In the wake of the new year, I decided I might try to read up on how to get more organized. One of the first books to come into my field of vision was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Its a thin volume with a very repetitive set of instructions on how to best de-clutter and the order in which to tackle the task.
As I was reading it, there were some keen observations. I specifically liked thinking about her suggestion to “hold each item in your hands and ask yourself if it brings you joy”. While this is appealing in theory, the practical application is not. I read Tif Fusel’s review of this book and her husband’s response: “my leaf blower and lawn mower bring me no joy, i do not need to hold them in my hand to know that. shall i thank them, then get rid of them so we can slowly be buried under a pile of yard waste?” And this, is the crux of my issue with the whole book. There are lots of things that we keep in our homes that bring us no joy — snow shovels, for example — but that we need to keep for those moments that require their use. We might be required to dress in a certain way for work that may provide us with no joy but is required like a suit or uniform. Though I suppose from the book, we could glean that we should limit how much this un-joyful stuff should take up in our homes and our hearts.
However, we also keep many things in our homes that bring us no joy, that we hold onto out of obligation (“But grandma gave it to me for Christmas!”) and things we think we might need one day (I really want to learn to arrange flowers, needlepoint, whittle, play the harp, etc). These are the things that Ms. Kondo is trying to convince us to unburden ourselves of keeping.
There is a large focus in the book about weeding out excess clothing, books and papers that is at the core of many people’s personal clutter. She did not go into any detail about how to balance the clutter of work-at-home offices or anyone with a specific hobby that may occupy a good deal of space. She filed all of this in her “miscellany” category which I think is a bit short-sighted.
As a product blogger, much of my excess is in the form of piles of notebooks, pens, inks and other office supplies. I have some ideas about how to remove a lot of the excess from my stash but it will require time and effort on my part which is why I haven’t tackled it yet. Sadly, for me, its not laziness but a limit to the amount of time I have to accomplish MANY tasks and a need to prioritze which gets done this week and what has to wait. I think that applies to many people as well. Whether its cleaning out a clothes closet or sorting through bank papers — how much time to we have to devote to these tasks rather than spending time with friends, family or a favorite book.
Ms. Kondo also talked repeatedly about removing bags upon bags of garbage. The environmentalist in me got itchy at the idea of all this stuff ending up in landfills. As I attempted to integrate some of her ideas into my own life, I made bags and boxes for charity and put my paper shredder to use so that most of the paper materials I got rid of could be recycled. I’ve already taken three bags to charity and four boxes to the second-hand bookshop and that’s just the tip of my efforts to get rid of excess.
In the end, the perspective that she provided about thinking through what we own and why we hold onto things was enlightening. And her parting message is that by clearing away the detritus — those unloved, ill-fitting, no-longer-interesting things from our lives — we leave room for new things and new experiences. This is that part that was appealing.