Tidying Up… how Marie Kondo is changing my brain.
This is Part One of my decluttering project…
Part Two is here, Part Three is here.
One day I opened my closet.
And saw a wall of trash.
The trash-seeing spread.
Until I came to realize that nearly all of my VERY IMPORTANT THINGS… are garbage.
To understand how extraordinary this is, you have to understand my attachment: I have the hoarding gene.
I have written about this before, when I was reading the book STUFF: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, and also when reading Coming Clean.
I saw myself in these books, but I still kept all of my collections of all of my things… because obviously I am not a REAL hoarder and I should DEFINITELY KEEP ALL OF THIS STUFF FOR THE DAY I NEED 57 CAKE PLATES.
It’s been since last year— when I randomly opened the closet and saw trash… I thought the de-crap-athon was coming to an end. I felt good! Like I cleaned my brain.
But then, I heard about this Netflix show called “Tidying Up”… about getting rid of your crap.
I watched it.
It was a level of Come-To-Jesus that rocked my world.
I looked around.
I still had SO MUCH CRAP.
I got the book– The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
A new game-level commenced.
It didn’t take long for the house to become an absolute disaster area… I am unsure how I can possibly STILL have SO MUCH CRAP even though I’ve been getting rid of stuff for months.
By day three, I was physically and emotionally exhausted.
The overwhelm transformed my brain.
I could CHOOSE to be DONE with ALL of this crap.
I am not RESPONSIBLE for ANY of these THINGS.
JUST BURN IT ALL DOWN SO I CAN BE FINISHED.
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An entire bookcase.
Mary Karr is incredibly tedious.
Scruples is a timeless literary masterpiece.
Also, at some point, I thought I was a dress-shorts person.
Fabric. Ribbon. Patterns. CRAP.
I have just enough sewing skills to attempt whatever idiocy I MUST create… and so I have a fine collection of “patterns” I made out of wax paper.
Going forward, all of my distractions will be giant and maddening and life-consuming and not addressed with fabric.
Or disco balls.
More than just the plastic crap– the STUFF that I considered an important-record-of-my-life… it became easy to DETACH.
It became OBVIOUS.
The T-shirts we signed for each other at summer camp.
The shoes I was wearing the night I met Paul… when it was time to retire them, OBVIOUSLY I could not throw them away— they were a marker of something important!
Being RELIEVED of my VERY IMPORTANT STUFF is the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me.
Although, I did have to get a photo album out of the garbage, even though I had already thrown a bag of cat poop on it.
I texted Lara to tell her how liberating it was to throw my CTY stuff directly into the garbage… and her response was – NO! TOO FAR! RETRIEVE!
If you too are alumni, brace for crushing nostalgia.
The next level. Was rage.
I was not expecting that.
I have been living my entire life, surrounded by crap.
A storage-inn, where I have cataloged all of my life choices and also all of the things that I have ever/never used and also all of the things that I EVER MIGHT POSSIBLY NEED.
I realize now:
STUFF has been a HUGE GIANT STRESS FOR ME FOR MY ENTIRE LIFE.
I had no idea.
I realize now:
I have been keeping things that make me feel REALLY BAD AND SAD AND MAD.
My high school yearbook.
High school was the most heinously miserable experience of my entire life.
Just THINKING about it fills my body with static and stress and sadness.
Why have I kept souvenirs?
Because I thought I HAD to.
I thought it was somehow PART of me— that to discard it would be somehow a betrayal of my younger self’s experience.
So now beginith the section of this post where I am compelled to proselytize about Marie Kondo to all humans-who-struggle-with-their-stuff.
I don’t need assistance identifying joy.
I do not need to thank or touch or pile or fold my items… I need assistance DETACHING… the phrase: “is this part of my life going forward?” Literally changed my brain.
I understand this makes me very stupid.
Some of us are.
I’ve read critiques that the couples in the tvshow need therapy rather than tidying—> I could not disagree more.
I am therapied.
Do this first.
It changed my brain.
There was plenty in the book/show that I cared not at all about.
Some people can handle this, some cannot.
Not every single thing is created exactly for you.
Welcome to earth.
How I watched the tvshow:
I fast-forwarded through the boring parts.
And the hugging.
