No, Marie Kondo Doesn’t Want You To Throw Away All Your Books

From Book Riot:

 A lot of people seem to be convinced that a Japanese tidying expert wants them to get rid of all their books. Thanks to her new Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, organizational guru Kondo and her “spark joy” philosophy are back in the news. I can promise you, though, that she is not saying to throw out all your books and never read again. In fact, I think Marie Kondo’s book tidying advice is just what many book lovers need to hear.

If you’ve read Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you’re already familiar with the basic premise of her system. She sorts belongings into categories, piles all items in a category together, and picks up each one, waiting for it to spark joy. If it does spark joy, it stays. If not, it goes.

It’s a very simple way to declutter. There are other basic tenets of the KonMari system, like using small boxes in drawers to keep like things together, and her much-celebrated folding technique (which is pretty great!), but the whole thing revolves around the idea that the things in your home should spark joy in you. In the Netflix show, this system helps participants get rid of things like never-worn clothes, boxes and boxes of baseball cards, children’s toys, extra mugs, and yes, books.

. . . .

Kondo asks us to think about the purpose of each object in our home and the feeling it inspires in us. Apparently, some people are unaware that books are also objects. They’re objects that we love and cherish, objects that are also gateways to dozens of new worlds and experiences, but that doesn’t mean they don’t collect in piles or take up a lot of space in a small home.

. . . .

I’m a book lover. I work in publishing, I’m a former bookseller, and I write for Book Riot. Before I Kondo’d my books a few years ago, I also had DOZENS of books I had never read and probably would never read. Books given to me by exes. Books leftover from grad school. Books I’d read once and hadn’t particularly liked. Books I’d read once and had liked, but didn’t feel the need to read again. I didn’t feel joy when I looked at or touched those books. Sometimes I felt sad or wistful, but most often I just felt stressed and overwhelmed at how many there were. That was a far cry from how I felt when I held a Jane Austen novel or I Capture the Castle. I also lived in a small apartment, and books were everywhere, piled on most surfaces.

. . . .

Kondo suggests getting rid of unread books because if you haven’t read it by now, you probably won’t. I don’t agree with that advice, but here’s the thing about someone’s suggestions: you can take or leave them. Kondo is not actually in your house forcing you to set a pile of beloved books on fire.

. . . .

Kondo herself doesn’t seem to be a big book lover, and that’s fine. In the Netflix show, she allows people to decide what sparks joy based on their own hobbies and interests.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

PG doesn’t know about you, but he feels much better knowing Marie’s true message about throwing away books.

PG feels joy when he looks at his desk (microsample shown below). It’s familiar and he can (usually) put his hand on what he needs quite quickly.

As far as sparking joy is concerned, PG has a large part of his electric device collection connected directly or not-so-directly to his computer (no computer manufacturer includes nearly enough USB ports in their product design), so sparking is, unfortunately, not associated with joy in PG’s mind.

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13 thoughts on “No, Marie Kondo Doesn’t Want You To Throw Away All Your Books”

  1. Yup, those two meter charger cords that only reach a foot after three months.

    I’d thought you’d managed a shot of my desk – but there weren’t enough cables and other clutter! 😛

    MYMV and no one try tidying up after you as you’ll never find where they put it!

  2. Quote, “Kondo suggests getting rid of unread books because if you haven’t read it by now, you probably won’t.”

    Who is she to make that judgement? Seriously these self-help gurus should mind their own business.

  3. As far as the ‘if you haven’t read it by now’ concept, that really needs to have a caveat attached. It might be true for some things but if I have a book by a favorite author I KNOW I’ll get to it eventually. I had a Stephen King book sitting on my shelf for over 5 years that I finally got around to picking up and reading. Would I do the same for a random author I might have picked up at a yard sale for 50 cents… maybe, maybe not.
    As with all self help gurus, we need to apply what we think works for us from their advice and ignore the rest.

  4. I personally think that the advice to donate (not trash) a book that you haven’t read and are probably not going to read is very good advice that many people could stand to take.

    Of course, “probably not going to read” is a subjective assessment that will be different for each individual.

    What has worked for me is to create an “evaluation” pile, which is different from a “to be read” pile. Paper books have to pass a high bar to avoid the evaluation pile. Once populated, I take books off the evaluation pile and start examining each one. Is it really something that I am interested in, or is it a holdover from some other time of my life. Does the beginning connect with me, or do the first 4 pages make me say “eh, no.” Stuff like that. It’s basically a second purchase decision, more like a commitment decision.

    If it doesn’t pass it goes onto the donate pile and is either dropped off a the library or stocked at a local coffehouse take & leave shelf.

  5. Hmm, I guess the mess on my desk is more organized than I thought 🙂

    But, Kondo herself doesn’t seem to be a big book lover, and that’s fine. Yes, and it’s her lack of interest in reading that explains why her advice isn’t all that useful for actual readers. Notice how actual readers have to use caveats when explaining what part of her advice they use in that regard?

    I’m sure her advice is useful in other areas of life. I’m certainly sympathetic to the concept of being tidy and organized! She just shouldn’t be allowed near your library. Or mine.

  6. I just watched a few episodes of the Netflix show this week, and I was impressed by how respectful Kondo was toward the families that called her in for help. I liked that.

    I suspect that if she ever lands in the home of a big reader, she will be equally respectful and helpful to them, working with what sparks joy for them.

    She doesn’t impose her own ideas of what the people should keep or not keep. She seems very supportive and helpful, guiding them to make their own decisions about this.

    • I have her on my Netflix radar. I actually started watching the first episode a week ago, but as it was ~4 in the morning at the time I didn’t get to finish. Then PG posted about her book philosophy, and I wondered if she would be all that useful after all.

      Mostly my problem is storage; I don’t have it conveniently accessible, so I tend to put files and whatnot in “piles” to be filed later. I have a solution in mind that I will either buy or build (whichever one is more fun / less expensive / goes with the decor).

  7. I don’t watch Netflix, but I did read the book. Which I thought was pretty good, although her advice about sparking joy is similar to what William Morris said about having nothing in your house that was not useful or beautiful – but then, when it comes to tidying up, how many new ideas are there?

    Her system basically boils down to being intentional about what you keep. Do you really need all your childhood books? Or your textbooks from your undergraduate course – twenty years ago? Even those books that you haven’t read yet – are you really going to read them? Or are some of them books you picked up cheap because you thought they looked interesting, but five years later you still haven’t read them and, in your heart, you know you’re really not going to because they’re not *that* interesting. Or books given to you by Great-Aunt Mary who thought you had a passion for flower-arranging just because you mentioned it once in passing.

    Or maybe every book you own is a precious object that does indeed spark joy.

    When you get to the bottom of it, Kondo’s system isn’t about having a rule for “you are allowed 30 books and two spare rolls of toilet paper”, but about taking an honest look at all the stuff in your home and deciding which adds pleasure/meaning/ease to your life, and which simply adds clutter and a place for dust to settle.

    Her system works because it’s simple and logical (though emotionally difficult for dwellers in a Western society which values possessions as a sign of social status and a marker of past endeavours). Yes, some people take it to the extreme and end up with a house where there’s a floor, ceiling, walls, and a toothbrush… but it works even for those of us with 3000 books that are either useful or joy-sparking.

  8. I suppose it would be rude to ask why we apparently have a generation of adults who can’t manage their possessions, but have to read a book or call in someone to help them.

    • Oh, it’s always been that way, the difference is now they can twit about it and post pictures of it on facepalm.

      Let’s face it, twenty-five years ago none of us would have believed that cat videos could become a ‘thing’.

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