The art of decluttering

According to Marie Kondo, the art of decluttering means getting rid of things in your life that don’t “spark joy.”

A couple of years ago, I read her bestselling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” I enjoyed the book but wasn’t interested in “tidying.”

(It was like reading a cookbook with no intention of making the recipes. But I know you won’t merely read my cookbook, because the recipes are easy and yummy. You can make an epic dinner of all appetizers.)

See what I did there? Oops. (sorry not sorry)

Okay, back to the art of decluttering.

Marie Kondo’s “KonMari Method” is a huge trend right now. Thanks to “Tidying up with Marie Kondo,” her new show on Netflix, there’s a sweeping frenzy of decluttering and organizing. And social media is all in (I’m looking at you, Instagram.)
When the series started, I was curious to see what the fuss was about.

So I tuned in.

And there she was — Marie Kondo, a tiny woman whose sweet demeanor was immediately obvious. After greeting her clients, she sat on the floor in silence, and thanked the house. A serene ritual in preparation for the madness ahead — “the calm before the storm.”

The art of decluttering with the KonMari Method has five categories (and subcategories.)

1. Clothing, which includes accessories — bags, belts and shoes, scarves, underwear and socks, and so on

2. Books and magazines

3. Papers (Why am I hanging on to my high school SAT scores? Answer below!)

4. Miscellaneous — including household and kitchen stuff, food, valuables, makeup, etc.

5. Finally, sentimental items (this one isn’t happening—same answer)

Here’s how the art of decluttering the Marie Kondo way, works— one must go through each item and keep them if they “spark joy.” If not, “bye-bye.” But not before you tell the item, “thank you for your service.”

Marie Condo wants you to start with clothing.

One woman piled a Mt. Everest-sized mound on her bed. How could anyone have so many clothes? As usual, I was suspicious. Because — reality? Really? There’s a camera. So, no.
Did the the producers add some clothes to the massive mountain for effect? (Forgive my cynicism.)
And, folding is a big deal with the KonMari method. Her way takes up less space and items are easier to access. Rather than stacked, everything stands upright in a drawer or in a box, or in a box within a drawer. Or in a box within another box.

Boxes are key.

Things remain neat and organized when placed in a box.

I already fold socks in a similar way and have always kept things in boxes. Yay, me.

the art of decluttering

My boxes “spark joy.”

I have huge wood wine boxes, wooden cheese boxes, all kinds of cigar boxes, small paper boxes, tea and cookie tins, fancy pastry boxes (Ladurée, Paris!) So many boxes. They keep me organized and most of all, “spark joy.”

I’m obsessed with boxes. Always have been. I can trace this obsession back to a box I had as a child. It was red and made out of cardboard, and written on it was something like, “My treasure box.” (It’s likely still in the basement somewhere. Sorry, Marie.)
Marie Kondo and I have this one thing in common. Yay for boxes!
Am I a tidy person? I like to think so. My house isn’t cluttered. (Okay, fine — maybe the basement.) After watching, I realize anyone can improve their household, to some extent. And if the KonMari Method works, why not?

But for me, not so much. Maybe a little bit.

Clothing? Sure. I don’t own a lot of clothes or shoes. I can get rid of a few things — no problem. But my pile would be a hill, not a mountain. Some kitchen stuff? A few things, sure.

the art of decluttering

Books, papers, and sentimental stuff? Not happening.

For instance, I have a tall tin of random buttons. Sure, I’ll probably never use them. And they’re a mess. But the mess is in a tin box. The tin “sparks joy,” and so do the buttons. Which is why I would never get rid of it.

My mother and daughter each have similar tins. (It’s a weird family thing.) Once in a while I like to dump the buttons out and visit them. Is it clutter? NO. Pure joy.

Now about those SAT scores.

Why on earth would I keep those, and my old report cards, and my AP French test scores, to mention a few things? Why?

Because it’s my history. I have two children and someday, they’ll get to know their mother by looking at all the paper trails. They’ll have a sense of who I was before they knew me.

I’ve saved letters and cards from childhood. Not only will they get to know me, but they’ll have a better understanding of the era I came from.

So that’s why I keep those things.

What’s going to happen?

In our new digital age, there will be no paper trails, barely any cards, or photos. Is someone going to find an old i-phone or lap-top and search back-ups? And photos? Who has photos? Is the Cloud going to be any help at all?

So, no. I’m not getting rid of random papers I’ve saved. Even though looking at my embarrassing high school report card may not “spark joy.”

the art of decluttering

And “KonMari” my studio?

No. Not happening. Ever.

  • Art supplies “spark joy.”
  • Using them “sparks joy.”
  • Heck, shopping for them “sparks joy.”
  • Every tube of paint “sparks joy.”
  • Every surface — canvas, canvas paper, and wood boards “spark joy.” Oil painting paper, watercolor paper, acrylic paper, and bristol paper “spark joy.” Tissue paper, mixed media paper, and illustration board “spark joy.” (I won’t go on — you get the idea.)
  • Brushes “spark joy.” (Well most of them — not the cheap ones I’ve ruined. Okay, Marie, you can have this one thing.)
  • A gazillion finished, half finished, and empty notebooks “spark joy.”
  • Pencils, pens, and colored pencils “spark joy.”
  • Erasers and many pencil sharpeners “spark joy.”
  • Even my ancient paint-splattered glass jar I use for water “sparks joy.”
  • And books? Absolute joy sparkers. The best!

And speaking of books, when we moved a few years ago to a smaller space, I gave away lots of books.

But I have regrets.

Do you think it’s because I forgot to “thank them for their service?”

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6 Responses to The art of decluttering

  1. I loved this post and appreciate that you took the time to cover Marie Kondo. I’ve been turning a blind eye to her siren song because I don’t need her. (I kinda do.)

    What is Bristol paper? And do you like Far Niente wine? And I got either a 3 or a 4 on my AP French exam. Just saw a reference to it in my yearbook in my French tescher’s inscription. I’m just pointing out more Ani-Mithra Venn diagram overlaps.

    • Hi Mithra! I love our Venn diagram, with its growing intersection! Bristol is a smooth, layered paper with no tooth at all, good for certain drawings. I’m not much of a wine drinker, so there’s your answer. Why do you ask? I stashed my yearbook somewhere (likely in a box) and now can’t find it. Story of my life. Thanks for reading and I look forward to growing the intersection even more!

  2. Thank you for a great post. I too am a lover of buttons, boxes, baskets, tins,and all containers. I covet your containers and the wonderful sturdy shelving on which you keep them. I too save every notebook, greeting card and letter, and so many other items. I don’t mind parting with clothes I no longer wear or which no longer fit, but giving up my fabric and yarn stashes, my crafting supplies, my patterns, my books, my pill box collection, or many of my kitchen dishes and gadgets just is not going to happen. Ms. Kondo would write me off as a terrible student of her methodology.

    • Hi Marian. These wonderful things we love make life so much more fun! Glad you agree these are necessities in our lives, and certainly not to be easily discarded. Thank you for visiting!

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