You could’ve knocked me over with a feather duster when my newly adult daughter presented me with a copy of Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up along with a recommendation gleaming like a freshly polished coffee table. “Mom,” she chirped, “This book is to me what French Women Don’t Get Fat is to you.” Whoa.
Having resided with her for some eighteen years, and having witnessed multiple atrocities against housekeeping…including a large enough collection of partially filled glasses to stave off an alien invasion (props to whoever gets this movie reference)… I couldn’t decide if she’s suddenly joined the ranks of grown-ups, been brainwashed, or was passive aggressively rebelling for old time’s sake. A book about straightening up sans a masked superhero, a fantasy world, or general angst? Of course, I was immediately hooked.
This book is a #1 New York Times Best Seller with over 6 million copies sold. In other words, Kondo needs to be an organizational expert to keep up with all the money she’s raking in by getting people to de-junk-i-fy. Visions of Ebenezer Scrooge in his counting house cluttered my imagination as I opened up to the not-so-existential question “Why can’t I keep my house in order?” Well, I can think of 5 reasons why, not even counting the revolving menagerie of pets shedding on every conceivable surface. Heck, I’m married to one of them (the reasons, not the pets). But I was game and willing to hear Kondo out. After all, she touts repeatedly that her KonMari Method is 100% effective and my daughter is evidently impressed.
So, how do you keep everything neat and tidy? It begins with simplification, which means throwing junk away. According to Kondo, if any given item in your house doesn’t give you joy, it’s junk and should be trashed. It’s easy to tell she’s not from the South. There was no mention whatsoever of putting all that joyless stuff in a good ‘ole money-making yard sale. Why, she would shudder at the very idea of a re-gifting closet. Coming from the perspective of a mama who gave all three daughters the same initials so she could pass down those precious smocked monogrammed dresses, the KonMari Method is just plain non-conducive to a proper lifestyle. Seriously, keeping a single casserole dish and throwing the rest out? You can have my Cornflower Corningware when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers!
Kondo walks you systematically through your house, dismantling generations of organizational maxims category by category, starting with clothing and slashing through your worldly possessions plumb down to your picture albums. The instructions are basically to pile all like items up, go through them one by one, asking yourself if the particular item brings you joy. Well, I’m here to tell you that ALL 78 of my Bama t-shirts bring me joy, thank you very much. Same goes for my Southern Living Annual Recipes cookbook collection and, by golly, that box of Smurfs I’ve kept for three decades. But this book somehow spoke to my daughter’s heart (I think…it is possible she was joshing, but she seemed convincingly sincere) and I felt bounden to see it through.
Do you thank your house for providing you shelter? Do you lovingly appreciate your purse for carrying your wallet? Do you “decorate your closet with your secret delights”? That last bit sounds risqué, but it’s more like keeping your Milli Vanilli posters up where you can admire them without worrying about embarrassing your kids. The KonMari Method encourages all of these. What it doesn’t encourage is collections, kids, or balling up your socks. Count me guilty on all three charges!
Tucked into the back of this very serious book, which I pretty much scoffed my way through, was a page of notes in my daughter’s impeccably neat and unmistakable hand. She tallied 15 trash bags of junk leaving her quarters forever, a living space roughly the equivalent square footage of my office. She wrote that she wants a bright and inviting place, that she wants her first thought when she enters to be, “I’m so glad to be home.” Isn’t that what we all want? A respite from the trials of the day? Now, that’s something that gives me joy. I think clutter can be as much a state of mind as it can be a pile of magazines spilling off a desk. I’m proud of her, and I appreciate the opportunity to read this book in which she found inspiration.
But I’m keeping my grandma’s quilts…and her T-Fal…and my mixtapes…
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