Marie Kondo vs a literal can of beans
July 11, 2016 6:37 PM   Subscribe

People had an unnaturally strong reaction to the arrival of this woman and her promises of life-changing magic. There were people who had been doing home organizing for years by then, and they sniffed at her severe methods. (One professional American organizer sent me a picture of a copy of Kondo’s book, annotated with green sticky notes marking where she approved of the advice and pink ones where she disapproved. The green numbered 16; the pink numbered more than 50). But then there were the women who knew that Kondo was speaking directly to them. They called themselves Konverts, and they say their lives have truly changed as a result of using her decluttering methods: They could see their way out of the stuff by aiming upward. NYT Magazine article, comments mostly worth browsing.
posted by dorothyisunderwood (170 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love throwing stuff out (I'm turning into my mother), but I also just subscribed to Country Living and I'm close to turning my suburban ranch into a kitschy country farmhouse, chock full of rustic modern cutesy warm inviting things I can buy at Target. #TheStruggleIsReal
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:48 PM on July 11, 2016 [17 favorites]


I've discovered that if I make myself tidy up before going shopping I buy way way less off my list. It's much easier to resist a cute bargain when you've just cleared a similar cute bargain you never actually used (or an expired can from the pantry) because your brain has sort of reset into a "you actually have plenty of stuff" mode and you can browse without feeling like you need to fill up on stuff.

I was all excited about going to Ikea for a big shopping trip, but had just cleared a stationary cupboard unrelated to that, and came home with LESS than what I had planned to buy because I decided I could make do with some older things rather than buy the shiny Ikea gadget - discovering this awful one weird brain trick.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:58 PM on July 11, 2016 [35 favorites]


Oh god now Eyebrows is NEVER gonna shut up about this. (This has nothing to do with jealousy because my place is, uh, not tidy.)
posted by jeather at 7:04 PM on July 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


I can't say I've read Marie Kondo's book nor was I aware that there's an entire profession dedicated to organizing people's stuff. I am thankful to her, though, because without her I would have never heard the term "crouton petter".
posted by indubitable at 7:06 PM on July 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


The greatest enemy of Capitalism is the idea that you can be happy with enough.
posted by mhoye at 7:06 PM on July 11, 2016 [34 favorites]


Not certain if apropos but Can o' Beans appears in a Tom Robbins book.
posted by sammyo at 7:06 PM on July 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


I am currently working on the Life-changing Magic of Not Living in Squalor, and it's going to be a while before I get to the Marie Kondo level of life-changing magic. Right now I'm happy that I can get everything off the floor once a week so I can vacuum. Not all of my stuff brings me joy, but the absence of dust bunnies is making me happier than I was when I was having asthma attacks on a regular basis.

I dunno. Kondo isn't my speed, but she does seem to inspire a weird level of vitriol, and not just from professional organizers.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:15 PM on July 11, 2016 [17 favorites]


A friend of mine did a modified version of this and, while she never became a "Konvert", it seems to have really worked for her and genuinely made her life better.

Like all flash-in-the-pan trends, there are always people who take the entire thing far too seriously, but if it works for them and makes them happy, who are we to judge?

Personally, I deal with the "too much stuff" problem by being too cheap to buy anything in the first place.
posted by madajb at 7:17 PM on July 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I just finished KonMari-ing my WHOLE HOUSE literally yesterday so this is relevant to my interests! I joke about it being a cult and my relatives all tease me, but I gotta say I approve of this cult and it mostly worked really well for me. It took me a little over a year to work my way through the house, making appropriate adjustments for a) being American (like a lot of Americans I did as much "functional category" as possible but also went room-by-room) and b) having kids.

Insights I found particularly helpful:
-We keep a lot of stuff out of obligation -- This was a gift from someone I love even though I hate the object so I'd feel guilty getting rid of it; when I lose these 20 pounds I'll wear this again; this is an ugly jacket but I paid $140 for it so I should keep it even if I don't wear it. (Also, that other people sometimes give us their sentimental cast-offs so that WE have to do the emotional labor of keeping the object and caring for it because THEY don't want to.) Realizing how much stuff I really didn't like that I was keeping around because I "should" was really useful for me -- a problem I did not know I had until she framed it for me, and then realized I had this problem IN SPADES.

-If you Kondo your space, the people who live with you will get inspired and Kondo theirs. This actually happened! It took about a week for my husband to get jealous of my super-decluttered closet and attack his own. I have been after him to clean out his clothes for 15 years (he is way worse a clothes packrat than I am) -- all it took was doing my own and him seeing how pleasing the results were! His decluttering is not as thorough as mine, but he has been doing it!

-Avoid organizational solutions because people selling organizational solutions are mostly drug pushers who are selling ways for you to own more crap. MIND BLOWN. I've got that bit in my brain that loves sailboat kitchens and office supply stores and closet systems because so much stuff can be so efficiently organized with the right tools! But it's a trap! (At least for me.)

-It really is ... joyful, I guess? to look into your closet and see only clothes that fit and you like and you wear. I have a bazillion books and I only purged a few, but I'm surprised how much more I like glancing at my shelves now that every single book on there is one I like. (I got rid of the ones that were like "I read this but didn't like it but I guess I have to keep it because I read it?" or "I'm never going to read this ever and I feel guilty about that.") Not everything in my living space makes me smile, but a much higher percentage of it does now, and that's nice.

-Some people prefer to frame it in the William Morris way, that instead of "sparks joy," you keep things that you "know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." Functionally the same as what Kondo says when she actually explains it all out.

Disputes:
-Going by functional category is great, but it's really hard in a multi-person household, in houses the size of American houses. Some categories were easy (all my clothes at once) but others are really tricky to do AND keep a whole household functioning while you do it AND gather all the stuff in one place. A lot of Americans do a mix of functional category and room-by-room, which is what I ended up doing.

-I don't thank my purse and I don't fold my socks so they can relax. But the idea that my objects have a purpose and maybe that purpose is not with me, or maybe they've finished it, that was helpful. I think it also helps to recognize how steeped in Shinto a lot of the talking-to-objects is; it's a little less eccentric when you realize that.

-I tried some of the clothes-folding and some of it was really nice and worked great, and some of it was ridiculous and I am just never going to do that. I stuck with the ones that worked well and ignored the ones that didn't, especially if I already liked how my stuff was organized. (Unanticipated bonus: folding things so they stand on end lined up in the drawer has actually worked really well for my KIDS, who can now go find the pants they want without pulling every darn pair out of the drawer, a frequent complaint at our house.)

-I am perhaps a bad cult member but I feel like having finished a "first pass" over the course of a year, I could now go back and do it AGAIN and do it better because I learned a lot, and going through a whole family home kinda piecemeal I got rid of a lot of the obvious crap and low-hanging fruit, but now that my whole house is "clearer" I think I would be able to more accurately pick out unnecessary objects. I don't know if I wasn't "one and done" with the big hurricane of tidying because I'm not good at it, or because I have two children under 8, or if it's not realistic for many people, but it's okay, I've learned a lot and really shifted how I think about my possessions so I don't mind if I have to keep at it to keep the house controlled.

My house actually still has a lot of stuff in it, and does not look "minimalist" at all ... it looks like a small 1950s house with multiple children who don't put away their toys and two adults who have a weakness for tchochkes. But I have space in my closets! And I have a couple empty cabinets! And I can mostly find things when I want them! And if I can manage to clean up everything in the living room, it all actually has a place to go! And now I only own ONE teapot I never use!

Anyway. Clearly not the system for everyone, but she correctly identified many of my personal clutter problems and her solutions mostly worked pretty well for me, so I approve! And gush about it a lot because I am excited about it. AND YES I GOT RID OF ALL THE PENS IN THE JUNK DRAWER THAT WERE NOT BRINGING ME JOY, AND YES THIS ACT MADE ME HAPPY.

(PS, I no longer have a junk drawer.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:17 PM on July 11, 2016 [155 favorites]


I'll tell you what, as someone with anxiety related to throwing things out (not not possessing things, just filling landfills with my old things) I would LOVE to bid farewell to the things that don't give me ~~~joy, but fucking Craigslist people ghost on arranged pick-ups like 85% of the time. PLEASE JUST LET ME GIVE YOU MY SHIT FOR FREE OMG JUST COME AND GET IT WHEN YOU SAY YOU WILL. Is there a Konmari plan for this problem?
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:18 PM on July 11, 2016 [17 favorites]


Also, if there isn't a "Kondo 4 Kids" yet, there soon will be.

Look for it on a Facebook parents group near you!
posted by madajb at 7:18 PM on July 11, 2016


Is there a Konmari plan for this problem?
Where I live, there's a drive-through Goodwill drop-off. That's my solution to the problem.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:21 PM on July 11, 2016 [13 favorites]


I read the first of her books when I was getting ready to move coasts and it certainly did make the process easier. I was able to get rid of way more of my books and needless things. That simple question of "does this inspire joy" has been superb. And getting rid of gifts.

The only thing that irked me about her is that she says in her book that her method works 100% of the time for everyone who fully commits to it, like all of her clients. And she repeats it several times and I ended up rolling my eyes.

Alton Brown's thing of never buying any single use utensils has also been really helpful. Although I never have made anything with my waffle iron other than waffles and maybe I won't.
posted by Neronomius at 7:22 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


All of this seems to have much more to do with managing anxiety than "organizing" from the way it's written. All the little rituals and rules.

I don't hesitate to discard many things, though; I'm not very sentimental about stuff. But I like it, so I still have a lot of it, though maybe not as much as some people? I have no idea. We've moved so much that I've had to become ruthless to keep from killing myself with packing/unpacking. I pick things up because I hate dirt, but I'm not particularly concerned about tidyness. If the clutter is made up of stuff that is clean, I'll ignore it. I'll even like it. My house is only really tidy if we're having people over, because then I like to get out all the little candles and fancy hand towels and things I normally never use, and make people feel welcome and happy. The rest of the time, eh. Clutter is kind of cozy.

I do worry about things going into landfills, so whenever I can recycle things I don't want, that makes me feel better. It distresses me that it's so hard to recycle ruined/too-worn furniture, for example; I'd love to know that a crappy old couch would not go in the landfill but be disassembled/reused as much as possible for the wood and metal and so on. What I really want is a Star Trek synthesizer that breaks down unwanted stuff into reusable molecules.
posted by emjaybee at 7:34 PM on July 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


Avoid organizational solutions because people selling organizational solutions are mostly drug pushers who are selling ways for you to own more crap. MIND BLOWN. I've got that bit in my brain that loves sailboat kitchens and office supply stores and closet systems because so much stuff can be so efficiently organized with the right tools! But it's a trap!

Could you expand on this? I honestly thought the entire point was to be organized. If organizational solutions are a trap, I think maybe I don't get it at all. I would like to be organized. I am fine throwing a lot of stuff away, but I mostly want to be organized.

Alton Brown's thing of never buying any single use utensils has also been really helpful.

Yeah, except he's a total hypocrite about it. I mean, in one episode of Good Eats he made a multi-level steamer to make chicken wings; if that's not a uni-tasker I don't know what is. Also, garlic press, cold dead hands, etc.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 7:48 PM on July 11, 2016


I do this naturally but the downside is that it's hard for me to buy something when I truly need it because it's just not the right one. I can get anxious when having to buy just whatever to make do. So you can be too konmarie about it. Not everything has to be just so.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:48 PM on July 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Just doing the 'does it spark joy' thing has helped my kid declutter a lot of stuff*. I had a friend do it with her kids and their closets recently and she said it was revelatory for them and her. I have been combining the wardrobe stuff with Project 33 and it's been great as well.

But yeah, it is about anxiety for me, particularly in terms of tidying/get rid of objects (poverty-induced 'what if I need it' and guilt on gifts/sunk costs). Also the ritualising is helpful - I've noticed my daughter is more and more inclined to fold up her stuff and put it away neatly when we make a routine of it, with either music or me reading to her while she folds and sorts and tidies. It's calming so it is becoming part of the bedtime routine now.

*It did lead to her holding up a Ken doll and intoning "I do not want this. It only gives me sadness."
posted by geek anachronism at 7:49 PM on July 11, 2016 [84 favorites]


I found some of the writing in the article to be less than great, e.g.:

...everyone else’s faces engaged in wide-eyed, open-mouthed incredulous agreement, nodding emphatically up and down, skull to spine and chin to chest...

...and the room nodded, yes, yes, in emphatic agreement, heads bobbing and mouths agape in wonder that something so simple needed to be taught to them...

It felt very disparaging to me of the people who are there, and my guess is that a better, more sympathetic writer would have brought out their stories instead of making cheap fun of them. People weren't there because they were stupid or duped, they were there because this is a method that clearly speaks to many people in our society.

I find minimalism and decluttering interesting without ever having felt a great need to apply one of these systems to my own life. I've been using the much less effective "move frequently and get rid of stuff randomly" approach, and while it keeps the total possessions at bay it fails at the bring-joy part of things.

This and the previous discussions of Mari Kondo are so interesting because of how people adapt it to meet their needs, like in Eyebrows' comment above.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:56 PM on July 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


I had to put Marie Kondo's book down forever after the third or fourth time it made me shriek "NO!!" and grasp a tattered sock tightly to my chest. So I can see why people find her powerful.
posted by threeants at 7:59 PM on July 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


But then there is this:

"It’s a book if you’re a 20-something Japanese girl and you live at home and you still have a bunch of your Hello Kitty toys and stuff,” another NAPO member told me, which, while not the only thing a professional organizer told me that was tinged with an aggressive xenophobia and racism, it is the only one that can run in a New York Times article.

I think that's what I've found most difficult with the objections to Kondo - it's often steeped with a kind of patronising 'well she is just Japanese/not a parent/naturally tidy/naive' when for the most part, her strategies are sound.

I do like how she puts it, that her strategy might 'invoke joy' for some but not all.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:01 PM on July 11, 2016 [16 favorites]


I found some of the writing in the article to be less than great
Yeah, the article could really have done with some editing. The author also used "misnomer" to mean misperception rather than using a name or term incorrectly:
They don’t like that you have to get rid of all of your papers, which is actually a misnomer: Kondo just says you should limit them because they’re incapable of sparking joy, and you should confine them to three folders...
posted by peacheater at 8:02 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


The NHK has apparently been reading my comments here because they've quite recently begun uploading basically everything they broadcast on NHK World to YouTube.

This includes Tidy Up with KonMari, which aired a couple of months ago. It serves as a decent introduction that can be watched in under an hour if one is not feeling up to reading the article.

I just had to go through everything I owned and pare it down under a deadline. I have to say I feel like Kondo gave me permission to ruthlessly purge everything not essential.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:02 PM on July 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


"All of this seems to have much more to do with managing anxiety than "organizing" from the way it's written. All the little rituals and rules."

I think a lot of the "little rituals" are fairly clearly rooted in Shinto, not American anxiety issues, and that part of the book doesn't culturally translate particularly well. I tried some of it, ignored some of it, and didn't really worry about it. It's just a book. It's not going to, like, whack you upside the head if you don't follow 100% of its rules!

Could you expand on this? I honestly thought the entire point was to be organized. If organizational solutions are a trap, I think maybe I don't get it at all.

Not so much that you don't organize, but that you organize LAST. If you go to a closet store, they'll be like "If you just buy our closet system, all your stuff will finally fit in your closet and be neatly organized!" KonMari points out that's backwards and clutter-encouraging; first you should go through your closet and get rid of the junk and ONLY THEN do you go and buy a small belt rack for your four belts instead of jumbo belt rack for your 30 belts of which you wear just four. She encourages starting with the natural organizational abilities of things you already have (like your dresser drawers) and when you've finished decluttering, see what's left.

