Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Clutter (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo)


Unknown-9I’ve experienced a strange and brutal freedom this week – a forced decluttering.  As a result of a Comcast internet issue, compounded by something mysterious going on deep inside my i-Mac, my entire email in-box was wiped out.  Along with my sent mail folder.  I now have no records of email communication from the last ten years.  (Part of the problem was that I had saved emails for the last ten years.)

I’m right on trend.  Thanks, Comcast and Apple!  Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal featured an article on a global publishing phenomenon – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:  The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo.  She asks that we examine each object cluttering our homes (and in-boxes, I suppose) and ask, “Does this spark joy?”

Here are several tips, from the article and book, on how to “Kondo”:

“Tidy by category: clothes first, then books, papers, miscellany and sentimental items.

Don’t foist your unwanted stuff on family members who might take it out of guilt.  Give it to charity.

‘There is nothing more annoying than papers.’  Throw them all away, unless they are absolutely necessary.

Forget fancy storage containers.  Drawers and shoeboxes often suffice.”

Over the last few days, I’ve had to send some embarrassed emails asking friends to resend information.  I have felt the emotional loss of some emails that I always planned to keep, vaguely, for a variety of reasons.  Mostly, though, I have felt the most unusual lightness of being.  I’m not aiming for a wipe-out of my entire house, but I’m feeling motivated to lighten up.


  1. Ha! That is probably the first time ever that someone has turned a horrible Comcast issue into something positive! And funny, I just wrote a blog post that will be published Monday also about decluttering. Pamela Druckerman (whose writing I love) had written about it in the Times. Her take: It’s maybe just another one of those self-help craze things that we think will make us happy but in the end won’t. I’ll probably have to read that book by Marie Kondo, but then again, being German by birth, maybe I don’t. Germans, Druckerman reports via a decluttering expert in Britain, apparently already have perfect homes, even though they are among the most prolific subscribers to this expert’s courses. I had to laugh when I read that…

    • Sine, I can’t wait to read your post on Monday! Haunting words though – thinking about “things we think will make us happy but in the end won’t.” I’m always so happy to have your “German” perspective!! xo

      • I didn’t quite mean it to sound as bleak. More the opposite – you don’t need a bunch of self help tips on this and that and the other to become more fulfilled. In any case, I wish I had capitalized on the clutter craze and started a consulting business. As a fairly organized (duh, German:-) person, I know how to get rid of clutter! There seems to be a lot of money in it, perhaps a lot more than in travel writing…

  2. I started a house clean out, and I am not a hoarder by any means…it started because my kids changed rooms and cleaned their stuff…so I started sorting.. I am shocked by how much stuff we have that we don’t need. I bought the Tidying book..she is a bit over the top, being a tidy person since childhood…but her obsession with tidying gives the reader a lot of clues into what they have and what they really need. She has practical tips (put everything of one kind in one place i.e. all of your office supplies)…which helped me to consider am I an envelopes hoarder? Not really. But I, like most Americans have stuff, am given stuff and shop at Costco, all of which makes us have too much stuff. If you are even thinking of doing a Spring clean, buy her book and go to town…you will be glad you did.

  3. I picked this up after taking everything out of a cabinet looking for the right charger of which I should have two! I need it to charge a video camera to record an event. The recording will likely only be viewed two times — 1) by an absent relative and 2) by historians studying records in my child’s future presidential library. The fundraising for that building should begin now, because we have saved everything! Sorry to hear of your complications – but a great, thought provoking post.

  4. Hi Jennifer we are celebrating Daniel 48 Birthday at the Homstead its a gorgeous day…
    I just wanted to let you know that I will read this book. I have moved more than 18 times in my life and if the movers come tomorrow my house is ready to move – my kids tell me that with age I become Swiss instead of the German when I tidy up – can’t wait to read the book. Hope to see you soon.
    Maria Helena

    • Maria Helena, I am delighted to see you at Bacon today! All good wishes to Daniel on his birthday! And what a very funny comment from the kids! I’d love to know what you think of the book. Good luck with the move! Thinking of you and happy days with little children in Washington so many years ago. xo

  5. Jennifer, I’m so sorry to hear about the difficult issues this week with your computer and inbox. The forced de-cluttering is never welcome, but I appreciate your inspiring attitude about it and take on the eventual benefits. I certainly need to read your recommended book on the subject! The first forced de-cluttering we experienced was the flood of 2010 when our whole basement flooded on the heels of a death in the family. It took forever to recover from that for me–maybe a year. And, the last thing I seem to de-clutter is my personal stuff. However, I’m going to start anew! You are amazing and such a gracious inspiration to all your readers. I’m grateful to be on your list and I hope to stay there! XOXO

    • Suann, your forced de-clutter was of an entirely different magnitude. Oh my goodness – talk about putting mine in perspective. Thank you also for your incredibly kind words. I was glad to find this book and hope it lives up to expectations! xo

  6. Jen, this is one of my favorite books of late (and staff rec at Parnassus when it streeted). Kondo’s fresh approach inspires me to embrace spring cleaning–no small feat. Glad to see it on Bacon!

