I am a hyper-organized and super neat person, and I definitely went through a phase as a kid where I was obsessed with storage solutions (there was a store near where I grew up called Placewares that I absolutely loved). So this book has been on my radar for a while. I knew the basic premise going in (get rid of everything that doesn’t spark joy), but that was about it.
For me, it was about 1/3 useful and insightful, 1/3 totally batshit, and 1/3 annoyingly narrow-minded. I know that no self-help type book is going to work for everyone and that the point of a book like this (although I think Marie Kondo would heartily disagree with me) is not to wholeheartedly adopt every technique offered, but to use what resonates with you and ditch the rest. So that’s what I’m going to do.
On the whole, I enjoyed this book for the useful and insightful 1/3, and there are certain points here I definitely plan on applying to my life. Kondo spends a lot of time on clothes and how to organize them, and while clothes are not super important to me (honestly I hardly think about them), she has some fantastic tips on how to organize closets and drawers. But once she started talking about the needs of shirts and dresses, and about her practice of thanking them and talking to them before putting them away, she lost me. Believe me: if you want to talk to your clothes, all power to you. Go for it. I talk to lots of inanimate things. But Kondo’s insistence on caring for things not simply for the sake of taking good care of them, but in order to make them happy–it’s just not my jam. There was a bit too much of that for me to take most of the book seriously.
Then there’s the whole “spark of joy” philosophy. Mostly, I’m totally down. The idea of only having things in my house that spark joy is immensely appealing. But Kondo’s method lacks all subtlety and nuance. Something either sparks joy or it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t, she says, toss it.
Here’s the thing: does the hammer I use around the house for various random tasks spark joy in me? No. What about my carhartt work pants? They’re comfortable and functional and have the right amount of pockets, but do they spark joy when I hold them in my hands? No. Nor does my hairbrush, or the bottle of dish soap by the sink. And the thing is, there might be a hammer out there in the world that does bring me joy–the perfect hammer with a lovely handle that fits just right in my hand. But am I going to get rid of these things I use every day in search of replacements that spark joy? Of course not. I don’t have a) the time to find new ones, b) the money to buy news ones, or c) the patience be without these things while I’m seeking their replacements.
I know I’m probably taking her too literally, and, as I said, I did find a good chunk of this book useful despite my gripes with her method. I bring all this up because her lack of subtlety made me not trust her, and not want to give her the benefit of the doubt. It felt like she was talking about some sort of fantasy-land in which people have strong feelings about every object they own, rather than the real world, where there are things like picture hangers and scotch tape and scissors.
Also, forgive me, but I just have to yell about her ideas about books for a second. I’m all for getting rid of books. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. I was perfectly content to simply ignore the section about books since clearly we do not see eye-to-eye about them (40 is not enough), until she started talking about how she likes to keep her bookshelves in her closet. I had to stop listening and catch my breath for a second there, because the thought of taking something as gorgeous and joy-sparking as a shelf full of books and stuffing it away out of sight just makes me want to weep.
Which brings me back to this issue of the lack of subtly in her method. Does every book on my shelf spark joy when I pick it up? Probably not. Do I get a thrill of joy every damn time I walk by that shelf, stuffed full of books? Absolutely.
All I’m saying is that I found her black-and-white, either/or, joy-sparking/useless dichotomy a bit overbearing. If she had been willing to address some of the in-between places, the hard-to-categorize objects, the ways in which this method might not always work for all things, I would have found the whole book both more useful and more enjoyable to read.
That said, I listened to this on audio and I found it incredibly soothing and strangely compelling. It was a great listen. And I can’t wait to go through my whole closet and refold everything like she told me to. But there’s no way in hell I am ever putting bookshelves in a closet.