The Joy Of Trying To Tidy Up

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In my continuing effort to make life livable, I’ve sunk to self-help books. It’s a poignant conundrum. The more you succumb to self-help books, the more of a loser you are, by definition.

Still. I have high hopes for The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. a worldwide best seller that makes a bold promise:

In this book, I have summed up how to put your space in order in a way that will change your life forever.

The book is slim, like The Prophet, and similarly filled with wisdom, only more useful wisdom. I vaguely recall stuff from The Prophet, like your children are arrows and sadness is a well or something. Great.

But compare that to the revelation that everything you own should spark joy. If you pick something up and you don’t feel any joy, YOU DON’T KEEP IT!

It’s such a huge but simple concept. All the shit you’ve acquired is shit that you have to put somewhere and there’s just too much of it. Duh, you know that. But you don’t know how to cull your stuff, and you’ve tried so many times. You can’t get rid of stuff because you paid good money for it, you might need it, you might lose weight. it’s a memento, it was a gift, it isn’t broken, one day you’ll give it to someone.

Anyway, the first brilliant edict from the author, Marie Kondo, that shook me to the core was this:

Don’t demote clothing to ‘lounge-wear.’

Right?!? Even my husband admitted to this practice. If something is too ugly or worn out to wear in public, you put it with your PJ’s.¬† Ms. Kondo insists that even when you’re at home, you should be wearing something that sparks your joy. Right now I’m wearing a green tank top that I’m going to throw away later tonight, because the color and cut bring me NO FUCKING JOY, none.

It’s that simple.

So, I’m not following Kondo’s instructions to the letter but I’m making a start. I emptied each drawer of my dresser and picked up each item. If there was a distinct No Joy feeling, I made a contemptuous face and threw it on the floor. If there was a ‘meh’ feeling, I hesitated.

But I did collect two bags of shit to throw away. I have to go around the house and do this with everything. It will be exhausting but I think I can eliminate tons of stuff from my amassed belongings, which have become burdensome.

I also got a book for parents whose adult children hate them. It is somewhat comforting.

Throwing shit out is the way to go, the road to harmony and contentment. Maybe the less I need, the less needy I will seem. I will be spartan, disciplined, and self-contained. I will accept no nonsense from green tank tops.

And throwing shit out puts you in a position of power, which is good. Like George Bush said about Donald Rumsfeld, I am The Decider.

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15 Responses to The Joy Of Trying To Tidy Up

  1. Bevitron says:

    Brilliant, as always, Sister Wolf.

    I’m wearing a Looney Tunes t-shirt and black cotton elastic-waist pants with a huge hole in the ass. They bring me great comfort and therefore joy, and most of my “clothes” are like this, so I guess I’m all set there, nothing to do.

    None of my cleaning supplies give me a spark of joy. I might throw them all out. Actually, thinking about it, not much gives that spark of joy around here. A roll of toilet paper does, though, because I can remember having run out at the most inopportune times. I could probably be happy in an empty house full of ratty clothes and toilet paper.

  2. Muscato says:

    I love this book! Like you, I’m not brave enough to follow her method as rigorously as she insists is necessary, but when I was home recuperating this spring, using what I think of as The Joy Approach allowed me to start the onerous and infinitely delayed process of thinning the books, which are now down by about 20%.

    I sometimes sit and stare at our crowded china cupboards, thinking “are you, right now, bringing me joy?” and realizing that if I had any family who wanted the stuff – or even a gullible dealer – it would be out the door. And someday, maybe even soon if I get brave, it will be.

    Have fun thinning the closet – I started that, too, and it’s exhilarating.

  3. Sardonique Schadenfreude Rictus says:

    Brilliant advice ! All hail the Neo-Spartan, Neo-Stoic movement !

    This reminds me of that anecdote about Diogenes (yeah, the guy with the lamp looking for ‘one good man’). Diogenes, a Stoic philosopher, was stoically walking down the street as he begged for alms with his simple, but well worn, wooden alms-bowl. While making his daily rounds, he spied a young boy who was begging for alms with NO BOWL AT ALL ! Incensed that he had just been bested at his own game, and that his Once humble-looking wooden alms-bowl now seemed like the height of extravagance (compared to the boy’s bare hands) he cast the bowl onto the ground in a fury and watched it shatter into tiny pieces. Then, he took his place beside the beggar boy and smiled, knowing that all was right with the world again (especially for true Stoic philosopher’s).

