I just finished reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and am very pleased I did. I had heard people talk about this book before, but didn’t feel compelled to read it. Whatever this KonMari was, I was pretty sure I did it already. I was right. However, it was a fun and fresh read. And after watching a few Youtube videos of Marie Kondo in action, I have decided she is quite enchanting. My new soul mate. I thought it was hilarious that she liked to stay in from recess to organize bookshelves in grade school. I remember doing the same thing. Except I would also find the messiest boy in class, and clean his desk when he wasn’t looking. I figured, he eats his boogers, who is he to care?
Some people, on the other hand, don’t always share your enthusiasm. Marie observed that it’s better to clean things up when no one is looking. She told about how when she was younger she would hide things her family wasn’t using. If they didn’t notice after a while, she would go ahead and throw them away. They would never know. She later said that this wasn’t kind, and is probably not the best approach. I beg to differ. I remember, in college, I cleaned for a friend of my mother’s who had two teenage boys. The boys’ rooms were everything that you imagine. A horrible mess of dissembled toys, knee pads, food, books, homework, laundry, and trading cards. I fastidiously combed through it ALL. When I started cleaning the room, you literally could not see the floor. When I finished, it was a hotel suite. I always thought it was funny that the boys never confronted me about it. I think it was because they could never successfully identify what I threw away. What you don’t know doesn’t hurt you. Their room was clean, their remaining stuff was organized, their sheets were changed, their blankets washed, and all was right with the world. But if they would have seen me toting the gigantic black garbage bags to the trash there might have been words. I still prefer to operate by stealth.
I was telling one of my friends, that if you put me in a garage full of boxes that need sorted I start to tingle. I’m in my element. I love to bring order from chaos. She looked at me incredulously and said, “I hate that! I feel paralyzed.” It just goes to show that there are different personalities for everything. I often beg my mother and sister-in-law to let me violate their personal spaces. They always respectfully decline. But just so you know, if you ever need someone to come throw away all of your stuff, I am there for you. I do this all the time for my siblings, and anyone else who is beneath me heirchichally and doesn’t gave a choice. Here is a link to a blog post way back in 2008, when I did my brother and sister’s rooms. There are no before pictures, but that’s because their rooms were such vomitous hell holes I couldn’t bring myself to photograph them. I did the same thing, last year, for my other sister. I organized her daughters’ room. But I didn’t get the garbage bags out to trash in time and she started digging through them. You know, trying to retrieve all the miscellaneous puzzle pieces, broken toys, and mismatched socks. I don’t know how some people live with themselves. Throw it away!
And that’s really the sum of the matter. Kondo hit on the two things that are the most important for me when I clean. Don’t keep things you don’t love, and empty the thing to be cleaned, completely. If you’re cleaning a bookshelf, take all the books off. If you’re cleaning a closet, take everything out. When I clean the bathroom, I set everything in the hall. If I’m cleaning the drawers and cabinets, I empty everything to the floor. When I clean the fridge, I don’t wipe down a shelf here and there, I dump everything onto the counters. I cleaned my kitchen cabinets a few weeks ago and it was the same technique. Dump it out, and put it back. Maybe that doesn’t make sense. But it really does. In a twisted kind of way. Or, as my mother says, “You have to make a mess, to make progress.” I think it’s because when you have everything out, not only can you clean the area better, but you have to choose what to put back in. And you choose the things you love, that work, and that are worth it. It’s not worth it to clean a drawer and then put back the sticky, half-empty toothpaste sample. It’s an insult to the work you just did. Just throw it away.
Marie Kondo pointed out that the things we keep out of guilt or fear, are not only a burden, but they keep us from being open and available for the present. Instead of saving books that you feel like you need to read, or projects that you probably should finish, just let them go. And then you find that you are open for the next opportunity that presents itself. Not only that, but you are more likely to take it. Every time I throw something a way I feel freer. I feel better. Mind you, I don’t throw away things I need or are actually useful, but I am very careful to not to keep things just because they are things. Things do not have value apart from how they serve us. If something doesn’t make me happy, if it doesn’t spark joy, I refuse to be obligated to it. I am not a warehouse for the despotic goddess of frugality. She’s just not very nice.