  7. The same thing happened to me during Christmas. It’s amazing how little of the information in ALL of those emails I’ve needed. It is interesting how this topic is so high on all of our lists. Seem like everyday someone in my life is trying to downsize. Can’t wait to read the book

  8. I’ve been tackling this project since September of last year…”Tidying by category” has been the key! First the attic, then the basement, then every drawer and closet . I am now working on my home office. files – ugh! I’m inspired by the “papers” tip! I have had to extend myself a lot of grace in getting through it all but I am almost there!

    • Elizabeth, I am so impressed – and NOT surprised!! I am glad the end is in sight for you!! For me… only the beginning!! I am encouraged by your progress and think I will adopt “tidy by category” as my working mantra. Thank you! xo

  9. Hi, Jennifer! Great post, as ever. I felt compelled to comment for various reasons. For the past week, our kitchen table has been overflowing with the contents of several pantries, various cupboards, and the ever-elusive miscellaneous places one can store precious items. Too many hours inside during the cold spell finally got me going on clearing out these spaces. It has been wonderfully cathartic. I am hopeful that someday soon the kitchen table once again will be clear enough to use for eating. More on point, however, my brother is editor of the WSJ section (Arena) in which the Kondo article appeared. He posts great pieces on books, arts, and culture regularly. If you (or anyone else) are interested in following the WSJ’s arts coverage via FB or Twitter, please let me know and I’ll pass along the appropriate links. And thank you always for your thoughtful and beautifully written posts. Ann

    • Ann, please pass along my compliments to your brother! I love Arena and would love the FB link! I also began some organizational work when we were all frozen in. (Apparently it takes an ice storm for me to begin.) It sounds like you’ve made tremendous progress – good for you! All of the wonderful comments today have really encouraged me to keep at it!! Thank you so much. xo

      • Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for your message. My brother’s name is Eben Shapiro – friend him on FB for some terrific reading about all sorts of cool cultural things. You can also see more WSJ arts coverage by following Twitter at @ebenshapiro and @WSJspeakeasy. Happy reading! Ann

  10. I’m heading over to Facebook now! A friend just help me set up a Twitter account but I’m not up and running there yet. Thank you so much for letting me know!! xo

  11. Hello, Jennifer. In reading yours and the posts of other readers, I have become less embarrassed and more inspired to continue this de-cluttering, downsizing, and life-simplifying process. I am glad to know I am not the only one who has saved emails since I first learned to use a computer! I enjoy knowing what motivates others into forced de-cluttering, and here’s another – misplacing something dear to you. Just after Christmas I emptied every dresser drawer and every closet shelf searching for a special piece of jewelry. After a week of rummaging through everything, my husband found my necklace in our safe deposit box. I was delighted to have it back, but grateful, too, that I had two huge garbage bags of “stuff” to remove from the house. Thanks for introducing me to helpful books on de-cluttering and many other useful reads. With the weather forecast of snow and ice for tomorrow, maybe I’ll make progress on those stacks of papers on my desk! Thanks so much, Andrea

    • Andrea, I am so glad your story about the necklace has a happy ending! I am glad you enjoyed this post on Bacon and all the comments. I, too, have been inspired by what friends have had to say! Good luck with the papers, and thank you so much for your comment! xo

  12. Spring de cluttering and organizing has been an annual ritual for Persians for thousands of years. De cluttering and organizing need to happen organically for it to have meaning. Most creative minds thrive and flourish in clutter. There needs to an ebb and flow.

  13. Thank you, Jennifer. I believe the constant thought of purging and de cluttering can bring about a certain detachment and desensitization that is rather forced. As a visual and creative person, I wouldn’t feel at ease in a super organized and stark space, but by the same token, if my space becomes too cluttered it can hinder my productivity. There needs to be a balance. I personally go from a somewhat orderly chaos while I’m working on a project, to orderly and organized when I have a break. I find that to be a natural and organic process.

    • This makes sense to me. I go back and forth as well, between degrees of order and chaos in my space. I am happier when things are orderly – but I think you are right that an obsessive focus on order doesn’t take you to a better place. Thank you again for your comments! All the best. xo

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