I personally have always, always labored under the happy delusion that if I just bought the right organizing system, my crap would all be under control. With the result that I had a shelf in the basement full of unused organizing systems (special hangers, drawer dividers, etc.) that turned out not to work! I really did need to be told that buying organizers with the hope of controlling my overload of junk would not make me own less junk; I'd own the same amount of junk, now with bonus organizers!

I did in the end buy a few things -- toy storage for the kids' toys was a big one, which went in place of some furniture I sold on Craigslist and basically paid for itself that way. Photo storage boxes. A couple of weekly-style pill boxes for small post earrings. A few tupperware-type storage boxes. But in most cases when I was done decluttering I either didn't NEED an organizer, or the organizers I already had beating around the house not organizing things worked just fine.

(Also I begged diaper boxes off friends who still had kids in diapers for temporary storage and stacking while a particular area was a work in progress -- it can be legit hard to sort through all that junk and wait until the end to buy storage. Diaper boxes are hella sturdy AND have handles. And then can go in the recycling guilt-free.)

--

For disposal of excess objects, I Craigslisted some of it (mostly if it was cash-worthy), consigned some clothes, and donated most of the rest to a local Goodwill-type organization. If I'd had somewhere to store and stage it I would have saved up a bunch of it for the neighborhood garage sale, but if I'd had somewhere to store and stage it I probably wouldn't have been decluttering the house in the first place, so Catch-22.

Some AskMe tips I also incorporated:
-Get rid of the worst five things. Sometimes I'd be paralyzed looking at a category of stuff and trying to start sorting it, but I could almost always identify the five worst things and decide I was getting rid of those. Usually getting started made it easier to keep going.

-I decided it was okay to put some sentimental items in boxes for later; it was better to start with 8 boxes of crap and end up with 1 of probably-crap that I couldn't part with and move on to the next thing than to stew over that last box for days on end. I figure I'll go back to it in six months or a year and see how I feel then. The perfect is the enemy of the good! (Also it's just a book, it's not actually a crime if I keep some boxes of random crap around because I don't want to part with it!)

-When looking at sentimental keepsakes, think about the best one (or two or five) keepsakes that you have from that person. It was really hard for me to part with things that were gifts from my mom (who's still alive and visiting me next week! there's nothing depressing here!) because I love my mom so much, but honestly I own dozens and dozens of things she gave me, many of which I adore and use frequently, and there's no reason to hang on to my broken college alarm clock (for reals) just because it was a gift from my mom. I already have keepsakes from her that are much more meaningful to me and it's okay to keep just the best ones.

-You can take pictures of things! Things that you kind-of don't want to keep but kind-of want to remember, you can take digital pictures of! And then they pop up in my digital picture rotation every few months and I go, "Awwww, that thing was so great!" instead of being stuck in a drawer being ignored and forgotten for ten years.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:05 PM on July 11, 2016 [46 favorites]


I am a life long hoarder but I think I might be ready to stop carrying my whole life around with me after the last year or so, when I: 1) read this book; 2) had a business collapse which lead directly to the loss of my house, and at the same time, a large porportion of my belongings (not, I hasten to add, anything very precious or essential, but a LOT of 'better hang onto that' type stuff) and 3) a growing interest in de-growth. I never thought my attitude would ever change, but I find myself far more able to stop buying stuff I don't really need and getting rid of stuff I don't really want. It is, for me, nothing short of liberating.
posted by glitter at 8:09 PM on July 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


she does seem to inspire a weird level of vitriol

Yes, my completely normal boyfriend went full on hoarder-anxiety when I suggested reading her book! So much hostility, on the real.

You can take pictures of things! Things that you kind-of don't want to keep but kind-of want to remember, you can take digital pictures of!

Hahaha, that's what he did the whole time we were moving out, photographing everything it was hard for him to throw away... while I found it very amusing, because I am very good at getting rid of things.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:12 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


there's no reason to hang on to my broken college alarm clock (for reals) just because it was a gift from my mom

Oh yes, one of the things we had to talk through very carefully was an iPod-dock alarm clock charger contraption, that he said was one of the first things he spent his own money on. I was like, dude, you don't even have an iPod anymore, and you're neeeever going to have one again. But I can see how it would feel sentimental. Despite being total junk. (I promise I was being very respectful in person.)
posted by stoneandstar at 8:13 PM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've not read her book but from what I've seen, and like Eyebrows mentioned a few posts up, there's a fairly direct connection to Shinto, and I wasn't surprised to see that she herself served as a Shinto shrine maiden when she was younger.

Especially in relation to discarding items with ceremonious respect - this is a big part of the Shinto idea that everything has a soul, and it's also a common service offered by shrines: the discarding of precious items or items deserving respect, usually by fire, in an annual ceremony. People especially follow this practice for anthropomorphized things like dolls and stuffed animals; here's a Japan Times article documenting one such ceremony.

I find all those old Shinto traditions equally hokey and fascinating; but I think it does have a positive subconscious effect on society by reminding people to be respectful of everyone and everything.
posted by p3t3 at 8:15 PM on July 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


I love how the book implicitly implores you to get rid of it when you're done with it. We used a library copy and it made me pleased to have access to a public library system.
posted by aniola at 8:25 PM on July 11, 2016 [17 favorites]


For those who have not yet read the book but are interested, I can vouch for the audiobook version. It is nice to listen to (although she would likely implore you not to listen to it while tidying as that is best done in silence). I listened to it on my commute to and from work and could hardly wait to start tidying once I got home. I'm doing a major purge of unwanted things from my house before I move later this year, and the book has helped a lot.
posted by bananana at 8:39 PM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well, I'm basically a hoarder. As I realize anew every time I tidy up because the landlord is coming and look at the dusty print of Guernica that hung in the apartment my dad briefly rented when my mom was divorcing him 15 or so years ago and which I have never actually bothered to hang in any of the places I've lived in. So, my take? Whatever works. Whatever gets you there, gets you most of the way, gets you just doing the basic self care of not constantly having a horrible living space.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:39 PM on July 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


For me, the act of saying goodbye to things was what freed me of keeping so many of them. That was a life-changing revelation for me. Granted, my husband thought I was a loony for saying goodbye to a set of leg warmers, until I told him the story of how I got them, and when I wore them, and how those holes got there, and why I'd kept them for all these years, but you know, as stupid as it sounds, being able to remember those times, and thank them for being part of it, made it ok, somehow in my head, to be able to let go of the physical item. I'll always have metaphysical legwarmers, as it were.

I've not been able to do the entire house, cause other people live here, and store their stuff here, and it's rude to say bye to their stuff for them, and also, we haven't had a roof for 3 months now, and most of our stuff has been packed away in the hopes that someday we'll have a roof again. (The roofers didn't show up again today. I'm beginning to think they are mythical.)

But while I was packing up my library, I took the opportunity to get rid of stuff I wasn't likely to read again, or authors I've fallen out of love with, or books I always meant to read but hadn't gotten to in over a decade. And it felt ok to say goodbye to them, and thank them for hanging around and being entertaining and sending them off to a new home.

I'm really hoping, as the house gets ceilings and walls and paint and stuff done, and we can move stuff back into rooms, that I'm mindful as I decide which stuff goes back, because it's so easy to get trapped by stuff.

So, I wouldn't say I'm a Konvert, but I would say that her accidental introduction of the Shinto traditions into my reality was a game changer for me.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:43 PM on July 11, 2016 [14 favorites]


I really enjoyed the article :) Hubs bought the book and I will probably thrift it because it has mostly gone unread. It might be magical - but it only magicked away $20 :D I tried reading it, but it wasn't for me. It seemed like anything else that promises happiness if you just buy the book, plus I have been decluttering for some time. But props to those it helps!

Personally I find having a small parrot to be the most useful path to decluttering and a long term strategy to cure materialism. Suddenly every potential purchase revolves around one question - "Is the parrot capable of destroying this?" 95% of the time the thing goes back on the shelf. A lot of things went out the door after said parrot decided they were/were not part of his nest building plan. I figure I am good for the next 16 years :D
posted by Calzephyr at 8:46 PM on July 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


Spark Joy has a lovely anecdote at the end about her dad asking her to help him sort through his things after a lifetime of basically raising an eyebrow at his daughter's quirks, and her writing with quiet happiness about how it felt to connect with her dad about discovering what mattered to him through his selections of what he decided to keep and what he decided to let go (not very much it turned out), but that both of them saw value in what she did.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:46 PM on July 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Serious question: what do you do if you are a storyteller with bad memory and nearly everything you own sparks joy?

Like, I have a collection of DVDs that I got on deployment, and I never want to watch the movies again, but when I hold each one in my hand I can remember the story of how I got them and came to them and the friends I had forgotten. And without them, I really will never remember those people or those stories ever again - they will be gone forever and that will bring me sadness.
posted by corb at 8:47 PM on July 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


The other day Mr Corpse, both smaller Corpses, the two cats, and I ended up standing by the front door together. I eyed them one by one, then told them that they all sparked joy and were allowed to stay.

Given the purges that have happened in here over the past year or two -- my clothes, their clothes, shoes, cleaning supplies, pens, books, the list goes on and on -- they were relieved.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:47 PM on July 11, 2016 [18 favorites]


For those looking for ways to get rid of their unwanted stuff that don't involve sitting at home for six hours waiting for that one person from Craigslist to show up, I recommend GiveBackBox: take any empty box, fill it with donatable things, tape it shut, print out the GiveBackBox shipping label, slap it on there, and send the box off to your nearest charity (usually a Goodwill) via UPS or USPS. As the website points out, anyone who regularly mail-orders things will have no shortage of empty boxes. We shipped a dozen boxes of culled books off to Goodwill recently for no cost (other than like $3 to schedule a UPS pickup because our local USPS people are awful and we don't have a car) and no hassle--it was beautiful.

I keep thinking about the Kondo method and keep being apprehensive. It's very easy for me to find joy in things, especially nostalgic joy, but still have them be things I shouldn't necessarily bother keeping. What I really want to do is scan things like family photos and childhood artwork and those wacky letters from my boyfriend when I was 17, so that I can free up physical storage space but still have access to the records of my history. But that would require me to have a) a lot of free time and b) a good way of organizing my digital files. If Kondo ever writes a book on KonMari-ing a few hundred gigabytes of photos and documents, I will be all over it. In the meantime, any tips/resources would be very welcome.
posted by rosefox at 8:48 PM on July 11, 2016 [18 favorites]


corb: one option is to keep all the DVDs. If they're not creating problems in your life, why not?

If they take up too much room, you could consider if photographs of them would do the same job.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:49 PM on July 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


You could also get fancy and, like, take photos of the DVDs (or just pull the cover art from imdb), turn it into a photo collage poster, and hang the poster near where you store the DVDs you actually watch! And donate the physical DVDs.

But if everything you own already sparks joy and you're content with your living space, you kinda already won the game and probably don't need the book!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:52 PM on July 11, 2016 [14 favorites]


" we had accumulated.. toilet paper .. but hadn’t (and still haven’t) learned how to dispose of (it)."

I do not not want to visit their house, and suddenly do not have great faith in the NYTimes' ability to hire reporters.
posted by bswinburn at 9:03 PM on July 11, 2016 [14 favorites]


Unanticipated bonus: folding things so they stand on end lined up in the drawer has actually worked really well for my KIDS, who can now go find the pants they want without pulling every darn pair out of the drawer, a frequent complaint at our house.)

Mind. Blown. You may have just changed my life.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:05 PM on July 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Mallory Ortberg's piece on the Kondo phenomenon was one of my favorite Toast (RIP) articles: How To Get Rid Of Clutter And Live Abundantly
posted by bibliowench at 9:12 PM on July 11, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'll tell you what, as someone with anxiety related to throwing things out (not not possessing things, just filling landfills with my old things)

I suspect that most ways of avoiding this amount to someone else putting your stuff in the landfill, perhaps a few years later.
posted by thelonius at 9:12 PM on July 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


I love stuff and I have enough room for it all. Kondo advocates throwing out stuff and then buying more.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:22 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


> Kondo advocates throwing out stuff and then buying more

I don't remember that from the book (which I read from the library on a Kindle, so Kondo-y). She wants people to have less stuff in general. On the DoubleX Gabfest podcast one of the hosts described Kondo as coming across as anorexic towards possessions.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:27 PM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


> I suspect that most ways of avoiding this amount to someone else putting your stuff in the landfill, perhaps a few years later.

Nothing concentrates the mind on decluttering your own stuff, as coming home from another week trying to clear the house of a deceased relative. I used to be pretty minimal, but I swear if I find myself dying while in possesion of anything more than a comfy bed, I will spend my last moments apologising and trying to light a match. Clutter, and especially babyboomer never-throw-anything-away-it-might-be-useful hoarding, is post-mortem bullying of the meanest sort.

I might be a little bitter about this. But still, the passing of the babyboomers won't just overload the landfills: I think it'll trigger a huge psychological shift in the ones who have to deal with the crap they leave behind. Triggering is probably the right word here, too.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 9:39 PM on July 11, 2016 [31 favorites]


But if everything you own already sparks joy and you're content with your living space, you kinda already won the game and probably don't need the book!

I mean, the problem is really that I do not own a house sufficient for what I consider my family needs. But in the meanwhile, I need to live in the space we have and still be able to find stuff.

But I see from the article she acknowledged it's not for everyone, so there's that!

(The pictures are an interesting idea though)
posted by corb at 9:43 PM on July 11, 2016


DangerIsMyMiddleName is right. My wife is obsessed with decluttering after losing her mother, father, and aunt over the last several years. It's a total exhausting slog going through someone else's possessions with any sort of care, especially when they had that hoarding mentality. Her dad was super organized on paper which turns out to mean that he had shitloads of junk tucked away everywhere.
posted by aydeejones at 9:58 PM on July 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


I have a somewhat perpendicular problem - I have somewhat more cats than most normal people have. And as long as they don't start fighting as I try to go to sleep (rare) or wake me up an hour or two before I intend (painfully common) they bring me an enormous amount of joy. But instead of contesting myself with a bed, a laptop and a couple of tables, I have to have enough things so that the space we live in doesn't look big and cavernous.
posted by wotsac at 10:01 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I haven't read the book, but picked up two concepts from reading about the book that were invaluable when moving house last year: the purpose of gifts is to be given and received, and of course retaining objects causing joy sparks/pleasure rumbles/quiet contentment. Every Goodwill box packed with unloved sweaters and neglected velvet blazers and unused art supplies was a further sparkle of joy! New house is so airy and tidy and free from debris! I shared these findings with my mom, who is clearing out her late mother's house, and the freedom from gift-maintenance was especially welcomed and celebrated tearfully.

And then like a total chump a few months ago I accepted some necklaces from my mom, which were acquired and then forgotten by my grandma before she could give them to my sister and I for our birthdays. I tried to wear them but they're not my style and then I foolishly asked my mom if she wanted them back and she said no but don't give them to Goodwill, they are too nice and should go to someone who will like them or at least reuse the beads. So here I am with the "sentimental cast-offs" and "the emotional labor of keeping the object and caring for it" in the oh-so-accurate words of Eyebrows McGee. The grandma necklaces sit next to my wedding ring and watch me with beady garnet eyes while I sleep.

Maybe we both need to actually read the book this time.

