Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

February 16, 2015

You know how I was talking recently about buying a little home, a sweet cottage, somewhere in Germany, Denmark (or possibly the Dutch/German border near the coast) that we could visit some weekends and in the summer? I still haven’t decided where and when yet, but I stumbled upon this sweet and very tidy example of a cottage that could be a nice option only this one is for rent via Red Cottage Inc. and it’s a tad far from home now because it’s in Freehold, New York! But wow, doesn’t it look so European, like it’s been plucked straight from the French or English countryside? And so simply decorated.

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Seeing this place and thinking further about buying a cottage has made me think that when I do find the perfect place, it needs to be decorated very simply and definitely uncluttered. In fact, I’ve been reading a great book about organizing and removing clutter from the home that my former book publicist, Lorraine Woodcheke, sent to me now that she’s working for Ten Speed Press called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Japanese de-cluttering expert and cleaning consultant Marie Kondo and I just love it. I’m working currently to apply it to my great annual spring clean that I’ll soon get started on.

This little book is already an international bestseller with millions of copies sold and is a best-seller in many parts of the world like the UK, US, Japan and Germany. Wow, I can see why the moment I started reading it back in October! It’s so easy to follow, compact and you get through it quickly — plus the most important part is that I found so much of what Marie said both practical and necessary.

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Marie’s tips on sorting papers and storing books are ones I really need to listen to. Marie believes that, “Letting go is even more important than adding,” and “The fact that you possess a surplus of things that you can’t bring yourself to discard doesn’t mean you are taking good care of them. In fact, it is quite the opposite”.

She also believes that the things that we own, when we look at them, evokes emotion within us and that these very real feelings give us the energy for living and that putting your home in order can create a vibrant and happy life. I absolutely agree. Her book is so popular in Japan that it was turned into a television series. I had no idea that Japanese society had a problem with clutter!

Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? What did you think?

(images: red cottage inc. and seattle refined)


  • Reply Maria February 16, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Holly, I read the book and used it! It has been life changing for me… Specially with clothing… I have so much space left in my closet now. I always have had a problem with clothing, meaning I had never enough space for my clothes, and now…voila! it all fits, no clutter,, more freedom! I have been doing it since October and so far, the system is holding pretty good for me, my husband and my kids… let me know if I can help with some tips on folding… although there is a lot info on you tube,,,

  • Reply un23 ilaria February 16, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I bought it yesterday. I found out about it on my favourite minimalist blog (into mind) and couldn’t help but buying it. I’ve been reading a lot about the matter lately. I’m totally into tidying and minimalism right now. It totally reflects my state of mind right now. I have a post ready for this week about it. I can’t wait to get the book and read it!

  • Reply Rebekah February 16, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    I read this in mid January and we spent the last two weekends decluttering and organizing by this method. When we finished, I was so content with what was left. And felt like I could breathe easier in my own home. I’m happier with what I have now. We gave away three loads of stuff to the charity shop. I had no idea we had so much stuff. I also used her folding method. I like it, but it’s a much larger time investment for laundry. So I’m not sure if I’ll stick with that. But the Sparks joy/doesn’t spark joy is a really effective way to sort your house.

  • Reply laura Dunn February 16, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    “Life changing” and “magic” is exactly how I would describe a tidy home. My husband happens to be amazing and keeping a tidy house and it really does make me feel less stressed and more relaxed.

  • Reply Holly {Avenue Lifestyle} February 16, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    I’ve heard amazing things about this book. Must get a copy!

  • Reply Anna February 16, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Looks like new item will be added to my Amazon wish list :) Cottage is totally awesome…

  • Reply Vanessa February 16, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    i am halfway through reading that book too, and I am also loving it! I think it’s going to be really good for me!
    Oh and that cottage – gorgeous!

  • Reply Jahje February 16, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    I just read this book last month and it struck such a chord with me! I’ve been applying her methods since then to clean up our lives and it is truly life changing. Honestly I think I’ve become addicted to getting rid of all the things that don’t bring us joy and with each load we get rid of I feel almost giddy. Which is surprising because I’ve always loved collecting things. Also her method of folding clothes is fantastic, my drawers have never been easier to navigate! Enjoy the book and clean up, it really has been magic for me!

  • Reply Lottie :: Oyster & Pearl February 16, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    I was reading about this book just last night. I think it sounds fascinating – am inspired to try her method as our house can feel pretty overwhelming sometimes.

