I read a surprisingly sad amount of books in 2013. I think I read a diet book by Tim Ferriss and the Hunger Games. Last year wasn’t much better. I don’t know when the transition happened from reading actual books to the NY Times app, Wired, and magazines each day on my subway commute. Then when I moved to Oregon, it was worse, since I no longer had a commute. I had to create time to read.

Here’s my monthly attempt at highlighting one of the books I read this month. I’m going to post once a month on something I’ve read.

konmari bookcoverIt seems like this book is everywhere right now. However, the first time I saw this was when my mother-in-law got this in her Christmas stash. She read it, and then my husband read a few chapters, and then I took it. It’s a sweet quick read, but satisfying. Since then, I’ve seen at least one XOJANE article about this.

The Konmari(e) method is basically a philosophy and system that promotes living clutter-free by only surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy, nothing less. She promotes paring down your belongings and throwing out anything that is excess. Clutter causes you to forget everything you have, and she rightly points out that sometimes that can be the huge pitfall, causing you to buy more of the same stuff because you are anxious about not having said stuff, but you were not organized enough to know how much you really have in stock. Think of that as wasteful?

The most distinct thing about this (since this is similar in vein to capsule wardrobes or other trends of minimalistic living) is the author’s reverence for objects. You would think that her distaste for clutter and fervor for throwing things out (her clients throw out 30+ bags of items, with her) would mean that she doesn’t put much value in material goods. However, even things that never had much usefulness to us, she reveres and recommends that we “thank it” for coming into our lives and for teaching us that “we did not need it.” She touts that revering homes, items, and treating everything with thoughtfulness will improve your life holistically. By the end of this book, I found myself thinking that she may be on the right track. Maybe it’s her background as a Shinto shrine maiden, this book was definitely was influenced by Shinto spirituality.

In the end, the organizing philosophy of this book can be wrapped up as, don’t keep things in your home that does not bring you joy. Find the items in your home that bring you joy, a place to be. Once that place is identified, you won’t have to tidy, because it will always go back to “it’s own place.” It’s ingenious, because she is basically tapping into the idea that people have clutter build up, because they are often not thoughtful about finding it a permanent place in the house. Without permanent thoughtful places, things float around and accumulate. In fact, if everything was organized to your liking, and once you’ve pared your items enough (so that you know everything you have and you know where it all belongs) then you will never have floating clutter again.

Oftentimes the home is neglected when thinking about personal happiness. Oftentimes I feel like we like to ignore limitations that our homes and belongings condemn us to. For example, having a clutter home or having too many belongings can get in the way of leading your ideal lifestyle. It will constantly in a nagging way be a blocker for things like, doing exercise (not enough empty floor space), doing hobbies, having people over, etc.). Oftentimes people neglect how spaces promote or hinder certain actions.

Sometimes this books veers on a little too cute and philosophical about inanimate objects. For the most part though, it was a refreshing view on the importance of objects. Unlike capsule wardrobe projects, she doesn’t limit the number of items one can keep. She just challenges you to really think about whether an item sparks joy in you.

She’s very strict about the cadence of what to do. She STRONGLY advises that you tidy all in one swoop, because motivation is a very challenging thing and doing it in small bursts will demotivate and cause you to lose steam. I agree with all of that, but I did start incorporating small changes into my drawers (during laundry, etc.) and already I can see the efficiency in the way that she folds and stores underwear and socks. I mean, I reorganized my closet and drawers motivated by her passages. I ALWAYS thought that I was running out of underwear. However, once I emptied out and rolled up each piece, I realized the clutter in my drawer kept me from really knowing how many pairs of underwear and socks I had. I HAD MORE than enough. OMG. It was kind of mind blowing. (Maybe you guys are just shaking your head, since this may have been common sense to everyone.) This was the case with my whole wardrobe. At a certain point, you just start forgetting about things that are out of sight and out of mind.

If you need to inject a little bit of order in your world, definitely check out this book. I’ll take some before and after pictures, maybe.

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