Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mini-Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

FIRST OF ALL, I would like to address the whole e.e. cummings thing going on with the title.  It really irks me when cover designers, publishers, graphic designers, what-have-you, decide to make a title (which in one of the rare rules of English that actually works most of the time, must be observed) all lower-case letters.  Gah.  Is it like this book is so spare and zen that we don't even need capital letters anymore?  Just toss them away?

Secondly, I would like to point out that I did not read every single word in this book.  I skimmed.  So, on that basis, choose to view this review how you will.

This book is for a select few.  It's for the GOOP readers and the people who pay $500 for a pair of designer sneakers to look normcore.  It's for people who are on speaking terms with their clothing.  And it's for people who have the time to thank every stinking thing they wore that day for doing a good job.  Gag me with a spoon.


So, premise: Marie Kondo is a Japanese woman who has become Very Rich by going into other people's houses and telling them how to clean.  It's always been a part of her personality, she says.  She talks about reading home decorating magazines as a kid (fine) and making up "a variety of my own solitary 'games.'" Hey Marie, what do you do for fun?  Oh, well, "after reading a feature on saving money, I immediately launched into a 'power-saving game' that involved roaming around the house and unplugging things that weren't in use, even though I knew nothing about electric meters."  Beg pardon?  You unplugged stuff at your house for fun?  As a child, how did you know it wasn't in use?  Didn't your parents go crazy every time they had to reset the clock on the microwave?  Plus, I mean, kids really shouldn't be messing with power outlets.  No joke.  As a children's librarian, I feel it a solemn duty to mention that.

There is a lot more in the following chapters about her obsessive habits, which, frankly, freak me out--mostly because she dives into them 110% and thinks that it's totally normal to attempt to classify people's clutter habits by their zoological zodiac sign.  This is pretty much when I stopped reading and started skimming.

Two main concepts in this book both puzzle me and mildly disturb me (part of this may be my upbringing and cultural references, so, that's the caveat): 1) When you touch something, you impart energy to it to make it keep functioning for you.  Bonus points if you verbally thank it for doing its job. 2) Tidying your house will make a substantial impact on your life, even possibly giving you diarrhea or galvanizing you into getting a divorce!

Look.  I am not going to talk to my socks and thank them for keeping my feet warm.  I am not going to unload my purse every stinking night to give it a rest and then reload it all the next morning, because I don't have the time for that.

Finally, I'd like to address the overuse of the word "tidy" and its derivatives.  While not as gag-reflex-inducing as "moist," nor as twee as "panties," I still find the word "tidy" grating.  I wonder if Kondo used a specific Japanese word that has no direct English translation, and so we got "tidy" instead.  In this case, it's not really the author's fault.  But didn't the translator think about certain connotations of "tidy"?  Let me just give you two visual examples:



Toilet bowls can be tidy.  Cat urine can be made tidy by "instant clumping action."  Given those associations, I do not want my apartment to be "tidy."  I'll settle for "clean" and "smells nice."



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