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The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up is everywhere, and I suspect there’s one reason and one reason alone: it’s effective.

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It’s not a room-by-room, bit-by-bit method. You take Marie Kondo’s instructions (also known as the KonMari decluttering method), you start as you would start anything else, but soon you feel something shift in a world-shaking way.

Everything changes.

Discarding becomes easy.

Spaces look better.

Bold statements? Sure, but you have to experience it to believe it. If you need even more encouragement, I should tell you that most people recoup the cost of the book in loose change they find! I’m up to $26.71 so far, and I’m nowhere near finished.

Back on topic…

Here’s the big secret.

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up is not really a decluttering book.

Sure, it’s a method, it comes with instructions and orders and justification for everything you’re doing.

But when you start pulling out everything you’ve been hiding from yourself, and sometimes talk to those items (Strange? You bet, but it’s a means to interact with each item to see how it fits into your life or doesn’t), you start to reveal things about yourself.

Want to know what a radical Japanese organization book taught me about my own tendencies? Two biggies, so far.

1. I’ve been trained to build my life around other people’s garbage.

My mother passed when I was young, and oh the guilt for trying to get rid of anything that was hers. It came from myself, it came from relatives. I was trying to arrange my things without disturbing her things, and one can imagine what that ends up looking like.

Once I moved out of her house, I brought her things with me, as if protecting them. What’s worse is that I saw the pattern extend to things beyond my mother’s possessions. The house we bought had a hand-painted fruit border along the top and bottom of the kitchen that was incredibly well-done, but not my taste. I hesitated to paint over it, because I knew the previous owner painted it herself, and I imagined how long that must’ve taken, and perhaps her daughters helped…

Eventually, I snapped myself out of that, realizing that the previous owners may never step into this kitchen again. And if they did, a moment of disappointment wasn’t worth wanting to paint over it every day of my life.

2. I struggle with permission.

We had a large basement growing up, and if you didn’t want something in your room, we put it down in the basement. If there was a pair of jeans I didn’t wear, we didn’t take it to the thrift store. It went into the basement. And it didn’t really matter because there was plenty of room to store, hang out and do projects in that basement.

I distinctly remember not being allowed to get rid of clothing I didn’t want to wear, because it was “perfectly good.” We disregarded our preferences and used things until they were worn, or we boxed it up for the basement black hole. I remember cleaning out my make-up and skincare products as a teen, creating a nice, neat cabinet containing only what was in my current routine, only to find that about half of what I cleared was rescued while I was at school. When I asked about it, I was told that “it’s still good” or “there’s still half left in the bottle.”

Now, imagine feeling the need to get universal approval – my late mother, relatives who loved my mother, a person who doesn’t live here, my husband, kids – to throw anything out.

I’m not a hoarder like the people on TV. I do make regular trips to the thrift store with bags for donations. Mail gets dealt with the moment I pick it up. Magazines go effortlessly into the trash. Movie ticket stubs never make it out of the theater.

But before KonMari decluttering, the level of convincing needed to put some things in that buh-bye bag was through the roof.

By following the instructions in a short, quick-reading book, I was able to identify my roadblocks, recognize and acknowledge them as they try to stop me, then continue say goodbye to my unwanted junk.

Literally, you’re supposed to say, “thank you, goodbye!”

What a difference already.


Your turn! Do you have unwanted clutter? Am I wrong in saying that we all do? What do you think makes it hard to let things go?

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