KonMari clearly requires honesty with oneself, but does the method require complete truthfulness with family?
posted by esoterrica at 10:16 PM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Clutter, and especially babyboomer never-throw-anything-away-it-might-be-useful hoarding

This is fascinating to me, because it's the first time I've seen this phenomenon anecdotally framed as a boomer issue and not a lived-through-the-Depression generation issue. I don't doubt it's a real thing -- there are NYT articles about the businesses that sprang up to handle helping baby boomers declutter -- it's just interesting to see how the Depression is sliding out of the frame of reference. Then again, I've only cleaned out the homes of people who lived through the Depression. I have yet to clear out a Baby Boomer's house.

And there was this articles about how the baby boomers were shocked -- shocked! -- to discover their kids did not want their stuff, and how the entire frame of reference for family heirlooms and belongings is shifting. The comments on that article show how many different types of emotional weight people attach to the very idea of belongings. I haven't read the Kondo book -- I'm one of nature's born declutterers -- but the articles around Kondo seem to suggest that one of the benefits of her method is how it forces people to reckon with the feelings attached to acquiring, keeping and disposing of stuff. If that's the case, hooray for anything that helps people have a more mindful relationship with the things they choose to bring into, and keep in, their lives.
posted by sobell at 10:50 PM on July 11, 2016 [18 favorites]


KonMari is more about being mindful with your stuff (self-link) rather than decluttering & getting rid of as much stuff as possible. I feel like people who assume it's just "less stuff is best!" missed the point of KonMari.

Also I find it rather suspicious that there's been decluttering and minimalist and organising movements/trends/fads for ages, but suddenly a foreign woman of colour whose practice is rooted in her traditional culture becomes famous and everyone has a thinkpiece about how her ways are weird or "wtf spark joy" or "she just doesn't understand Americans". Hmmmmm.
posted by divabat at 10:54 PM on July 11, 2016 [23 favorites]


Kondo advocates throwing out stuff and then buying more

... what? When?

Every campaign I've ever led to organize or cleanse or declutter a living space has met resistance from the guy I'm dating at the time. And I usually lead by example, so it's not just me pointing to all his stuff and saying "THIS NEEDS TO GO!" It's me wanting to have room to get to my desk without banging my leg, or room in the cabinet for all the glasses that we actually use instead of the souvenir plastic cups that have been collecting dust for two years but never move so the other glasses never make it in. I just don't get it, man. Getting rid of stuff is fun.

I feel like there is a masculine version of this where you just live life free, no regrets, no possessions, just the pack on your back! But when women do it in their living spaces it becomes veeeeeryyyy stupid, I guess. (And when a woman of color does it, or even TELLS YOU what to do, well, she's a weird pseudo-religious nut.)
posted by stoneandstar at 10:54 PM on July 11, 2016 [18 favorites]


I have a somewhat perpendicular problem - I have somewhat more cats than most normal people have. And as long as they don't start fighting as I try to go to sleep (rare) or wake me up an hour or two before I intend (painfully common) they bring me an enormous amount of joy.

The other evening, I asked my partner to sit down with me and chat for a few minutes on his way to bed. I was sitting at the dining room table. It took him three or four tries before he found a chair that didn't have a cat sleeping in it.

Reading about Kondo being very tidy as a young person was interesting. My 15-year-old is an extremely orderly person, and his bedroom is impeccable. He has a budgie, and he sweeps up her dropped food every day. Otherwise his room is like a combination Lego museum, bookstore, and video-game emporium. He has a couple of tables that are always perfectly clear because he never knows when he'll need them to build on.

People make the standard jokes about teenagers and their messy rooms and I'm just like, "Oh yes ha ha ha."
posted by not that girl at 11:21 PM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


On the other hand, our 21-year-old recently did a room cleanout that resulted in us having to pay our trash collectors for 16 extra bags, so.
posted by not that girl at 11:22 PM on July 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


Thank you to the link for Give Back Box, rosefox. You have solved a problem for me, which is that I have some sorting and weeding to do, as well as a pile of outgrown but perfectly good kids' clothes, but I have been unwell for quite some time and taking things to a drop site is out of the question for me, and a very low priority for my partner, who is busy doing all the things I used to do in addition to all the things he used to do. Tossing these things into a box, sealing it up, and handing it off to him to drop at UPS on his way to work is going to be a tremendous help.
posted by not that girl at 11:28 PM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I dunno about anyone else, but I figured this out independently when I moved into my own place half a decade ago. I realized I was holding onto a lot of stuff specifically because it sparked sadness or wistfulness. I think what was happening was, being a bit depressed for much of my adult life, I didn't want to get rid of these "clues" to my depression. But then one day it clicked that maybe having all these mood dampeners around was part of my problem! I took photos of the ones I was having trouble saying goodbye to, then got rid of a huge amount of stuff, and felt so much better afterwards!

With clothes, because they're expensive, I have a two-step process. Step 1: take the ones I can't imagine ever wearing again out of my closest and tuck them away somewhere. Step 2: a couple months later, any article I haven't gone looking for goes into the clothing donation bin down the street. I've only ever rescued a handful of items. And I can't remember ever regretting getting rid of something. I'm just glad for the closet space.
posted by mantecol at 11:32 PM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have a friend who had one zillion ratty t-shirts left over from her concert going days. They were too ratty (and in many cases too small) for her to wear any more, but they were a sign of her former youth that she could not let go of.

Her mother, as a fortieth birthday present (with her permission) took all the T-shirts, cut them apart and isolated the design elements, stabilized them with interfacing, sewed them together, and backed the resulting patchwork with a big piece of fleece to make a throw quilt. Arguably it doesn't take up any less space but now it is one useful object instead of many useless ones.
posted by KathrynT at 12:13 AM on July 12, 2016 [26 favorites]


When threads recur like this, I'm wary of adding exactly what I wrote last time (and have an irresistible urge to add something), but:

The main thing, for me, is that she is advising people to only own things that either make them happy or are genuinely useful. If you think about it, everything else is irrelevant. Especially the things that make you feel guilty when you look at them, because you ought to like them or use them, or they ought to have changed your life.

So take responsibility for your relationship to the object (which might be a hokey thing to do, but you are feeling negative emotions - it is a real relationship), and thank the object for its service and send it on its way (I don't remember whether she explicitly says don't apologise, but I find that helpful, too). One thing that's powerful is that because it's silly, we tend to put the relationship with the object that is blocking us from getting rid of it to the back of our minds, and this puts it in front of us, which means that it's not only possible to discard the object but it can be a positive experience.

As I've mentioned before, I wouldn't want to suggest that objects have souls, but that acting towards them as if they did - as if we had a responsibility to them as we would children or animals - can be powerfully transformative.

But it's not about getting rid of lots of stuff, but rather only retaining things which make you happy or are of real practical use. It just happens that, after entering that process, people often end up getting rid of lots of stuff.
posted by Grangousier at 12:33 AM on July 12, 2016 [13 favorites]


Incidentally, although the phrase "Only surround yourselves with things that make you happy or are useful" sounds idealistic, we all do have the power to go through with it (modulated somewhat by the needs and happiness of those we live with). Recognising that can be very useful, too.
posted by Grangousier at 12:49 AM on July 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


But instead of contesting myself with a bed, a laptop and a couple of tables, I have to have enough things so that the space we live in doesn't look big and cavernous.

I have a solution wotsac. Cardboard box castles for the kitties! They will love them, you can rearrange as you please, they take up lots of space and can be recycled when the little darlings have shredded them too much.
posted by kitten magic at 12:59 AM on July 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


But then there were the women who knew that Kondo was speaking directly to them.
Most of the women at the event could not claim “tidying completed!” status
a core truth: that women have a closer connection to their surroundings than men do.
The women (and maybe three or four men) of NAPO
At Conference, I met women who organize basements. I met women who organize digital clutter. I met women who organize photos.

I had no idea that this movement was so gendered. I guess it intersects a lot with the Pinterest crowd, but I thought it was pretty universal in today's world that we all have too much crap we don't need.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:07 AM on July 12, 2016


The "thanking objects for their service" part is of course largely from Japanese culture (of course not all Japanese think this way, but my wife for example does this when she throws things away and has done so her whole life).

But I think it is an important part of the philosophy for reasons others have touched on a little. If you appreciate the thing and feel bad for throwing it away, you are much less likely to buy things you don't want or will have to get rid of. If throwing things away / recycling / etc are no big deal, then you can do the "getting rid of things" part without actually reducing how much stuff you acquire. If you really follow this idea, it becomes a huge brake on the impulse to buy things.
posted by thefoxgod at 2:11 AM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


You know how interviews with female actors always spend a paragraph on what they're wearing? This article felt like a whole bunch of that kind of sexism with an overlay of exoticization of Asian women.

I'm interested in the topic of Marie Kondo but this article was really hard to read.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:56 AM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]




I have been going through my books over the past months and it's surprising and liberating how many books I can get rid of each time. Also discovered that I have a dozen of unread books - probably should get rid of those too...
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:12 AM on July 12, 2016


We're moving house this weekend and I've been on a mission for the past few months to move with as little as possible (our home contains a four year old whose grandparents love the idea of toys more than he actually loves toys, so.) and I'm by nature an experiences-not-things kind of person but dragging my husband along through this has been... something. Despite him theoretically being the more radical anti-capitalist of the two of us, he has way way way more crap. I want to write my own version of this especially for intellectual pinko dudes who nonetheless accumulate expensive and object-oriented hobbies like a cat lady collects cats. (When I met my husband he'd just returned from a post-graduation sojourn where he'd lived for several months in a trailer and he had like two books, three cds, a couple folding chairs, his guitar and some blankets and pillows for sleeping on the floor and I thought wow! He really is living a counter-cultural lifestyle, eschewing possessions! Fifteen years later we had so many bookshelves in our little bungalow we didn't have any room for furniture, there are ten boxes of comics in the basement and the guitars keep mating. And his solution to not being able to find a thing is to just buy a new thing. We have like three bicycle pumps. And zero bicycles. It's madness.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:26 AM on July 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


My house is not organized according to the Konmari method. Quite the opposite, in fact: massive agglomerations of unrelated items, everywhere.

I call it the Katamari method.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:15 AM on July 12, 2016 [35 favorites]


What about the threat of out of control joy fire?
posted by srboisvert at 5:27 AM on July 12, 2016


(PS, I no longer have a junk drawer.)


I...I...I am speechless that such a level is even attainable.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:42 AM on July 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


Been working on this for years and have built up three overflowing bookshelves exclusively for decluttering books and dvds.
posted by sammyo at 5:44 AM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I actually work with a few NAPO organizers in my capacity as a vintage clothing dealer-- they call me when one of their clients has the kind of stuff I look for. I once spent a weekend going through closets with a 90-year-old lady and the organizer who was getting her ready to move to assisted living, and it was really hard for her to part with dresses she hadn't worn in 40 years.

I did what I've gotten in the habit of doing, when I buy from people who clearly still have a sentimental attachment to the things they're selling me: for each piece I pointed out a particularly nice feature ("oh, look at this print! I love this shade of blue. The rickrack is such a nice detail!") and frequently reassured her that her things would be finding new homes with people who'd wear and love them. It also helps to listen to the stories that come with each piece: how she wore this on her first day of college, how her mother sewed this, how the red convertible her prom date picked her up in hardly had room for all the tulle in her skirt.

As for me, I wage a constant battle with ADHD-assisted clutter, but my relationship to my stuff is definitely different that it was before I started selling vintage. I love my stuff and I have a lot of it, but I don't feel as strong of an attachment to any particular item as I used to. Possibly that's because hardly anything I own is new-- virtually all my art, furniture, housewares, and most of my clothes are secondhand-- so I know I'm not the first person to have this stuff and I almost certainly won't be the last. I'm just a custodian, for now, and if I decide I'm tired of looking at a painting or don't want to wear a dress anymore, it's a lot easier to sell it without regrets.

(however, let's not talk about the craft supply hoard. oof.)
posted by nonasuch at 6:04 AM on July 12, 2016 [19 favorites]


National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO)
posted by thelonius at 6:19 AM on July 12, 2016


I read this article this weekend. I have been intrigued by the method, although I have not read the book. I used my own version on my clothes in the bedroom, and then did the folding, and it was very very helpful. Any limitations were purely my own.

I found this article tepid. There was something there, but I didn't think the article ever got to it. The racism, the belief in American exceptionalism, even the discomfort of Kondo as her life becomes a business (although you have the sense that she's sort of fine with being a guru)...all of the really interesting things were just allusive. The other thing that was frustrating to me about the article is that it didn't even seem like much of an introduction. I would have liked to be able to hand it to my wife and tell her that this is what I have been mentioning on and off, and have her come away with a real sense of the method, but the article wasn't good for that.
posted by OmieWise at 6:23 AM on July 12, 2016


What's really horrible about this thread is that it got me started thinking about the family stuff that I (snake person/Gen X cusp, I guess) am only too delighted to have, and how many good memories are associated with those things....and then I looked up the old Staffordshire bone china flower thing that I kept from my grandparents' house and just love (I dusted that thing about a billion times when they were older and needed me to help them clean)....and I realized that no one wants these, everyone thinks they are hideous and tacky and I could collect them.

I may be the only person in the world who started out considering Kondo-ing their house and ended up with an eBay list full of 1950s bone china tat.

(In fairness to my sainted grandmother, they are actually very nice. But not to modern taste and probably a bit kitsch even at the time.)
posted by Frowner at 6:32 AM on July 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


I realized that no one wants these, everyone thinks they are hideous and tacky

I just realized that there must have been a time where young people, setting up house for the first time, thought that this kind of stuff was the bomb and showed that you had real class.
posted by thelonius at 6:39 AM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


A friend gave me this book a year and a half ago. I was totally inspired! Unfortunately, Konmari's method involves dumping everything in one category on the floor and only putting the things that "spark joy" back where they belong. As per the book, I started with clothes. After a few days (I'm not very decisive and have a lot of clothes) a big deadline came up at work and I shoved what was left of the pile under my bed so I could walk through the room. It seems like those clothes would be the ones to toss out, but about once a week, I remember some item that sparked joy and go hunting for it among the dustballs.
posted by pangolin party at 6:47 AM on July 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm in the same boat, Frowner. I read that article about "millennials don't want to inherit stuff" and got to the point about them not wanting gorgeous old wood furniture and it being sold on the cheap and I tell you it sparked joy and a desire to find furniture auctions.
posted by corb at 6:59 AM on July 12, 2016 [16 favorites]


I really enjoyed reading Kondo's book and feel the same about it as I feel about other lifehacks or etc: Take what you need and leave the rest.

I love hearing how it changed some MeFites lives though. Cool!
posted by Kitteh at 7:00 AM on July 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


And there was this articles about how the baby boomers were shocked -- shocked! -- to discover their kids did not want their stuff, and how the entire frame of reference for family heirlooms and belongings is shifting.

Yeah, I've always been pretty minimalist, because I've moved around a lot, and until a few years ago I periodically would pare back to two suitcases full of things, for moving purposes.

My mother also moves a lot, but from 5-bedroom house to 5-bedroom house, with full packing service, and never gets rid of everything. She keeps on at me to come and collect all my childhood things so she has more space, and I periodically go there, look through them, and tell her I'll happily take them all to a charity shop because there's nothing I want to keep. And then she panics and says I'll want them later (no, this has been going on for 15 years now, it's not likely to change), and refuses to get rid of them. Boomers, sigh.
posted by lollusc at 7:08 AM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Seeing that this is actually just some very basic common sense makes me feel a little better about my mother sometimes talking about this. My mother intermittently picks up odd things and gets a little worrying about them, like when she got into acupuncture and homeopathy, which she now barely remembers doing. (Currently, she says that the moon landing was faked. Not all of them, that we got there eventually, but that the first one was created to one-up the Russians. And that it was made to fool all the actual engineers at NASA control and everywhere else, that only a few people were even aware that it was faked at all.)

