Like anyone who’s been raised by a habitually messy parent, I have always been driven to cleanliness by an almost festishistic compulsion to tidy.
Bless my mother, she’s not lazy. Far from it. In fact, it’s her constant frenetic darting from job, to hobby, to the next destination on a never-ending bucket list, which ensured every surface in every home we’ve ever lived in would be almost entirely hidden by books and exotic artifacts and the things we referred to as ‘random toot that doesn’t have a home’.
“Mum! Where’s the TV remote?”
“I think it’s filed between the hand-woven wheat placemats I made when I was going through a craft phase, and the sixteenth century Siamese puppet which is definitely haunted”.
I spent my childhood battling this avalanche of crap, and it didn’t end when I moved out. Nope, I seem to have been condemned to an existence of moving random bits of other people’s shit (and my own), which doesn’t have a home but which can’t be thrown away, from one room to another, endlessly sorting things into piles, for all eternity. I can almost hear Chaucer chortling.
So it’s no surprise then, that I was suckered in by the incessant PR which accompanied the release of this book in a clean-linen-scented cloud of promises, such as ‘this book will change your life’, and ‘never have to tidy ever again’, and ‘I went from losing my dead cat amongst the sixteen feet pile of newspapers and dead skin I used to call my home to Japanese minimalism in under a week’.
I bought the book as a gift for my mum (offense be damned), but really it was for me; so I could visit her and actually relax, rather than battling the urge to burn her house down, bleach the remains, and then burn that down too.
“This book could have been written on a double side of A4.” Was my mother’s review, when I asked if it was indeed life-changing. “It’s really more of a glorified pamphlet”.
Convinced that mummy dearest was concocting an excuse not to embark on the life-changing clean-up operation that would help her ‘feel more confident, become more successful, and be motivated to create the life [she wants]’, I snatched the book for myself and read it in my reading chamber (the bath). And (as always), mother knew best.
There’s so much repetition within the pages of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a book of Drake’s song lyrics. It’s like being nagged by an uptight parrot with Alzheimer’s.
Ok, I get it, you have to do it all in one go or it won’t work. You’ve told me that sixteen times already. Have a cracker and shut the fuck up.
Interspersed between the repetitive tidying rules in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying is the story of a very sad, demented child with severe undiagnosed OCD, and a probably very high score on the psychopath test.
You start the book feeling incredibly sorry for this sad, lonely child who’s only joy in life is folding socks, but by the end of it you just kind of feel sorry for her family, who can’t leave their bedroom doors unlocked without fear of the lemon-fresh cleaning demon sneaking in and throwing out all their belongings.
The author clearly loves things way more than people, caring for items as if they were baby chicks, but failing to see why her family might be a little upset that she’s been secretly stealing their clothes and burning them.
Whilst there is some good advice within the pages of this way-too-long book, there’s some frankly potty stuff in there too.
I don’t see how thanking every single one of the items I used today, before emptying the contents of my handbag onto a rug, and then changing out of my outdoor clothes, and into my indoor clothes will help me have more time.
Plus, where I live, high-fiving my handbag and saying “Good job!!!” to inanimate objects, like some pumped-up coach of a little league hockey team made entirely from perfectly folded socks, is likely to result in a one-way trip to the funny farm.
I’d like to save you the three hours you’ll never get back by reading this bloated pamphlet, so I’ve summarised the salient points of the book, and added my own variant which will not only make the process faster, but also a lot more fun:
1. Drink fifteen high strength beers.
2. Throw all your shit away.