  • Reply Kate February 16, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    That cabin is absolutely amazing. We too are searching for our little dream cabin. Not quite sure where it will be or where we will end up, but I’m searching. I always think it will be on the ocean or a lake. I’ll need to bookmark this cabin as it is decorated absolutely perfectly.

    I also love the book about decluttering. Ever since I heard about it through David Lebowitz I’ve been examining my possessions and thinking if we need them or not. Mostly not.

    Thanks for the beautiful post.

  • Reply Sarah February 16, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Hi Holly: well how strange, I just bought this book at my local bookstore on Saturday! I have already cleaned out several areas since, organized my socks (love this), undies, and tackled paperwork, which is a problem for me. I have a big old garbage bag ready for Goodwill and have more to clean out. Love this little gem and the author…my book is signed as the books came from an event in NY city recently. Enjoy and happy tidying!

  • Reply Carrie Harris February 16, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Yes, I’ve read this book and I loved it! Never has a book given me such drive to clean. I think this book is important because I feel such a calm in my mind when I’m surrounded by a tidy room. While I may not follow all of her suggestions, (I love my books…I’ve reduced my collection a bit, but there are many I simply must keep.) this book is loaded with ideas that I’d never considered and produce real results. Loved it!

  • Reply Alicia February 16, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    I love this book! I bought it a couple of months ago and have been working through my belongings in the order she suggests. It really is life changing and I absolutely love it. It is funny how tidying up can feel like a detox!

  • Reply Jenny February 16, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    I just heard about this book last night at a networking event and I’m dying to read it. I think I give lot of power to junk I still stash in my apartment. I mean, why do I still have my college notes from Chinese? I’m 30, and have yet to go over them like I say I will ever year! I also know I have to get rid of about 30% of my clothes because I just sorta like those pieces, not love.

  • Reply Jen February 16, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Hello Holly,

    Great post! I’m a fan of simple, organized style, which requires managing clutter well. We have a guideline in our home, which is “one in, one out!” Whether it’s new toys, clothing, or kitchen wares coming in, we decide when it comes in (sometimes before it comes in) what stays and what goes. For those items that go, we host a Free Stuff “sale” in our yard every few months. Everyone benefits!

  • Reply Kriste February 16, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Love the idea of this book! I’ve been working towards a minimalist lifestyle since getting married and I think I’ll order this to read and reflect on.

  • Reply Sage @ Plaster&Disaster February 16, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    In the process of reading this too, and I think it will be so important to us as new homeowners. Going from a one-bedroom apartment to a four-bedroom house, our tendency is to think that now we can have so much more stuff. It’s amazing how quickly it’s gotten cluttered and overwhelming! I’m determined to get it under control

  • Reply Delphine Comte February 16, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    This cottage looks so inviting! Simple but so cosy.
    I haven’t read that book yet, but considering everyone’s review, I will definitely read it, thank for asking about it!

  • Reply Felicitas February 16, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Read your post this morning. As I am moving in a few weeks to a new home with less room, this book is a life saver.
    In the last 5 hours I bought it, read half the book and already discarded about 50% of my clothes.
    I cannot thank you and the author enough
    It really works, and I feel like a champion :)
    Greetings from Buenos Aires.

  • Reply Karyn February 16, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    Amazing timing…I just finished it last week. In addition to giving me the urge to purge/clean/tidy my home….it has inspired me in more profound ways. Watch this space!

  • Reply wanda stuglik February 16, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    I bought two of these books. One for myself and the other for my granddaughter. We’re both getting ready to downsize!

  • Reply margarita February 16, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    So beautiful and calm, and yes I agree in keeping homes and spaces tidy and decluttered, I just moved my business from home to a new studio and it has been a very emotional process, not only I got rid of a lot of things, but cleared my house of a blocked energy I had going for years. Working from home has been very good, but I felt I couldn’t grow my personal life or business from there anymore, its is such, that my boyfriend is moving in next week, it seems that I needed it to clear the house in order for my personal life to move forward, funny eh?

  • Reply Rachel Cunliffe February 16, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    I loved the book too. Aside from the practical “everything must spark joy” mantra, I enjoyed reading her thoughts on socks (let them rest!), thanking items at the end of each day for their service, and how to fold tops properly.

    I got rid of a lot of things after reading the book (mainly clothing), but have made it more a lifestyle of thinking about what I’m bringing *into* the house to save the effort of having to get rid of it later.