ASSUMPTION OF HUGGING IS A VIOLATION OF HUMAN DECENCY AND SHOULD BE BANNED IN POLITE SOCIETY.
Also, folding is a waste of time so I fast-forwarded that too.
I personally care about folding things negative percent— I wash all my pajamas as one load… then I take them from the dryer and shove them back on the shelf in a pile.
You thought I wasn’t practical?
Look for my best-selling book, coming soon:
your husband is now your haircutter.
Also: random commentary on Marie Kondo/critiques about how she is very animistic about objects.
Let me help you.
She is meeting people where they are.
Some of us perceive OUR STUFF through a lens that tells us insane things— this lens is suffocating but VERY INSISTENT… THIS is the hurdle.
Getting humans to SHIFT the lens through which they view their literal existence is nearly impossible.
She uses empathy – I UNDERSTAND that all of YOUR crap is VERY IMPORTANT and SPECIAL.
She COULD say:
all of this is crap.
put in the trash.
If it was that simple, I would not be here banging my gong.
Now this post is over.
I cannot wait to find out what is happening next.
But first I have to finish getting rid of all of my crap.
see all my best Craigslist finds.
see us repurpose an antique grand piano into our kitchen island.
March 7, 2019 @ 10:25 am
Okay, so this was rather a surprising post, gotta say. I have wondered where you were. **waves** Hi!
I wish you well in your de-stressing! I haven’t experienced Kondo, but I regularly go through stuff. (I cleaned out a drawer yesterday and found two notebooks with notes I didn’t need anymore so I threw them away. This was a Very Big Deal.) I am hopeful that you are still dancing and that Paul isn’t scratching his head wondering where his wife went and are the disco balls really gone?
You are always, always a delight to read. Thank you for sharing this with your appreciative community. 🙂
March 7, 2019 @ 8:02 pm
So happy for you that you found the “magic” of Marie Kondo’s de-cluttering method! I am embarrassed to admit that I read her book shortly after it was published and still haven’t officially gone through my sentimental items. I’ve made some ad hoc progress on them and have gone through most of my family’s and my non-sentimental belongings, but I still have boxes of old letters, photos, and other memorabilia that I need to go through (plus more sentimental crap in my closet). Thankfully, the KonMari method has helped me let go of many things I know I wouldn’t have gotten rid of (or gotten organized) otherwise, and I’ve maintained in the areas we’ve completed.
You’ve inspired me to keep going and make the final push to go through the rest of my things. It is definitely liberating to let things go that we just don’t need moving forward. Thank you for the other hoarding book recommendations– I just put them on hold at our library!
A book you might enjoy is Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors. I thought it was fascinating! Like you, we keep most of our hoarded items out of the main living areas of our home, but this book gave me more motivation to let go of excess stuff.
Thanks again for the inspiration!
March 7, 2019 @ 10:49 pm
Decluttering is all the freeing superlatives you and your blog responders described. How are we going to sustain it? Next challenge….stop buying. People who love stuff buy more stuff. Sometimes I look at the amount of trash I produce/recycle weekly, multiply that by my neighborhood, multiply that by my city, state, country, etc….our poor Earth! When are we going to stop?
March 7, 2019 @ 10:25 am
OMG this post was speaking to me! I have been struggling with my amazing STUFF recently and came across pictures of my house 15 years ago and was astonished at how nice it was, less stuff. Ok they are valuable and antique things but tooooooo many of them. I have multiple sets of dishes ( ok I love them) and many cake plates too (ladies annual spring lunch party where they feature) but you are right. it is stressing me out in my small house. THANK YOU. Also love that you don’t agree on the perfect folding thing. that just slows people like us down. Thanks for the push forward. When is your book coming out 🙂
March 7, 2019 @ 10:37 am
I read the book when it first came out (from the library, didn’t want to buy it) and thought there was no way I would gather all my clothes into one place. And then we had a water leak that required re-flooring five rooms. As long as we were flooring, I wanted to paint, and that included the closet. Thus began the epic tidying-up of our house. It was wonderful! Into our freshly-painted and newly-floored closet I placed only what I liked, and my husband did the same. We took bags and bags of perfectly good but seldom worn clothes to Goodwill. The clothes were easy, the books more difficult, and I disagree with Kondo’s take on books. She comes from a different culture, though she’s moved into ours. Doing the kitchen was actually fun. Photos were sorted into archival boxes. Then I stopped. It was enough. Good luck with your tidying. I never once thanked anything, and I never unpack my purse each night. Her book is a suggestion, not a mandate.
