This past Christmas, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo wormed its way into my daughter Melissa’s possession, and warmed the hearts of our family celebrating the holiday for several days. It even sparked an interest with Melissa’s husband, who took a good look at his closet and ditched old shirts and pants (a bona fide miracle).
The Japanese maven of clean-up, Kondo was dubbed “The Queen of Clean” by People magazine. She is cluttering up only her bank account with greenbacks. Her first book has sold 3 million copies since 2014, and second book, "Spark Joy," is doing well. This one focuses on how to fold clothes and other things. She recommends starting by examining clothes, then tidying by category, not location.
After I read Magic, I woke up at 3 a.m. and pitched outdated, tired dresses, suits, handbags and scarves into the hall to be headed to Goodwill the next day. How did I know I wouldn’t miss them? Because they did not bring me joy! Would I have bought them today? No! Those are a couple of important rules that will help you throw things away.
Magazines have been running articles and cover features about how to rid yourself of what you don’t need. Peter Walsh ("Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight") was smart: Any book that promises weight loss becomes a bestseller. Read it if you haven’t read about tidying up. It’s a great primer.
Even if your house is a McMansion, your energy will flow better if your possessions aren’t strangling you. A feeling of anxiety rises over the amount of accumulation we amass. Being rid of the burden of so much excess is liberating.
Clutter drives me nuts. But books are hard for me to purge because most were sent at no charge by publishing houses so I could, and often did, review them. That made me happy and still does. I recently chopped back to my 200 favorites, from 1,000 or so.
Lately I’ve been divesting myself of papers and other things so my kids won’t have to deal with them in the future. My proudest moment has been shoveling out 105 pounds of paper and emptying two file cabinets – class presentations, speeches, divorce decrees from years ago, tax files, bank statements from the 2000s and old checks and registers. My CPA told me what to keep, which is very little. I put unnecessary papers in paper bags and hauled them off to a professional shredding machine. My home shredder would have burst with all that information.
Take a look at your possessions and ask yourself important questions, starting off with: “Do I love this?” Saying, “Well, I did once” doesn’t count. Ask yourself, “Will I feel good wearing this?” If not, why keep it? If you’re afraid you might be giving away a valuable object, look on line. On the other hand, a friend of mine has a set of Limoges plates she thought might be valuable. She discovered they’re only worth $38.
Do not keep things for your kids and grandkids. Don’t clutter up their space. If you ask them if they want something, it’s very hard for them to say, “Nope, I don’t like that!” So say, “If you want anything in this pile/room, let me know now.” (Send them a picture if they don’t live close by.)
It’s hard to let go of objects the kids/grandkids have made, but my daughter helped me with this. “Mom, You do not have to keep this stuff!” So I didn’t and she’s right: it is okay.
By the way, I’ll be submitting columns on an intermittent basis from now on, according to the Recorder’s editorial calendar. So until next time, enjoy spring/summer in Ponte Vedra Beach.