Me, I am apparently one of the natural declutterers that have appeared previously in-thread. I routinely discard old objects with barely a second thought. If anything, I'm a little too ready to throw things away, like paperwork that later turns out to actually have been important. The main things we have that are useless are toys for the four-year-old, who isn't good at mindfulness, and a few pieces of furniture that we don't need at present but that we might later, like a desk for when the aforementioned child has homework. My spouse, on the other hand... Like, I trimmed my clothing down pretty easily to fit in the new house and had to be prevented from throwing out all but five work shirts (why would you need more?), but they *still* have several entire shelves of things they've never worn and never will wear.
posted by Scattercat at 7:13 AM on July 12, 2016


I read that article about "millennials don't want to inherit stuff" and got to the point about them not wanting gorgeous old wood furniture and it being sold on the cheap and I tell you it sparked joy and a desire to find furniture auctions.

Yeah, as a Millenial who loves pre-WWII furniture I would like to thanks my fellow Millenials for their lack of interest, and also thank Gen X for being really into midcentury modern, because here in DC right now you can get gorgeous stuff from like 1910-1940 for a song. Which Is why I own this. And this. And this. And, well, a lot of other stuff.

That said, when my great-aunt died and I helped my mom and grandmother clean out her apartment, they kept trying to convince me to take some of her furniture, and I refused except for one small bookshelf with nice carving and a display stand I could use at work. None of it was stuff I could actually use, or that I'd enjoy using. Plus we'd just hauled ten years worth of mail and newspapers out of there and I didn't want to tempt fate re: hoarding.

I did end up with four sets of dishes, a typewriter, and all her jewelry, though. But I gave the set I didn't like to my landlady and distributed the jewelry to friends who'd wear it. And the typewriter's cool.
posted by nonasuch at 7:15 AM on July 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Boomers, sigh.

In fairness, many of the parents I know can't get their adult children to move out, much less declutter any possessions, so hoarding extra furniture and household products probably makes sense in some cases.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:15 AM on July 12, 2016


If I were still in the stage of life where I lived in share houses and moved every 6 months, I don't think I'd be real psyched to acquire a bunch of old hardwood furniture.
posted by thelonius at 7:19 AM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think I got this book last Christmas. It's in a pile around here somewhere.
posted by krix at 7:25 AM on July 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


My mother also moves a lot, but from 5-bedroom house to 5-bedroom house, with full packing service, and never gets rid of everything. She keeps on at me to come and collect all my childhood things so she has more space, and I periodically go there, look through them, and tell her I'll happily take them all to a charity shop because there's nothing I want to keep. And then she panics and says I'll want them later (no, this has been going on for 15 years now, it's not likely to change), and refuses to get rid of them.

You certainly don't have to, but it might take some emotional labor off her shoulders if you were to tell her you were taking everything that you wanted and then just donated it yourself. I've done the same for some of my loved ones' sentimental gifts (which I only felt free to do because of Konmari).
posted by R a c h e l at 7:38 AM on July 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


I wonder how long it would take my wife to notice that I've given away the George Foreman grill we haven't used since 2011 but that she won't get rid of because if she were to cook chicken, she would cook it on there. Very few items in our house give me true joy, but the Foreman is an absolute joy-sink. I get angry every time I see it.

I think she did actually read this book, but we haven't done any coordinated item-culling. We removed a bunch of stuff from the kitchen last month when we lost a bit of storage space, but I would really just love to donate everything we haven't used in the last two years. Five, if I want to be generous. Including, yes, my own junk in the attic. Ideally, I want to own about sixteen things, most of which are guitars or forks.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:42 AM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I read that article about "millennials don't want to inherit stuff" and got to the point about them not wanting gorgeous old wood furniture and it being sold on the cheap and I tell you it sparked joy and a desire to find furniture auctions.

Most of my furniture is wood and pre-war, which I bought for cheap on Craigslist. Yes, Millennials are living in smaller apartments and less interested in acquiring possessions, but there's some Malthusian stuff going on here, people. As some of WaPo commenters said, Baby Boomers inherited some stuff from older generations, but also had the opportunity to acquire lots and lots of stuff in the postwar consumerist boom. Lots and lots of furniture; unlike past generations who may have bought furniture in the past ONCE, when they were married. Several televisions, because they became much cheaper; unlike our grandparents who had one. Things to fill a larger house than our grandparents had. Plus collections!

Then they had smaller families. So a family of four siblings inheriting a few pieces of furniture from their parents becomes two siblings inheriting rooms and rooms of furniture from their parents. It's an inverted pyramid.

Even if I personally felt happiness for heirloom furniture, I do have a need for furniture now, and I don't want to wait until someone dies to start decorating my house. And later on I may not want to get rid of things I found and enjoy to make space for things others have found and enjoyed; and I certainly can't afford to commit to paying for an expensive large apartment in order to house dead people's possessions.

But if you love and want heirloom furniture from your families you'll make it work for you, rock on.
posted by Hypatia at 7:48 AM on July 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


I would love, love, love for this to be a simple process for me. It's not. I live with someone who absolutely cannot "just" get rid of things. This person has a requirement to do the charitable giving portion for federal taxes. This requires us to write every single thing down that is leaving the house, and then getting a receipt from wherever it is we donate it to. Then, at tax time, we have to go on the IRS website and enter everything in. Asking this person not to do this causes extreme anxiety and distress and while my irritation at complying is pretty big, it's nothing compared to the anxiety and distress if we don't go through all the steps. Like, I can't even just get rid of *my* stuff without the writing down, getting the receipt from St. Vincent de Paul or wherever, filing it all away in the tax folder, and then spending hours at tax time inputting everything.

It's maddening and I hate it and I just don't think there's a compromise. I have done the occasional "sneak purge" when the person is out of town but it's not like I can make a whole house of extra stuff disappear without questions. It's all related to anxiety and OCD. This person isn't a hoarder; they don't bring anything new into the house at all. It's just getting rid of the stuff that's already there that's a battle.

I, on the other hand, am absolutely not attached to things, except the stuff my kids make/made, and photos. I can happily get rid of an entire closet of clothing or whatever. My mindset is that we're well enough off that if we absolutely need Thing X that we haven't actually needed in the past 10 years after we get rid of it? We can buy another one. But FFS, if we haven't used it in 10 years, do we really *need* it? No.

There are boxes of books, etc. in the basement that we haven't touched since we moved into the house SIXTEEN FUCKING YEARS AGO. Literally haven't touched once. Why on earth do we need to see what's in those boxes? They haven't been opened in 16 years. We could literally just give the boxes to St. Vincent de Paul, who could then look through them and determine what they could re-sell. Nope. We have to go through them and catalog, etc., etc.

It's so tiring. I don't know what to do.
posted by cooker girl at 7:55 AM on July 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Which Is why I own this. And this. And this. And, well, a lot of other stuff.

Brb, going furniture shopping. I have hitherto resisted because I have stuff from my grandparents....but I really don't have enough shelf/hutch/sideboard things. And I'd like a rocking chair.

I have a couple of pieces of mid-century, actually, that I got before the prices went up, but honestly one of the nice things about many midcentury designs is that they do work perfectly well with other things - that's what you see in photos of actual period rooms.

See, this is why I am a bad person. I read about decluttering and my basic response is "you don't want your stuff?" [incredulous pause] "Well, just bring it by my place."
posted by Frowner at 7:56 AM on July 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


Over the course of about five years, I (along with some friends and my wife) had to clean out the apartments of no less than three dead people who made no plans whatsoever for what happens to their stuff when they die. Four+ generations of stuff of families formed from only-children marrying only-children and having only-children for 4 generations has been filtered down to me, just me.

The idea that physical objects should bring joy is just so foreign and alien and alienating to me. Even moreso as I dragged out contractor bag after contractor bag of Perfectly Good Things that I had neither the time or inclination to sort and then figure out how to donate. And all these old people in my grandmother's mostly-elderly housing project were watching my young friends and I walking out with bags after bags after bags knowing we were just throwing 95% of the life of one of their neighbors in the garbage, forever. One day it's a cute lamp, the next day it in a dumpster next to god-knows-what.

I am, in no way whatsoever, a minimalist or free or clutter or whatever. I'm probably as bad as any average American in a two-bedroom apartment. But I try so damn hard to establish a thick mental block between "objects I own" and "the feelings these objects give me." I don't want my objects to give me feelings because as I discovered as a depressed child, all objects will leave you one way or another no matter how much you like them now and, worse (or maybe better?) you won't care that the objects leave you.

So, I don't know, cultivating more meaning and respect for physical objects in our life just seems so ... counterproductive? Maybe other people, people who aren't me, don't have some sort of daily limit on how much Emotion they can extend to things and then it's fine, sure, joy comes from your shirts being nice, I don't get it but I'm glad you do. People tend to be a lot nicer when they get their shit together.

And, of course, if you ask my wife, she'll point at the mountains of photographs and family-oriented Soivet ephemera I've inherited than no one knows what to do with but knows it would be Bad And Wrong to throw it out because it's, in the most literal sense, completely irreplaceable. Those are objects I have an emotional attachment to and if I could give it up I would faster than you can think.
posted by griphus at 7:59 AM on July 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


I haven’t read Kondo yet. But I have read Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Gail Steketee and Randy Frost, which explores the psychology of hoarding, and it is interesting how much overlap there is between both approaches.

One of the things they discuss in “Stuff” is that so many hoarders actually die if their houses are emptied/things are thrown away without their permission, or without intense therapy to help get them through it. The authors (Steketee is a social worker, Frost a psychologist) in particular write about how they were forced to develop protocols for people in that situation.

Both authors are now considered leading experts on the psychology of hoarding, and one thing they write about is that fact that hoarding is a symptom and a coping mechanism for intense anxiety. A lot of compulsive hoarders turn out to have undiagnosed PTSD, and their hoarding (as a self-soothing mechanism) is the only “treatment” they are getting, and for some of them it is the only thing keeping them alive. When that treatment is forcibly removed, all they have left is the PTSD itself. The trauma of having the coping mechanism taken away can compound the original trauma, and it is very dangerous.

So the authors started developing treatment methods for people in that situation based on their PTSD/anxiety, rather than based on the stuff that was, essentially, a manifestation of those conditions. What I find interesting is that Frost’s methods are very similar to Kondo’s, despite having no basis in Shinto. Giving hoarders the space to describe the importance of an object to a sympathetic listener often allowed them to then dispose of the object and retain the memories of that object. If they were given the space to pay tribute to, say, a fifteen year old receipt, to tell its story, to talk about why it mattered to them and how its history had impacted their life, then eventually the receipt itself could be discarded.

He also had another exercise where he would send the person a blank postcard, but their instructions were to immediately throw it away, then to keep a journal about how throwing it away made them feel for a period of time after doing so. What his patients found was that their anxiety peaked at a certain point (many of them would pull it out of the trash), but that after the initial panic their feelings of loss over the object would wane. Some patients said that realizing a week later that they had gotten over the “loss” helped them to work on their own things, because the memory of the anxiety fading over time gave them courage.

(“Interesting”, isn’t it, that as a white man basing his approach on SCIENCE, Frost was never accused of woo or hokey spiritualism, despite his methods being so similar to Kondo’s? HMMMMMMMMMMMMM.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:06 AM on July 12, 2016 [29 favorites]


the mountains of photographs and family-oriented Soivet ephemera I've inherited than no one knows what to do with...

That sounds like a wonderful online archive project. A section for photos, a section for ephemera, other categories as desired... Then look for a museum you'd feel OK with giving some of it to? I say this as a kid who came from nearly the opposite – I had things growing up, and my paternal grandparents were happy to promise to leave me some of their favorite doodads and furniture. But I had shit parents who refused to send the letters and ephemera I'd kept from my Novosibirsk penpal (she grew up in the USSR), and who didn't tell me my paternal grandmother had passed away until they'd already gone through her things and "oh sorry nothing left for you."

On top of that I have about ten photos spanning my entire childhood because parents also refused to forward along any of those either, so. Like, if I meet someone someday who's curious to know what I looked like as a baby I'll just have to shrug. As a result I can grok both sides – had to learn to let go because you can't have what you don't have, but on the other hand, gotta say I really do wish I had some more of my childhood mementos. They can also function as a connection for others; I still remember looking through my paternal grandparents' photo albums, the stories they'd tell, and not all of them positive. They left poor countries and landed in North America (Canada and the US) only to have to live through the Great Depression.

If there were a website I could look at another person's collection of Soviet ephemera, that would be awesome. (am actually off to look for some now, it's got to exist? maybe not though, would be understandable considering how even my penpal would write things like "we are SO TIRED of empty stores" and once it was Russia again she was giddy to leave behind the greyer times.)
posted by fraula at 8:15 AM on July 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


You certainly don't have to, but it might take some emotional labor off her shoulders if you were to tell her you were taking everything that you wanted and then just donated it yourself. I've done the same for some of my loved ones' sentimental gifts (which I only felt free to do because of Konmari).

Yeah, if I didn't live in another country and by "taking it" would have to spend about $1000 on shipping, I'd consider this.
posted by lollusc at 8:23 AM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


That sounds like a wonderful online archive project. A section for photos, a section for ephemera, other categories as desired... Then look for a museum you'd feel OK with giving some of it to?

Basically what I've been hearing since I inherited these piles of, pretty much, garbage (or whatever you want to call "socio-bureacratic ephemera" and "hundreds of photos of people I don't know and have no reference for because everyone died" and "letters written in cursive so I can't read them") is that they're So Valuable To Society. No museum wants just a Big Pile of Crap (believe me I've tried.) The value of these objects is only extracted after I bust my balls cleaning, researching, archiving, organizing, digitizing, etc. Or paying someone else a princely sum to do it. It would very much be a second job or another expensive hobby, neither of which I am particularly clamoring for.

So if you're willing to do this, you can have just about all of it. But for me, it will probably never be anything but a big pile of garbage I can't bring myself to throw out. Maybe if we have kids, they'll take an interest in it. I mean, eventually they'll have to because this same problem will be theirs.
posted by griphus at 8:23 AM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I haven’t read the book, though I would like to as I’ve been thinking about “stuff” and “why we keep it” a lot this year.

In January I read The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin and one of the key takeaways for me was the phrase “excess is poison.” I’ve thought about the inverse, that detachment from things can be liberating, but I hadn’t really considered that excess was itself harmful.

In June I moved from Seattle to Ohio and tried to regulate as much excess as I could manage. We gave away bookshelves, dishes, food, clothes, kitchen utensils, wall hangings, picture frames, and more stuff than I realized we had and still managed to fill two container pods full of stuff and I’m having difficulty taking a mental inventory of what, exactly, is in there.

Most of the space is taken up by a large sectional, the bedframe (no mattress or box springs), a crib, a child’s bed, and a favorite easy chair. Then we have essential dishes and kitchenware. After that, picture frames, and various wall hangings. Then a few boxes of clothes but … after that it’s all things that were deemed important enough to pack but not important enough for me to remember.

Why do we have those things?

I’m currently staying with family while we are waiting for our house to close and I keep thinking about all our stuff out there, in limbo, unused. What do we really need in there? We’re moving into a house that is twice as large as our condo and I keep thinking about how there will be room for us to accumulate more stuff. On the one hand we need more space (growing family, frequent house guests, etc) but I often wonder how much excess space we will have and if excess space (even unfilled with stuff) is its own kind of poison?
posted by Tevin at 8:27 AM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


> This is fascinating to me, because it's the first time I've seen this phenomenon anecdotally framed as a boomer issue and not a lived-through-the-Depression generation issue

My theory, pulled out of thin air: the Depression-era people kept things, but there wasn't as much affordable stuff to keep in the first place and it was less likely to be overwhelming. Their children were raised to keep things and did so, and there was a whole lot of stuff they could buy, cheaply.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:30 AM on July 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


a core truth: that women have a closer connection to their surroundings than men do.