March 7, 2019 @ 10:38 am
I also have the hoarding gene, but have mostly managed to keep it to closets and the garage and attic. I recently had to clean out my parents house after my Dad died and just yesterday brought some of their stuff to my house! Not stuff that I need and find beautiful but thinking, this is worth something, or I remember us using that for family meals, etc. Finding a respectful way to get rid of items that are functional and still worth something has been the hardest. I have donated a ton of household items, held a yard sale and threw lots of stuff away. I still have a ways to go. Thank you for this post, it came at the best time!
March 7, 2019 @ 2:36 pm
You are not alone. I had to do the same thing after my dad passed on, and I found myself hanging on to the most random things (The literal Most Random Thing was a pillow on which he’d Sharpie-d “Spider Web Catcher” and used to throw at the ceiling to knock down spider webs. I kid you not.) I say, give yourself permission to keep a few random things, even if they aren’t beautiful or functional.
March 7, 2019 @ 10:43 am
YES!!!!! yesyesyesyes I completely get this and I too am ON THE KONMARI TRAIN. I read the book at the end of last year, then we found the Netflix show, now I am waiting for my fiance to finish reading the book and also for us to not be so busy wedding planning so we have time to begin the process in earnest… BUT the other day two sweaters arrived that I had ordered online and they BOTH sparked SO MUCH JOY for me, I was excited and then I realized- I have no room for these in my sweater drawer that is absolutely jammed full of sweaters that DO NOT spark joy! So I did a mini KonMari on just my sweater drawer (crazy folding included… I have to admit, I am a former pile-er but I think I may be converted) and OMG now I really REALLY can’t wait to do everything!!!!!!
Most of the critiques of her are so nuts, it’s like they didn’t even read the book. Like you said, she’s NOT a minimalist and she’s NOT saying “all of your crap is garbage, get rid of it.” She very specifically says you only have to tidy IF YOU WANT TO, if your stuff is making you feel stressed and suffocated (*raises hand*), and I absolutely love her animist philosophy of thanking items for what they have given you (even if it was just “knowing that my grandma loved me when she gave me this sweater that I subsequently never wore”… or in your case, “being a part of my cute outfit the night I met my husband”) and then letting them move on… I think I have been a little bit of an animist my whole life despite having zero exposure to Eastern religions because that’s just how I am.
Man, I could go on and on. Marie Kondo SPEAKS TO ME. Just a complete game-changer. I’m happy it works for you, too!!! Great post!
March 7, 2019 @ 10:43 am
You will regret getting rid of 50% of your crap.
March 7, 2019 @ 11:50 am
I agree. I did not like the Kondo book – she kept on about “throwing things away” and “putting stuff in trash bags.” Why? Aren’t there others less fortunate who could use my “stuff?” Plus – this is an obsession for her. Since when is an obsession a GOOD thing? As a kid she was stealing from family members and throwing their stuff away! Neatness – yes. Declutter – yes. But I am not on the Kondo bandwagon.
March 7, 2019 @ 5:39 pm
There are some parts that are rather lost in translation, including this bit.
Japan has a different culture around garbage and second-hand items. Items that are thrown away don’t just sit in a landfill like in many other parts of the world, so that worry just isn’t there–and many homes are full of packaging, so for many people what they would be throwing away literally would be referred to as “garbage” (burnable garbage, PET bottles for recycling, etc.: all garbage). They’ve also got a nearly closed-loop cycle down for plastics like PET, so again, some things that people may save elsewhere in the world can actually be tossed in Japan without the same level of worry as elsewhere.
They do have second-hand shops that people can donate to, and I’m sure many people try to get rid of their large furniture by passing it on to other people (tossing large pieces is hella difficult). But much of it would still be referred to as “trash” just because it’s no longer wanted. Again–cultural difference lost in translation.
