Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Yikes, I read an organizational book

One of the things I enjoy about Blogging for Books (besides, well, access to free books to blog about) is the chance to read books I would never otherwise read, just because they are available. This week, I read "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up" by Marie Kondo, the Japanese organization guru.

Ok, this is not what I would usually read but I had heard of the book and her organizational practices, which was enough to spark an interest. I wanted to see how her outlook was different from our Occidental way of looking at the things we own and how we relate to them. I don't want to generalize an entire culture from one book, so I will stick to calling it her views.

The first thing that stuck out was how much things were humanized: socks need rest, things should be thanked for their services, etc. On one level, this was cute but it started grating on me after a while, specially when things began to want to serve me or to please me. My clothes are not my pets.

Another is the lack of a kitchen section- clothes, books, papers and memorabilia are her basic categories. The kitchen falls under "miscellanea", which seems overly broad.

Overall, the book is quite lightweight. The basic ideas would be enough for a magazine article. The rest of the book is padded with anecdotes from clients and a lot of repeated ideas.

I admit I did not like the author as she presents herself. From the start, she shows herself as something of a meddler, wanting to tell random people on the street on how to roll their socks or discarding her family's belonging as a teen to tidy and trying to make excuses or hide the fact. Although she admits the latter was a mistake, the superior attitude seems to remain, when she states that "obviously, I made [my client] through [the papers] out." She also seems almost naively young at some points.

She also seems rather strongly anti intellectual in relationship to books and course material. No, I will not throw out course notes since I should have learned the information when I took the course. There is often information that will become relevant later, in a different context. Same thing for books: often, books I "should" have thrown out become incredibly useful later. At that time, I might not have been working with a particular style or technique, but I may need to look up information today (and I do).

So, what did I take from the book? I am not going to go out on all day purging spree as she recommends. Perhaps I do not have much of a consumer problem but I do not feel buried in my things. I also cannot make the leap from what she suggest and the amazing results she says she gets, with clients changing their lives completely and never receding. But I did not hate the book. It was an easy ready with plenty of opportunities to roll my eyes.

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