Listen to your socks! What I learned from “the life-changing magic of tidying up”

I used to think my house was tidy. Dusty, yes, but not too cluttered. I could easily maintain this fiction as long as I didn’t look too closely in the closets or the basement. Or my sock drawer.

the life changing magic bookAnd then I received, as a gift, the life-changing magic of tidying up, by marie kondo. (I’m not sure I entirely trust an author with such a blatant ambivalence toward capital letters, but I try not to judge books by their covers.)

This is not the first book on housekeeping that I have been given, the meaning behind which I refuse to consider. I also received, many years ago, Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House, by Cheryl Mendelson, a 900 page compendium of useful tips and tricks. Well, I’m sure it’s useful. At 900 pages it sure as hell better be. I didn’t actually read it.

But I did read (most of) the life-changing magic of tidying up. I like books on magic, and I’m all for life-changing.

The subtitle is “the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.” My approach to decluttering is what my cousin calls ‘rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.’ I move stuff from one place to another as needed. Guests coming over? Take everything upstairs and close the doors! Easy peasy.

But Kondo, who calls her approach the KonMari Method (no lack of caps there) says this is not actually “decluttering.”

Her method is rooted in getting rid of stuff.

I enjoy a good purge now and again, but I also really like stuff! I like to make stuff, and for that I need stuff. This empty shoe box? I might need that. Those buttons? I will definitely need those. Magazines dating back to 1989?? Yes! I forgot I had those. Awesome…

Where was I?

Oh yes. Marie and her method.

I think Marie might want to seek some help. In talking about her past she says: “Each day I planned where to tidy… When I came home [from school], I headed straight for the place I had decided to clean that day without even changing out of my school uniform.”

Kondo says “make tidying a special event, not a daily chore.” I don’t know about you, but my special events involve less housekeeping and more alcohol.

She does, however, give two good pieces of advice:

  • Discard first. Kondo says: do this “all at once, intensely and completely.” Whether it’s going to the dump or the Goodwill, discarding, once you start, is highly satisfying.
  • Have a selection criteria. The hard part for pack rats (not that I am one, but just saying) is how to determine what should go. Kondo asks: “does it spark joy?” If the answer is no, out it goes!

So far, so practical, but then I got to the chapter on socks.

And I quote: “Treat your socks and stockings with respect. …Never, ever ball up your socks. …This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like that? …The socks and stockings stored in your drawer are essentially on holiday… The time they spend in your drawer is their only time to rest. But if they are balled up they are always in a state of tension…”

Kondo goes on to give some sage advice about stacking your clothes. She warns about how exhausting it is for the t-shirts on the bottom of the stack. I’m exhausted just thinking about my t-shirts’ poor stacked life, but I’m not losing any sleep over them.

Kondo tells me that when I’ve finished putting my house in order, my life will change dramatically. Well, I’ve done some discarding, and tossed some items that don’t spark joy, and I have to say, I’m okay with my life right now, my tense socks and exhausted t-shirts notwithstanding.




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