  • Reply Bettina February 16, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    It’s so funny! I just finished reading the book. I read it in one day! I actually discovered it last year in a feature about Marie Kondo in the The Australian. I am interested in happy homes as I have published a book about this topic as well: Downsize With Style. And I know from talking to empty nesters I know that their biggest challenge is de-cluttering and tidying up. Another great book that goes into the same direction is Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.

  • Reply Julia February 16, 2015 at 10:58 pm

    hi holly, i read the book about a year ago and shared my progress online. maybe that could be an inspiration. had a great time and learned a lot about how i want to live.

  • Reply e. rohner February 17, 2015 at 3:35 am

    Just in time for Spring cleaning, as we in California are having a terribly early one.

    I read Karen Kingston’s ‘Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui’ (has been out since 1998) when packing up to move about 2 years ago and it really helped me and many of my friends. She is brilliant and has online workshops.

    Now I’m ready to get to it again, though it has really helped my mindset. Since I gave my copy away maybe I’ll refresh with this one. Thanks.

  • Reply Malia February 17, 2015 at 5:46 am

    I think Japanese homes that we see in design media tend to be a lot more minimalist in decor and style than the average home. Japanese homes I’ve been to look a lot more like the before photos in this home reno link:

  • Reply Sandra February 17, 2015 at 7:40 am

    Hi Holly,

    I read it one year ago, and I instantly started decluttering. Such a great and powerful book!
    But I need to re-read some chapters these days, because in some rooms I neglected some small and important ideas.
    Thank you for this small reminder. :-)


    • Reply decor8 February 17, 2015 at 9:42 am

      @Sandra – Are you sure you read THIS book? It just released in October, only 4 months ago.

  • Reply Lili, Frivolous Tarologist February 17, 2015 at 10:05 am

    I’ve never heard of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up but I think I’m gonna love it ! Thank you for the sharing :)

  • Reply Sarah February 17, 2015 at 10:58 am


    It’s been out in Germany since 2013 under the title “Magic Cleaning”. So yes, she has probably already read it. Like I did before I moved in 2013.

    It’s been great to get into the mood to get rid of stuff, especially books, magazines, paperwork, but also clothing. I went into quite a frenzy about sorting through things which culminated into getting up at 5 to try on clothing before work and sort it into keep and toss.

    But I am struggling to stick to the pattern. I find it especially difficult to dedicate a certain place for every item.

    • Reply decor8 February 17, 2015 at 2:11 pm

      @Sarah – That explains it – if it was in German under a different title then I definitely didn’t read it!

  • Reply uschi February 17, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    this is a terrible book of a very selfish person. she trows things, that belong to other family members, away – without asking them. this is the worst thing i have ever read. the rest is really boring and not life changing at all. i am so grateful that i didn’t buy it but read a friend’s copy. she didn’t like it too.

    • Reply decor8 February 17, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      So typisch Uschi! :) Now why don’t you say how you really feel? ha ha ha

  • Reply Anna February 17, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    This pictures are beautiful <3

  • Reply Kristin at Interior Nature February 17, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    My niece, an Olympic Team fencer, has been taking on a 30-day Kondo challenge and is keeping a blog about it. As she says, “Telling someone else to discard their belongings; no biggie. Trashing your own stuff; way harder. These 30 days will deepen my empathy for those I help and teach.” She wavers between utilitarianism and finding what her heart truly swells at. It’s a delightful process to watch – you can check out the minimalistathlete at wordpress!

  • Reply Becca February 17, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    My friend was posting photos on Instagram a few weeks ago as she tidied up her studio (she’s an extensive crafter, jewellery maker, amazing person) and she was hash-tagging all the photos “#MarieKondoBootcamp” and “#YearOfMagicalTidying” and the whole time I was like “What IS that?!” so when I saw Marie Konda in the title of this blog post I knew I had to read it. So now I’m very intrigued and want to buy this book! My boyfriend and I live in small apartment and both of us work as freelance photographers, so our living room is also our office and studio, with photo equipment packed into every nook and cranny, along with any decorative stuff we like (bookshelves, etc.) We’re definitely in need of a tidy (purge) and maybe this book will give us the final kick in the butt to start! Thanks for posting Holly!

