A Rollicking Review: Marie Kondo’s Tidy Book and a Messy View

In last week’s post Paring Down and Tidying Up, I referred to Marie Kondo’s New York Times best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up. Her book has sold over 5 million copies and is being translated into 40 languages.  I promised you a review and here it is.


The Review: The life-changing magic of tidying up, Marie Kondo

“Organize your home once, and you’ll never have to do it again.” Tidying consultant Marie Kondo, who has a three-month waiting list, insists you will never again have to sift through snowdrifts of papers or endure clothes that pile up like a tangled mess of noodles. Just follow her revolutionary category-by-category system.

Kondo’s solution is simple but not necessarily easy, especially for pack rats. Effective tidying, she admits, involves only two essential actions: Discarding things and deciding where to store what you keep. Kondo instructs her clients to pick up items one by one and ask, “ Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.” (60)

Simply put, tackle major categories like clothing, books, and papers. Sort by category, not rooms: Sort all clothing at the same time, then move on to books, and so on.

Her chapter headings are iconoclastic: “Clothing: Place Every Item Of Clothing in the House on the Floor.” Do the same with books. Interestingly, her chapter titles yell in capital letters while her book title sits calmly on the cover, lower-case, in a cloud of blue.

Kondo’s wit and humor permeates her 254-page instruction book. She admits to coming home and falling asleep on the floor without even changing her clothes (195) writing this book. In the Afterword, she confesses that she once had to call an ambulance because the day before she had tidied too much and found her neck and shoulders frozen stiff from “looking into the cupboard above the closet and moving heavy furniture” (255).

Why do clients of the eponymous KonMari Method not relapse? The secret lies in a chapter entitled “Reduce Until You Reach the Point Where Something Clicks.” Apparently, satisfied clients have reached their clicking point! Some have even lost weight and experienced a clearer complexion as “detoxing” their houses has had a refreshing effect upon their bodies. (241)

One of her most valuable bits of advice was the functionality of sturdy shoeboxes to store lingerie and socks. Then, she suggests, use the tops like a tray to keep cooking oils, spices, and odd utensils in their rightful place. I may use such advice moving into our new space.

Marie Kondo’s tidying impulse began at age 5 while reading home and lifestyle magazines. She volunteered to be the classroom organizer in grade school. Now in her New York Times best seller, Kondo enthusiastically promotes the Japanese art of de-cluttering and organizing, a magical system that has become her life’s calling.

Not everyone buys into this magic. Sanford in the TV series, Sanford and Son didn’t, and neither did my father as I show in a blog post entitled Neat Versus Messy. It features a poem “Delight in Disorder.”

Dad's Office

My father died many years ago in 1985. During this Father’s Day week, I pause to give thanks. Though my dad did not give me a love for order (Mother did that), he gave me other sterling values: love of music, intellectual curiosity, and appreciation for the natural world. For those I give thanks.

Daddy in his later years, taking a breather
Daddy, often winning trips and other prizes for top sales, takes a breather. Sign courtesy of Cliff Beaman, 1976


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One day soon, we will take what we have curated from our possessions and move it to our next home. It will be very messy for a while.


What is your take on the KonMari Method? What tried and true tips can you add?



As we make the transition – painting, packing, and re-assembling in another space, future blog posts may be sparse and my comments on your blogs may be spotty too.

I love our weekly connections here and will miss them temporarily. Soon I’ll be back. Enjoy each summer day!


Neat vs. Messy

                              Delight in Disorder

A sweet disorder in the dress

Kindles in clothes a wantonness.

A lawn about the shoulders thrown

Into a fine distraction;

An erring lace, which here and there

Enthralls the crimson stomacher;

A cuff neglectful, and thereby

Ribbons to flow confusedly;

A winning wave, deserving note,

In the tempestuous petticoat;

A careless shoestring, in whose tie

I see a wild civility;

Do more bewitch me than when art

Is too precise in every part.

The British poet Robert Herrick writes a fine sonnet about the allure of the slightly askew, the saucy, the off-beat–the messy in dress! Well, he has a point, but I don’t agree in general. I like neatness and appreciate the beauty of orderliness.

Too precise hand-writing Hanger, EMC college days
Too precise hand-writing
clothes hanger, college days EMC

Mother was a neatnik too, every hair in place under her prayer covering, the whole house scrubbed clean every Friday, a place for everything and everything in its place. On the other hand, my dad, who was precise in the mechanics of fixing machinery in his farm supply business, was by nature messy, messy, messy–in his office, inside his truck, on the porch of his shop.

Dad's Office

Brother Mark before sale of business
Brother Mark before sale of business

Daddy’s messy manner drove me crazy. Besides, it was embarrassing! In the middle of the village of Rheems, the shop faced Harrisburg Avenue with two main sections, one behind the other. The front part housed dozens of storage bins for nuts, bolts, screws, odd implements and, curiously, a Victrola sitting squat right beside the door to the sales office. During planting season, bags of Royster fertilizer for sale would be deposited off to the side near a loading/unloading door. As you walked to the rear, a long wooden ramp led to the back section where the dirty work was done, Daddy and his helpers fixing disk harrows, plows, or welding broken parts. Behind the shop was an assortment of implements stored Sanford & Son-style from which the mechanics harvested parts.

Occasionally, when Daddy said, “It’s time to sweep the shop,” I shuddered because I would be working in the cold with piles of stuff everywhere. Spritzing soapy water from a bucket to settle the dust, I watched charcoal-grey pustules of dirt and grease bead up on the cement floor, then tried to push-broom the filth into a dust pan, often an exercise in futility.

Though Daddy was messy, he had a strong Pennsylvania Dutch work ethic. At the shop six days a week, he caught up with office work and telephone sales in the evenings. “I worked like a Trojan today, and still didn’t get the Fox Harvester ready for Phares Weaver in time,” he’d say to Mother as he walked in the door. And he did so well in sales, dealerships would send him and Mother as VIPs on all-expense paid trips to Ohio, Florida, or Arizona to learn about new farm equipment. Once his sales were so high, his whole family, including three married daughters and son enjoyed a week-long vacation in Jamaica.

Daddy in his later years, taking a breather
Daddy in his later years, taking a breather

So there’s neat and there is messy. “God is a God of order!” shouts one. The other camp retorts: “But you can’t be creative and neat at the same time!”

This post began with an homage to the slightly slovenly, the off-kilter. It ends with a writer lamenting her neat freakiness.

Being A Neat Freak

Being a neat freak, is certainly not a
blessing! No one enjoys, being this
way. When I find everything thrown
all around, on impulse, I have to put
them all away. I have always lived by
the creed, there’s a place for everything
and everything, in its place! It’s
aggravating, dealing with this, but I
know it’s something, I’ve got to face.
I’ve often wondered, how does a
person, get to be this way? It didn’t
happen over night, or in just a day.
Perhaps, it’s what we learned, when
we were young. And frankly speaking,
I’m tired of hearing people say, try not
to be so high strung! I’d like nothing
better, if I could let up, just a little bit,
by not letting myself become so
perturbed. Upon giving this some
thought, I realize, isn’t all of this, quite

Now it’s your turn: neat vs. messy — Can they co-exist?
Is it possible to find a middle ground?
Thank you for sounding out on this topic. Your thoughts please. They keep me going! And I will always reply.