Saturday, August 12, 2017

Book Review: The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up by M. Kondo et al.

The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up written by Marie Kondo, illustrated by Yuko Uramoto, and translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano

Based on her The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo presents a fictional case study applying her tidying up techniques to Chiaki, a 29 year old Tokyo woman with a small cluttered apartment and an unsatisfying love life. Chiaki discovers the cute young guy next door when he comes over to complain about the garbage bags on her balcony. There's so much trash that the smell is coming into his apartment! Her living quarters are shameful too, so she decides to do something about it. A quick internet search leads her to Marie Kondo (affectionately known as Konmari) who offers lessons on tidying up. Chiaki signs up and starts down the road to an uncluttered life.

Using a familiar narrative arc lets readers focus on the techniques of tidying up. Konmari has a few basic principles. One is to keep only things that spark joy in the owner. So tidying up isn't so much about getting rid of things as identifying things that make you happy. Konmari says "The true purpose of your home and your things is to bring you happiness." [p. 54] Sorting through stuff is done by category (clothing, books, paper, other items, and sentimental items) rather than room. Choosing what gives you joy is easier when the same items are all together. What's left becomes easy to organize (she has tips for that too).

The specific method for discernment looks wonky to Western eyes--Konmari says you should touch things to see if they give you joy and decide whether to keep or get rid of them. She recommends getting rid of unread books because "getting around to reading them someday" typically never happens. If the books are really important, they'll come back. Her attitude comes off as a bit New Agey.

Her ultimate principle, that people can't tidy up because they are attached to the past and afraid of the future, is hard to argue with. Those problems are common and do result in a lot of clutter. Letting go of those obsessions does open up new possibilities at home and in life. Chiaki winds up with a neat and tidy home, perfect for a dinner with that cute neighbor.

The target audience seems pretty specific--young single women. The principles would be a lot harder to apply in a family--some things will give one person joy and not another. Also, I've developed a "someday is now" method for dealing with my shelf of unread books, though the implementation is taking several years.

This book is an interesting read but only has limited applicability.

No comments:

Post a Comment