The Life-Changing Manga Of Tidying Up: A Magical Story, by Marie Kondo
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Ten Speed Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
This is the sort of book that it would be easy to be angry about if it was not entirely transparent about its goals and aims. This manga novel is written by the author of a related book called The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up who happens to be an expert in the field and who happens to have a stand-in in the humorous and wise cleaning expert within the pages, which likely include a great deal of autobiographical detail. Again, in most cases a book like this with obvious commercial interests  would be somewhat blameworthy, but this book is so transparently open and so devoted to the author’s ideals that there is no sense in getting mad at a book that is written with the passion of a true believer. Make no mistake, this book is written by a true believer in the geomancy of a tidy house, where developing the skill of tidying one’s belongings in one’s home or flat becomes a preparation for a better life in work and love.
In terms of its contents, this short book of about 180 pages is divided in an episodic fashion into ten chapters that relate to lessons or stages in the author’s method of tidying up. First there is the decision to tidy up, which must be made by the untidy person themselves. After that the ideal lifestyle must be visualized. Then one works on discarding. After this one tidies by category of belonging, keeping the number of categories small. After that one folds clothing to stand upright, where the author spends an unseemly amount of time dealing with women’s underwear. Then the concept of choosing books by feel is discussed, along with papers and other accessories. Finally the author discusses how to deal with sentimental items. Once items are properly sorted into keep and do not keep categories, items are sorted where they belong with other members of their kind, and then real life begins after one’s house is put in order. This very didactic tale is told through three people, a twenty-nine year old woman named Chiaki Suzuki who falls in love often and starts many hobbies but does not keep them up and so ends up with enough stuff to end up on an episode of hoarders. She is helped by Marie Kondo, the elfin author, and manages to carry on a shy romance with her tidy cafe cook neighbor.
The essence of the author’s philosophy is that one should only keep those belongings that give you joy, and that one’s treatment of one’s personal belongings is an aspect of one’s self-regard. Even those items which are discarded are given a prayer of thanks and a blessing for having brought joy at one time, or else they would never have been acquired in the first place. The author appears to approach tidying from a Buddhist method. Now, to be sure, there are Christian methods and approaches to tidying that lead to the same result but without the emphasis on magic, but this book has a strong tint of Eastern religion to it that seems to match the way that Eastern religion is being used in fields like psychology and business strategy as a way of gaining legitimacy. My own feelings about the book and its approach are deeply mixed–there is great insight here but it is corrupted by a heathen religious approach that I find deeply offensive. As is the case with tidying, though, sometimes one has to take the good and throw out the bad and then live one’s life as best as one is able.
 See, for example: