9.21.2015

OMG #konmari (not entirely a love story)

I dutifully read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo after so many people IRL and online said they loved it. And so many people said it was changing their life. (Goop has video tutorials of the #konmari folding methods, even.) I usually go in for stuff like this - yes, Tim Gunn, show me how to cull my wardrobe. Yes, 33 items. Yes, minimalist capsule wardrobe. Yes, "if I have't worn it in a year" rule. But it hit me at a time where I was burned out on people telling me what to do with my crap and most of my stuff is fairly well organized and pared down. There were only a few areas where I felt I had too much stuff (paper! kitchen!) and I was just too lazy to do anything about it. It didn't hurt enough...yet. But when it does I assume I'll be able to organize those things like a functional human being.

I dug into the slim book assuming I'd find a bunch of lists and on one hand, there are. There are a bunch of detailed steps for you to complete in order. 

On the other hand, I was surprised to find an incredibly sad narrative of a little kid-to-adult and some obsessive behavior around cleaning. Like, your family tells you to leave their stuff alone after you've tried to clean it a bunch of times already and instead you cull and discard it and then deny it -- and you're like 12. You've been focused on cleaning and organizing since you're 5. Literally crying over shower slime on your shampoo bottle. When I say "sad narrative" it's not a judgement of fault -- something is not right with most of our kidhoods. I have terrible control issues over certain things that I for sure know are around childhood issues. But the control issues it manifested in this person just happened to come out in tidying -- and then it was put into a book. For the public to read. Later in the book Marie Kondo does mention where her tidying obsession came from, and admits it was rooted in emotional family stuff but I wish she did that at the start of the book. I spent most of the book trying to figure out what her self-awareness was around her behaviors -- because in order to teach others sustainable tidying habits that work for them she can't have the assumption that her starting point is the average starting point. I kept asking myself what in this book was borne of her learned skill and experience with what works for others and what was just a gift of her natural compulsion that people who don't think like her would not be able to sustain.

The premise - as you likely have read 100x elsewhere - is that you go through your place focusing on one type of thing at a time (clothing, books, papers, etc) and keep what you need or what sparks joy, find places for that stuff and discard the rest. The thought is that by analyzing what you love and what you got rid of, you'll learn what works for you and the lifestyle you want.  And while you will need to clean, you won't need to tidy. (I think the semantics around those two words are interesting and I do wonder if some people are so jazzed about this book because they think she means you won't have to clean again.) The idea is that once this process is done, you'll know exactly what to buy (or not buy) in the future and you will keep up on routine cleaning because everything has a place.

Did I like any of it? Yes:

- I like the idea of keeping what sparks joy for you


- Learn from your mistake buys



- Everything has its place



- I liked her ideas around folding! 



- Her ideas around paper organizing (planning to implement these)



- Thanking your possessions - Hear me out on this one. When she first describes taking off her jacket when she gets home and thanking it for doing a good job as she hangs it up, I balked. Whaaaat? Thanks anyway, I'm not talking to my clothes. But I jokingly tried it out - just to see! - and it does help reinforce that the stuff you has is valuable and is worth care and it also helps foster a feeling of "abundance" (to use a self-help buzzword)



^    #konmari -folded sweaters for the win!   ^ 

Did I hate any of it it? Yes:

- She says not to "downgrade" clothes from wearing out of the house to wearing around the house but I disagree on some points; I have a ton of graphic t-shirts I just never wore and they work as gym shirts just fine (better than the boring plain shirts I wore previously) and I have some yoga pants that didn't work out for yoga and ended up being loungewear or PJs -- I am into repurposing whenever possible!

- She really focuses on getting rid of stuff but not how to do it in a way that's at all ecologically responsible. Thankfully it seems a lot of people are pushing their stuff to consignment while using her process (this uptick in consignment is credited to #konmari) but I shudder to think of what other people are doing. How much is ending up at thrift shops that sell overseas and not at consignment or swaps? I think people should get rid of what they don't wear and learn from it - so that's all fine by me and stuff I do myself - but I think to encourage such a massive cull and not actually factor in personal responsibility for getting that stuff to where it will most likely be used is crappy. The book is so completely centered on self with a pretty minimal self-awareness that I'm not really surprised. I'm glad she wants people to have enough awareness to learn what works for them but I think self awareness is missing on this point - and another I'll get into next. {Marie Kondo mentions here to get rid of items in a way that "sparks joy" for you so while that could constitute as aligning with your strongest values, I'm not sure it's the same thing. There are many things I do that I feel strongly about and most proud of but they don't actually spark joy. Anyway, I don't remember reading anything similar in her book.}

Interestingly, when I was reading this book I also listened to Gretchen Rubin's Happier podcast (the "Cleaning Liz's Closet" episode) and they discussed how it was so much easier for Liz to let go of the stuff from her closet when she knew where it was going and she was sure it was supporting a good cause. I thought that was an interesting perspective -- and it certainly resonated with me.

- There seems to be this assumption that people will absolutely learn what not to buy in the future and won't end up with unwanted stuff. I don't know about you but I know what I wear and what I like and I try stuff on and I have stuff tailored and still - some stuff just doesn't work. Same with housewares. I can have the best intentions and end up with a dud. So I personally find that "tidying" needs to be on-going and not just a 1-time life event.