(Plus, yes, obsessions can be healthy. It’s only when they interfere with the rest of your life that they become a clinical disorder. And she readily admits that what she did as a kid was wrong and ADVISES AGAINST it. Did you read that part at all?)
March 7, 2019 @ 12:01 pm
I have not regretted giving away a single item. Not one. And it has been about five years since I started the process, so I’ve certainly had time to reflect.
When you’re giving away things you’re not really attached to, or things that you don’t love, you rarely regret it.
March 7, 2019 @ 4:39 pm
I have not regretted getting rid of a single item….and trust me I HAVE donated at least 50% of everything we own as we prepared to sell our house last summer. If I ask one of my kids or husband to name something they miss, they can’t do it (primarily because they can’t remember what we donated).
As I went through this process I did realize that most of what I had been holding on to had been kept only because I felt guilty otherwise. Changing my view was on this was one of the most freeing things I have ever done.
People who have only heard about Marie Kondo, but haven’t read her book/s, really don’t understand what she is really all about.
March 7, 2019 @ 10:45 am
Oh, Dear Heart, please come bite me so I will catch this Get-Rid-of-Stuff fever. None of my stuff is trash, it’s all pretty good Stuff, but thee is Way Too Much of it. We love beauty, and have the kinds of brains that see endless possibilities in just about everything. Hoarders ( and I don’t think you are one, just an FYI) are usually kind, intelligent, sensitive and creative, which describes you to a T, yes?
Keep up the great work!
March 7, 2019 @ 10:51 am
Your Paul must be sitting in a corner in amazement! Or does he need Kondo too? Seriously, as a human beings, we are literally burying ourselves in STUFF…..where is it all going to go when landfills are full? The oceans are already a garbage dump and killing the sea life. I guess we could always fill the Grand Canyon!! It’s very challenging to put limits on our consumption but we must. Recycle, reuse, repurpose. So all those beautiful “giant fancy things” you own are on the right track….repurposing! I once had friends visiting from Russia and as we were driving around they asked “what are those buildings”? Oh, those are storage units where American’s put all the things they can’t fit in their houses! SHAME on us! Good for you! One question…..will you ever finish your kitchen?!
March 7, 2019 @ 11:08 am
Mary Karr is tedious but I love that quality about her. She can’t help it. It’s who she is. It comes with our membership package to The Liars Club. We want to get over things but it’s an ongoing struggle much like your hoarding.
I recently cleaned out and sold my mother’s house, fifty years of accumulated nonsense to everyone but her. She saved every greeting card and Publisher’s Clearing House envelope she received, every plastic deli plate, all the towels and bathroom rugs (regardless of wear and stains) and oh my God, the cookbooks, hundreds and hundreds of cookbooks. Picture her face when I explained “You can get recipes online now, mom.” Her mothball scented closets were the stuff of nightmares. When I was finished and the house sold it felt like an exorcism had occurred.
March 7, 2019 @ 11:10 am
I devoured Tidying Up! I love kind how kind she was and that she never actually told anyone their stuff was crap or that they had to get rid of it. Now when I’m trying to decide whether to keep or discard, I ask myself “Is this who I want to be in the future?” I always thought I had to keep my high school yearbooks but you have made me reconsider. They certainly don’t spark joy and I would love to not move them again. I think you’ve helped me get rid of some more clutter! Thanks!
March 7, 2019 @ 11:11 am
More importantly, what’s going on with your kitchen reno?
March 7, 2019 @ 11:16 am
I must ask what did you DO with all of it? I panic when getting rid of things without selling them. I think of all the money I spent or the value of the object that I inherited. I dislike Marie (There, I said it.). She makes me feel bad about my stuff. Really, some people just like a “full” house. I come from generations of collectors. I have never known any different. Makes me happy to see the and enjoy same stuff that my family members did. Anyone else?
March 7, 2019 @ 11:57 am
I used to feel the same…I knew what I paid, and I knew what the items were worth, and it pained me to just give things away, yet I didn’t have the desire or time to sell them, or there wasn’t a local market for the item.
What changed my life was the idea that there’s a cost to holding onto these items that you don’t really want. They’re weighing you down. You have to maintain them. Maybe you have to dust them, or take them to be repaired, or be very very careful when you’re using them. They’re taking up space in your house. Some of them may cost you actual money (as in maintenance or repairs), but others just cost you enjoyment.
