The Tidiness of KonMari and the Joy of Book Clutter

Ali (that’s my husband) and I have been watching Marie Kondo’s new show on Netflix. I read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, not long after it came out and was smitten with the idea of only keeping what sparks joy. I have such a tendency to hold on to things just because I have them—but what’s the use in having fifty T-shirts if I only enjoy wearing two of them?

If you’re unfamiliar with the basic premise of the KonMari method, it’s that you gather up all your belongings by category (such as every article of clothing you own) to consider what to keep or discard, rather than the more traditional decluttering tactic of tackling one room at a time. You hold each item and ask whether it sparks joy, whether you get some feeling of love or thrill from wearing, using, or looking at it: if it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, thank it for its service to you and let it go.

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But giving up clothes comes easier than paring down my collection of books, the second category to prune using the method. I just like having them, even the ones I’ve already read more than once and even the ones I’ve owned for awhile and haven’t yet cracked open. There’s a Japanese word for buying books and never reading them—tsundoku—and I certainly relate to that spirit.

More than just an affinity for collecting books, though, there’s a sense of vastness in having a large personal library. Keeping shelves stocked with books is a nice reminder that there’s so much out there still to read and learn and enjoy, no matter how many titles I read. As a recent Fast Company post puts it, “An antilibrary is a powerful reminder of your limitations — the vast quantity of things you don’t know, half-know, or will one day realize you’re wrong about.” So much possibility exists!

I like what Marie Kondo encourages in suggesting that we let go of the things that no longer spark joy in our lives. Ali and I are planning our own KonMari-style tidying. But books do create joy for us, and I’m definitely not planning to force myself to give mine up any time soon.

Tell me what you think! Are you diving into the KonMari method in your home? Are you ready to give up books for the sake of tidying?

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