Due to the recent Netflix show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”, I have discussed her method of tidying up with people a lot lately. (And I discussed it a lot in 2014/2015 when her book “The Life-changing magic of Tidying-up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”, which inspired the show, was first published in the United States.) … Just in case you are wondering, I am by no means a professional organizer or even one that could be considered very organized outside of my media collection and general work setting. So I’m definitely still learning as well.
Of course getting organized is by no means a new topic, especially not for American society… we LOVE our stuff! Advertising in the United States is very fear-mongering/lack-mentality, in the way that “your world is empty without this product” or “all your issues are cured if you just get this!” Add to that guilt and attachment, the lingering fears of “Depression Era” elders, and the “Got to Catch Em All”/MORE-MORE type marketing to the youth of our society… well we got a lot of stuff and don’t always know how to either get rid of it or at the very least organize it.
But I’m writing this to tell you, it’s okay if the KonMari Method doesn’t work for you. I know that when I read the book, I personally felt frustrated… the areas of which I needed assistance weren’t really mentioned in her book and it seemed as though her attitude towards paperwork was just to discard it all which as a writer, and someone living the USA, that’s not really an option. (Believe me if you live in the States, there are many times we need the original paper copy for things… be it filing anything with the government, proving payment of a bill, purchasing a home, switching over accounts, anything and as a writer who recycles re-purposes (and also in this day and age of hacking/proving ownership as a writer its essential to have original copies of things.)
And from the discussions, I have had it seems I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. I have had a lot of people tell me, how annoyed they were and how daunted they felt after trying to implement the ideas in this book/method. Especially the advice that one should tackle complete everything within a day, which depending on your situation and lifestyle is generally not feasible in the US. Also, I personally think perfectionism is unrealistic, the real world isn’t perfect, humans aren’t perfect, maybe obtaining a sort of perfection for the self if that’s what she meant, well I can understand that. (Who does the KonMari method work for… It seems to be a great method that works well if you are already a bit of a minimalist, a single individual, and if you live in a small home such as a single room or an apartment… or if your only trouble area is what to discard within your clothing collection/closet.)
I think a lot of people don’t realize that 1) we are all different people (much like we all learn differently) and one organization system doesn’t always work across the board for everyone and 2) there are cultural differences in the way in which Americans cherish/accumulate/attach to “stuff”. (If you want to read an excellent article about why the KonMari Method seems to work very well for American Women who want to thin down their clothing collection but doesn’t seem to work in all other organizing other aspects of the home/life then I highly recommend reading: Why the Magic Art of Tidying Up Doesn’t Work for American Women )
SO IN CASE THE NETFLIX SHOW INSPIRED YOU OR YOU JUST WANT TO GET ORGANIZED… I’m going to tell you about two books that I LOVED and wish to highlight, and why they worked for me. And I am also listing a book that personally didn’t work for me but may work for you! Also in the Resources section at the bottom of this post I have listed the majority of the books I found at least decent in some aspect that I have read about organizing and dealing with procrastination that you may want to look at as well. (As I mentioned above, I did read the “Magic Art of Tidying Up”, but as this is an article about alternatives to her method it is not listed in the titles at the end of this article.)
MY RECOMMENDATION FOR PHYSICAL ORGANIZATION:
New Order: A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks by Fay Wolf
(Review originally posted by myself on goodreads.com)
This book really cuts through the BS.
What this book does NOT do:
- Tell you to get rid of everything.
- Tell you only their way works.
- Tell you to buy a lot of organizers and expensive brands/things.
- Use obscure words you have to look up to understand.
- Use words in a condescending manner as though you never heard the words “purge” or “donate” nor make you feel sub-par for not already knowing how to have your life tied together with a pretty bow.
- Assume you are a certain “type” of person (other than being someone who wants to use their time to create something or some kind)
What this book DOES DO!:
- Tell you to get rid of what you don’t need
- Gets to the point, by helping you minimize not only the physical chaos but also the digital and mental clutter we also carry around.
- Has simple tips that are so easy to impalement, it may make you want to smack your forehead for not realizing you could either do something differently than everyone else has told you. (Kind of so obvious that you needed someone outside of yourself to point it out because you were just too close to the situation).