- There also seems to be an assumption that whatever habits that had you buying stuff that doesn't work for you will just be lifted. People accumulate items for a very complex set of reasons - some happenstance, some emotional - and different emotional reasons at different times. I feel like it's asking a lot of people to just learn from their mistake buys and their cherished buys and from that be able to reset these emotional habits -- every day, every minute, every mood -- to only the things that work best for them. It's taken me years of looking at what I buy, when and why to get anywhere on this one. And it's always a work in progress.

- Also there's an assumption that what best fits someone's needs won't change? Maybe I missed it but there was nothing I saw that addressed shifting tastes or shifting needs and repeating a "life changing" cull. Your life is going to change. I can't imagine how some fairly surface lessons learned ages ago is going to support that successfully.

In summary: Overall, I liked some of the tips from this book. I kind of wish it wasn't sold as a life-changing process because I think it lacks the emotional intelligence spectrum it needs to actually look at habits around lifestyle and consumption. I don't know - the skeptic in me is annoyed that this has been put forth as such a panacea. (There is a claim in the book that some people have lost weight and become healthier after tidying...for real.) Who knows, maybe a year from now people will still have completely changed lives due to her book and all their stuff is still pared down and no bad buys have been made and they're still totally on top of stuff and if so, I'm happy to be proven wrong.

I really loved some of the tips and I think they'll be really helpful. (Or so far I think they have been helpful - like the folding!) I liked the overall premise of keeping what sparks joy and intuitively trusting yourself to know what those things are instead of using an arbitrary list of staples or investment pieces everyone must have. It was so nice to not see a list of "10 staples every closet should have" including a white button-down and trench coat as the guiding light on the wardrobe front. That means you also have to trust yourself in getting rid of stuff and learn to be okay with getting rid of things that logically should work for you and yet, don't.

While I'm not sure I think all the promises this book makes will come true, I think the steps she talks about are worth doing in the areas you need. And hopefully you won't end up like this

5 comments:

  1. I feel like holding onto some old clothes for wearing around your home or running errands allows you to extend the life of your nicer clothes simply because you'll be wearing them (and washing them) that much less, and as you said, donating it doesn't mean it's unmade and that all of the problems that went into making it disappeared.

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  2. PULL UP A CHAIR: I have Opinions.

    First, I haven't read the actual book; just the free Kindle sample and a bunch of quotes and excerpts online, because MAN was this book everywhere.

    "On the other hand, I was surprised to find an incredibly sad narrative of a little kid-to-adult and some obsessive behavior around cleaning."

    GOOD HEAVENS YES. This is a person who found a way to make her obsessiveness pay and even seem virtuous. Not that being obsessive is immoral, but you know what I mean. I'm a mildly obsessive person myself; organizing stuff is relaxing or cathartic for me, and I was once hired to organize a New Yorker's apartment (she googled "neat freak" or something and found my blog. Weird, eh?) As a child, I too can tell stories of throwing away other people's stuff, being upset by our owning four half-full bottles of sunscreen, reorganizing my mother's books by color, condensing everything in the spice cabinet... at 7 I once scrubbed our restaurant-size stove with built-in griddle while the rest of the family watched a movie because I just couldn't stand the greasy build-up... .... None of this makes me spiritual, enlightened, or even productive. It's a quirk, at best, and it gets ugly sometimes.

    I love Gretchen Rubin, but she also strikes me as someone who's made her compulsive nature bankable. Have you ever SEEN how long her good habits list was/is? Multiple pages of boxes to tick every day.

    Why is it that Kondo thinks socks need to be flat to be relaxed, but other garments can be stacked vertically? Wouldn't those be 'standing up' at all times, and wouldn't that be exhausting for them, so to speak?

    "The book is so completely centered on self with a pretty minimal self-awareness that I'm not really surprised."

    Weird combination, eh?

    "There seems to be this assumption that people will absolutely learn what not to buy in the future and won't end up with unwanted stuff. I don't know about you but I know what I wear and what I like and I try stuff on and I have stuff tailored and still - some stuff just doesn't work. Same with housewares. I can have the best intentions and end up with a dud. So I personally find that "tidying" needs to be on-going and not just a 1-time life event."

    Absolutely. So many things don't perform the way we expect. But who would buy a book that promised "you won't tidy quite as much... quite as often"?

    "(There is a claim in the book that some people have lost weight and become healthier after tidying...for real.)"

    Or heard from a long-lost friend! MAGIC.

    Two people recommended this book to me, knowing how I love paring down and tidying. Alas, these two people have each given me about a dozen gifts that I don't need or want. If I get rid of their gifts that don't "spark joy," will they regret recommending the book?

    I might still buy this eventually, because an organizing book is my kind of fairy tale... but as you said, I think it's only a surface-y glance at why we do the things we do.

    I wonder how this meshes with the Gretchen Rubin Abundance vs. Simplicity concept. Would a true abundance-lover purge stuff, then be bothered by the emptiness and start replacing things?

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    Replies
    1. I agree re Gretchen Rubin - there is a lot of what she says/does that I just can't be down with so we are on the same page there.

      I think with Konmari the socks are still upright but just folded along-side each other vs folded *into* each other, which stretches their band. All the photos I've seen, you can still see each sock pair from above (which is why she recommends the same for the other stuff - and I do find that helpful since stacking stuff buries it and I forget about it).

      I also wondered that re the abundance/simplicity concept and also people who just need novelty so often.

      Re the focus on self but not self aware, I almost don't think it's weird because so many people are self-centered but NOT self aware.

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    2. "Re the focus on self but not self aware, I almost don't think it's weird because so many people are self-centered but NOT self aware."

      I know you're right, but I still can't wrap my brain around how that works.

      Delete

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