A couple of months ago I read a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of De-cluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. I bought it by accident. I had a cold, was stuck in bed and had been contemplating it on Amazon. I sneezed and clicked a button and a confirmation number appeared on my screen. This was a true blessing, and we’ve had a wild ride together.
As soon as the book was in my hands, I gobbled it up in a matter of hours, even taking notes on the way. Everything Marie Kondo wanted me to do was something that I’d been wanting to do, but had never quite been able to articulate to myself. Her philosophy for tidiness is beautiful: if an object doesn’t spark joy, say goodbye. She actually gets you to hold each item in your hands, every book, every bottle of moisturizer, and decide what to do with it.
Also, this woman has serious cred. She’s the guru of tidiness in Japan. On the back of her book she is actually quoted as being “a warrior princess in the war on clutter”. And the shtick is, if you follow her instructions properly, you will only have to follow this program once. Ever. Damn, that’s good.
I began tearing my house apart and I was unstoppable. I was possessed. I did not call any friends, eat proper meals, or go to the gym. I even forgot to go to work once. I completed the “KonMari Method” (Marie Kondo mashed up) in 6 blurry, wonderful days. I emptied, sorted and reorganized every nook and cranny in our entire home. I started with non-emotional things like clothes, and things in the kitchen. I cleaned out all of the spice jars and relabelled them. I donated a lot of fabric. The result?
- 10 bags of garbage + a lot of recycling
- 12 bags of clothes
- 14 boxes of stuff
- 1 scrap metal pickup
That’s how much stuff we kicked to the curb. That’s how much stuff oozed out of our house. It was like a cyst being drained.
I noticed some trends with the stuff I was getting rid of. A lot were items I’d bought while traveling. A lot of items were from Forever 21 (I am 28, and no longer allowed to shop there… well, except sometimes). I discarded a lot of stuff I knew I had bought on a whim. They were not things that I had researched, contemplated, or fell in love with.
I trudged on. I followed Marie Kondo’s instructions. I held onto every item and said to myself, “Does this spark joy?”, and I realized that the magic of this question is that it eliminates the battle between the heart and the brain. When I listen to my animal brain, it tells me to keep everything. It says “You might need this one day, you’re just a giant squirrel, never stop gathering”. Instead, the question of joy just let me be honest with myself. There was no criteria to fill, no quota. Just a pure question that made me excited about the objects I had chosen to keep.
Getting rid of photos was grueling. Throwing out a photograph once seemed unthinkable to me, but I did it. I had about 10 large albums, all created between the ages of 15-19. I took the photos out of all my albums (this probably took 5 hours) and then I sorted through them (3 hours).
I kept photos that reminded me of wonderful times, and got rid of the ones I took because I was bored. I threw out doubles. In the end, I said goodbye to a full garbage bag of photos. I had hauled these pictures from apartment to apartment for the last decade or so, treating them like slices of gold. Proof of my existence, snapshots of my youth, portraits of boys and girls who broke my heart and whose hearts I broke.
And what I realized, going through all of these photos in one go, is that life is long and many things and people and events exist around us. If they’re great, we don’t need a million need pictures to remember how important they were. Maybe just a few. And with that, I carried my garbage bag of photos to the end of my driveway.
Finally, I completed purging our house. Our front porch was full of everything that was waiting to be donated. Books, shoes, art, tools, bikes, furniture, even the bins I’d previously acquired to organize all this stuff – they were no longer necessary. I stood and I stared at the pile I had accumulated on my front porch. I contemplated it. I slowed down my brain. I brought my focus to different objects and I thanked them for the joy they’d brought me, for the lessons they taught me.
I thanked the George Foreman grill for saving Jenny’s life when the only thing she could stomach were grilled cheese sandwiches. I thanked the wooden picture frame for displaying a photo of my childhood cat, Cosmo, day after day, for so many years. I thanked the juicer for teaching me that juicing is a lot of work. I thanked many pairs of sunglasses for shading my eyes on the endless road trips, and the old shower caddy for always being there to hand me the soap.
There was nothing in this pile that I resented, nothing that made me feel guilt. There was nothing that I never wanted to see again out of anger or frustration. It was like we all knew it was time to move on to our next lives, and I’d like to think that we parted with the utmost gratitude and love between us.
While writing this post, I flipped through Marie Kondo’s book, looking for quotes or advice to put in here so that you, too, could have the tools to tidy your home as well, but it would never do it justice. The book puts you in a mindset. It provides reasoning for some very specific steps for execution.
I realized that my house wasn’t messy because I was messy. It was messy because I hadn’t been treating the objects around me with very much respect. Now though, I see that objects are sacred, no matter our lifestyle or income. They have lives of their own and should be treated like sweet, loyal, and hardworking friends.
If getting your home in order is something you want, go read this book. My house now gives me lightness, and the air inside feels fresher. It’s no longer an anchor, or a place where I keep my things. I have a feeling of freedom, where all I’m carrying with me are the things I’ve invited. VIP.
Oh, and for my finale, I bought us new sheets. Crisp, white sheets.