Hey Marie, Maybe Hoarding Brings Joy?
I’m willing to bet there are few people who don’t know the name Marie Kondo by now.
As the host of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, and the author of books such as Spark Joy and Life-Changing Magic, Kondo is now a presence in the media and in our homes. Her whole schtick is that you thank the junk you own and get rid of it if it doesn’t bring you joy.
This method of purging our lives isn’t new. It’s just got a shiny new spokesperson. And I’ve used her name as a verb at least six times over the last week, as in “I’m going to Marie Kondo the sh** out of this closet.”
But let’s face it, consumerism rules the country. We work so we may mostly purchase stuff.
At a high level, I work so I can basically eat, clothe and entertain myself. Digging a little deeper that involves going to Mariano’s, ordering delivery or going out to restaurants. It’s online shopping for clothes, ordering subscription services like Stitch Fix (got some fab pieces from them yesterday), or shopping directly from my favorite retailers and most often, Amazon.
Who knew Amazon would have everything I’d ever need and things I didn’t realize I needed until Facebook mentioned it.
It’s the books, movies, music, toys, journals, more books, concerts, travel, and other items that may be tangible or intangible that, as Kondo asks us to ask ourselves, bring me joy.
I’ve been on this planet almost half a century and in that time I’ve collected a lot of—well, stuff. Whether it’s the numerous books on my shelf for writing fiction or for my reading pleasure; vast amounts of t-shirts from concerts, movie premieres, and comic book conventions; cosmetics that could fill a small Sephora; or there was that one time I flew down the rabbit hole of eBay and bought anything and everything relating to the movie “A Bug’s Life.”
I have so much stuff that I still use the house my dad lives in as a storage unit of sorts. Even though I moved out of my childhood home twenty years ago, it’s vastly filled with old clothes, perfumes from the 80’s (which are fun to try), most of my CD collection, and those dang eBay purchases. Part of me wants to open a Hefty bag and dump 90% of it. Purge most of the CDs—everything is digital now, it’s almost pointless to own these items unless they’re significant or special editions. Donate all of the clothes, and maybe find a home for Flik and his friends (my nephews are five and three, but my sis has so much stuff she’s Kondo-ing her place too).
Other than a glance these items get when I visit Dad, I’m not using any of it. It could all disappear tomorrow and I probably wouldn’t reminisce or even know half of what went to the great beyond. I keep telling myself that I will purge it. I’ll take a day, or maybe an hour every time I’m there, but I just don’t.
At home, there’s that pair of jeans from twenty years ago that I swear I’ll get back into some day, but it’s so out of style it really needs to go and let’s not kid ourselves, I’m not getting back into them. Yet they still hang in my closet along with a bunch of shirts I don’t even like. Those books I’ll never read could be donated but part of me looks at the future and thinks “when I retire…” yet I probably won’t want to read those books in my 60’s. There are boxes of files from past jobs, small appliances in the basement (I don’t cook, why are they still here?), and about five hundred pieces of glassware in a house of two people.
I’ll admit a lot of what I purchase has good intentions behind it. There’s the purse I bought when I was in Thailand (I bartered hard for that one in the Bangkok market) that I have taken out and used twice. The exercise videos (nope, still fat), and the oodles of makeup (same palette used almost every day for months). The meals I planned (let’s just order pizza), the food that sits in my cabinet until my sis comes over to play the “let’s find the oldest thing she’s got in her pantry” game. One time we found a can of something from 2004. We moved into our house in 2006, which means we paid movers to move this item and we never ate it.
My husband is not a big shopper but he holds onto things we might need someday because you never know when you need that specific thing. He is also a bit of a prepper. Although his idea of being prepared for the end of the world is a box of chef boyardee in the basement, so yeah we’re doomed. I feel like I’m not the least bit prepared for armageddon, because none of the stuff I have on the pantry shelves is anything I’d want to eat. So at least we’ll be skinny (and still those exercise videos will go to waste).
Everything is garbage, a wise friend of mine once said. And he wasn’t wrong. Most of the stuff we procure these days is not only wasteful, it’s cheap and easily breakable. And at some point, you start hoarding the broken stuff too maybe thinking you’ll fix it one day. At what point do we just let it all go.
Truthfully, the act of letting it all go is not only emotional for some, it’s a time suck. I know that if I start a project of cleaning out my dresser, it’s gonna take me a bit. And I’m not even ready to try that folding thing Kondo does with the shirts, lemme just get down to a decent collection before I learn origami, ok?
I guess you don’t have to purge everything (although I daydream of a house that’s minimalist, and dust-free). I got rid of some old socks yesterday and I already feel lighter in a way. One step at a time. First the socks, then the unused As Seen On TV items you got sucked into purchasing at 3am.
I admit, it’s not like I have anything of value that someone will want when I’m dead—although I have an Andy Warhol Brillo Cube and we have actual famous artwork hanging in our house, but still, I don’t think anyone is gonna look at my stuff and go “oooh, I want that.” I’d keep the McDonald’s plates from the 70’s and a set of china and get rid of the rest. I’d keep the jeans I wear, and that actually fit, and donate the rest. I’d use that Thailand handbag because that 18-hour plane ride deserves a reward.
I will always remember something my mom used to say, that I’m sure she heard somewhere else. “Why save the good china for special occasions? Every day should be special.”
That phrase stuck with me even if I don’t put it into practice. But I get it.
Life is short, use the good stuff. And while I know I have too much stuff. I’ll trudge forward and purge what I can, but you’ll have to wrestle the eBay-purchased replica of my childhood stuffed animal out of my hands before I get rid of it.