This is a bit of a micro-review for Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up“. Given that it’s a New York Times best-seller, it probably doesn’t need many reviews. But Jason and others have reviewed non-magical books, and used that as an opportunity to offer specific lessons on how to use non-magical books to advance your own art or practice; and despite the ‘magic’ in the title, this is not a grimoire.
My mother turned me on to this book. She made a point of saying that she *liked* my apartment and its use of color and the way that I established focal points with pictures of our relatives (and ancestors), small displays of objects and art, and so on. She pointed out, though, that I have a great deal of stuff to ‘curate’. That was her word for it. And that I would benefit from a general culling of stuff that wasn’t really serving me any more. She gave me this book for Christmas, and I read it on the plane while returning home from visiting my parents.
The culling has taken place far more slowly than Kondo recommends, but proceeded in more or less the general order that she suggested, and doing the “discard first, then categorize” process: clothing, books, papers, miscellany, and mementos. As of today, about fifteen bags of trash and ten boxes of books have left the house, and I’m only through the first half of the miscellaneous part of the process.
Understand, please, that I am not one of those ‘hoarders’ who has one narrow path between bed, bathroom and computer chair. I have an apartment with enough open space for me to do tai chi at home daily, and have an easel and a work bench set up for painting or small carpentry and sewing projects. I’m not a clothes horse, either. But gradually, my house and home has accumulated stuff I didn’t want and didn’t need, and I didn’t have a plan to get rid of it.
Marie Kondo’s question about each item in your house is “Does this spark joy?” For me, the answer for a lot of things was, “no.” More, this was something I knew from the designer William Morris, who said, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Operating from that basic principle, I’ve found that a good amount of stuff in my house is neither beautiful nor useful, nor does it spark joy, and it’s been easy to let those things go. More than that, it’s been easy to see that a goodly amount of this stuff is also stuff that no one else wants for any reason: stained or damaged t-shirts, threadbare or ripped pants, crumpled papers, bad books in bad condition. Where recycling is appropriate, or re-gifting, I’ve done that — but it’s also been sobering to realize how much of the stuff *I* don’t want is also stuff that nobody else is going to want, either.
There are still a couple of layers of this onion to peel. I have to go through some papers still. The miscellaneous stuff, for me, includes art supplies, pen collections, notebooks, and ‘junk drawers’ in three separate rooms of the house. All the same, the three empty shelves in the library area, the two reorganized shelves under the printer, and the half-empty clothes rack and nearly-empty drawer in my dresser are all encouraging. There’s a new kind of health under all of this reduction. I’m enjoying the process, and the results are sparking joy.
It’s worth mentioning, too, that I have a hardcover copy of this book… and it, too, is going to be treated as ‘clutter’ in short order. I’ll probably regift it to someone. But it feels like once the house is in a state of order, it will be fairly easy to maintain it in that state indefinitely.