The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: Chapters 1 & 2 Discussion

This week we’re discussing chapters one and two of our September book club pick: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

This past week it was all I could do to not furiously begin discarding unwanted items. Somehow, the simple question posed in Marie Kondo’s best-selling book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up — “does this spark joy?” — unlocked something in my brain. Now, everywhere I look in my small apartment I spy items that most certainly do not. As much as I wanted to just dive right in, I was determined to follow the advice doled out in chapters 1 and 2 of this easy read and hold back. It wasn’t time yet (as much as I wished it was).

This book represents a bit of a turning point for me. I’ve always had a tendency to write off similar titles aimed at decluttering and minimizing because I just never saw myself as — as Kondo puts it — a “tidy” person. I’m messy, my life is messy. Always has been, and that was that. I saw things in black and white — there were the minimalists of the world and there were the rest of us. I would clean, and then time would naturally progress to the point where I’d need to clean again. Promises of permanent change sounded too good to be true, and so I resisted. But after delving deeper into the ‘KonMari Method’ and allowing my mind to open a bit more, I became intrigued by the promise of change across all areas of life, not just the material goods, and as we all learned in chapter one:

“People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.”

As much as I wanted to start discarding right away, there was mental work to be done first.

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What I’ve really enjoyed about this book is how simply KonMari (the nickname the author goes by) lays everything out. Decluttering and tidying (quickly becoming a word I’d be happy never seeing again, if we’re being completely honest) isn’t rocket science, it’s simply “deciding whether or not to dispose of something and deciding where to put it.” It sounds so obvious, so why is it so difficult for some of us to abide by this simple mantra?

In chapter one we learned the “why” behind our habits and, for me, many of those “whys” held true. Like the younger KonMari, I often distracted myself with cleaning or organizing rather than studying when I was in college, my mind only settling once my desk was clean and put together an hour or so later. Like the younger KonMari, I often find myself obsessing over storage, remarking to visitors that “our apartment is great, but man, there’s no storage!” and it’s here, again in chapter one, that we learn that hiding things away won’t actually solve the problem.

“Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder. The act of cluttering is really an instinctive reflex that draws our attention away from the heart of the issue.”

This particular passage stuck with me long after I’d read it. How many times have I neglected to put something away only because I was stressed and didn’t want to deal with the problem? Many. When there’s nothing cluttering your space, you’re left to deal with the clutter in your head.

As I read, I found myself underlining quotes such as these to come back to. The rationale seems obvious, but it’s the way in which these ideas are presented that puts them into focus.

“We should be choosing what to keep, not what we want to get rid of.”

The goal is to handle each and every item you own – consider it, appreciate it, and ultimately decide whether or not to keep it. Ideally, we keep only the things that speak to our hearts, an idea I initially had a hard time getting past. Obviously it’s easy to think of clothes or books that spark joy in us, but what about life’s more mundane, everyday tools? Like a broom or the sponge you use to wash your dishes? These are questions tackled later in the book, but I can already see it comes down to appreciation.

Chapter two moves on the actual act of discarding. An act that is clearly not quite as simple as a weekend spent putting things in order. No, KonMari suggests tackling one category at a time, and even then breaking down those categories into subcategories. It’s a lot to take in, and I felt my motivation waver just a bit before I turned the page to the second section titled, “Before you start: visualize your destination.” Your destination isn’t just a cleaner home or more streamlined wardrobe, your destination is likely something far greater. A state of being, less stress…happiness. The journey may be longer than just an afternoon, but the reward is one I’m willing to try for.

This weekend I’ll be embarking on my own journey by tackling one of the more harrowing categories in my home – clothing – and will report back next week with discussion and questions for chapters 3 and 4!

This week’s discussion questions:

– The author states that “a messy room equals a messy mind.” How do you feel before, and then after, cleaning? Do you see a correlation between the tidiness of your space and your sense of well-being?

– In chapter two, KonMari instructs us to “visualize our destination.” What kind of life do you visualize for yourself?

– In chapter two, the author moves on to discuss the emotional value of our belongings. What category holds the most emotional value for you? Why? 

– Can you relate at all to “K”, the client mentioned in chapter two? Do you find yourself holding on to items out of guilt?

