25 Dec Book Club 01: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Chances are if you haven’t already read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you’ve at least heard of it. It has gained a huge amount of popularity in the past year or so – and for good reason. This book is full of practical advice for eliminating your home of clutter, and as author Marie Kondo promises, never reverting to clutter again. That’s why we’re excited to chose it as our first ever book in the Homemake Book Club!
Generally speaking, I’m fairly organised and don’t tend to let clutter build up too much. Even so, I still got a lot of useful tips from this book that never would have occurred to me. I won’t give away the entire book because I think it’s well worth a read but did want to share a few of my favourite tips with you.
Do it all at once
You’ve probably heard tidying tips such as “do a little every day” or the classic “one in, one out” rule. These sorts of tips are certainly appealing, because they make tidying seem so easy. But as Marie says, “Tidy a little at a time and you’ll be tidying forever”. Her suggestion is that you should treat putting your house in order as a special event – one that you do within a relatively short period of time. The reason for this is not only that it gets done quickly, but that it’s the key to never reverting back to clutter again. As Marie puts it:
If you use the right method and concentrate your efforts on eliminating clutter thoroughly and completely within a short span of time, you’ll see instant results that will empower you to keep your space in order ever after.
I personally have tried the “bit by bit” approach in the past and have often felt frustrated by my lack of progress. On contrast, by tackling my house in a short period of time, I’ve been able to see an immediate impact which has been really encouraging. Perhaps most importantly, once your house is in order, it makes it much easier to keep tidy, because all you need to do is return things to where they belong.
Ask yourself: Does it spark joy?
When eliminating clutter from your house, the first thing you need to do is discard. This, for most people, is probably the most difficult part of tidying up. How do you decide what to keep? In the past, I’ve always tried to think of things in terms of function. I would ask myself, “Is this useful?”, or “When was the last time I wore this?” Marie’s advice is much less pragmatic than that. She suggests that you hold each item in your hands and ask “Does this spark joy?”. If it does, you keep it. If not, you dispose of it. This advice sounds incredibly simple, but for most of us, probably takes some practice. However it is something I’ve been trying to do, and I like the overall idea behind it: to only have items in your home which you really love.
How to fold and hang your clothes
Marie’s advice is to fold whatever clothes you can, as it’s a much more efficient use of space than hanging. She suggests that you fold each item into a simple, smooth rectangle and instead of stacking in piles, you should store these items vertically in drawers. The advantages to this are that you can see everything you have at a glance, and that you can easily take any item out without messing up the rest. The same goes for stockings and socks. Instead of rolling your socks one into the other, (into what Marie refers to as “potato balls”), fold them one on top of each other. They’ll be neater and you won’t stretch your socks out.
When it comes to hanging, her guideline is “hang whatever clothes look like they’d be happier hung.” Further to that, she suggests arranging them so that they rise to the right, as apparently lines that slope up make people feel more comfortable and lighter. I was a little skeptical of this, but nonetheless decided to try it. I don’t know if I feel ‘lighter’ but my closet certainly is nicer to look at!
Dealing with untidy family members
This was one of my biggest takeaways from the book. When I first started reading, my thoughts were “this all sounds great, but what happens if you live with other people who aren’t tidy?”. I was really happy to see she addressed this too. Her response to this is:
The urge to point out someone else’s failure to tidy is usually a sign that you are neglecting to take care of your own space.
It may sound a little harsh, but I think it’s great advice. I’m certainly guilty of pointing out other people’s stuff and asking, “do you really need that?” When I feel that urge now, I try to take a look at which of my own belongings I perhaps haven’t dealt with (and indeed there’s usually something). Marie goes on to add that often your tidying can inspire others around you to tidy up too, but if not, having your own belongings in order makes other people’s untidiness much more tolerable. I have found this to be true.
Your parents house is not a personal storage space
As soon as I started reading this section of the book, I immediately felt guilty. Two and half years ago, I moved from Canada to the UK, and the entire contents of my apartment went into storage in my parent’s basement. This was largely because, at the time, I didn’t know how permanent the move was going to be. But my now husband and I have just bought a house in the UK, and I don’t plan on moving back to Canada anytime in the immediate future, so I knew it was time to tackle that mountain of stuff sitting dormant in my parent’s basement. I spent the first two days of my Christmas holidays sorting through it, and donating most of it, and you know what? I feel so much better.
Whether or not you’ve just moved to another country, I think using our parent’s houses for storage is something many of us do. We all have those items that we don’t really want in our house, but also have a hard time parting with. But I encourage you to take the time to go through it, decide what you really want to keep (in your own house) and get rid of the rest. Your parents will be happy to have the space back.
What I liked most about this book is that it’s really about being grateful for what you have. While Marie advises you to discard what you can, it’s not so much about getting rid of things as it is deciding what you really love and want to keep. She even goes on to say that you should give thanks to your clothes and greet your house when you come home. I don’t think I’ll be going quite that far, but now that I’ve narrowed my belongings down to what I really love, I do feel like I value them a lot more.
Not everyone particularly cares about being tidy. I know lots of people who can work amongst clutter and mess are not in the least bit bothered by it, which I think is fine. I, on the other hand, feel I need tidy surroundings before I can focus on other things. When my belongings are in order, I’m much more likely to do something I enjoy – like doing something creative, exercising, or baking, because I’m not distracted by the fact that I need to tidy.
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by your belongings, or felt unable to relax if your home, I would absolutely recommend this book. I’ve read many books on various ways to improve your life, but I can honestly say that I can’t remember a book that motivated me so much that I started making changes the very next day. If you’re already reasonably organised, I’m sure you’ll still find some useful tips. And if you’re not – well, this book might really be life-changing!