5 Ways I Failed at The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

November 6th, 2015 : No Comments »

If you are one of the few people on the planet who has yet to discover Marie Kondo’s jewel of a book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I pity you. For the last four months, I have been obsessed, taking literally every single thing I own out of its habitual resting place, holding it in my hands, and weighing whether or not it brings me joy. Then, depending on what I decide, I either toss it aside for trash, recycling or donation, or carefully consider where it truly belongs, before placing it in its new home.

After all this time, I’m still only about two thirds away through my possessions, but I am far enough along to concur with the book’s premise that the process has been life-changing. Not only can I see exactly what I own and love in one place, easily accessible when I need it (including all my summer and winter clothes, which Kondo advocates storing together, rather than separately), but I can also store clean laundry and stuff I have just used more quickly and efficiently than I ever believed possible. In the process, I have also discovered wads of cash in the pockets of clothing I haven’t worn in years, and many other items that I thought were lost (including a brand new evening clutch in my emergency supply of vodka), solving several nagging mysteries at the same time.

Most importantly, I’ve rediscovered a sense of pleasure in my home – something that I haven’t felt for years, as the chaos of raising children while attempting to run a household and hold onto some semblance of a satisfying career intervened.

But even though I am a true believer when it comes to the Marie Kondo method, and I’m not quite done with it yet, there are a few discoveries I’ve made about myself that are not so joyful. Namely:

1) I would have made a great Nazi
As soon as I saw Marie Kondo’s book on the bookshelf at my local independent book store, I knew I had to have it. It was the literary equivalent of love at first sight, which perhaps explains why I was prepared to drink her Kool-Aid and follow her method without first fully understanding why. I realize now that I would probably have fallen for the orderliness of Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies just as fast. (All those people in uniform neatly lined up, sieg-heiling away in unison! What’s not to like?). As time passed, however, and I got more immersed in actually tidying my house, I was almost relieved to discover that there are a few areas of tidying where try as I might, I will never be able to apply the KonMari method to its full, terrifying effect (see below).

2) I am, and will always be, a sock torturer
Marie Kondo advocates rolling pairs of socks together after laundering, rather than folding one sock over another to keep them together. She claims this enables your socks to breathe, whatever that means in the context of inanimate objects. Try as I might, however, to me, this way chaos lies. Maybe Ms. Kondo only owns a few pairs of argyles, but I have a landfill mountain on laundry table made up of forlorn, lone socks. Why on earth would I choose to recreate that in my sock drawer?

3) Things We Don’t Like Will Always Be With Us
Even though I did try, faithfully, to follow Marie Kondo’s maxim about only keeping things that bring you joy, that just isn’t practical in the real world. If I were to get rid of every single thing in my house I didn’t like because it was either ugly (but practical), or appealing but used, chipped or full of holes, I would be left making breakfast without a single working spatula, wearing the only pair of pajamas that passes muster, and my worn out BCBG cashmere sweater, which still gives me joy, even though it’s more thread than fluff these days. Much like the friend you would like to cut out of your life, but keep running into, there will always be things we don’t like but can’t get rid of populating our lives.

4) I will continue to lose things like my keys, because I am a lazy purse slob
I love Marie Kondo’s suggestion that we empty our purse each night, and carefully put the contents away, thanking each item first for its service during the day. But once again, try as I might, this turns out to be the last thing I feel like doing at the end of a long day, when all I want is to collapse on the sofa with a cup of tea – or something stronger. As a result, I continue to carry the same purse full of junk with me everywhere I go, which weighs more than the average three-month old. It’s also the reason I continue to lose my keys on a weekly basis, in spite of the fact I even have a Tile tracker on my key chain (which right now is helpfully marking my keys as ‘out of range’). Sigh.

5) Americans own way too much stuff to keep it all in one place
One of the things Marie Kondo insists you do, as you go about finding homes for all the possessions that continue to bring you joy, is to keep the same types of things all in the same place. This worked well for me when it came to gathering up, say, all my umbrellas, and finding a new home for them on a shelf. But I discovered that it works less well for things like my shoes, which try as I might, will not fit on the one small rack I have to devote to them in my wardrobe. As a result, I am forced to cheat and keep my boots downstairs in the coat closet, and my running shoes in a basket by the front door. Doubtless, Marie Kondo would be horrified, but I suspect the average American just owns way more stuff than the average highly poised, immaculately dressed young Japanese woman.

There is, however, a silver lining to all these sobering revelations. In the process of reading, and applying the methodology of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I quickly discovered that deciding whether or not something brings you joy can be applied to everything in life, including people. Indeed, one of the things that sold me so quickly on the book is the testimonials from some of Marie Kondo’s readers, who cheerfully announce things like (to paraphrase): ‘First I tidied my house, then I got a divorce!’ Who could fail to be charmed at the prospect of reading a how-to book with opening gems like that? Naturally, I immediately turned to my family and told them the last thing I planned to do after tidying my house was to line them up at the bottom of the stairs and decide whether they were keepers or not – on an individual basis, of course. I haven’t got that far yet, but the warning still stands, and I find it to be a useful mantra to apply to every area of my life. Husbands, kids and family pets: you have been warned.

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