The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
(Magic Cleaning #1),
by Marie Kondo, translated by Cathy Hirano,
Published by Ten Speed Press (2014)
At University, the last evening before it was certain that we would be packing up and returning to our respective homes, one thought stood above all else in my head. Over the past five years, try as I might, I had accumulated a fair number of possessions. What was I going to prioritize carrying back? It was pretty straightforward that evening. I ran through everything I had, thought about what I had left at home, and prioritized accordingly. My approach to it was simple: if I never was able to return to University, what would I be alright letting go of?
I returned home to a house that stood suspended in time, to a room that looked exactly as I had left it in June, 2015, right after my Grade 12 board examinations. I’ve returned here several times on short stints, but never been invested enough in making my room look like I had evolved from the state I was in during that time. So answer papers from past exams were strewn around, a few revision guides were in my shelves, and my exam stationery kit remained exactly as is.
Considering I had time on my hands, I figured I ought to reorganize everything. I wanted to be methodical in the manner I did things, which is why I picked up this book. It did not disappoint.
Kondo is right about one thing. Nobody really teaches us how to tidy up. I certainly wasn’t taught, or “explained” why things went in particular places. My parents decided where things best fit – and we sort of stuck to those principles, even if (and I never did) come up with better ways to store things. Kondo treats this book as an opportunity to teach. Hence, there’s a lot of structure in the manner she writes, and that’s one of the things I appreciated most about the book. It lays down the premise of why there’s a high likelihood we know very little about what tidying up and decluttering truly means at it’s essence, and builds from there into the philosophy and evidence of how tidying up has assisted her and her clients. It is only after that she goes on to explain and illustrate how to apply these principles, along with additional principles per category of tidying up.
There’s a reasoning to her beliefs about cleaning up that I found extremely helpful, because they allowed you to opt-out and drop out of reading the book, or buying into her system – the one she’s popularized, rather, at any point. That reasoning is at the core of the book, and explains why she remains so passionate about the subject: something that comes to the fore when you watch her TV show.
Translating this would not have been easy. This is true of all translations: they require a lot of patience and a degree of meticulousness that aids in conveying precise, technical information to a wider audience in a language distinct from the source. The translator has done a fabulous job, not in the least because I smiled throughout my reading of this book. I couldn’t stop smiling because there was a simplicity and joy in the language that communicated the joy of cleaning up so well.
The book works if you buy into it, or go into an open mind and consider implementing any of the things she talks about. Even if you don’t, it’s an excellent theoretical read. For me, though, results were instantaneous. My room, today, is everything I am, personified. Less clutter and all, and that’s definitely helped my headspace.