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  1. I just finished reading this book! Which means I’m actually participating in your book club. Which never happens because I never put in the effort to catch up (but this time I’m AHEAD!)
    And also, I think her ideas about mess covering up anxiety and emotions is spot on. I was a clean child, like Marie Kondo clean, and tidying the school closets clean. And over the years, I’ve grown into a messy person. I think my self-esteem has also gotten lower as I’ve gotten older, understood more about the world, etc. I think I can’t clean because I don’t feel like I deserve to live somewhere tidy.
    Which is stupid, because I DO deserve to live somewhere tidy. This book is my motivation; I’m going to start cleaning very soon. :)

  2. I feel like this book speaks out to me for so many reasons! It sounds like a really interesting book and I’m so keen to get my hands on it and give it a go myself. I ALWAYS live in a mess (my room is always cluttered its really horrible :() and I can’t seem to ever get myself ready to do anything until it’s cleaned. It’s always the same mindset of “I can’t do anything until I’ve cleaned it properly”. But the cleaning never happens… Once i actually DO get around to cleaning it I realise how much more productive I actually end up becoming!

    Will get my hands on this book when I have the chance to drop by the library or a bookstore. Looking forward to your next discussion on the next few chapters! (also feeling disappointed I won’t be able to keep up with it too :()

  3. Hanna – So great to have you participating! I’ve always been a mess maker, but only in my adult life am I realizing that it has a correlation to stress.

    Aisyah – Great to have you here! I’d love for you to participate no matter where you are in the book :)

  4. After reading this post i cannot wait to get my hands on this book!! I can’t believe i haven’t heard of it before now it sounds amazing!!x

  5. Wow, it’s really funny that you should make this blog post! I just finished discarding, de-cluttering and tidying my bedroom and the results feel incredible! I had listened to a podcast by Duncan Trussell, who was talking along the same lines as this author: pick up each object and decide whether it’s something you need to keep or throw it away. I was so inspired that I began the process immediately, and it’s absolutely INCREDIBLE how much junk and clutter you can have hidden away in the smallest of rooms! It was also interesting to reflect on how it all made me feel, because ultimately all the clutter and junk was bringing my mood down and fogging things up for me. Now it’s all gone (a whole trailer full of junk and a few bags of things to donate) I feel amazing! My mind is clearer and it is actually nice to sit in my room with a cup of tea and a book without feeling cramped.

    To anyone thinking of undertaking this journey I really recommend it! Don’t be afraid of losing things to the dump and be ruthless in your approach! With each useless item gone a little weight will be taken off of your shoulders. :) xx

  6. I was scrolling through trending blogs & saw this one. I literally finished reading the book two weeks ago & am on the mission to clean up my hous & mind. It’s a little trickier when you have other family members who just don’t get it. My hubby of 3 years & 2 of his teens have no concept or care to be tidy.
    We cleared the he garage last week , slowly i’m working on the house. the thing I’ve been struggling to find info on is a method for my business. As a costume designer & milliner I can’t just keep the things that spark joy & my work room is a disaster area.
    I’lve never been part of a book club, but I’ll be following along.

  7. I love her philosophy. I love how it speaks to her audience on a feeling level rather than an intellectual one.
    It took me 5 days to go through all my clothes, shoes and accessories. My family was very supportive as they spent 5 days knee deep (literally) in my clothes! My children were very curious. It has been almost 8 months since I did my clothes and accessories and I am happy to say that I have not rebounded. My closet is still tidy! I notice that I am much more discretionary as a I shop. I need to address my papers next. Good luck out there beauties!

  8. I bought this wonderful book some time back. Started to red and promptly put the book away, as I was to scared to proceed with getting rid of things, inner voice says oh you might need that one day,
    Reckon it is time I get that book out again and start reading it and doing some some decluttering and unstressing. Thank you for this post.

  9. I jumped here from my weekly email Bloglovin and this has been inspiring. I will be looking for the book and hope to join you all in a less cluttered lifestyle.

  10. I’ve just received this book, but I started clutter clearing before. I just want to get it all done this time and not keep scratching at it like an old hen!

  11. I would love to live decluttered and at least somewhat tidy . . . but it’s MY FAMILY!!!

    I haven’t read the book, but I can tell you from reading other books, you HAVE to have cooperation. If the rest of the people you live with “don’t get it”, it’s not going to work.

    I, too, was raised as a “clean child”. My mom went waaaaaay overboard, so I tried to dumb it down a bit but over the years I have had to be the one to compromise, compromise, compromise. I run myself ragged. Our house isn’t dirty, but STUFF IS EVERYWHERE . . . and it doesn’t help that we have a small house, the divorced daughter moved back in with a grand and the grown son has never moved out.

    Admittedly they have small rooms, so stuff overflows into the family room. Sometimes I feel like I’m suffocating — and no one sees a reason to get rid of anything “right now”.

    I’ve even considered “living alone” by researching She Sheds just so I have a neat place to run to at the end of the day.

    It’s cooperation, my dears, from all the other uprights in your household. Pray for me!!!

  12. I’ve moved 35 times. This time I was determined to downsize & declutter! Parting with memories was most difficult till a friend said “you have enjoyed it, now its time g or someone else to enjoy it”! That opened a door for me.

