Noticing the kindle version of The Art of Discarding was available for only 99p last weekend, I hastily grabbed a copy – having loved Marie Kondo’s decluttering books as well as Fumio Sasaki’s Goodbye Things. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve become a wholescale decluttering addict in recent years, and think the advice these books offers not only translates to a cleaner, clearer living space, but also a cleaner, clearer mind state.
So I was disappointed to find that The Art of Discarding feels – in-comparison to these other, better works – largely outdated and weak-willed. It’s easy to see why Marie Kondo’s books have become international bestsellers, while The Art of Discarding has only experienced limited success abroad (only 34 reviews on UK Amazon). Originally released in Japan in the early 00s, much of the advice and examples provided within now feel almost hilariously outdated – rooted in a paper-based society where documents and entertainment could not be so easily backed up online.
Many of the examples the author gives feel especially relevant to Japan and its concept of mottainai, and will feel alien to international readers. Likewise, the author is often quite wishy-washy in the approach given to adopting the principles outlined in the book; in short, it’s all very ‘Just try the things you like, if you don’t agree with it, it’s all OK’. One of the things the Marie Kondo book is keen to stress in contrast, is that decluttering needs to be a complete, wholesale transformation as ‘lifestyle’, not simply something that can be tried out for a few months and then abandoned. No surprises then that the author of The Art of Discarding admits readily that no matter how much she seems to discard, she keeps buying new products and has to repeat the process again.
Marie Kondo’s method of decluttering has become a phenomenon because a) it speaks with a universality that can be adopted by anyone, no matter what country they live in, and b) because it is firm and methodical in its approach. Genuine, practical rules that can be followed to the letter, with results that are immediately evident in their beneficially. The Art of Discarding – in contrast – feels prey to the symptom of so many sub-standard ‘lifestyle’ / self-help books in simply expressing lists of ‘what worked for the author’.
To those that have already exhausted all the other decluttering books on the market, The Art of Discarding might offer some entertainment value and reinforcement for those lapsing in their efforts – but it is far from the best book of the subject. Pick it up only if it’s going cheap.