- Speaks to you as though you are a creative human being, not just a mom, a socialite, or a high level executive. (I feel like almost every other book I read on this topic, assumed the only unorganized people were moms overwhelmed by parenthood, socialites overwhelmed by their couture, or high level business execs with harried stock report presentations to make… however these methods can definitely work if you are in any of those situations as well)
- Gives you tons of websites, apps, and locations to get tasks done! (The author has an entire section dedicated to where you can donate specific items that is essential when you are holding onto items simply because they are in great working order and throwing them out would be a damn shame!)
The meh (AKA why on Goodreads I listed this as 4 stars out of 5.):
- I do not understand how the chapter on making friends/socializing really works in this organization book. It isn’t so much about how to organize your schedule but how to network which I felt was misplaced in this book. Even though it was useful information, this really seems like it’s topic matter for another book. I understand this is probably part of her “New Order” but it felt thrown in among all the chapters solely dedicated to eliminating clutter.
Some General things I LOVED about this book:
- The information on clearing both the paperwork (one of my major disorganization issues) and on digital clutter (yet another one of my major issues). So many books I have read either assume the type of things/categories you have or they are too vague on these topics.
- The moment she spoke about analyzing why you do things the way you do, sometimes there are more factors involved. Her specific example was how one client always did her work at her kitchen table instead of desk, even when her desk was clear. The client confessed that the lighting was better in the kitchen, so the author had her client purchase a new bulb/light fixture and ta-da! she began using her desk.
- the list of apps and websites to help you with specific mentioned tasks.
- the list of locations to donate items.
- Inspired me to get some things done right away.
- The balance between needs/wants… The author is clear that you should first clear things out before you buy a bunch of organizers and that sometimes you may have the container on hand but its okay to go out and get the right organizers once you have organized what you have… Then she also writes that if you are a creative person you need the right tools to get the job done. (Not going to write with a lagging computer/broken pencil, paint with a crusty paint brush, or play guitar with broken strings, etc.)
MY RECOMMENDATION FOR EMOTIONAL ORGANIZATION/DISCARDING ITEMS WITH ATTACHMENTS:
(Dealing with guilt, emotional attachments, using stuff to hide—emotions/self, using stuff for a multitude of reasons none of which actually have to do with the physical object and why it is we are holding on to it)
Clutter Busting Your Life: Clearing Physical and emotional Clutter to Reconnect with Yourself and Others by Brooks Palmer
(Once again this review is taken from my original review on Goodreads.com)
I found this to be very helpful.
SHORTCOMINGS OF THIS BOOK:
Palmer’s interjected stories. Useful stories that seemed to be resolved by a simple phrase or reassurance. Though I assume he was summarizing relatable situations for the sake of the reader, it’s just hard to believe that every conflict he came across (especially those where clients had years long feuds) were resolved with him saying things like “try to understand each other” and “let’s be more loving”.
OTHERWISE VERY HELPFUL (THE GOOD POINTS):
- If you have a lot of emotional/relationship clutter or you keep trying to organize but find yourself overwhelmed by emotion this is the book for you.
- I did not read his first title on the topic of Clutter Busting, however, I have approached myself and my partner’s clutter with a larger breath of understanding as well as being more gentle and kind to myself and my partner. With this change from frustration and feeling overwhelmed to patience and gentle guidance with one another we have been able to slowly clear away the clutter.
- I appreciate Palmer’s gentle approach and know that if it were just as simple as “throw it away” we would have done that. There’s attachment in multiple forms which usually involves holding onto some form of the past, whether that be a deceased loved one, an argument, or even the idea of who you think you “should” be.
- Love that he eventually discussed the word hoarder and how it’s not a helpful term (those who embrace it are usually lost in their ways or are judgmental such as “well I’m not as bad as those hoarders on TV” or “I’m a hoarder, it can’t be fixed”). He is trying to take the judgment and negativity out of it. Force, anger, hate, or any kind of negativity rarely forges long lasting positive change, instead it causes resentment, fear, and a whole load of other negative emotions.
- In order to change you need to heal and be kind, especially with yourself.
- As for the exercises to try: I tried some but not all. I may go back and see if any of these can help me when I am feeling stuck. Overall, I would have appreciated these exercises at the end in an index.
