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The Life-Changing Magic of Examining Every Piece of Crap You Own

June 7, 2015


Keeping what is important in the foreground.

So I have to move and I’m looking for a place to live with a dog in an expensive, tight housing market. That is as much fun as it sounds.

And because that isn’t stressful enough, I got a copy of that book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” by a kind-of-crazy-kind-of-wise Japanese woman, Marie Kondo.

Her basic premise is that you need to be surrounded only by things that bring you joy and that everything else needs to go away. To decide what brings you joy, you handle every article you own, in categories (all your clothing, one article at a time, all of your books, one book at a time…) and if you do not feel joy, out it goes. OUT. No exceptions.

In looking at every single thing I own, I have had to face every mis-spent dollar, every ill-conceived hobby, every tacky souvenir that seemed like a good idea at the time. Gulp.

I have handled the self-improvement books that did not help to improve me. The weight loss guides that were read and forgotten within two weeks. The mystery electrical cords, the slightly-functioning electronics, the things I meant to repair or mend or return but never got around to.

Trash day was Friday and the bin is full today, Monday, a fact that is sure not to delight the lady in the front house. I have taken two trips to the thrift store with sacks of donations and another is ready to load in the car.

And after all I have done – about half of what needs to be done, by the way, I find few possessions that bring me joy. My cereal bowl, a few Stangl dishes, the curtains made of fabric I chose, the bookcase my dad made, my laptop.

And my clothing. Eeeh. No joy there. I had to save SOME clothes – otherwise, what would I wear? But in general, what the heck was I thinking?

I have been entirely too practical, and yet not practical enough. I didn’t realize joy was a factor in practicality. I have tried to get along with a simple, thrifty existence.

The idea that all my possessions should bring me joy is stressing me out. Do they have to? Can’t I just have possessions to use and let experiences and ideas bring me joy? The pretty napkin holder I got in Costa Rica never brought me joy, but the memory of ziplining on the world’s dumbest zipline course makes me grin every time.

I do love some of my hand-painted plates, but I’d trade every single one of them for a slice of peach pie at Vic’s Cafe with any one of you.

I like Marie Kondo’s ideas of not surrounding yourself with items you don’t want or use. I just think I have a different relationship with stuff than she does. I’ll bet her home is serene and lovely and organized. Mine will probably always be messy and full of half-done projects. Her way is good for her, and mine is mine, and both are okay.

  1. June 7, 2015 10:18

    I agree with you. Sometimes I find myself obsessing about the clutter. But you know what, those things either bring me joy or trigger memories. When they start collecting too much dust, out they go!

  2. elvie permalink
    June 7, 2015 12:37

    I try to let go of something each time I get something. Doesn’t always work, but am getting rid of somethings. The older I get the easier it is to let go.

  3. June 7, 2015 15:26

    Following some simple rules has really helped me unload a ton of my stuff, but I refuse to get down and relate to things on that level. It just feels ridiculous and unnatural to me. I like her ideas, but, like you, I have a different relationship with things, I think.

  4. June 8, 2015 07:04

    I have that book but haven’t yet read it. It’s one of the many, many books I have but haven’t yet read in my cluttered home. I’ve read about it, though, and I think that as with all self-help books, you have to adapt it to your own life. I already know going in that I’m not going to get rid of anything that doesn’t give me joy. My Dallas Cowboys coasters do not give me joy, as I, like all sensible people, am an Oakland Raiders fan, but they are the most useful, best designed coasters I have ever seen in my life, and I set a lot of drinks on wood tables, so they will stay. Thus, even before reading this book, which I will do as soon as I get organized, I already know that I’m going to evaluate things using some kind of joy/utility algorithm applicable only to my own home.

    I am shooting for one of those homes containing only essential items, though. Last week, the two 90something sisters who live across the alley invited me in for tea and a chat (by which I mean we yelled over the TV volume; also, I don’t think this was the first time those particular tea leaves had been steeped). They’ve lived there for almost 60 years and every square inch of flat surface area has either a framed photo, a stuffed animal, or a clock sitting on it. There were four clocks on the coffee table alone. I still haven’t decided if that visit makes me feel better about my own comparatively neat rooms or if it inspires me to clean up more, so that in 50 years when the coroner comes to remove my body, he doesn’t have to fight his way through hundreds of Hello Kitty plush toys and a full set of NFL coasters.

  5. cindymaddera permalink
    June 8, 2015 09:55

    I struggle with this keeping something because it brings me joy thing. The weedeater does not bring me any joy, but obviously I need it because of the yard. I hold onto things because I don’t know how to dispose of it. This is why my basement is full of empty boxes.

  6. June 17, 2015 07:47

    The memories that some things hold for me give me joy so I can see where she’s coming from but…yeah. I mean, I kind of hate my dishes but they hold food and I don’t have any others and I already own these without spending any money so…..?

    I still want to go home and throw a bunch of stuff out.

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