There's some useful stuff in Kondo, but this is essentialist horseshit.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:34 AM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Kondo book made me so mad I never even finished it. Right at the beginning she says, go ahead and get rid of it, if you find you need it later, you can always get another one. Well, no, you can't. That statement just struck me as coming from such a place of privilege that it froze me solid. I managed, in the downward slide of the last decade, to go from middle class to barely hanging on poor. Let me tell you, if you divest yourself of that nice chefs knife or cashmere sweater because they don't spark joy at the moment you may well find yourself replacing them from the dollar store, and it is not going to be the same.

I may just be a hoarder by nature but every time I get rid of something I need it 6 months later. Some of it is being an artist - things can turn into other things: eventually the broken pottery becomes mosaics and the stack of cardboard gets used one way or another. I am not using my paintbrushes right now, but I bet I will again someday and I could not possibly afford to replace a lifetimes accumulation. I only got about 2/3 through the book - and, to be fair, I think it is probably good for clothes - but in the part I read, she never addressed tools (and in the tool category I include art and craft supplies) at all. Nor am I going to put my books in a closet - how can that be considered honoring them? Nope, not for me.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:49 AM on July 12, 2016 [21 favorites]


I'm a packrat. My parents tried to break me of my packrat tendencies and wound up tossing so much of my stuff without permission. So I then doubled-down on the packrat, and it was a full-on hoarding issue in college.

Now, I'm older, wiser, and have a partner around who isn't a huge fan of tripping over all of my junk (understandably). He read the Marie Kondo book, and I tried to read it, but it just made me mad.

However, after spending a full day going through stuff in the house and cleaning out our closets after the tension rod in the large walk-in closet broke, it forced my hand. I feel better now that we've gotten rid of things, although I like things too much to be totally 100% decluttered.

I'm thinking I might attempt the Kondo method to parse down some of my clothes and accessories, but just those things. The rest, I'll purge in my own fashion. It's getting better, and I'm getting better about my shopping, which is kind of how it got so bad in the first place. (I have a hard time resisting a deal, so at least I didn't pay a ton for all the clutter around the apartment.)
posted by PearlRose at 9:01 AM on July 12, 2016


Moving around the world a few times is very inspiring in terms of decluttering. My goal is to get all my belongings down to 2 large suitcases--not quite there yet but almost!
posted by orrnyereg at 9:10 AM on July 12, 2016


I am a packrat as well, but I inherited it from my parents who went through the depression and did not throw away useful stuff. (Although they were neater about it)
I also probably have a wider range of what's useful than they did.

I haven't finished her book, but I've had some success decluttering my packrat room, and I have been folding some of my clothes differently. My socks, though, like being potatoes.

Two weird things about her that bother me:
-The stories about how she was throwing away items belonging to other members of her family.
- She keeps buying stuff! And then throws it away later! Maybe I could do that if I had some disposable income, but it seems like too much work.
posted by MtDewd at 9:17 AM on July 12, 2016


I read this article a few days ago and it prompted me to buy the book. I am about half way through. I was prepared for it to be an entertaining hate-read, but it turns out that much of what she says resonates with me. She doesn't advocate decluttering or minimalism for its own sake. The basic premise seems to be that if you are having a problem with clutter -- in that you feel that you have a problem with clutter - it means you have stuff you need to deal with. And not just stuff, but capital-s Stuff. Your mental Stuff. For example, she tells her clients to ask themselves "why?" and not just once. She's encouraging people to dig deeper into why they feel the way they do about their stuff. She does stop a little short of where that could take you - but her job is helping her clients deal with the stuff so that they can have the mental space to deal with Stuff. The part that really got me is when she talked about the client who had tons of clothes she had never selected for herself. I get a lot of stuff pushed on me (and my young kids) by two older relatives. It's been such a problem that I have been mentally composing AskMe questions over and over. The relatives have got this stuff and they don't really want it, but it must be useful to me or fun for my kids. Or they buy these little cheap doodads or charity shop incomplete toys … and it's just so . much . junky . shit !!! Right now about half my garage is filled with stuff for the landfill or stuff for Goodwill. So I have to get a truck to get rid of it all. And there is guilt. Guilt for not appreciating being a dumpster for other people and their Stuff that they are not in control of, guilt for wanting to send it to a landfill, guilt for not finding uses for these things. It took resources to make all this stuff, you know? But it's hard to get at my gardening tools and the kids outdoor stuff that is stored because of all the junk I never even selected for myself.

The folding chapter is a disappointment. Every time I hear about an innovative Japanese folding method I get so excited, then deflated when I discover it's the same imperfect method I have been using for years.
posted by stowaway at 10:23 AM on July 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


Someone at the animal shelter I volunteer at has been 'decluttering' for a few months now, but it came to a head Sunday morning, when I was training a new volunteer in the messiest, most involved cleaning process we do, and we no longer had the bare minimum of equipment to do it. So we had to improvise (which added at least twenty extra minutes to our job), and I explained to the trainee that this improvisational part wasn't normal, but someone has been decluttering and they probably didn't realize we actually need all that stuff.

Which led to us commiserating over people 'decluttering' our things, as kids AND as independent adults, by throwing away our stuff, often just because they didn't know what the stuff was for.

And now, someone's aggressive attempt at decluttering is about to cost our animal shelter several hundred dollars at least.

I'm sure that Kondo doesn't suggest non-consensually decluttering other people's things, but for anyone who doesn't understand why some bristle at evangelical minimalism, that's probably why. Because this kind of thing happens often enough that both of us encountering it on Sunday had experienced it before.

It's really great when people find something that really makes them happy, but there's always a subset of converts who are unable to grasp that their experiences and preferences are not universal.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:25 AM on July 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


Kondo most definitely does not advocate decluttering other people's things. It's all about handling your own stuff.
posted by stowaway at 10:27 AM on July 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


One of the relatives who is constantly pushing stuff on me is also a chronic declutterer. She threw away family things that weren't her things to throw away in the name of 'downsizing' … but she hoards books and kitty litter. Then goes to Goodwill, buys a bunch of junk, and hoards it for my visits.
posted by stowaway at 10:32 AM on July 12, 2016


Am I the only person who feels that a photograph of an object as a replacement for said object just will not work?
posted by Lucinda at 10:42 AM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


YMMV but taking photos of things that I don't want to keep has helped me discard a lot of stuff over the years. Taking photos of things that I momentarily want to buy, but don't need, has also stopped me from a fair number of impulse purchases. It's not 100% effective but it's a fairly useful technique for me, personally. I heard about it in 2002 at a National Association of Professional Organisers conference in Austin and have used it lots since phones with cameras came out.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:57 AM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Am I the only person who feels that a photograph of an object as a replacement for said object just will not work?

I'm honestly not sure how that's not just trading crap for a different kind of less useful crap.
posted by griphus at 11:07 AM on July 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


You know, I've been thinking a lot about why my reaction is so visceral to the idea that a gift of old stuff is emotional labor dumping on someone else, and I think in a large sense it's cultural - that there's this empathy gap in what, precisely, is going on.

So we have a lot of stuff that I cannot currently use, but we are saving for if Our Family needs it down the line - grandmother's china, books of all kinds, etc. And I'm not saving it because 'I just can't consider throwing it out!', I'm saving it because I know how expensive it is to open a household, so it goes, along with some nice linens and some other stuff, in a dower chest for my daughter, and any additionals will be saved for any additional children. It makes me genuinely happy to look at extra things and think, "What abundance! How fortunate!"

And I feel like the "oh what if we want to choose our own china/furniture and don't want the bother of keeping it for other generations" is kind -even unintentionally - of a privileged place to come from. It assumes you'll always be doing well. It assumes you and everyone behind you will always be doing well, and won't need to save money - that the cost of buying new china and furniture and suchlike will never be too much for you.

And that's frankly not an assumption I have, with the life I've lived - and I have used family silverware, and family dishes, and family clothing. I have been poor enough that everything my family had carefully stockpiled in case of need was a blessing.

As a single mother, I was grateful as fuck for old baby clothes, that I could not afford to buy. Were they in my taste? Were they what I would have chosen if I'd been choosing for myself? Of course not! Some of them were hideous and tacky! But it was clean, appropriately sized clothing for my baby that I did not have to buy and probably saved me several hundred dollars that I did not have because I had to save money for daycare. And the reason I was able to have that - the reason those were there to give - is because someone else had done the labor of preserving those boxes and boxes of baby clothes for twenty years, waiting for the time when they would be needed. They weren't needed for the entirety of those twenty years - no one else was poor enough to be in need like that - but when the moment came, they were there.

And so it's hard not to see some of the rejection of the keeping of these things as sort of this weird new class tension about the shifting financial sand - like "Even though things are tough, I have a vested interest in preserving my mental picture of my class status, so I will insist that I'll never be poor, and neither will anyone else I love, so I have no need to keep things against the day when they will be needed. I will always have a secure job and a house and lots of money rolling in." Initially, I found it odd that millenials, with the hardest financial times, were the ones rejecting the most stuff - but now I wonder if it's precisely because they are having the hardest financial times, that they feel sensitive to any implication that they may be sliding down in class brackets.
posted by corb at 11:37 AM on July 12, 2016 [21 favorites]


Honest to god I had tried all kinds of decluttering methods over the years. I'm one of those people who keep so much.... crap!

I listened to the audiobook and it just really resonated with me.

I couldn't wait to get started. After finishing the book, it took me 6 months and I cheated a bit, doing room by room instead of category by category - because that just worked for my personality. I couldn't be more pleased with my living situation now and the things around me. I'm relaxed in my home instead of tense. It's a neat feeling.

I plan to do it again in the future with a fresh eye.
posted by crayon at 11:40 AM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Kondo book made me so mad I never even finished it. Right at the beginning she says, go ahead and get rid of it, if you find you need it later, you can always get another one. Well, no, you can't. That statement just struck me as coming from such a place of privilege that it froze me solid.

Not to pick on this particular comment, but this sentiment seems really strong from people in the anti-Kondo/anti-minimalism crowd. And it seems like people who reflexively feel this way aren't really thinking through the whole process.

I've read The Life-Changing Magic... and while the official method doesn't work for me (yeah, not going to go through every possession I own) the "does it spark joy" question has helped me think a lot about what I choose to obtain/keep (moving for the first time in a decade helped with that too, as does having a hoarder MIL who is the daughter of hoarders).

The trick is that you need to put thought into what it means for something to "spark joy" for you. It's often not a superficial "I'm super stoked at the thought of using this toothbrush right now" feeling, but more like "I'm grateful that medicine/dentistry/science has figured out that 4 minutes a day can help me keep my teeth healthy, I'm glad that this plastic thing here helps me do that."

Ditto for anything else that, to you, is legitimately useful -- in the example of artist's supplies the link between usefulness and "joy" seems even more direct. Which is why I'm ok with keeping most of my yarn stash, even though I've reached SABLE, because the beautiful potential of even some of the most work-a-day skeins makes me smile to think of it. That being said, the "joy" check has made it easier for me to toss a lot of unfinished projects that had a tendency to linger on and make me feel guilt and other useless emotions. I'm also more picky about adding things to my stash -- if it's not for a project that I'm casting on that week, it needs to be beautiful and usable to make something beautiful/fun and preferably it is a souvenir or something of a nice trip.

And back to buying it again -- if you're really thinking about what "joy" means to you when you get rid of something, chances are you won't find yourself needing to buy things again. And if you do, maybe you'll buy a version of that thing that is more likely to actually spark joy for you. Maybe because of work stress/depression you don't cook for a year and you thrift your nice Wustof chef's knife that you weren't really maintaining anyways. Now you're trying to eat healthier again and a big knife would be nice but do you really need a Wustof? How about that $20 Victorinox that the pros seem to love?

And if you want to tie privilege into it, in some ways the reflexive horror at the idea of "re-purchasing" something comes from a place of privilege. The privilege of having enough space to stockpile everything you might want to own or the privilege of being mentally healthy enough to not own so many items that they begin to hurt your life in other ways.

If the things you keep aren't causing a detriment to you, then it's hard to say that anything that Marie Kondo writes could be helpful for you.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:44 AM on July 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


In my case, I'm trading a physical, space-hogging object for a digital image. As it happens, I have lots of storage on my phone and laptop; I do not have lots of storage in my home. So digital images are more useful to me because they take up zero additional physical space in my home. More importantly, they calm the panicky part of my hoarder brain that wants to keep everything, always, for reasons (usually not-helpful reasons). That, in turn, allows me to declutter my space and make it more liveable and pleasant to me.

Mind you, I'm pro stuff. I think folks should have as much stuff as they want as long as it doesn't endanger themselves or others. Still, my daily life has improved as I've started shedding stuff with the help of taking photos, reading books (not this one), and researching our collective love of stuff. What I don't find helpful is the stuff-shaming nonsense that some organizers spout. Like Peter Walsh's "lazy clutter" concept. Maybe that's helpful for some people, but I certainly don't need a verbal clubbing about my negligence or failings re: clutter. For me, that's counter productive.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:49 AM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wonder if it's precisely because they are having the hardest financial times, that they feel sensitive to any implication that they may be sliding down in class brackets.

corb, I feel like I keep talking to you about what millennials are like. :)

But seriously: for me, the desire to have less stuff in reserve is not because I think I'll be able to buy it again, but because I don't anticipate having the housing stability/host obligations that my parents considered as givens in their own lives.

Re: housing stability, there are sets of family china I could have, if I laid claim to them. But having them means packing them and carrying them every time I move, and since I will never be able to buy a place, that means packing them and carrying them a lot. I love the idea of them, but the physical reality and weight of them is not commensurate (for me) with the history/utility of them. See also: all the very nice, very large, very HEAVY family furniture that is maybe a hundred years old. I like the idea of it, but the reality is that I don't see that stuff as being very compatible with the type of life I am likely to lead. If I have to pay an extra $1500 every few years for the privilege having those pieces follow me around, then I would rather leave them behind.

Re: hosting, part of thinking I won't be able to ever own a home means that I don't think I'll ever be able to have 15 people over for dinner. I can't afford the space to hold them in, so carrying around the dishes they might hypothetically eat off seems absurd. I like the idea of the plates, and the idea of a house where the plates live (inside a hutch that my grandmother owned) where I can invite friends over for a lovely dinner party for 12 people. But I like these ideas in the way that I like the idea of writing a bestselling novel, or accidentally becoming best friends with Beyoncé. I like them in a theoretical sense, not in the expectation that I will get to live them out.

I mean, I'm deeply moved and grateful that my parents have saved so many family history pieces for my benefit, if I need them. But I also think part of the issue here is that the things my parents needed at my age are not really the things I need now, in my drastically different spot in the American economy.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:54 AM on July 12, 2016 [24 favorites]


This is a thing I wrote right after I was exposed to the idea of saying goodbye to things. Sharing because it seems like a few of us share this thing where we soothe ourselves with tangible memory totems, even when those memories may not be happy ones.

I’m packing to move. This means that I finally have to deal with some of the stuff that up to this point I’ve been able to put aside to “deal with tomorrow”. It’s a Scarlett O’Hara thing I do.

But, there comes a point where you just can’t keep toting around boxes for decades, refusing to open them in case you find something icky from your past. So, today, I put on the big-girl pants and started going through the landmine boxes.

