“Tidying” Houses the Japanese Way — Good Luck with That!


My review, as posted on two book sites:

How do I get into messes like this? Reading books that have words like “tidying” in their title, I mean. Well, there’s a story behind it. The Good Wife and I are trying to purge, to clean up after decades of marriage, kids, three moves, etc. “We’ve got to do something about all this stuff we keep bumping into or dusting,” I keep saying, “something more than the penny ante efforts we’re doing so far.”

Enter a New York Times feature on THIS book, calling it the greatest thing since sliced sushi:


“That does it,” I told my wife. “We’re both reading this on the Kindle.”

“You first,” she said.

I should’ve known right there. It was kind of like the puppy we picked out 10 year ago. “He’s a little mouthy,” the guy at the shelter said. You’d think an English major would know foreshadowing when he heard it.

Anyway, I’m reading this book and reading this book and saying to myself, “The Times article WAS the book. Free, too! Why am I reading all this filler, this clutter, these words in need of TIDYING up?” That said, I should give the book a star back just for the punch line, “Does it spark joy?” It’s what you say when holding some up-for-tossing item in your hand. “Does it spark joy?” If not, heave and ho, my friends.

Just now, I looked around the kitchen with my wife at my side. “Nothing in here sparks joy…,” I said.

I’m in the kitchen,” she replied firmly.

“No, no. Stuff, I mean.”

Anyway, that’s the gist of the book. There are a few other tids and bits. Marie Kondo goes into houses (she does this for a living) and sings its praises like a North American Indian before cleaning his wildlife kill, for instance. Yep. She talks to stuff. Her own, too. She brings her purse home from work, empties it, puts stuff in its place, then thanks her purse for another job well done. In the morning it all goes back in. Says it extends the life of the purse. You tell me. Tidying, or OCD?

Marie also says to congregate everything by category in one spot. Start with clothes. Never room by room where clothes may be found, but ALL clothes from the WHOLE house in ONE spot on the floor (if you have a room big enough, and you don’t). Now hold each, one by one. “Does this spark joy?” Bzzt. (And that’s just the clothes… you still have books, papers, mementos, and personal stuff ahead and in that order.)

The only other thing I recall is hanging stuff in the closet. Light clothes (color, material) left, darker and heavier right. That’s after you’ve tossed 87.9% of it.

Anyway, my wife is getting cute now. “Done,” I said. “Now you.”

“Why don’t you tell me the highlights instead,” she said, already spooked by the spark-any-joy talk.


Yep. Just like puppies that by now have consumed half the house because they’re “a little mouthy.” Should’ve seen it coming from the get-go — the minute I got the “you first” line.

Bottom line is, you can’t “tidy” a house in ruthless Marie Kondo fashion when you’re 40% of a pair (the other 60% having Security Council Veto, among other super powers). But that’s marriage… a very untidy thing.


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