This spring my friend Diane pared her life into three suitcases and a carry-on bag and flew home to England. She had lived in the US for years, but the time had come to return to the UK. She gave things away, packed tightly and digitized her photographs. All the nonessentials were gifted, donated or trashed. In the process Diane found that she could get by with far less. She wiped her slate clean as a whistle.
I know I would be a failure at paring. I’m not a minimalist, though I know it’s a liberating feeling when you get a drawer or a closet cleaned out. Japanese organizing guru and author Marie Kondo is making a career showing people how to do that. Her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has enjoyed quite a buzz. The jacket copy reads, “Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?”
Yes, this does ring a bell or two. Maybe not snowdrifts or noodles, but there is stuff on every surface in our house. I have a “pile-it’s” license, as my husband jokes. Piles here, piles there.
Candace, another friend, swears by the Kondo’s theory. “Throw away anything that doesn’t bring you joy.” She reorganized her drawers so that all of the t-shirts are folded so they stand on edge and she can easily see them. “It will change your life,” she says.
Candace gets in a mood she calls “Clutter Control” and starts stuffing the giveaway bags and filling the garbage can. And I’m envious of all that joy she creates. No second-guessing, out of sight, out the door. Don’t look back.
I think of my ancestors who trimmed their life into a steamer trunk or hope chest, packed a covered wagon and headed to the frontier. They had to ditch the pump organ, the china cabinet and most of the china. This is why I would have remained on Delaware Bay if it had been up to me. It’s not that I’m so materialistic (or maybe I am) but I can’t pitch heirlooms that I’ve been entrusted with. If a walnut table or an ironstone saucer or a hand-pieced quilt has been in the family since Noah, who am I to give them the heave ho?
Maybe I can do Clutter Control in baby steps. Maybe I’ll Kondo a drawer tomorrow. Yes. Or maybe next week.