  • Reply uschi February 17, 2015 at 8:08 pm


    hi holly,
    i honestly mean it and have found out that quite a few people on amazon share karin’s and my opinion on the book. it really bewilders me when someone does something as crude as throwing away things, that belong to somebodyelse. it happened to me a few years ago and i am still suffering, because of the loss of precious memories :-( destroying books is another no go for me … keeping things you love and getting rid of things you dislike is not really new, is it. if others get inspired by the book, that’s fine with me :-)
    have a lovely evening, uschi

    • Reply decor8 February 17, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      @Uschi – I agree, I would never throw away another person’s belongings – very insensitive and rude. Destroying books is also ridiculous – I’d give them away or sell them. But, like anything you read, you take the good and you forget the bad.

  • Reply Clever Girl Reviews February 17, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    I haven’t read it but I could use it!

  • Reply Mary February 19, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    I’ve just read the book, and although there are some good ideas, reading about 30 or 50 garbage bags just thrown away drives me up the walls. I had read another book on making room, where it was well explained how you can resell, recycle, donate, etc.. It made a lot more sense.

  • Reply Mart February 20, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    This book looks very appealing and I will probably buy it (because I can’t help from buying stuff!) but I’m wondering whether it will work for me because of my style. I love the look of the cabin pictured here and my husband and I often talk about having a “Japanese” house–usually when our cats have just broken a bunch of stuff :) The problem is that I am an artist and I have a colorful riot of art, mine and others, mostly folk art. I collected a lot of it in places I travelled to. So I’m worried that Marie Konda’s book won’t help me–my “vision” is naturally cluttered. My house is, was, and probably always look like a large Roma caravan! Can anyone else comment on whether they have a similar approach to their living space and if this worked for them?

  • Reply Melanie February 20, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    I started to read the book in German last year. I wasn’t very impressed. The ideas I agreed with are not new but either commons sense or already known from Karen Kingstons books, that I read a decade ago.

    I also was really turned off by the “getting rid of other peoples belongings”-lines. How selfish and rude!
    I have a big clear out once a year, usually in the school summer holidays (I am a teacher). I try to convince my partner and the kids to de-clutter as well. My partner is a real hoarder and has a basement full of stuff, plus two sheds in the garden. It annoys me, but his stuff is precious to him. I never put pressure on family members part with stuff they feel attached to. One mans clutter is the next mans treasure!

    Holly, about the cottage near the sea: You can buy and rent plots and houses for fairly small prices in the former eastern part of Germany. Friends of ours own a small cottage (38qm, the garden is about 200qm) in Mecklenburg. It has four beds, a tiny bathroom and a wee kitchen. Its located in a little colony (about 12 houses) right by a lake (swimming! yay!). The Ostsee is a good half hour drive, the next town with a shop is 10 minutes by car. The found it on Immonet and paid less than 50.000 Euro.

    Have a happy weekend!

    • Reply decor8 February 20, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      @Melanie – Hello and thanks for the advice on a cottage but we want something northern not really east. But thank you!!!!

  • Reply Melanie February 20, 2015 at 11:44 pm

    Mecklenburg is actually northern Germany, it´s one of the two most northern German counties! But yes – it is at the eastern side of the country, right on the Baltic Sea coast. I totally understand that from your location the “Nordseeküste” makes more sense. I ´m sure if you look into it you´ll find a cute cottage somewhere nice.

    I think its best if a vacation home is not further away than a one-two hour drive, so you can also use it for weekends. We live in a suburb of Hamburg and are looking for a place near the Baltic sea. We want to be a little closer to Hamburg than our friends place is. Of course it gets more expensive the closer you get to Hamburg… Fingers crossed that we will find a nice place. For the meantime we load our darling old Bulli and head to the seaside whenever we feel like it…

    Warm regards to you and your two men ;-)


    • Reply decor8 February 23, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      @Melanie – Sorry, I meant northeast – we are looking for something directly north or more northwest due to where we live.

  • Reply A Girl Named PJ February 25, 2015 at 5:28 am

    I wrote a blog post today about whether tidying up can really be life changing (direct link above) based on an article I read about Marie Kondo in a recent issue of New York magazine. By her own admission, the process is labor-intensive and time-consuming, but it also sounds emotionally-draining. Though the end results may be spectacular, the steps to get there sound really daunting!

  • Reply MichelleV February 27, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I just ordered this from my Library – a reminder that using your library is a great way to not contribute to accumulating more stuff! Looking forward to the inspiration to clean and organize!

