Inspirational Stories from the Job, Writing on the Wall

Minimalism, Hoarding, and Everything-In-Between

As you might imagine, I tend to think about organization and cleanliness a lot.  For awhile last year, I was really excited about the movement of Minimalism.  I thought I wanted to BE a minimalist.  I read the articles by those two guys who call themselves The Minimalists and even clicked to subscribe to their newsletter, emailed regularly right to me.  (Eventually these emails became a terrible unread clutter haha!)

I did a preliminary purge of my belongings, thinking I was on my way down the right path; and I considered with dismay, all my husband’s possessions, and suggested to him that he, too, should become a minimalist. (He did no such thing.)

Several months went by, and my mother and I went to the public library book sale. Finding books irresistible, I bought 13 @ $1/ea.  Probably not minimalist behavior.  One of these books was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo.

Feeling unsettled that my attempt at minimalism was waning, I read the Japanese art of decluttering with great gusto.  Marie had her own special method, with the deciding factor of whether to keep or not to keep something being dependent on whether the item “sparks joy” for you or not. I was to go through my possessions, category by category, and with each item, decide if it sparked joy for me or not.

Now, I realized that in some categories, I had been doing this for some time, maybe forever.  I’m really good at discarding weird lipsticks that do not spark any joy for me.  I like to use only one particular cast iron pan and one particular pot and I’m fond of reminding my husband that I think we should toss the others (he doesn’t necessarily agree).

But in most categories, I tried the “KonMari” method as she calls it, and I really got bogged down and confused.  I have many collections of things, and so does my husband.  Sometimes I find his collections rediculous and pointless (beer glasses, coffee mugs, stuffed animals), and I’m sure sometimes he is baffled by mine (childhood jewelry boxes, rocks, animal skulls) .  We also have some merged collections (CDs, records, books).

I discarded whole collections, swiftly, like she suggested, all in one day…..and… I missed them.  I had a collection of old Polly Pocket houses, from when Polly was this teeny tiny one-inch-sized doll.  Now they are not in my closet like they were.  They are gone.  Off to the Salvation Army.  I don’t feel free, I don’t feel good about this at all; I miss them.  Once every couple of years I would take them out and marvel at them and think about my daughters playing with them.  Damn.  I guess they did spark joy.

So here’s what I decided:  it’s ok to have a bunch of collections of sentimental things that take up space somewhere in your house.  Even if the joy you get out of it is once every five years, so what?  Do I think you should strive to having a bigger and bigger place to live in purely to house your collections?  No, of course not.  And when your collections are crowding you out of your house, so that you only have a small path to walk in each room, that is equally rediculous.  Too much  stuff is in the way of cleanliness and comfort.

In my attempts at the KonMari method, I did lots of organizing!  I still have lots of stuff.  I’d say I got rid of 2/3 of my files and books and clothes.  I feel that I REALLY know what I have in any given drawer, closet, box, folder.  However, I still have a lot of stuff. Books, and music, and shoes, and pictures, and teacups, and weird coins, old concert t-shirts, and art supplies.  Glass bottles and shells and rocks…

Sometimes, I like to just sit amidst my organized stuff and enjoy its organization. And that… sparks joy!