  13. Kathleen – Wow, and I thought I’d moved a lot! I’m nervous about the ‘memories’ portion, to be honest, because I tend to be quite sentimental.

  14. Viki – Even just living with one person can make parting with things difficult, so I can imagine how hard it would be when surrounded by your whole family.

  15. Sharon Jones – I can completely relate to the feeling of being a bit scared. It’s hard to confront not only the stuff, but the feelings and emotions attached to it.

  16. Jennifer – I agree. Parting with things is so much more than “throwing out one thing per day” or deciding to get rid of something and then doing it. I love that she recognizes — and helps the reader recognize — the emotional bonds we have with our things, whether it’s through guilt, memory, sentimentality, etc. It’s awesome that your family was so supportive and helpful, too! I also have a ton of papers to go through eventually.

  17. I read KonMari book for almost half a year ago and I must say it brought great changes into my life!

    – The author states that “a messy room equals a messy mind.” How do you feel before, and then after, cleaning? Do you see a correlation between the tidiness of your space and your sense of well-being?

    I definitely see correlation between those two. The first time I discarded things I don’t need from my bedroom, suddenly I feel lighter and composed. It’s like I have control of my life, but also have that relief of letting go things I don’t need. You see, after letting go of things of the past, I feel like I can see only what’s important, what’s in the present and in the future.

    – In chapter two, KonMari instructs us to “visualize our destination.” What kind of life do you visualize for yourself?

    I came from a family of educator. Both parents are lecturers and I always wish to be like them. I want to live a simple life in a simple house, but with a lot of book and cozy places to hang around. I want to be able to learn, study, and also teach in my life. I wish to educate more people and give them power to see themselves in better light- that they, too, can contribute something to this world, or at least live a full, happy life.

    – In chapter two, the author moves on to discuss the emotional value of our belongings. What category holds the most emotional value for you? Why?

    I consider myself as a not very emotional person. One time I got excited because my favourite band from England was playing in town, my friend looked at me weirdly and told me it wasn’t like me to be, well, slightly more excited than usual. After I KonMari-d my bedroom, I found out that things I don’t discard is mostly books. Some books have really great writing and pictures, and I don’t think I can’t be separated from them because I can keep learning from them. For another category, maybe I can’t be parted with my old works; drawings, writing, ideas on scrap papers… I have a feeling that I can still learn from them while measuring how far I’ve come.

    – Can you relate at all to “K”, the client mentioned in chapter two? Do you find yourself holding on to items out of guilt?

    I don’t think I’m this type of person at all. In fact, I’m very cruel when it comes to discarding things! I can quickly learn and adapt to the part of the book where we should hold an item and thank it for finding way into our life and then let it go. I let go very fast and I feel little guilt of doing things I see as unnecessary. I kind of feel like I have this psychopathic vibe, but that’s just the way I am.

  18. As soon as I read your review I clicked straight on amazon and ordered this book! I can’t believe how in sync this is with my current feelings. Myself and my partner are looking to downsize to a tiny home, to save money, and as we like the idea. And I’ve recently felt completely over whelmed with the amount of items I have! (Clothes especially!) And I have a huge list of creative to-do’s that I keep putting off until I ‘declutter’ and have the space to be creative! To the point where i feel i spend all my time moving items around my flat instead of doing anything productive! Cannot wait for this to arrive- I really need the motivation ! Thanks for sharing :) xxxxx

  19. Hey FP -Just started reading this book so I’m determined to catch up and for once read along with the book club. However, I’m commenting because I want to propose an idea. Has FP ever considered conducting book club gatherings in the store? Following along with the blog is wonderful, but it would be great to have some in store events that bring together all lovers of Free People. Hope something like this is in the future plans!!

  20. I relate so much to this quote; ” I’m messy, my life is messy. Always has been, and that was that. I saw things in black and white — there were the minimalists of the world and there were the rest of us “. It feels so liberating knowing I am not the only busy-minded person that has always been ‘tidying up’ every single day. People never understand how I can keep tidying up and never getting it completely done. I am going though a major cleaning up these times as well. It is a slow process but it is progressing and that is relieving. I haven’t been buying anything new, I am mostly dealing with my current possessions as I want to minimize them. Good luck to everyone who is going through this process as well! It is not an easy process but it’s okay, it will be worth it, I think.

  21. I just bought the book but still haven’t started reading it. I’m moving next month and I have to declutter before start packing. Few friends recommended the book of Marie Kondo to me as a good source of ideas and I’m enthusiastic about reading it. Thank you for your post, it’s good to read somebody else’s experience. Greets!

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