    Moral: Avoid extravagance !

  4. k8 says:

    thanks for posting this, and your description of all the shit around you as a “burdensome” nailed it. I just bought and moved into a house and am dealing with the same feelings. Bought the book, and not following it to the letter (like most) but feeling exhilarated by what I am chucking.

  5. Dj says:

    I LOVE to purge!! I am a goddamn expert!! Too small–out. Too meemaw– out! Stains? Out. Impulse buy that is utterly ridiculous? Out! Out! Out! I love looking at drawers with three or four items in them. I only buy capsule wardrobes (thank you Pinterest). Not chic? Out. Old dated jewelry? Out..took a handful of old genuine gold jewelry to a jeweler friend and in exchange got a fab diamond bangle. That’s it. All I wear. Power is the word. A tangible lightness. My sister has 8 navy sweaters, 9 brown sweaters,7 black sweaters all over 20 years old. She cringes when I say out! Go for it!!

  6. Sally says:

    Have you begun folding clothes Marie Kondo style? Thrilling. My drawers are like bento boxes, I can’t believe how clean inside I feel. I found “how to” instructions on youtube, stick with it once you work it out you’ll get what I mean, promise.

  7. David Duff says:

    For God’s sake, Sis, don’t send that book to the ‘Memsahib’! I can just see her staring at me with a speculative expression . . .

  8. Steph says:

    I’m just going to burn my goddamn house down, self-help books and all.

  9. Sister Wolf says:

    Bevitron – You are too well-adjusted for me to comprehend, although I too love a nice toilet roll.

    Muscato – Oh god, the books. A fucking nightmare. However, my Fiesta ware does actually bring joy, so that’s a lucky break!

    Sardonique – Whew, I thought someone was going to lose their hands.

    k8 – Yep, amazing how exhilarating it is to get rid of things….much moire pleasure than when we first acquired them.

    dj – Wow, you are really advanced at this shit!!!

    Sally – I have seen the folding, it’s like origami and I plan to try it!

    David – You may have to revoke her internet privileges if you don’t want her to find out about this.

  10. Suspended says:

    Marie Kondo, how totally and utterly fucking dull. Why would you fold everything into the size of postage stamps just so you had to iron it again before you wore it? I fucking hate ironing and I don’t live in Portaloo sized house, so I fail to see the point of Marie Kondo.

  11. Kyly says:

    I’ve ordered the book. I’m waiting patiently (where are you book, it feels like months!?). This really seems to be a major movement at the moment, and rightly so. It’s all this consumerism clouding our better judgement and minimal lives just begging to be dug out. I am being held hostage by all my stuff. I also live in a shoe box, so it doesn’t take a lot to feel that way. My now whittled down closet is bringing me a lot of joy, I’m having such trouble succeeding in the same way with my home though. I one day aspire to be like Dj earlier in these comments. All hail Dj!

  12. Sister Wolf says:

    Steph – YES! Write THAT book, it could be a best seller and so much easier too.

    Suspended – Well, the folding is a little what we once called anal-retentive, remember?? But maybe you haven’t surrounded yourself with crap you wish you could throw away? Piles of crap, I’m talking about.

    Kyly – You know, I think a lot of people actually resent their ‘stuff’ – forget about not bringing joy. I resent it because I want to be the boss of it, not the other way around. I agree, Dj is an inspiration!

  13. Brandie Mcnemar says:

    Love this post! Best thing I have read this morning! I have all these struggles, real world problems!! I have been into a self help read, The Thriving Woman’s Guide to Setting Boundaries by Kim Buck. It’s actually an amazing read and I find that I can get things done without them becoming a terrible burden just by being able to say no and not be everyone’s everything. It’s so freeing and I can’t imagine why I couldn’t figure this stuff out years ago!

  14. Gina says:

    This book changed my life. I used to love purging my possessions, but I realized that purging just to strut around with the least stuff didn’t make sense. What does make sense is keeping only what I love. Granted, some items are purely serviceable, but if I must have a potato peeler, than it’s going to be one that does the job and doesn’t cause hand cramps!

  15. Penny says:

    If you need motivation, I find this site pretty great…

    http://unfuckyourhabitat.tumblr.com/

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