The joy of getting rid of things

My bookcase

My bookcase

Clutter drives me nuts, yet other than occasionally going through my closet and sending a few bags of clothing to Goodwill, I don’t do much about it.

Someone who believes she has the answer to clutter is Marie Kondo, a professional tidier.  She’s written the book, “the life-changing magic of tidying up.” When I first put a hold on the book at my library, I was number 143 on the list. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one with the problem. The end goal of Kondo’s work in helping people get rid of things is to bring joy into their lives, the joy that comes when the clutter is gone.

I like much of what Kondo recommends.  Her approach does not call for more shelving, bins to store more things, or extra closet space. She’s merciless in telling her clients to get rid of stuff.

Her first piece of advice is not to take one room at a time, because you soon stop before you’ve accomplished anything. No, she says, Get in there and discard it all at once and do it by category, e.g., clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous items. I’m currently ignoring the “don’t try to deal with a whole room” advice, because I have one room that needs my full attention for as long as it takes.

Begin with what you want to keep. But what if you want to keep everything? Kondo says, if it gives you joy, keep it.  You pick up each item, examine it and ask yourself, “Do you give me joy?” If you can’t answer yes, dispose of it. My advice: If your neighbors can see you quizzing each of your possessions, you might consider drawing your blinds.

I’m not sure how the joy rule applies to items in the kitchen. Few spatulas give me joy; but I do see how the basic de-cluttering ideas work with clothes, books and other personal possessions, which is where she focuses.

After you group your possessions by category, work on them in that order. Clothing first, books second. Don’t start the process with the beat up Raggedy Ann doll your grandmother made for you when you were a child. When you get to a sentimental item, say a high school dance program, think back to the dance, who you were with, how much fun you had, and then move on.  The program isn’t doing a thing for you now. Same with your elementary school report card. “By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past.”

What are traps that prevent us from getting rid of stuff?  1)We think that one day we might still use it; 2) it contains information we might need at some future date; and 3) it is hard to find parts for.  This doesn’t mean you have to keep out-of-date warranties, manuals, cables and cords. And as far as paper, Kondo’s tongue-in-cheek recommendation is, “discard everything.”

Unread books?  Give them away.  If, ten years from now, you really, really wish you had read one of them (and that means you remember which books you gave away), you can always get one from the library or even buy it if it’s that important.

I recommend this book to anyone who dislikes clutter.  I appreciate Kondo’s arguments that there are only benefits attached to getting rid of things we’re no longer using.  She says, “Letting go is even more important than adding.”  And this could be said about more than our possessions.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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4 Responses to The joy of getting rid of things

  1. What you say is true. If I didn’t keep moving every two years I can only imagine how much stuff I would accumulate in forty years.

  2. Shirley says:

    Ann, I just got my library copy and will read it in the next few days, after I finish Boys on the Boat which arrived a few days ago. I think I was 200th+ for that book. Thanks for your comments. If I could get through sifting through one room, that would be great. Thanks for the encouragement.

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