A TITLE THAT MAY WORK FOR YOU!
Now a bonus title, If you have found success with “Eat This Not That” type of books or really just need someone to tell you the answer to “Should I keep this? Throw it out? Or Donate It?” (because sometimes when we are stuck in our old thought patterns we need a helpful guide to tell us these things, that may seem simple from an outside perspective but not when we are enmeshed in the chaos of it.)
Keep This, Toss That: Thousands of Organizing Secrets to Unclutter Your Life by Jamie Novak
Personally, I did not find this useful. I think this is definitely useful for some.
- Her information makes so much sense: do you need five different tools that do the same thing?-no. do you need the broken thing?-no.
- This is a guideline for those who have been desperately searching through their clutter for a map. This is a “but I need three of this don’t I?” as she gently says, “no really you don’t.”
- Much the same reason I initially liked but no longer read “eat this instead of that” books, this is the beginning towards fixing the problem. It is important. For the food books it’s instead of eating the worst of the fried food, eat the least worse… but the ultimate goal is to be eating whole real foods and have a healthy body. For this it’s if you have extra, broken, not utilized items then get rid of them… but the ultimate goal is to to eliminate the need for the attachment and to have an organized fully functioning home.
- She does offer some organizing solutions BUT the meat of this book is what to toss. This is your quick and dirty… Do you need it? Yes or no. Then get rid of it. (As the title suggests truly.) This is great for someone starting out just trying to clear the clutter.
IF YOU EVER GET A CHANCE TO SEE A PRESENTATION DONE BY JAMIE NOVAK, DO IT!
I read this book because I happened to have seen one of her presentations and talked with her in person. Jamie is so incredibly real, caring, and funny. With humor, Jamie calls out the silly things we do. (Like saving those few holiday napkins and plates… paraphrasing…”you can use them when it’s not a holiday. You aren’t going to throw a party with three left over new year’s paper plates.” )
Though the book is full of solid advice like her presentations, I wish her book had more of that humor weaved through as she did when she is in person. Also, I found the format of the book (with all the side-bubbles) a little distracting and a bit cluttered; I personally would have preferred a page at the end of each chapter or section much like her “did you know” sections, instead maybe a chapter on “how to re-purpose” or “fun facts”. Anyway, I highly recommend seeing Jamie Novak’s live presentations since she is delightful.
Overall I think Clutter Busting Your Life by Palmer, along with the “New Order” by Wolf have been significant in helping me organize my home, life, and mind especially from a lot of limiting beliefs and clutter that was conditioned at an early age. I am by no means “organized” or have everything together but the closest I’ve come and have helped me continue on my path of getting organized are those two titles.
So remember, you need to find what works for you, and you will. I believe in you! (So don’t stress, and don’t feel like you have to follow the KonMari Method OR any other method if it truly doesn’t serve you.)
So do your research, find what works for you, and get organized! You Got This!
*= my star rating out of 5 (I’ll be honest a 5 had to be AMAZING)
I have read the following titles on getting organized (in order I thought of them not rating, or alphabetical):
Clutter Busting Your Life: Clearing Physical and emotional Clutter to Reconnect with Yourself and Others by Brooks Palmer ****
Get Your Sh*t Together: How to Stop Worrying About What You Should Do SO You Can Finish What You Need to Do and Start Doing What You Want to Do by Sarah Knight **
New Order: A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks by Fay Wolf (this is my favorite) ****
Organizing Plain and Simple: A Ready Reference Guide with Hundreds of Solutions to Your Everyday Clutter challenges by Donna Smallin Kupper ***
Organize Now! A Week-by-week Guide to Simply Your Space and Your Life by Jennifer Ford Berry ****
Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean by Linda Cobb **
The One-Minute Organizer A to Z Storage Solutions: 500 Tips for Storing Every Item in Your Home by Donna Smallin Kuper ***
Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy **
Cleaning Plain Simple: A ready reference guide with hundreds of sparkling solutions to your everyday cleaning challenges by Donna Smallin Kuper***
Keep This, Toss That: Thousands of Organizing Secrets to Unclutter Your Life by Jamie Novak ***
Article about KonMari Method not working for American Women: