American Decluttering vs. Japanese Tidying

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo’s book on the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing, caught my eye on a Barnes and Noble table during the days when I was shutting down my office and dismantling my townhouse to retire and relocate.

I read a lot of it while I stood there in the store, so here’s look at how this American Declutterer views the Japanese art of tidying by reviewing the six basic steps of Kondo’s program:

Commit yourself to tidying up
Fine.  As long as I am tidying things which are unquestionably my own, and space over which I have sole jurisdiction.  Otherwise the commitment must come from the whole family.

Imagine my ideal lifestyle: the kind of house I want and how I want to live in it
Okay….  Actually, we did benefit from considering first, how to use our spaces.

Finish discarding first
This is within the context of understanding that tidying is first and foremost about deciding what to keep, getting rid of everything else, and only then deciding how to store the things you decide to keep.  Clearly this requires finesse.  One of my favorite complaints about Kondo’s book is captured in a review on Amazon:

“My wife read this book and threw away a bunch of my stuff. I had to hide things in my truck to keep them off the chopping block. I no longer have a charger for my old iPod, she threw it away. I hate this book.”

Tidy by category, not by location
In other words, go through all your clothes, then all your books, then all your paperwork and so forth rather than tidying a single closet or drawer or room at a time.

Follow the right order of categories
Kondo is very prescriptive here.  But nowhere on her list is kitchen equipment, say; any tools pertaining to one’s vocation or hobbies; or even food, an essential consideration when one is clearing out a house in order to move!

It’s a good thing too, that as I was clearing out my office I remembered to transfer all the files from my office computer to a jump drive.  Kondo doesn’t include any discussion virtual tidying.

Ask yourself if it sparks joy
My great question as I shed personal belongings right and left was not, “Does this item spark joy?”
Rather it was (repeat after me), “Do I want to pay a moving company to haul this item across the Great Plains, a desert and two mountain ranges?”

I left Barnes and Noble without buying her book.  It hadn’t passed my test.


Author: American Declutterer

I've had three careers, moved among thirteen states, and cleared four houses after loved ones moved on. Sometimes you just have to look at all the stuff and laugh. Then get back to discarding.

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