Once I learned that (I think I read it in a book), I was able to let go of things I didn’t really want anymore. I became aware of the -cost- to me of having these items in my life, and I just gave them away. Some of them I gave away to local people who would enjoy them (and who wanted them) – others I just gave away to charities or thrift stores. Some valuable items I donated to be auctioned at a local charity event. Not once have I regretted giving away an item, and it has lifted an enormous weight from me. I consider it well worth giving up the item’s monetary worth to get a more enjoyable life back.
I love beautiful, old, antique items. No one is saying you have to, or should, get rid of items you enjoy. But if there are things you don’t really love or that you wouldn’t buy again if you didn’t already own it, don’t let the value of the item be a barrier. Just get rid of it. The money you spent is already gone – it’s irrelevant in the present.
March 7, 2019 @ 12:03 pm
The other thing that was a game changer for me was the realization that almost everything I was giving away COULD be replaced if I later decided I had made a mistake. Yet there hasn’t been a single item I’ve regretted giving away or later chose to re-buy.
March 7, 2019 @ 12:11 pm
Oh, I definitely identify with this, much more so than Marie’s end of the spectrum. I love a full house, full of things especially that have family significance, or remind me of my travels.
BUT, when it is sooo full that much of it is sitting in boxes in the living spaces, detracting from the beauty of your home ( not that I personally know anything about that, no Siree, Bob) it becomes a problem.
My struggle is that everything sparks joy; I am a joyful mutha plucker, what can I say? But I have decided that what I keep has to go beyond mere joy; it has to be of a certain quality, or supremely beautiful ( as opposed to just pretty or cute) or have legit provenance. Don’t need all five sets of dishes, even if they were wedding gifts, but what’s left of my gggrandmother’s Haviland? Keeping it. And using it, if for nothing more than feeding and watering the cats and dogs. Thank you note from Angelina Jolie? Staying put. Every frickin’ card or letter I’ve ever gotten? Not so much.
I am allowing myself what I can store in our extra garage ( really just an outbuilding on our property) but no more boxes spilling over into the house.
March 7, 2019 @ 9:59 pm
Um, yes. I think the idea of decluttering is appealing on one level, but I’m just not sure it’s for me. I remember what I paid, where I was, and in some cases, what I was wearing, when I lovingly “collected,” not hoarded, all my junque. I, too, have mulriple cake plates, globes, chalkboards, oil portraits of women I don’t know in red dresses, urns, trophies, gold mirrors, advertising posters……….. So I guess what I’m really saying here is – are you selling any of your prizes on Craigslist, ‘cuz I’m in a buyin’ mood. 😉
Always enjoy reading your blog! Thanks!!
March 14, 2019 @ 1:34 pm
I feel the same, Mommabear! While I am not a hoarder, and have whittled down collections that took 40 years to put together, I love the things I have remaining. I think people will regret getting rid of things they think they no longer want/love/need. I also cringe when people spray paint antique brass candlesticks, or paint an Edwardian sideboard because that’s the rage now! And I disagree with Marie about books (and a lot of other things, too!)…to me there are two ways to enjoy a book, you can read it or you can simply enjoy the look of a bookcase filled with books (a winter’s entertainment in one place!). And really, do I thank my wooden spoon because someone, somewhere, sometime ago invented it? Nope. Just Nope.
March 7, 2019 @ 11:16 am
No. Please don’t do this to me. Don’t leave me alone in a minimalist cold, cold world. And you never know when the day will come when 57 of your closest friends and relatives drop in for your surprise birthday but left their tacky landfill clogging paper plates at home. Once again you would save the day! Beautiful old items deserve to be used not trashed. So many people don’t even know the purpose of the items. Get educated and the joy will spark!
