This demure little book packs a powerful punch. Yes, it's that Japanese cleaning book, the one that has all your friends folding their shirts into little squares and donating bags and bags of stuff to local thrift stores. Within twenty-four hours of reading it I found myself rolling all my socks into sushi rolls and placing them neatly in a box inside my sock drawer. It's that good.
Marie Kondo, professional cleaning expert, has a simple rule for decluttering, (her KonMari method): keep only what sparks joy. Lots of decluttering books will give you tips on what to throw away. Kondo's method is more extreme. She asks that you commit to going through every one of your belongings by hand, according to her categories, and only keeping those things that bring you joy. Why are you wearing clothes that make you unhappy? Why do you have things you neither like nor need taking up space in your home? Her approach assumes that you are going to be throwing out everything; by giving you only the option of what to save you'll quickly learn what you really value.
The beauty of this method is that it cuts to the core of some of the fear and greed surrounding materialism. Why do you still have that horrible sweater your Aunt Sue gave you? The gift has served its purpose. Be grateful for it, be grateful to Aunt Sue, and move on. When do you think you'll ever need those cassette tapes? You can't protect yourself from the future by surrounding yourself with useless objects that have a slim probability of every being useful. It's time to move on.
Her method is sound, but the Japanese spirituality woven through the book has made some uncomfortable. Mentions of talismans, temples and her belief that objects are alive are foreign ideas to Westerners. Some of her suggestions go a little farther than the average reader will be willing to go—emptying your handbag every day, or thanking your socks for their service every night.
However, her principles cultivate an extremely helpful attitude of gratitude which, rightly placed, goes to God, the provider of all good things and not to the things themselves. In the end it can be a release from materialism. Only having around you the things that are useful and make you happy—and not simply keeping a bunch of meaningless junk for the sake of having things—can, with a constant position of gratitude, free you up to think less about your possessions. And that is life-changing.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
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