Like the rest of the world, I’m taken with the writing and methods of Japanese cleaning and organizational expert Marie Kondo. If you are reading this from prison or a nuclear bunker and haven’t heard of her, start with her book The Joy of Tidying Up. Its profound in its simplicity. What has made her ideas spread is that her method helping people remove clutter is very simple: take each object in your house in your hands, and ask yourself “does this spark joy in me?”. If the answer is yes, you keep it. if the answer is no, you throw it out or give it away with no hesitation.
Cleaning is a lot like dieting, most people that talk about it are selling something. They are more brand personality than good ideas. I hate shit like that. I don’t want to learn tricks. Tricks fall apart like diets. Concepts can last forever.
All week I’ve been going through my house in the presribed order, purging all the joyless things from my house. First my clothes then my books, then papers/records, then what she calls “kimono” which means miscellaneous stuff, and finally saved for last by design, sentimental items.
I stayed up til 5 in the morning last night sitting in the floor of my office. I piled everything that I would consider sentimental in the floor, to be sifted through like a miner.
One of the things that struck me is how much dumb unhelpful shit I hold on to. The metaphor there is obvious, but I mean it more practically. I love throwing stuff out, so why do I have Lowes receipts from 6 years ago?
As I moved deeper through the stack, my mind felt like it expanded like a tent. I have a bad memory, it scares me sometimes. I’m not worried yet though. I have had a very intense life the last eight years. Lived through most of what psychologists list as the most uprooting experiences: death, divorce, moving, bankruptcy (nearly), etc..
I also talk a lot. I think people remember things I said and because I don’t remember saying it, I get spooked. But honestly, I’m swinging for the fences all the time verbally. Trying to be funny, trying to be accurate, trying to be kind.
All that said, I’ve never understood what I should hold on to. Not just receipts for lumber and power strips, but which of these moments are the ones that will matter ten years from now. I guess no one can ever know.
I sat sorting through cards and letters written to me, old pictures, offiical documents from the Danish government, little scraps of paper with goals I had written for myself, etc..
I started to slowly through things out. Old folders, christmas cards from people I don’t know that well any more. As I got closer to things that mattered, I found myself doing something peculiar.
There were certain things I know I needed to throw out, but I needed to honor. I felt myself kiss certain papers before throwing them into the big contractor bag in the floor. I know this sounds so dramatic. But it felt right.
Some things need to go. But we can honor them as they go. We can be gratful for the role they had in delivering us to where we are now. Mostly, doing this has made me realize how much I have been carried by the love and faith of other people. Thank god for them. Hope to be that for others as well.