March 7, 2019 @ 11:22 am
Welcome back! I have missed your posts! Always such a fun read. I also love Marie Kondo. Her program can be tailored to each individual person. Keep what you love and gives you joy. Donate everything else. If 300 books give you joy – keep them! If 300 books stresses you out since you have to dust them – donate some! It is all up to the person. I regularly go through all of my clothes and stuff … and by the time I finish the last thing it is time to start at the beginning again. The thrift stores love me – I buy and donate at the same pace. LOL
March 7, 2019 @ 11:27 am
Have you already disposed of your high school yearbook? If not, you can donate it to classmates.com. They pay for shipping both ways to scan yearbooks to include in their yearbook archives. I loaned one of mine and it was returned to me in perfect condition. I am an amateur family genealogist and use classmates.com and e-yearbooks.com to find photos to add to my family tree.
March 7, 2019 @ 11:43 am
I have not heard of this, good to know. They need to advertise more on social media.
March 7, 2019 @ 11:47 am
This is cool! Thanks
March 7, 2019 @ 11:38 am
I’m a folder, my drawers are always tidy (not so much the rest of my house), but I have too much stuff and hold on to some of it for the wrong reasons. And paper is my downfall.
I watched Marie Kondo on Netflix after sniffing at all the buzz on her book, and was amazed at how KIND and NON-JUDGEMENTAL she is. Also patient, I wanted to shriek at some of the people on the show after 5 seconds!
And her folding method is better than mine! (Seriously, 5 minutes of folding when you put things away, then you can open your drawers easily and see everything at once…)
March 7, 2019 @ 11:49 am
No no no no no no! NO! I predict you will mourn throwing out or donating and want it back! I have a lot of stuff and only regret what I have let go of. I mean really – that gorgeous glass-front bookcase EMPTY!? A pity……
P.s. OK, the disco balls can go…..
March 7, 2019 @ 7:38 pm
A gorgeous glass-front bookcase filled with books that the owner doesn’t even like makes ZERO sense.
Now she can refill it with books that actually spark joy for her, making it a hundred times more beautiful.
THAT is the essence of Konmari. Not cold minimalism, but a home filled with only things that bring happiness and beauty, each item curated for the joy it brings the owner.
March 7, 2019 @ 11:49 am
Keep what you love….get rid of the rest. i have 3 sweaters I bought this year that bring me joy and I live in them. You don’t have to be a one plate minimalist…..watching the netflix show, those people kept a ton of stuff…unfortunately my business is selling vintage jewelry and other items….everyone wanting to get rid of stuff and not acquire more is bad for my business!
March 7, 2019 @ 11:56 am
I needed this post. I’m a cat lover, also dogs. I’m a clutterer and hoarder. I need stuff to justify my life, that I have good taste or to remember the good times. I keep my mother’s stuff, clippings, postcards sent to her circa 1910, her hand made high school yearbook with real pictures glued in. I never even got along with my mother so it makes me feel like a good daughter to keep her 100 year old stuff.
I share a couple of odd characteristics with you. I hate hugging, hate to watch people, especially politicians, hugging and only hug people when I feel like it. Rarely. The other is that I have a mirrored disco ball with the light that shines on it. And I thought I was the only person who had one of those. Lights of all kinds, disco balls, Christmas lights, make me happy.
I, too, am currently de-cluttering my stash. I have a 3rd floor that is full, magazines, dolls, dishes and Christmas decorations which I use to decorate a historic house. Most of the decs will stay until I stop decorating that house. Thanks for the post. It gives me hope that I will get this done, possibly by the end of this year.
March 7, 2019 @ 12:00 pm
Victoria! I have been following you for years because I love antiques and its obvious that you are crazy so I adore you. I am so delighted by your post today. I have a professional organizing business and I use the Konmari method to help folks declutter. I want to share with you two things-first off I have been using this method in my own home for going on six years. My house has gone from tidy and cute to absolutely charming, like miniature Versailles meets old- timey carnival. Because this method is about keeping what you love (and letting go of the rest) what you love is key. When you cherish all of your objects they take on this soft and brilliant air, you can feel it, and it will transform you. It will soften you. Secondly, I want to encourage you to reread the part about folding. It is about pouring love into your clothes-and ultimately yourself. Life is brutal, none of us gets out alive. Love is the only thing that gives us the strength to carry on and to help each other and to help the animals! Please take a moment to consider this next time you take out a warm fresh load of pajamas. Quietly and joyfully sit and fold love into them , just try it and see what happens! You bring joy to so many people and so many kittens, you share so much beauty with all of us, thank you for that. Take good care of yourself! Vanessa