Okay. So Jared heard this really sweet Japanese lady on NPR a couple months ago, talking about her book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," and he thought (not with any side-eye at me, I double-checked) this sounds really cool, kinda like mindfully decluttering, yah? Honing down your stuff to the stuff that really matters so your mind can be clearer. Cool philosophy, yah? So he ordered it. I got my hands on it first, because that's what always happens when books come in to my house.
The rest of this review/outrage is without actually referencing the book, because I kinda never want to see it again. So this is the gist, coupled with probably a whole lot of my own insecurity and need to hold on to stuff.
So just like most organization books (like everyone, I own several), she lays things out in the steps you're supposed to follow. I've seen them start in the kitchen, in the master closet, in any closet, so this approach was interesting:
Step 1: Start with everything.
Get out all the clothes in your house. ALL of them. Now put them in a pile, like the living room. Now start throwing stuff out. If you missed anything during the initial gathering phase, that automatically gets dontated or trashed. You should end up with (some miniscule number, I forget, of) clothes and shoes. SHOES! (See my entire Pinterest board about shoes)
Step Whatever: Now put that stuff back nice, you hear?
(I actually lost consciousness for a little while there, while contemplating the enormity of step 1, and how with my 10-second attention span and my inability to put away more than EVEN ONE LOAD OF LAUNDRY, this would be a complete disaster and everyone at my house would be naked.)
Now there ARE some interesting ideas in here. You must handle each piece of clothing, do the inner check of whether this sparks joy in you. That's cool. And then when you put away, you should treat your clothing with kindness. I am ALL for the little details of feeling good (she recommends putting your bras upright with the cups tucked together so you can see all the pretty when you open your drawer in the morning. LOVE THAT. But still groggy from the whole let's throw everything else away mmkay? All in one big shot? Ok.
Step Whatever + 1: Now throw away most of your books
And now you know why it has been a couple of months since I read this book. I'm actually just waking up from the coma.
Gotta say here, that right after grownup-girl school supplies (ahem: scrapbook and crafting supplies) and shoes in my Constellation of Things I Love, comes books. Possibly those are even interchangeable.
So when Mama Bear (albeit sweetly) says "take out all your books and pile them around (also see above for the despair this already caused me). Then touch each one, ask if it sparks joy, and give it away if it doesn't."
Honestly, I like that idea. Keep the books you like and/or that make you happy. What I don't like is what comes next.
Limit yourself to 30 books. Because how many times are you going to read a book after you've already read it once? So come on now, heave ho!
Exhibit A: My Main Bookshelves
Yup. They could use a little tidying. As long as if by tidying you DON'T mean GETTING RID OF ALL OF THEM. Because I like books. I like being around them. I like owning the books I like.
First off, how can ANYONE say you can never own more than x number of books? They don't know me, mang. My undergraduate degree is in English, and the English department at BYU sure as hell cared that I owned more than 30 books. Why would I part with those after living in them for so long? Those (see down the middle shelves there, as well as the two bookcases up in the living room) are part of me. They remind me of me.
Honestly, I stopped reading after this point.
Because next she is going to tell me that I should erase my external hard drive and enjoy the fresh air that 2 Terabytes of blank space will give me.
Let's Look at the Introduction
And ya know, this might be a quibble, but surely we should be more selective of the reviews we include in the book's introduction? This one:
"Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don't. So I got a divorce. Now I am much happier."
Welp. Looks like that woman needed a whole other kind of tidying. But seriously? Throwing away all your books and clothes will help you see that you've been gasping for air in your marriage and burying your real feelings among your excess of tin foil (okay confession: I read the part about throwing away all your extra food/family storage. Not eeeeeven gonna go there)? Maybe. But is that something to brag about in the introduction to your book? Let's toss out the dead weight. Even if he is the father of your children. Maybe therapy first? But those three sentences are so awful I can hardly believe they were written to her, let alone something she'd be so proud of that it's included in the introduction to her book.
Wow. So are you almost tempted to buy this book? Because based on almost 9000 reviews on Amazon, it has really struck a chord with a lot of people who feel like they are drowning in their own stuff. With people who believe only a radical change will really save them from themselves. A Facebook group, too.
And I totally get that most of the reason this book struck such a negative chord with me, is my own insecurity and wrong-headedness. I actually wrote a whole journal entry about it, and got to take a look at myself SELF in relationship to my belongings. If for no other reason, I'm glad I read this book (the first 2 chapters anyway, ha!)
The Opposite Side of the "Tidy" Coin
On the other hand, this whole thing (I seriously griped about the "Life-Changing" book for 3 days, but that was weeks ago) was brought back again by a picture Jared showed me, and which I then looked up on Amazon:
I laughed my face off at the description. I have no idea whether that's just parody, or whether it's validation for the author, offered to all the cluttery Americans out there. Who just own too much stuff, dammit. Too much! But I intend to take a look. Maybe it'll spark the same kind of conversation with myself as the Tidying-Up book did. :)
Maybe it'll find a place on my bookshelves. There'll always be room.