew then that this was The Hot New Book, and we should order it at my library. So maybe I should check it out from a library that already had it. After all, I like cleaning and tidying and organizing–mostly that last thing–and I like methods of doing those things. When I clean, I usually clean to UnFuck Your Habitat’s 20/10 timer and I really like that, but it didn’t MOTIVATE me. So hey, I’d flip through the book and then return it fast, because it has a long hold list in the county.

I ended up reading every page of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and implementing its method immediately (even though I can’t do it fully yet as I’m in the middle of transitioning to a new place). After two hours, I had a bag and a half of trash and two bags of giveaways.

I feel great.

Ultimately, Marie Kondo’s method of cleaning boils down to this: care. Care about what you own. When you care about what you own, you take care of it, and when you’re surrounded by things that you care about, you care about yourself too. According to Kondo, she’s never had a client fall back into untidiness. I really do see why.

To some, Kondo’s method seems silly, especially in America. Touch everything you own. Does it bring you joy? If not, get rid of it. Thank it for its service, but move it along. For some of the people I’ve spoken to, it makes them feel silly. It’s not a far leap for me, because I talk to everything already. I name everything. My mouth guard thingy that’s supposed to keep me from grinding my teeth in my sleep is named Dwayne. I don’t know the name of the frog in Candy Crush, so I’ve named him Blorf. All my stuffed animals have names. If something doesn’t have a name, it gets called by what it is. “Let’s go, Pan. Time to make some [mock] pepper steak.”

But no, I’m still not going to thank every sock and pair of underwear I got rid of for its service. For one thing, I do not ascribe to the same religion as Kondo. Her Shinto beliefs dictate that everything has a spirit or energy. That’s why thanking things makes sense to her. It makes sense to me, but I’m not doing it one by one. I am thankful, though, and that is very close.

But back to the touching. It really is genius. It forces you to look at everything individually, to feel textures and give yourself time for memories. It’s one thing to look at your closet and say, “I’m getting rid of this, this, and this–this I was on the fence about anyway, this was a hand-me-down I didn’t really want, and this I haven’t worn in a year or two.” It’s another to separate each article of clothing and focus. Then you realize, there were a LOT of things you were on the fence about. That shirt doesn’t fit right even though it’s pretty. That thing is ugly and I keep it in case it’s laundry day and I haven’t done my laundry in like two weeks. I even tried some things on. I got rid of a suit that I kept because it’s beautiful. It was from my mom when she retired. But I’m a children’s librarian. There is literally no time I need to wear a suit. I’ve had it for five years. Why not give it to someone who’s going to wear it?


This was the LEAST amount of removal I’ve done so far, with the closet items. And the reason for that is that I just moved so I already got rid of a bunch of things. I wish I could show you some of the more dramatic changes, but I either didn’t record them or I’m not showing them to you (like my underwear drawer). My drawers all gained at last a quarter to a half of their space back, between the touching everything and figuring out whether it sparks joy, and Kondo’s suggestion that everything be folded.

She’s right about that too, by the way. Everything does have kind of a sweet spot of folding. I had a good time folding for the first time in ages. I don’t think I did it right every time, but I didn’t slog through, and that was a huge change as well.

The life-changing aspect of this is that at the end of the day, you feel really good and, more importantly, really decisive, about what makes you happy. After an hour of the KonMari method, I was skipping songs on Pandora left and right, and I finally, FINALLY started looking at my giant pile of books like something I could part with. Kondo gives you permission to let go of everything, no matter what it is. She said something that hit me hard: If you have a book you bought but you haven’t read it in years, the point of that book was to give you the joy of acquiring it. If you’re not reading it, it’s fulfilled its purpose. It’s done. Time to move it along.

That’s going to be a little more difficult with ARCs because I can’t just resell them, and many of them are signed to me, but I work at a library. I have a ton of book-reading friends. I have a blog where I can do book giveaways. This can happen.

Kondo believes you only have to do one big tidy in your life, and then everything will fall into place: you will have “enough.” This doesn’t mean you’ll never acquire anything else, but it does mean you’ll know exactly what you have and where things will go and what you have room for, and what you can make room for. A friend of mine questioned this belief. She cleans based on usage, buys based on usage. I told her, “You’d be surprised.” And you will be, if you use the KonMari method.

So, the Life-Changing Magic of Drinking the Kool-Aid, I know. I can’t shut up about this book. I apologize to anyone I’ve spoken to this week about it, because that’s like my ONE topic of conversation. But I’m sad I don’t have the long-term home where doing this will make sense (we’re moving soon again, I think, hopefully into a house of our own). In the meantime, I can keep piling up the giveaways.

And choosing joy.

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