Apparently I live a cluttered life, or so I’ve been led to believe by the barrage of e-mails, advertisements, podcasts, webinars, and TV shows reminding me that closets need to be organized, countertops need to be cleared, and drawers need to be emptied of stuff I haven’t worn in ages.
Though I’m vaguely aware that, like most people, I hang onto some stuff a little longer than I should, I never realized the problem was as serious as the professionals would have me believe.
Decluttering has become big business. Look at all those storage warehouses lining the perimeter roads of our highways. Or the shelves in a store’s home section, laden with containers, bags, and bin-type things that promise a Zen-like layout of our homes. Or the professional organizers who make a living telling us what we already know, which is: We’ve got too much stuff.
Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo has made getting rid of stuff into an empire. The organizational guru just debuted a Netflix series that promises to help you fill up dozens of industrial-size garbage bags with items that have been holding you down and holding you back. The series is appropriately called Tidying Up, and it’s gotten plenty of reaction from people on social media. There are many who are all about reducing-reducing-reducing, but also others who think she’s full of it.
I’m caught somewhere in the middle of the two camps, but judging by Kondo’s success, I suspect more people fall into the former category. The sweet-looking little lady became a global sensation after publishing The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing in more than 30 countries. The book, like her show, teaches people to get rid of unwanted things by bidding goodbye to those items that don’t spark joy.
Well, Marie, that’s where you and I disagree.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many things in my house that give me joy; I love the old teacups from Grandma’s china cabinet, even if they’ve never seen the outside of mine. I love the scuffed but comfy black heels in my closet that I only wear once a year. I could go on.
But there are also things that, while they don’t particularly bring me joy, serve some other purpose. Sure, maybe I’ll never use all those cords in the box downstairs, and they bring me no joy whatsoever (as a matter of fact, it drives me crazy that they’re all there) – but just last week I saved $20 by digging through it to find an old cord to Lord knows what that happened to be compatible with a Playstation controller.
Marie Kondo is hardly the only authority telling us to reduce, phase out, pare down, and keep everything in its place. If my e-mail inbox is any indication, minimalism is popular across the board.
“Bye bye, clutter” reads the subject line of one, which offers to organize my makeup with a pricey, hard plastic tower case. Etsy also sent me an e-mail for storage and organization solutions, including a thingamajig to organize ribbons (do people own a lot of ribbons? I wasn’t aware), a very nice basket to hold magazines (wait, people still have a lot of magazines? I wasn’t aware of that, either), and a set of wood hooks that could be useful for something, if I thought about it long enough.
This past week I even read an interesting article about a writer cleaning up his desk. Contrary to popular belief about a messy desk being a sign of genius, I need to have a clean space to work more productively. Studies point to clutter negatively affecting our well-being, which definitely applies to a personality like mine.
Women, by the way, react more negatively to home clutter than men do, producing much higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This may explain, though not excuse, why I’m the one with the clean desk, and why after all these years no one in my house can figure out why I start to twitch when a giant pile of assorted nonsense accumulates on the dining room table.
That said, I’m not planning a big purge or a cleanse. Instead, I’ll stay the course in being the one MacDonald who throws things out, and just try to focus on not buying anything more in the first place.