  • Reply Jessica March 2, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    I read this book and there are, of course, good and bad points to come away with. I absolutely agree that disposing of another person’s items is SO rude, you cannot presume what is of importance to someone else! Additionally, her description of ‘throwing away’ hundreds of bags of things was cringe-worthy. I wonder if ‘throwing away’ was some sort of oversimplification of ‘getting rid of’? I cannot imagine literally putting so many things in the trash! In this day and age, she MUST have donated things to the less fortunate, right? Right?

    Her ways of deciding what to keep were very helpful. Anthropomorphizing items really helped me decide what could be of more use to someone else. I cut my clothing by half, it was very freeing! My closet looks huge and it’s easy to find what I need. The folding is GREAT, but very time consuming. With all of the space I freed up, I don’t need to use her folding techniques for everything. The book itself is easy to reference. I’ve gone back to it several times for ideas and refreshers. She’s a very ‘no nonsense’ type of person, so that can be good or bad!

  • Reply Lornna Olson March 3, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    I ordered the book right away. Game changer!! It’s charming and funny and I’ve got a lot of work to do!!

  • Reply Lucy May 15, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Now it’s very foolish to say she’s selfish for throwing away stuff when she was a junior high school student. Who never made mistakes in their youth? Even as adults we still make a lot of selfish mistakes. Don’t be so ready to judge and condemn her. I actually praise her for admitting what she’s done wrong. In case anyone noticed, she learned from her mistakes and will never do such a thing again, and realizing what she’s done wrong and correcting it made her grow as a person and professionally. She doesn’t even throw away their clients stuff. All the decision is made by the individual. Also it’s quite shallow to condemn a book or its author without even reading it… Just because one’s method doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean it’s wrong for everyone.

  • Reply Lucy May 15, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    By the way: in Japan recycling and throwing trash is not equal to the US or UK, as far as I know. Remember, the book was written primarily for Japanese. She never imagined her book would be translated in English.

    For example, there are days in the month where you throw away stuff that are meant to be recycled, and it is collected by the prefecture. So when she says “throw away” it doesn’t necessarily means “going to waste”, which is understood without saying by the Japanese..
    Also, Japanese people very rarely accept donations in clothes and objects. In fact you may offend them. Salvation Army and similars are not popular here.
    It is a very proud society and a cultural habit (or problem, depending on your point of view or the circunstances. For example. I have never encountered a homeless person who would accept food or cash, though in Tokyo they are getting less wary of it. In fact, no matter how much tact I would use, they would get really mad at me).

    And also, no Japanese will ever simply throw away two hundred bags of trash. They will call companies that deal with all kinds of trash (reusable or not) and pay for it to be taken away. Then the company will send what’s to be recycled, reused or destroyed to the correct places because there are very strict laws and regulations about throwing away trash in Japan, which is also the reason why they will pay for the trash to be taken in the first place.
    When people put the wrong trash to be collected, they just don’t. They leave the trash and a message asking you to sort it properly and put it away on tbe correct day. Also the prefecture will collect large objects, but you have to pay a price based on the weight and size of the object and there is a limit of 60cm for the objects you can throw away for free. The limits and prices varies according to the prefecture, this is the limit for where I currently live, and no prefecture will collect huge amounts of trash. They will leave it there and ask you to put away a reasonable amount at a time. Their garbage trucks aren’t even large, in fact they are quite small.

    So REALLY don’t judge before you know all the facts.

  • Reply Lucy May 15, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    And just for you to know how strict it is, if you want the prefecture to collect your trash, you have to phone them (no online dealings), explain in detail what it is you want to throw away, receive a code number, pay the price, call again, receive the day it will be collected and put it away on the correct time and day, with the code number written on it.
    Plus really, the cultural habit of Japanese people is to never throw away anything at all, because everything could be useful someday. Even when a family person dies, many will keep the deceased’s belongings… The newer generations are getting a bit better at it, they’re like us, conscious they need to declutter and struggling with it, but older generations really do have a clutter issue, generally speaking, caused or augmented by war and poverty in their youth. Not so long ago Japan was a poor country too.

  • Reply Juju Sprinkles September 12, 2015 at 2:39 am

    The book is really life-changing for me. After reading it, I “Konmari-ed” my entire home. Her philosophy of surrounding yourself with things that truly bring you joy is spot on. Thank you for mentioning this book on your blog, I think the more people that learn about it, the less clutter the world will be =)

    Juju Sprinkles

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