Friday, January 18, 2019

Gotta thank somebody (KonMari tidying)

I probably don't need to repeat this, but I'm old. I've been around through a lot of decluttering and organizing fads. I always wished for a magic clean-up wand, but I never connected success with seriously purging my belongings (weren't they all important?), or with not buying more yarn on sale. I grew up without much sense of "stop, that's enough stuff." If someone gave you a present, you were supposed to keep it. When the dolls on your dresser outgrew the dresser,  you didn't stop collecting, you built them a shelf. I had no idea that anyone could have too many books.

But I did try. I moved out on my own with books by Don Aslett and Sandra Felton (and stayed just as Messie), I survived house moves with It's Here...Somewhere and Deniece Schofield, and I watched Peter Walsh do the Clean Sweep.  I attempted Sidetracked Home Executives, but somehow escaped the FlyLady. The old advice to Keep What You Need is about as obvious as Don't Spend Money So You Don't Go Into Debt, but we got better at that than we did at keeping a handle on Stuff. We didn't buy a lot of new Stuff, but we did find a lot of used Stuff, and had a lot of free Stuff given to us, to the point that we had trouble sorting out the Keeper Stuff from the rest (or what one person called Keeper, the rest of us called the rest).
Pop psychology time: Mr. Fixit and I are both firstborns, and both of us were close to our grandparents. We felt a lot of expectation that we would be keepers of the family story. You can figure out the rest. 
Fast forward through our full-on decluttering and downsizing, which brought in more library books, Tiny House videos, and Apartment Therapy posts, plus Project 333, but not much awareness of Marie Kondo or KonMari. (I did post something about it once.) When I went to the Tiny Wardrobe Tour lecture the summer before last, I got there early and sat beside a woman who introduced herself as a professional KonMari organizer. She didn't know much about Project 333, and I didn't know much about KonMari, but our attempt to compare notes got cut short by a loud argument over priority seating. I seemed to be sitting in the middle of the war zone, and I think the KonMari lady blamed me somehow, so I did not learn any more about it that night.

Then Tidying fell into my lap while I was sorting books at the thrift store. Our move to a smaller space had sparked a new kind of Tiny-House-ish deliberateness about what we were keeping and where it should go, so the book helped us get over some storage bumps.

Now, suddenly,  Marie Kondo is on the Lifestyle page of our local paper, not to mention all over Youtube and everybody's media. Folding your clothes is suddenly cool. And the Big Thing that I am picking up from this came from a brief review where, I think, they got the reason for her popularity absolutely right. Even if you don't literally hug your sweater to see if it sparks joy (I don't), KonMari appeals to our emotions, because it is about valuing and thanking. If you arrange your shoes on a rack from lightest to heaviest, top to bottom, you're not saying "look at all the shoes I have" but "I am taking the time to appreciate how each pair fits into my life and into my space." If you're a bit animistic, you add "And I want the shoes to know that." If you're a Christian, you use that boring term stewardship, which means, essentially, that you're Jeeves cheerfully polishing Wooster's silverware. Stewardship is just taking care. Guardianship, sort of. You get the privilege of living with and caring for the shoes, but you know Who really owns them. When they're dirty, you clean them. When they wear out, you get them fixed.

And here's the rub: you can't do that with as much stuff as North Americans typically live with. Lots, in this sense, is not better than a few. Or one. We are finite beings, with limited time and attention spans. But, as Charlotte Mason says, we can develop habits of attention. We can invest time into knowing where pieces in our collection came from, hearing their stories. We can value loyalty. We can be thankful. We just can't do it so well with an overload of stuff.


GretchenJoanna said...

Yours is the favorite thing I've read so far as a response to the Tidying Lady -- That nickname just popped into my mind, maybe because of your mention of FlyLady, (and it is much nicer than the unpleasant connotation of Fly that doesn't go with tidiness or clean drawers), and because I don't want to go back to make sure of the spelling of her name.

Your list of various reasons people of different philosophies or religions might have for finding More with Less shows that there is something about our fundamental humanity that is best fulfilled and expressed by orderliness and thankfulness, and keeping only as many things as we can respect, perhaps even reverence, as gifts from God.

Mama Squirrel said...

Thank you for that thoughtful comment! I enjoy your blog too.