I haven’t written anything for a week now because I’ve been recovering from whatever virus has infected us since the holidays. I spent a good part of my sick time binge watching Netflix, so naturally I had to check out the latest hit. “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” has become a cultural phenomenon. I’ve seen anecdotal reports that thrift shops are now overflowing with largesse donated by inspired cleaners.
Personally, I’m not a fan.
Maybe it’s because I don’t find watching other people clean out there closets to be compelling television. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the better part of a year doing the same thing myself. After my husband left me last Christmas, I was forced to sell my childhood home. I downsized to a smaller house that’s easier to manage. And the number one question all of my friends had was “Where are you going to put all your STUFF?”
Getting rid of my ex-husband’s belongings was easy: can of gas, book of matches, problem solved. When it came to sorting through MY things it was a different story. Going through my parents’ belongings was even worse. Not every item “sparks joy” (Marie Kondo’s requisite for keeping anything) but they all sure sparked memories. You’re looking at someone who bawls like a baby every time she watches Toy Story 3 because I still had all of MY stuffed animals from my childhood in trash bags in the attic because I couldn’t bare to throw them away.
I had 4 sets of china, 3 sets of stainless flatware, one set of gold plated and one sterling. I had a full set of crystal glasses: wine, water, champagne, iced tea, high ball, low ball and brandy snifters. WHY do I have brandy snifters? It’s not like I drink brandy! And yet I carefully wrapped each one individually in bubble wrap and packed them away in boxes.
Clothing was easy. I don’t know why Marie Kondo advises people to dump all their clothes onto the bed before sorting them. I would have ended up sleeping on my couch for a week! But I discarded everything that did not currently fit, finally parted with things I hadn’t worn for a while and packed away my Winter clothes when spring arrived. They stayed boxed up so long I almost immediately started wearing them again. I still have a whole drawer full of old T-Shirts that I can’t wear but can’t throw away. And maybe one day I’ll get around to folding them in that fancy Kondo style.
Another thing I don’t get is why are these people doing this alone? I watched one episode about a widow sorting through her late husband’s belongings. She has 3 grown kids! Why weren’t they helping her? I personally couldn’t have made it without a little help from my friends. I have a circulatory condition that makes walking and standing for long periods very painful. I started culling my book collection 6 months before my husband left (as if I had a premonition). But going through them and carrying them from the basement, upstairs, later to my car and then having to unload them all at the library proved too much for me. I knew I would never get my basement cleaned out without professional help. I called “College Hunks Hauling Junk,” and they sent a team of strong young people to help me out. I sat in a chair and literally dumped books on the floor telling them “all those can be donated.” They gathered everything up for me and hauled away a truckload of items to be donated or trashed. Only cost me $200. Money well spent.
Nothing has sparked Kondo backlash like here seeming dislike of books. She’s even had to clarify her statement to keep fewer than 30 books. Book lovers were horrified. Personally, I didn’t have much attachment to the books. They’ve been in my basement for 30 years or more and many were mildewed. Still, I kept my childhood favorites, my grandfather’s complete works of Dickens, my old piano music, the complete Harry Potter, my mother’s beloved autographed Sandy Kofax autobiography and my high school copy of “Lord Jim” that I once threatened to burn but have kept all this time.
One of my friends helped me out in the kitchen. We tossed all those old canned goods that were expired. Don’t lecture me about how expiration dates are a crock and how some of that was still good! If I haven’t eaten that can of soup in 3 years, chances are I’m not going to. I got rid of the hand mixer, the bread maker and some vintage 1960’s Tupperware. I kept the food processor (it still works!) and the big roasting pan (because, hey! I might decide to cook Thanksgiving again one day.
I come by my pack-ratting tendencies honestly. My mother survived the depression and hated to throw anything out. “Someone could use this!” She would always tell me. “Well, let’s find that someone and let them have it!” I would argue. Thank goodness I had made several purges over the years or I wouldn’t have survived this. One time, I tossed out an old hand turning egg beater and my mother had a meltdown. I’m talking 2 year old after you take away the iPhone level meltdown. “You’re Aunt Ollie gave that to me! You can’t just throw it out!” I retrieved it and put it back under the counter. I found it as I was packing up and realized “Oh, hell. Now I can’t get rid of it either.” It’s now living under my new kitchen counter.
I tossed the paper mache flamingo I brought back from my first honeymoon in Cancun. I kept the ugly ceramic quails my parents always had in the den. I don’t even LIKE the damn things! They certainly don’t spark joy for me. But they’ve been around my whole life and I just couldn’t part with them. I kept the ugly bass fishing trophy. My grandfather caught that fish in 1946. It’s been dead longer than I’ve been alive. Is there a statute of limitations on keeping old hunting and fishing trophies after their owners die?
I may not have the attachment to physical books that most readers do, but I haven’t embraced the digital movies. I packed boxes of DVDs. I have a Department 56 Snow Village that would take up my entire living room if I actually displayed it. I have my doll collection, dollhouse, holiday decorations, china and various and sundry tchotchkes that I keep on display. And of course, my four cats.
I dragged all of it with me to the new house.
A friend asked me last year why I was looking at 4 bedroom houses when I lived alone. Clearly because I have so much stuff! I have a whole bedroom here just to store things since I can’t go up to the attic. That’s the mess in this picture.
I finally finished unpacking my last box on New Year’s Eve. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to be done. The good news is that my new house is more modern and has a lot more storage space. I have all my clothes in the master bedroom closet. I have enough shelf space to store all my purses and shoes. I can actually find things! I have 2 linen closets, a separate pantry and more kitchen cabinets than the last house. Everything is neat and organized. I organized and stored everything in plastic bins. No more garbage bags!
I apologize in advance to whoever gets stuck cleaning this place out when I’m dead. I know that most of my belongings will probably end up in a landfill. Until then, I’m keeping them. I’ve lost so much in the past year. Letting go of things is often letting go of your hopes and dreams. Getting rid of your clothes that don’t fit means admitting that you’re never going to lose weight. Getting rid of the dishes and cookware would mean I’m never going to entertain again. I may never live long enough to read all of my books or watch all of my movies. But having these things? Yes, that DOES spark joy.