And while I did find stuff that made me cry…letters from friends who have died, announcements from friends I’ve lost touch with, pictures of people who I can no longer name, I also think I found redemption, and peace, and forgiveness. None of which are things one generally finds in a box.

I think today was the day when I could finally put the past behind me. I found a picture that reminded me why I was once in love with him. And a picture that reminds me why I still miss her, almost 20 years later. And pictures of us all on the beach, and in the jungles, and atop the ruins. And I could read the love letters and realize that broken hearts heal, that not all love is eternal, and that we can choose to remember the happy times, and forgive the bad ones.

I saw Montana through the eyes of a woman who loved it. I saw Scotland through the eyes of a friend who chose to end his life there. I saw myself through the eyes of a man who loved me then. I saw him though the lens of the girl I once was. I found old friends, and forgave old enemies. I cried. I laughed. I saved a memento of each. And then I lightened my load by getting rid of the rest.

As I fed each thing into the shredder, I lived the moment that created it. And then I let it go.

I feel disconnected, as though I’ve untied a huge part of my reality, but I also feel better. I’ve had my bonfire, and I feel lighter. I can look back now, not in anger, but in wonderment. I don’t know that I can be forgiven for some of the things I’ve done in my life…but I feel like I took a day to forgive anyone that I’d assigned as a shadow in my heart, and I feel good about it.

Disconnected. Discombobulated. But relieved, and happy, and moving forward.

All that said; I still think it’s a bit insane that I’ve got a giant box full of rocks, which I’ve apparently moved more than once.

I’ll think about that tomorrow.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 11:55 AM on July 12, 2016 [13 favorites]


One thing I forgot to add— some parents save things with the assumption that their children will need them out of lack of resources (like the baby clothes example). But a lot of parents seem to be saving things with the assumption that their children will need them because they will have access to increasingly scarce resources— housing, job stability, the ability to marry or have a family— that millennials are increasingly doubtful they can ever afford to achieve.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:00 PM on July 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yes, she's coming from a certain perspective, one that gets called "privileged" on MeFi, and there are great swaths of the population of this earth who this is not good advice for, or not even remotely appropriate. But there are also great swaths of the population who this is good advice for.

Nobody is proposing that her take on housekeeping become the law. If it doesn't work for you for whatever reason, close the book and walk away. There's no need to get angry about it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:02 PM on July 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


And I feel like the "oh what if we want to choose our own china/furniture and don't want the bother of keeping it for other generations" is kind -even unintentionally - of a privileged place to come from. It assumes you'll always be doing well. It assumes you and everyone behind you will always be doing well, and won't need to save money - that the cost of buying new china and furniture and suchlike will never be too much for you.

It's funny, because I see the class tension here in a way that seems entirely opposite to this sentiment. I don't think that this is how most people actually see this, but to me, the idea of saving"china" and "linens" for future generations is based in the idea that the class/worth of your family can be communicated through material goods. So if one generation can afford to buy "china and linens" instead of, say, "dishes and sheets," it's their duty to do so, and to pay the carrying costs of storing those items on the chance they will be needed in the future. It seems based on a desire that one's family always looks like it came from old money.

But in the 21st century, old money isn't in vogue anymore. In some ways, it's been replaced by crass "newness" -- see, e.g. the price of sneakers/kids needing to have the right ones to fit in. But the more enlightened way forward seems to be to be less materialistic in general.

When you look at the storage costs of, say, "boxes and boxes of baby clothes" multiplied by 20 years (especially when added to the same calculations for furniture or silverware or old christmas decorations and the like), you start to get into non-zero amounts of money. The family can't all fit in that townhouse anymore and needs to move to the suburbs, and so now we need a second car and the expenses that go along with that, etc. etc. Wouldn't it, from the point of view of providing for future generations, be better to be able to pass on that money instead of that stuff? Especially if you step away from the idea that you need to have certain items to "start a household" or look respectable.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:04 PM on July 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


I only wish it was grandmother's old china and solid furniture that was being dumped on me! It's a lot of other kinds of crap. Things that may be useful to someone on this planet, but not the person who tries to give it away and not to me. I think one thing I personally struggle with is that I am, generally speaking, a frugal person. I don't come from wealth, and I was raised to be grateful for whatever is given to me, because that's better than getting nothing at all. So I want everything to have a use and I don't want to fill a landfill because I am imprudent with consumer items. But it has become such a burden.

I also was grateful for the used baby things I received -- because I hate to shop and holy shit would those things have been expensive had I been required to go out and buy all of it used or new -- but I also had to go through boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff to get out the things that would be useful to me. And this wasn't even from the hoarding/giving relative. So now when I pass on baby things I try not to dump a box of unsorted stuff on a new parent.

I agree with sparklemotion that it's worthwhile to think through the ramifications of holding stuff for future generations. I think many people are starting to understand that - a lot of things people have in the US are not high quality and probably wouldn't be appropriate for 20 - 60 years of storage before being used again. Clothing manufacturing is so cheap that new children's clothes can often be had for less than what they sell them for at Goodwill or Salvation Army. (Also problematic.) So we think about consumerism more and buy nothing groups are quite popular.

Anyway, Kondo's book is really not about willy-nilly tossing stuff with the thought that you can just buy more of it if you need to. It's about facing it, and giving careful consideration to all of it before you organize.
posted by stowaway at 12:24 PM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


corb, I feel like I keep talking to you about what millennials are like.

I am so grateful and would bake you a blackberry pie if you were here.

part of thinking I won't be able to ever own a home means that I don't think I'll ever be able to have 15 people over for dinner. I can't afford the space to hold them in, so carrying around the dishes they might hypothetically eat off seems absurd.

I guess - here's the serious question I would ask - and I apologize if this is super obvious to you - If your parents have a house they're keeping all this stuff in, do you not anticipate inheriting your parents' house and only then using all the things that go with owning such a house? It seems like it'd make sense to just say 'mom, I'm not settled yet' and then if you're never settled until they die, you deal with it then.
posted by corb at 12:31 PM on July 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


My parents come from different class backgrounds - my mother's family were rich Swedish immigrants before the Depression, with lots of money from an ironworks in Chicago. They lost much of it and the girls (my grandmother and her sisters) had to go out to work, but there's still various odds and ends kicking around from those days - a really heavy cabinet, some interesting glass, some china.

My dad's family were farmers in one of the more depressing parts of the Midwest - they were peasant farmers in Prussia, didn't want to be conscripted and came over to the US to farm once more. They were of a class where rising to become a factory foreman was to rise indeed - respectable, hard-working but never rich.

The interesting thing is that we've got stuff from both sides, and of much the same type. There's more from the rich side, but we've got depression glass, a couple of tables, a really lovely regional ceramic lamp, a whatnot and a bunch of other stuff from the farming side.

Those things got handed on because they were family things, not because the family was an important family - you wanted to give your children the nice set of frost-pink dessert plates because you wanted your children to have something that had been in the family a while.

It would be silly to buy something that you didn't especially like just to maybe give it to your children, of course, but it's not particularly silly to think that you might pass along something nice to your children.

But again, so much of this is about temperament. I've met snake people with family heirlooms and I know people my age and older who wouldn't want them if they could have them. If you really love your family's sterling epergne or whatever, you're likely to find a way to bring it with you or store it even if you move around a bit. If you just look at it and say "my goodness, what a nice epergne, that's cute", you probably won't.

IME, the thing about baby clothes and other sorta-durables is that they're worth saving if you think you'll pass them on fairly quickly and I think that's what most people do.
posted by Frowner at 12:31 PM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I guess - here's the serious question I would ask - and I apologize if this is super obvious to you - If your parents have a house they're keeping all this stuff in, do you not anticipate inheriting your parents' house and only then using all the things that go with owning such a house?

The only heirlooms I anticipate receiving from my parents upon their passing is the cast iron skillet my mom has made tortillas on for most of my life and maybe a few more pictures of my grandparents. To me, I think it's a great sign of privilege/luck/hard work that one can even have a family home to inherit. I certainly won't have one on either side of the family. My family has never been great with money so there's not a lot for me to inherit and fuss over. I am totally okay with that.
posted by Kitteh at 12:46 PM on July 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


I guess - here's the serious question I would ask - and I apologize if this is super obvious to you - If your parents have a house they're keeping all this stuff in, do you not anticipate inheriting your parents' house and only then using all the things that go with owning such a house?

Given the state of elder care and the social safety net (and the terrifying lack of retirement saving by boomers) how many of those parents are going to have a house to bequeath at the end of it all?

And even if they could pass down the house, wouldn't you rather that your parents took advantage of a reverse mortgage (or just plain selling and downsizing) so they could live their last years/decades more comfortably? That's what I want my parents to do (mainly b/c I'm terrified of the Toronto housing bubble bursting soon -- get the equity out now mom!).
posted by sparklemotion at 12:49 PM on July 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


Yay pie!

If your parents have a house they're keeping all this stuff in, do you not anticipate inheriting your parents' house and only then using all the things that go with owning such a house?

Even if I would be inheriting the house myself, I wouldn't be able to live there longterm, because it is just too far from places where I can work. Also, I kind of take it as a given that I'll probably have to float between a few bigger cities for work throughout my career, because staying in one place and expecting to have constant employment there just...isn't a thing, anymore. This, for me, is the main thing most millennials seem to focus on when it comes to paring down their things. If I get laid off and I have to be able to move 400 miles away as soon as possible, then having a lot of things makes that harder.

But in my own case, no, I don't anticipate inheriting the house-- I have a disabled brother, and the house will have to be sold to help support him once my father dies (my mother is already dead). I think a lot of older people interpret millennial rootlessness as a form of flippancy or YOLO or something, but most people I know are just exhausted and coping with the current job market as best they can.

(Also the house is about a mile from water, and global warming, so it would be better to sell before the water begins to rise.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:54 PM on July 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


A lot of middle class millenials will have to move for work. If you're a cashier or a waiter or a shift supervisor at Target, you aren't moving cities for work unless it's an emergency or there's an oil boom or something. I feel like that gets forgotten in these conversations - not that working class millenials are going to buy houses either, but the whole "Denver for three years, Milwaukee for two and then a couple of contracts in Portland" thing is a professional-class people thing. I'm a secretary - it would be extraordinary for me to move cities for work.
posted by Frowner at 12:58 PM on July 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


corb and a fiendish thingy, your exchange is giving me life.
posted by lauranesson at 1:12 PM on July 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've moved long distances more than once for administrative assistant positions. 600 miles in one case. Separate from that, I'm thinking especially of adjuncts, who have middle-class status socially, but are paid astonishingly low wages.

Also, part of what I'm getting at is that even middle class millennials-- which I absolutely am, btw-- do not feel secure enough financially to hold onto belongings. Part of the phenomenon of the vanishing middle class is that a lot of people who grew up there are unlikely to stay there for the rest of their lives, and their relationship with their belongings reflects that shift.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:12 PM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


(How do you even get an administrative assistant position long distance? I had to do three in-person interviews for this one, and while I'd probably travel long distances for what I make now, I made way, way less then and could never have afforded to travel three times to interview. What's more, who considers long-distance people for admin positions? Again, I've never seen a hiring process where they looked at secretaries from, say, DC or something. If I may ask - was this something really specialized? Were you already crashing with someone in the new city and looking for work in general? Was it very high level?)
posted by Frowner at 1:17 PM on July 12, 2016


(1. use the address of friend or family who lives in the area where the job is so you don't get weeded out
2. find a way to get to the interviews w/out disclosing your actual location, while making excuses to current employer for as many absences as interviews require (for one interview I drove 75% of the distance after work on Monday, stayed at a motel, got up super early Tuesday morning to drive the next 25% and arrive in time for the interview, and after the interview I drove 600 miles back home to be back at work on Wednesday)
3. move cross country in two weeks w/out work reimbursement
4. not high level, but in an industry where I wanted to gain experience/resume cred)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:25 PM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


But seriously: for me, the desire to have less stuff in reserve is not because I think I'll be able to buy it again, but because I don't anticipate having the housing stability/host obligations that my parents considered as givens in their own lives.

For the past three years I paid $2.92 / sq ft / month for my non-luxury, non-fancy 650 sq ft apartment. Say a hutch with a six foot by two foot footprint. That's $420 per year to store it in my apartment. It had better fit my lifestyle and be something I love if I am going to bump into it every day and literally have it hanging over my head while I eat.
posted by Hypatia at 1:27 PM on July 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


Clearly, I am not a crafty-enough thinker. (That's why you're the fiendish thingy, I guess. Fiendishly cunning!)

Although, in my defense, I did not have a car at the time.
posted by Frowner at 1:28 PM on July 12, 2016


I feel like there is a masculine version of this where you just live life free, no regrets, no possessions, just the pack on your back! But when women do it in their living spaces it becomes veeeeeryyyy stupid, I guess.

I guess to me, if there's a gendered aspect of this that bothers me, it's that the whole movement sounds a little like women are being asked to take up less space. Think of all the collections that we revere or at least mock in a semi-admiring "he's so geeky" way -- model trains, Warhammer miniatures, maps -- and what gender the owner is likely to be. He may even have his own "man cave" for the items. Meanwhile, female clutter is associated with slovenliness, hoarding, and, worst of all, fat (I remember reading some study "linking" obesity and clutter.) The same goes for the age aspect. No one wants your dated junk, old people. Take up less space -- and less time while you're at it, haven't you read the latest think piece about how Americans live too long?
posted by Ralston McTodd at 1:49 PM on July 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


I mean, I'm deeply moved and grateful that my parents have saved so many family history pieces for my benefit, if I need them. But I also think part of the issue here is that the things my parents needed at my age are not really the things I need now, in my drastically different spot in the American economy.

Spot on, a fiendish thingy. We're from and in different places, but these words resonate with me.

I grew up in rambling houses on the country side of small towns, with dining rooms, and sets of china and silver, and chests full of quilts in the guest rooms. But then I grew up and moved hundreds of miles away. I am embarrassingly fortunate and have a career, as does my spousal unit, and last year we bought a smallish townhouse-type place in the city. We probably won't be there forever, but long enough to make the purchase worthwhile.

The emotional and physical weight of heirlooms is oppressive. I just do not want any of it. It's impractical: an 800 mile round trip to retrieve anything, and I have nowhere to put anything "for later, just in case" or "for special occasions" in this new house with 2 closets and honestly I'm not sure any non-modular furniture would even fit up the stairs. And the feelings are hard: I know it feels somewhat like rejection to my parents when I constantly turn down this teapot and that set of silver and those serving dishes and that lovely table great-uncle so-and-so made. And, in a way, it is rejection: not just of the items but of the lifestyle. I am not moving back to my home state even if I win the lottery and never need to work again, and I am not having a herd of grandchildren, and if I had 15 people over for dinner we'd be using paper plates and sitting on every flat surface. (We would however have real wineglasses because spousal unit has standards.)

The times, they are a'changin'.
posted by esoterrica at 2:04 PM on July 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I've inherited some ancient China that I never use, and requires massive storage. My son isn't going to want it any more than I do. But I feel so guilty when I think of getting rid of it. It belonged to my first husband's mother, and I keep trying to give it back to any of her children, but none will take it, so I've carted it around for 30 years. I just wish i knew someone who wanted it, or how to divest myself without guilt.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 3:54 PM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is how I divest myself of guilt: I think of how much my mother loved me. How she would not want me to feel guilty. How she gave me X gift with the best of intentions but had no idea at the time that X gift would eventually become a burden. And then I donate it to my favourite charity thrift shop and take an appropriate (not inflated) deduction and feel happy because it's a good cause and, with luck, someone who truly loves that thing, which no longer serves me, will find it. Mind you, this is an ongoing process I started last August. But I am making real progress, in part because I remind myself, out loud, that the things my mom (and others) gave me are not my mom. My brain has a long history of sending me counter-productive signals. Brains are often pretty blunt instruments. So I am learning to remind myself that holding on to things just-in-case (or because I received it from someone no longer living, or whatever) is a genuine burden that lowers the quality of my life.

