The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 224 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō, translated by Cathy Hirano, provides a step-by-step process for her KonMari Method of tidying, which she says should bring you joy and possibly lead to other life-changing moments.  The first step is to discard, and when she says discard, she means get rid of everything that does not bring you joy or has no use.  Discarding should be undertaken by category of items not by room, as many homes stash lotions and hair clips and other items in multiple rooms.  These may sound like daunting tasks, but if the entire household participates, it might take less time.  She says the entire process for tidying the house can take up to six months or more.  Crazy!

Sentimental items like letters from loved ones and photos should be kept for last, because these will be the hardest items to part with and sort through.  All of our clothes should be collected from the various places throughout the house — drawers, closets, linen closets, coat closets, etc. — and placed in piles sorted by tops, bottoms, coats, dresses, etc.  Once they are sorted, you should hold them in your hands, and think about whether they bring joy when you wear them.  They also should be examined for any wear that cannot be repaired and tossed if they cannot be repaired.  This is just one example.  Placing everything in one category into a pile on the floor ensures that you visually see how much stuff you have.  I recently did this with clothes on my own and felt much better once everything was sorted and discarded, but I did this without the help of this book.  Once everything that is to be kept is identified, it needs to be put into its place and when used, it must be put back into its rightful place.

Kondō’s method is very detailed and deliberate.  Each item is held to ensure that the person understands what the item is, what its purpose is, and whether it brings joy.  Some clothes, for example, looked great in the store but not on you when they got home — so these should be discarded.  One piece of advice about lounge wear and that women should wear elegant nightwear to bed struck me as an old-fashioned idea, given that I’ve always found those kinds of bedtime wear uncomfortable to sleep in.  But I may be out of the norm on that one, preferring my t-shirts and shorts or t-shirts and flannel pj bottoms.

While readers will see the points she is trying to make — and it may just be the translation — there are times when the book is too repetitive, which can become bothersome.  Also, there is a mindfulness here that may not translate into American culture like it does in Japanese culture.  Thanking items for serving their purpose, caressing items to ensure they are alive before you take them out of storage, that kind of thing might appear a bit wacky to some.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō, translated by Cathy Hirano, has some great ideas about what papers should be saved, how clothes should be folded to maximize space, and how to rethink about the items we keep.  Attachment is something Buddhists talk about letting go of, and in many ways, Kondō is suggesting something similar in they way she focuses on discarding items.

About the Author:

Marie Kondo (近藤 麻理恵) is a Japanese organizing consultant and author. Kondo’s method of organizing is known as the KonMari Method, and one of the main principles is keeping only possessions which “spark joy.”  Kondo’s best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing has been published in more than 30 countries.  She was listed as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time Magazine in 2015.

A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry

A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry is a historical fiction novel in which the main protagonist, Willie Dunne, joins the military to prove to himself and his father that he can be more than a short teenage boy.  As a young Irish boy, he dreamed of joining his father in the police force, but he never grew to the required height.  After disappointing his father, Willie meets a young woman, Gretta, and falls in love, just before he leaves for the front lines in Belgium.  Willie is a bit dull when it comes to the politics behind WWI, but he’s also dull about the politics and struggle facing his home country of Ireland.

Barry’s prose meanders is a storytelling fashion that dates back to the old days in Ireland, and is likely to remind readers of Frank Delaney’s storytelling style.  Willie’s mind wanders into his past as a boy to the present situations he finds himself in at the front lines, with a variety of men who are as young as he is.  It is clear that these men he mentions are names that will either be soon forgotten as the ravages of war take them or who are men that make an impression on Willie’s psyche, such as Father Buckley.

“Four men killed that day.  The phrase sat up in Willie’s head like a rat and made a nest for itself there.”  (Page 21)

“As they approached the war, it was as if they went through a series of doors, each one opened briefly and locked fast behind them.” (Page 37)

“The first layer of clothing was his jacket, the second his shirt, the third his longjohns, the fourth his share of lice, the fifth his share of fear” (Page 43)

Barry’s prose is clipped when necessary to demonstrate the immediacy of war-time battles, but also it slows down the action as Willie reflects on the battles, the gas attacks, the deaths of his comrades, and more as he attempts to process all that he’s seen.  There are gruesome gas attack scenes as the mustard gas inches its way across no-man’s land and down into the trenches, filling every open crevice with its nasty poison, including the open mouths of men caught in the trenches without gas masks or even well-secured gas masks.  Barry’s work not only demonstrates the physical trials of war, but also the mental hardships that accompany the loss of friends and people you didn’t even really have time to get to know, as well as deal with the bureaucracy that is the military and the perceptions of others about your commitment to the cause and battles that happened in the past that you witnessed first hand and may not be retold in the way in which they actually happened.  There is a battle that rages inside each soldier about when to speak up and when to keep quiet, and Willie struggles with that daily.

Willie can be a trying character in that he has little knowledge of the politics around him and has little opinion on the matter, and this can keep readers at an emotional distance.  However, Barry has crafted a novel that demonstrates the ins and outs of war at a time when modern mechanisms were just coming into play, even though much of the combat was still hand-to-hand and the troops conditions saw little improvement.  Additionally, it seems that Barry is attempting to comment on “authority” whether it is in the parent-son relationship, the soldier-military relationship, or the citizen-country relationship, but the message becomes quite muddled.  It would almost seem as though the narration is trying to tackle too much in the way of the “authority” figure relationship, making it harder for readers to clearly make out the purpose of so many “father” figures in the narration.

A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry takes a while to get into, but once you begin the journey with Willie, you’ll want to see if he returns to Ireland knowing his own mind — the one requirement Gretta has made of him before she will agree to marry.  While Willie thinks of her often, he also has to contend with the daily trials of war and military service.  The novel is does not gloss over the gruesome aspects of trench-life and warfare, so be warned.  In fact, some of the best and most suspenseful scenes were those involving mustard gas, which Willie and his fellow soldiers had never seen before; Barry did well in describing how it crept across the battlefields.  Overall, a worthwhile look at WWI from the point of view of an Irish soldier caught between his loyalties for Ireland and the British army.

About the Author:

Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. His play, The Steward of Christendom, first produced in 1995, won many awards and has been seen around the world. His novel, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, appeared in 1998. He lives in Wicklow with his wife and three children.

This is my 7th book for the WWI Reading Challenge.



This is my 15th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.




This is my 1st book for the 2012 Ireland Reading Challenge since the main protagonist is Irish and must cope with being away during WWI while uprisings are occurring in Ireland for independence from England.  The author also was born in Dublin.