I'm not a wealthy person. I'm not even middle-class any more. My thrifty, make-do ways are useful. So I'm not tossing things indiscriminately. I am ridding myself of things slowly and with whatever deliberation seems necessary. And I'm so happy about it. True story: A friend in Europe whom I was visiting was getting rid of 9 plates I got from thrift stores back when we live together. Because he never liked them. But I always have. So I brought them back with me via my carryon bag, and then prompted donated 14 other plates that I owned but never cared for that much. Did my friend think it was crazy to lug old plates across the Atlantic? Of course he did. Am I happy every time I use one of those plates? Yes I am, and happier still that I also got rid of the ones I no longer wanted or needed.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:08 PM on July 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Am I the only person who feels that a photograph of an object as a replacement for said object just will not work?

It doesn't work for everything, but for some categories, it saved me a lot of space and weight in my last move. T-shirts, so many t-shirts, all commemorating some event or group or time in my life. Some were just entirely the wrong size and unflattering enough I'd never actually wear them.

The usual suggestion for "what do I do with all these t-shirts I'll never wear?" is "make a t-shirt quilt!" That's a great idea, but I didn't have enough in any one category to make that sensible even if I'd wanted to do the work or pay someone to do it. It's cool when you've got 12+ old metal t-shirts, but a random bunch of non-themed t-shirts do not make a good quilt. So: photographed and gone. If I ever need to think about them I can look at the [digital] photos to remind myself, but it hasn't really come up so much.

Unfortunately, I keep accumulating t-shirts at a steady pace (they just seem to appear after various events) and I don't wear them often enough for them to take up so much closet space. Time for more photos.
posted by asperity at 4:13 PM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I guess to me, if there's a gendered aspect of this that bothers me, it's that the whole movement sounds a little like women are being asked to take up less space

Is it, really, about taking up less space though ? Or is it about creating space that works for you?

Like yeah, if you don't hold on to 3 generations worth of furniture, maybe you can save money with a smaller house, but maybe you stay in the big house but have more space for you, and what is actually important to you.

And if holding on to heirlooms is important to you, then you should use the space for it! But the collary is that you can't get annoyed with your snake children for not wanting to do the same.

Think of all the collections that we revere or at least mock in a semi-admiring "he's so geeky" way -- model trains, Warhammer miniatures, maps -- and what gender the owner is likely to be.

I agree that there is something gendered here, but to me it's about the fact that women are the ones who are expected to be able to manage the household, including taking care of all the stuff within (and arranging for dowry boxes and baby clothes donations and the like).

In my experience with media around decluttering, it's generally understood that clutter is not a "collection". If it's important to you, and organized so you can use/enjoy/see it, then you should keep it. And that goes for space marines as much as beanie babies.
posted by sparklemotion at 4:55 PM on July 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


To me the decluttering is making more space for me, as me. Not the me cobbled together from awkward ill-fitted handmedowns and furniture too big for the apartment I chose in an area I love that is perfect for me. It's the me that likes having a couch that has storage and converts to a bed, and has a flat arm on it to put my tea and notebook. Yes, I can inherit a giant overstuffed leather thing that does none of that, but it doesn't fit me or my lifestyle at all. It fits someone else's. So decluttering, particularly with the KonMari 'joy' aspect, means looking at my life and asking 'what fits me' rather than 'where can I squeeze in around it'.

Like, my mother looks at her vintage cooking stuff collection and it gives her so much joy. I start itching. There are parts of it I would love (giant copper colander with a star pattern! magpie cross stitch apron!) but mostly, it is a collection that doesn't invoke joy for me. Same with her bookshelves but when I described them to a friend I could hear his joy in just knowing they exist. Whereas I look at my tiny little shelf with all the books I love and it makes me happy (and made him sad and I know makes my mother sad). I look at my daughter's toy collection that she curates and it fills me with joy (her dress up collection less so, but she finds joy in it so it stays) but her friends have occasionally noted her lack of toys.

One of the things a friend of mine does, and I've seen talked about online, is the idea of the secondhand store as one's storage so to speak. So it's okay to get rid of a thing you don't use even if you might in the future because you can get it at an op shop for a small fee. Note, none of this applies to specialist stuff like art gear (or my specialist bras for example), and Kondo is pretty open about that. It isn't that 'if you haven't used it in 6/12/18 months get rid of it' but 'does it spark joy'. It's a TOTALLY different question. I enjoy the occasional painting I do with my kid, so of course we will keep our art supplies. We won't keep the shitty brushes though, just the ones we use and enjoy. I have a drawer of kitchen utensils including two different kinds of salad tong thingos. I never use them, even though they are cute, because they are not the right size for my daily life. So they're going to go in the donation pile.

One of the things Kondo also talks about is using your special things. That was a big revelation to me - at my mother's house is a small vial of perfume oil I was given as a child. I am 35. It is still in her house. I never used it because it was 'special'. I do the same with a lot of things and I notice my kid trending down that path. But it is such a sterile path. Things dry up and break and shatter and go mouldy. So use it! I have special bowls that don't get used because they are for making large salads, or soups, and those can go on top of my cabinets, but the nice tea cups? I get them out and use them and every time I make my tea in them I feel a spark of joy. I feel a sense of connection. That is gone when they don't get used.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:24 PM on July 12, 2016 [19 favorites]


go ahead and get rid of it, if you find you need it later, you can always get another one. Well, no, you can't. That statement just struck me as coming from such a place of privilege..

From way upthread, but I thought this is an interesting point of cultural difference that may invite such interpretations. I don't know if it's a "misinterpration," but at least a more American one, because many Japanese consumers in general are so tight with their wallets that they don't make many mindless purchases to begin with. They also plan consumer spending a little differently- a sort of considered mix of dollar store goods and brand name goods with not so much in between. When I return to the US, I usually just see dollar stores in poorer areas, but in Japan they're really everywhere, and people use them for common household goods, giftwrap, office supplies, etc. and then for big things they go to brand names.

The culture of mottainai combined with financial conservatism leads to much less mindless consumerism in general, at least as a percentage of income.

So in Japan I think readers would already have an easy time of separating the trash from treasure, but the note about rebuying may be more to ease the psychological hurdle of detachment. Then again, I never read it and could just be putting words in her mouth, but regardless, I think she (or someone) could write a whole new book just about the mindset of consumer spending, saving, and how to acquire things in general. I think the Japanese perspective is an interesting one in this regard.
posted by p3t3 at 5:58 PM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, part of what I'm getting at is that even middle class millennials-- which I absolutely am, btw-- do not feel secure enough financially to hold onto belongings.

From upthread, something that's important to consider is that not all so-called middle-class millennials grew up middle-class. People in that situation can't rely on mommy and daddy's basement or garage to park stuff in as they move from one tiny shoebox condo to another, because mommy and daddy ain't never going to have a basement or garage unless we buy them a house ourselves.

Being nominally middle-class, but not having the intergenerational middle-class advantages of being able to acquire hand-me-down goods from family or use their property for storage space make one's need to embrace minimalism more about practicality rather than this learning-towards-virtue thing that's going on here.
posted by blerghamot at 7:01 PM on July 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think your attitude - about clutter, about heirlooms - can change over time. At this point in my life I've been through a lot of moves and cycles of decluttering and recluttering and the deaths of the entire older generation of my family. As I read through this thread I keep thinking about The Art of French Cooking, or, more specifically, my mothers much used, much loved copy.

When my mother died 8 years ago we got rid of almost all her houseful of stuff. It was mostly quite good stuff; she had good taste and money and a life that supported real silver and big paintings. We were all pretty much ok with that - we made some money, which we needed more than stuff, and also everybody already had a houseful of stuff that fit their lives better. So when it came to her collection of cookbooks - she was a serious and very good cook, a foodie before that was a word - we got rid of them too. I'll never use these, I said, thumbing through Craig Claiborne and all 3 volumes of Larousse Gastronomique and Julia Child; I don't eat this way and besides it's all online.

I have regretted that ever since. I have replaced the Claibornes even though I don't eat like that and I don't use them, but they, yes, spark joy anyway. I can't, however, bring myself to replace the Art of French Cooking because it won't have notes in my mothers handwriting.

I keep a Tupperware container in my pantry because it says grits on it in my mothers handwriting (and oh god I don't think those grits inside are 8 years old) and it makes me happy to see it. You don't really know how much something as small and simple as that can affect you until you have lived it.

The valuable stuff I inherited has mostly been stolen by a family member with addiction issues. That was a crushing blow too - I felt I had failed hundreds of years of my family, allowing this to happen. That wasn't my stuff - it was things I was supposed to hold for a while and pass along. Over the years I have carelessly lost or allowed to be destroyed many things I now miss. In my 20s I sold my grandmothers giant, gaudy topaz ring. I regret that too. It turns out that i will always, always need $200, but there will never be another topaz ring. And now that my hands are older, with my grandmothers veins and knuckles, I could do justice to that ring.

So be careful, is all I am saying. Just because something doesn't spark joy right now doesn't mean it never will.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:52 PM on July 12, 2016 [15 favorites]


Kondo suggests that getting rid of old stuff is good. And then suggests that you go buy new stuff, especially from her:

posted by Ideefixe at 8:20 PM on July 12, 2016


Yeah, I was from a working class family, moved to the city for school, and there was never any thought that my parents would schlep or pay to schlep my stuff across hundreds of miles. So I got used to letting go of things that weren't worth the hassle. I rented furnished apartments or sublet and kept all my stuff the size of one large suitcase.

Boyfriend, on the other hand, had parents who cared a lot about things (and having "enough" of things) and now we have 4-5 very large Rubbermaid containers FULL of t-shirts, and my god, who needs that many t-shirts?? Who?

Right at the beginning she says, go ahead and get rid of it, if you find you need it later, you can always get another one. Well, no, you can't.

I mean, why would you get rid of a good knife or a good cashmere sweater? And if it's a crappy knife or a shitty old sweater, then why would you suddenly want it when you were poor? The dollar store sweater and knife will do just as well as a garbage sweater and knife.

I've gone from poor to burgeoning middle-class in our shrinking-middle-class dystopia back to grad school poor again and I move constantly and I really just can't think of that many things I have to replace all the time, despite being a person who declutters instinctively. I find it strange that people think Marie Kondo is so classist. I've been in that hoard-because-I-might-need-it mode and it rarely actually paid off. Either the stockpile of on-sale toilet paper brought me joy (because it saved money and I hate going to the store for toilet paper), or the giant farmers market honey jar will get sticky and drive me insane while never getting used, and I throw it away.

I also take better care of stuff when I knowingly choose to keep it in my house, instead of feeling harassed by it.

A box of old baby clothes might bring you joy if you know your sibling will need them in a few months. A raggedy old sweatshirt might bring you joy if it's very soft and you can wear it to bed in the winter (this one is me).
posted by stoneandstar at 8:21 PM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Wait, I'm not seeing that in either article. I see this:

"it's important to remember the shadow-message that lies just underneath Kondo's shiny veneer of prim optimism: Not only do we live in a world that wants us to replace the 100 bags of worthless shit we just threw out with even more worthless shit, but it will get up in our faces and insist, every waking second of every day, that we purchase more worthless shit right this very minute. The poetic, minimalist subtext that turned Marie Kondo into something akin to a globally recognized religious figure, the Dalai Lama of soothing, hygienic empowerment, is that we don't need more. More, in fact, is a sickness. Kondo's message is, and always has been, that we should work with what we have instead."

That seems sustainable.

And yes, I think she's operating under the assumption that most of her readers can afford to throw away the ill-fitting jeans and buy ones they really, actually like. Or throw away the jeans they hate and start wearing dresses. Even when I was a broke kid, I had favorite clothes. (A lot of them were thrifted!)
posted by stoneandstar at 8:25 PM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Frankly, though, it is a lifestyle book; people who aren't interested in it won't read it. She's not forcing everyone to burn all their underwear and socks and die of exposure or anything.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:27 PM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


In all fairness, I think some of Kondo's opponents are arguing with things she's never said. The book is well worth reading.
In her Life Changing Magic book, she isn't even suggesting minimalism at all. Even though she herself is a minimalist.
Her suggestion is to discard things you don't like, not to own less things per se but to not keep things out of guilt or inertia.
And I can attest to it from personal experience, it actually makes you shop less and buy A LOT less.
She also doesn't advocate throwing out a thing you don't like if you actually need it. She gives tips on how to try and make yourself like or at least appreciate it more.
posted by M. at 8:49 PM on July 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


There is an anecdote in I think Spark Joy, the second book, of a client's dancing dress, all ruffles and unwritten four years, that she feels reluctant to part with although it doesn't bring her joy entirely but some sadness that she doesn't dance regularly anymore. The solution the client works out is to wear the costume for cleaning her house and lounging around at home, where it becomes a celebratory dress, something she wears for just for pleasure as she used to go to dance class.

I think her central argument is about honesty in physical possessions. If you enjoy a crowd of shot objects and art, have that. Don't force yourself to be a minimalist. If you are afraid, be truthful and have a stash of supplies that are helpful, not expired groceries that are an illusion of safety. Don't hold on to other people's ideas of what you should physically own to be the right or appropriate person, and don't make other people do the same.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:33 PM on July 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


"So when it came to her collection of cookbooks - she was a serious and very good cook, a foodie before that was a word - we got rid of them too. I'll never use these, I said, thumbing through Craig Claiborne and all 3 volumes of Larousse Gastronomique and Julia Child; I don't eat this way and besides it's all online.

I have regretted that ever since. I have replaced the Claibornes even though I don't eat like that and I don't use them, but they, yes, spark joy anyway. I can't, however, bring myself to replace the Art of French Cooking because it won't have notes in my mothers handwriting.
"

I think that's probably why I like the 'hold stuff' aspect of Kondo more than any other decluttering mechanism, because it makes me confront the emotional context. I have a terrible recipe book, that's awkward and junky, but it has my grandmother's handwritten recipes in it that she wanted me to have for when I left home. It's stuck with me through two interstate moves, multiple other moves, numerous decluttering attempts. Because even if I don't like it, I love the parts of it she gave to me. I may take them out and frame them one day, or get them printed onto fabric for teatowels, but for now it is up in a cabinet in my kitchen and I never use it but I get comfort from it nonetheless.

To me that is the greatest clash between KonMari style decluttering and others - it isn't about some rules of use, or not use, but about your relationship with the object. The joy may come from 'the toothbrush means I keep my teeth!' or 'it has my grandmother's recipes in it' or 'it looks lovely' or 'it is perfectly useful to me' - all good reasons to keep a thing! Not so good is 'I have the means to replace it with something better suited but won't because of guilt' or 'someone else imbued it with emotional meaning and insists I continue it'.

But, there are always regrets. Always. That topaz ring sounds like a beautiful thing for you now and it is sad that you don't have it. It's sad that so much stuff was taken from you. The former was a mistake (please forgive yourself?) and the latter is nothing to do with decluttering. Taking someone else's stuff is theft, even if it is in the name of decluttering, but your experience was not that. It was just theft and to me it reinforces that our things do have importance to us - so we should act in accordance with that.

(Like, I'm 35, but I have a Winnie the Pooh bear I got when I was 18 months old, and recently I was given another large stuffed toy, and both of those things have SO much meaning to me that I would be totally distraught if they were lost or destroyed - it makes sense to keep them, but that doesn't extend to all stuffed toys, even the others I've had since I was small or gifted by loved ones)
posted by geek anachronism at 9:36 PM on July 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Kondo suggests that getting rid of old stuff is good. And then suggests that you go buy new stuff, especially from her:
http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/shopping-at-anthropologie-with-marie-kondo
http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/01/tidy-profits-of-life-changing-magic.html


The first is literally her shopping at Anthro and choosing two dresses, interspersed with gems like "buy things that fit you" and "touch the things you buy" and so on. Nothing at all about anything she sells (although she talks about her professional branding including wearing white). It's more an ad for Anthro though.

The second is obnoxious, particularly this rather tactless quip: "In other words, calling Kondo's infatuation with organizing a "love of tidying" is a little bit like praising a tsunami for its unmatched passion for redesigning entire coastlines." and it still highlights that KonMari is very much about not buying more once you've gotten rid of stuff.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:46 PM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh, I forgot, too-- about taking up less space. I definitely feel like since decluttering, I now take up much MORE space-- I feel a little bad for my boyfriend, who lives in Bizarro Konmari world now. Instead of the closet being piled with boxes of old clothes, there is space for me to see my wardrobe. Instead of the floor being covered with random boyfriend's junk, there's room for me to do my strength exercises. I can cook meals I want to cook in my kitchen. I can take a relaxing bath with a candle and a glass of wine in my tidy bathroom. I don't think my boyfriend realized before how stressed I felt in my own home, because it was more about clutter maintenance (about 70% of it caused by him) than being able to do normal homebound activities.

The fact that so much of my personal happiness comes from having clean, open spaces to do domestic things in is probably gendered in one way or another, but I can't account for the fact that men don't like bubble baths and devouring fresh pasta sauce. *shrugzzz*

Right now my boyfriend is writing an essay on the couch because his desk 1) which was a gift and 2) doesn't suit him or his laptop + monitor 3) is packed absolutely full of pointless clutter. I was oh so generous and let him do his own home economics re: his desk and work space, but I would love to expand to fill every damn inch of this apartment and replace his desk so he wasn't always hogging the couch (i.e., taking up our shared space). I have compromised by running the rest of the apartment. Ha ha ha. (Also, side note, I love him very much.)

The idea that things should have a place and activities should be done in the proper area under adequate conditions would probably seem rational in a man.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:11 PM on July 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


No junk drawer, it's preferred nomenclature is utility drawer.
posted by fixedgear at 3:56 AM on July 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


The idea that things should have a place and activities should be done in the proper area under adequate conditions would probably seem rational in a man.

That sounds like Aristotle
posted by thelonius at 6:22 AM on July 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was going to say the same-- we're talking ancient concepts of right living. :)
posted by stoneandstar at 8:35 AM on July 13, 2016


Does anyone actually use china? My parents have a set, and it is not what gets used when the family visits for holidays. We use the regular dishes because they can go in the dishwasher, shaving half an hour off our post-dinner cleanup.

At home I intentionally bought a bunch of cheap dishes I don't care about. They look nice to me, but they're not the least bit classy. It gives me joy using them without any concern about breaking them. If I need to, I can replace a broken dish for under $5.
posted by mantecol at 10:27 AM on July 13, 2016


Until my mother's health declined, we'd use our good china for holiday meals.

A china-related suggestion: If you have a complete family set that you like but don't want (and that isn't special enough to be worth selling), save the serving platter. I actually use my fancy serving platters all the time for guests and parties. Older sets may also come with things like creamers, dessert plates, oversized serving bowls, etc, and you can save these - I use a creamer as a small vase, for instance, and I use the saucers for cat treats. Obviously these usually have to be washed by hand, but it's not like washing a fancy serving platter a few times a year is a terrible chore, and of course a single platter is easy to move and store.
posted by Frowner at 10:39 AM on July 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, in re vases, millenials and being broke: I feel like very ordinary green stems can cheer up a room - some little green branches from a (healthy, lush) plant or a few wild weed flowers (creeping jenny, etc). Obviously if you live in the canyons of New York, this doesn't help any, but in a lot of places it's easy to pick a couple of green twigs and stick them in a vase.
posted by Frowner at 11:36 AM on July 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Does anyone actually use china? My parents have a set, and it is not what gets used when the family visits for holidays. We use the regular dishes because they can go in the dishwasher, shaving half an hour off our post-dinner cleanup.
I'm a weird millenial because I definitely use our china, though it does go in the dishwasher, so it may not be as fancy as you are thinking about. I also bought it off Craigslist for a song, so I don't think I'm going to feel super guilty if it gets a chip some day.
posted by peacheater at 11:39 AM on July 13, 2016


Yeah I use my nana's china because
- why would I buy new dishes when I can just have free ones
- yes it goes in the dishwasher
- everything is small so I can actually fit 5-6 settings on my coffee table and have dinner parties? (ahahaha at the idea of having a dining room or even kitchen table tho)
posted by (Over) Thinking at 1:10 PM on July 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


My mother-in-law has decided that since her other son isn't likely to get married, clearly my husband and I should get all their family silver. She came to visit this summer, and packed an entire suitcase---with oversize charges---just of more silver. This time, we got another set of silver flatware (she'd given us one fancy wooden box full of silver silverware already), a couple of silver pitchers, a silver coffee set (which I'm *never* going to use), two silver butter dishes, a silver crudite tray...Presumably it will join the rest of the silver in the big rubbermaid tub in the basement. (The pitcher is pretty, and we'll use the crudite tray. But golly.)
posted by leahwrenn at 2:29 PM on July 13, 2016


I have my grandmother-in-law's silver from her first marriage, after my MIL dropped it off here. If I could put it in the dishwasher without destroying it, I'd happily use it daily. Instead it sits in the garage.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:49 PM on July 13, 2016




Oh yes, we sold the silver because no to remotely high maintenance things, stainless steel 4-eva.

Also, I totally recognize how fortunate my family is to have china and silver to inherit/sell/deal with.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 3:07 PM on July 13, 2016


Yeah, I have some silver-silver and I wash it in the dishwasher. Usually separate from the stainless, just in case, but the dishwasher does fine! Generally I bust it out in the fall and polish it up (or, really, put it in a baking soda and aluminum foil bath because it's a lot easier and faster, and then I just clean up any tarnish spots that are left) so it's shiney for holiday season meals, and then just wash it in the dishwasher thereafter. (Usually Easter is the last time I use it and then we're eating outside for summer and it goes into the chest. ... I suddenly don't know why I don't use it outdoors but I do not.)

Hand-me-downs:
I furnished my kitchen with hand-me-downs from my grandmother -- several of my pots are older than I am -- and I've never gotten around to replacing them and they bring me joy and that's great! And I am in general the sort of person who'd like to inherit china or silver or table linens. But not everybody does want that, and that's a fine thing to not want! People may be rejecting a lifestyle that doesn't suit them or was actively stifling to them. But beyond that, a lot of hand-me-downs from older relatives aren't particularly useful or nice or even thoughtful, and that's the kind of thing I was talking about with the emotional labor. We have a great-aunt who keeps giving us boxes and boxes of toys she saved, that are broken and actively dangerous, and she can't bear to throw them out even though she knows they're junk because of her emotional attachment to them from her kid's childhood, so instead she forces them on us (sometimes putting the box in our car when we aren't looking!) and expects us to look after them FOR her because she neither wants the junk nor is emotionally able to get rid of it. My MIL routinely sends us boxes full of 50-year-old, often moldy, random-ass documents and clippings that were HER mother's. Not important or meaningful ones; just ones she can't bring herself to get rid of and has been storing in a damp garage for 40 years and she writes us notes about the beautiful meaning of the moldy, unreadable, water-damaged 1960s bank statements of someone who's been dead for 15 years and how much she knows they'll mean to us and basically expects us to curate them (and treasure them?). Again, she wants to divest herself of the junk and the emotional labor of caring for it, but she wants to ensure someone else is obligated to do it in her place. When you realize that hand-me-downs -- including the ones you yourself do! -- are often the result of people who can't do their own emotional labor of caring for their cast-offs any longer but also can't do the emotional labor of cutting it loose and want someone else to be responsible for its perpetual care. I've definitely done that, given something I loved but couldn't part with to someone who maybe only sort-of wants it; after this blinding realization I am more thoughtful about what I pass on and how I offer it, so that it isn't that sort of obligation. (One of the things KonMari talks about is not just hand-me-downs from others, but how often you yourself take "that dress I love but never ever wear" and decide to hand it off to your sister as a way of not having to decide, and obligating your sister to take care of it. She emphasizes dealing with your own emotional stuff and not inadvertently blackmailing others with it! Not just protecting yourself against others' inadvertent blackmail!) And I also feel a lot more free to reject or dispose of hand-me-downs that are the emotional labor sort.

Throwing away and buying new:
So, I'm really big on saving things that might be useful later, which was fine when it was just my bedroom, or my dorm room, or my apartment room and some of the kitchen tools, but when I got into a house with a family, it got kinda out of control, and I was routinely finding myself in a situation where I'd KNOW I had more than one 40-foot ethernet cable SOMEWHERE stored for when it would be useful again, and I'd be unable to FIND them because I had so much OTHER stuff stored for its future usefulness, so I'd have to buy a new one ANYWAY. I tried to find appropriate places to donate all this stuff (high school electronics clubs will take a lot of old cords off your hands!) rather than adding it to landfills, but I really made the effort to go through and make a decision about what I was actually likely to use, what was just junk that I'd put in storage 8 years ago and forgotten about and now that technical standard was obsolete but the cords last forever in storage, and what was so inexpensive that I could buy it again for a couple of dollars if the unusual case came up that I did need it. (And a lot of stuff DOES deteriorate in storage and by the time I'm ready to use it again, it will have decayed past use.)

Anyway, again, for other people this is common sense but for me the drive to save-for-reuse was way past what was sensible, reasonable, or realistic, and had pushed me to the point where my junk was costing me money because I couldn't find anything I'd saved, and whether I kept it or threw it out, either way, I'd have to buy a new one. Sometimes you just need someone else to point out your negative pattern and say "hey this is both dumb and counterproductive" and when you see it spelled out you're like "Hey, this is dumb and counterproductive!" I'm still learning where the right balance is here (I'm clearly still saving too many cables and cords) but at least I'm thinking more realistically about it now, and when I want a rare-use screwdriver I can FIND it in my tools instead of having so many random tools that I KNOW I have three of those and can find none of them.

Other people are good at this! I am not; my "save-for-later" impulse is overdeveloped and defies common sense. If you're already good at it, you probably don't need the help. I need the help. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:11 PM on July 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


I invented a cleaning method called "real-life defrag", which is a) not really a method so much as it is a collection of words and b) completely misuses the concept of defragmentation. It's all about treating your physical environment like a big hard disk - partitions, clusters, sectors, directories, files - and I guess you are like the spindle or the head stack assembly or whatever. It has very niche appeal, probably to the extent that it only really appeals to me, but still: innovation!
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:54 PM on July 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Also I love throwing away things. So did my old next-door neighbour. Actually he mainly enjoyed burning things in his fire pit. One morning he was burning a newspaper and his wife yelled down the stairs "I HAVEN'T EVEN READ THAT YET!" True fact.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:57 PM on July 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Thanks for this. I adopted the folding techniques when my partner read Life Changing Magic last summer, but not much else made it through.

But reading everything here inspired me to make my desk usable again. It's a tiny desk - barely big enough for my laptop to sit across it.

Yet I have a box of stuff to donate, a huge box of books to give away to people, and a giant black hefty bag of trash. And for the first time in YEARS I can both use the surface of the desk AND push in the chair.

I'm finally paying someone to help me get this place under control so I can focus on the tidying up part. Baby steps though. One thing at a time. Tonight was the desk. Tomorrow? Maybe I'll attack the other side of my room...

I love order, but organisation often fails due to a combination of serious health issues that hinder bending, moving, lifting, etc. as well as a super busy/stressful job. I would love to find a way to feel less shitty about my ability to unfuck my habitat. Baby steps, I guess.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:12 PM on July 13, 2016


Honestly I think the biggest failpoint of KonMari is the 'do it as a big thing' which, yeah, is not so great with health issues. I had to stop with my wardrobe clear out yesterday and today because my face started imploding. It'd be worse with asthma, or if my body were in worse shape than it is. The only reason I had the time was that my kid was home sick so she lay in bed flopping around and playing Neko Atsume, while I sorted and folded.

Now if I were adding in some crippling body image issues, or the genuine difficulty presented by obtaining plus size clothing in one's particular style or at certain quality points, add another layer of difficulty.

That said, my wardrobe is down to a small set of three drawers, about a foot and a half of spaced out hanging gear, and two large shoeboxes. I only have nice underwear that feels good and fits me. I can see that I have way too many singlets and should probably not buy any more, but I am lacking long sleeved shirts (layering only goes so far in winter without them). I have a great selection of skirts and summer dresses that fit me and fit my lifestyle. I have blazers to make pretty much everything work appropriate. I don't have a good pair of flat ankle boots, which is the only other gap I can see in my wardrobe (I go from cons to docs, nothing between for work and while it is an aesthetic I rock to all reports, I would like some more versatility in winter). It still took me a few hours between the sneezing and the wheezing and the folding and so on.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:49 AM on July 14, 2016


I am a man with what are no doubt borderline I-might-need-this-one-day hoarder tendencies mixed with a love for vintage stuff. It drives my wife slightly crazy at times, and we have had some rather animated discussions about my stuff being more important to me than my relationship with her.

As I read about these ideas of emotionally confronting my relationship with my things, I am hopeful this will work for me. I put a hold on the book at my library. I know that things are important to me, that I feel various emotional connections to them, whether that be toys from my childhood or gifts or simply old broken items I have a project idea for (think car an aircraft parts, so not always a small problem). I know that these emotional connections are causing me to feel the need to keep too much stuff, yet I haven't found the way to let go.

Maybe honoring the things in my mind and saying goodbye is that way. This sounds silly, yet my emotional attachments to the things sound just as silly if I say them aloud, but here I am, feeling those things and keeping the stuff.

I don't at all see clutter as being a gendered thing, because on one one side of my family the men are the hoarders, and I am become that. If this woman can help me because her ideas happen to resonate with how I think, well, won't that be wonderful!
posted by HycoSpeed at 4:59 AM on July 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


My mother-in-law has decided that since her other son isn't likely to get married, clearly my husband and I should get all their family silver. She came to visit this summer, and packed an entire suitcase---with oversize charges---just of more silver. This time, we got another set of silver flatware (she'd given us one fancy wooden box full of silver silverware already), a couple of silver pitchers, a silver coffee set (which I'm *never* going to use), two silver butter dishes, a silver crudite tray...Presumably it will join the rest of the silver in the big rubbermaid tub in the basement. (The pitcher is pretty, and we'll use the crudite tray. But golly.)

I'm crying in envy over here. My mother decided a while back that life is too short not to use nice things, so she uses her silver flatware daily. My cousins all got the grandmotherly silver. My mother-in-law is sitting on two sets of silver flatware she inherited in addition to the one she has for herself, but has decided the silver only goes to her granddaughters. (As is her right.)

I'm just going to have to get my silver the new-fangled way ... eBay.
posted by sobell at 9:58 AM on July 14, 2016 [2 favorites]




It's important to have silverware. Otherwise what will you reach for when your home is unexpectedly invaded by a werewolf?
posted by Grangousier at 6:21 AM on July 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


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