I’m afraid

My wife is something of a packrat, especially with papers — she has a dread of losing some important documentation, so she keeps it all. All of it. Bank statements from 1995, that sort of thing.

Then last night she started watching this Marie Kondo show. I’m cringing. I want Kondo to stop smiling like a manic mannequin. I’m getting annoyed that she shows up at these people’s houses, does next to nothing other than making a few suggestions, like how to fold clothes, and tells them to get to work and turn their belongings upside down…and then leaves. The family then gets to work and does everything.

She does have some good ideas, but the weird meditation thing at the start, and thanking the clothing you’re throwing out…no thanks. I don’t need the bogosity layered on top of the practical.

But my wife is getting a gleam in her eye, and has suggested that we should watch another episode or two tonight. She also moaned with delight when these couples talk about how cleaning together has brought them closer together. I’m worried that I’m going to get dragged into the KonMarie cult, even if it does mean we’ll finally get rid of all those boxes full of useless, ancient paper. Has anyone else been suffering through this? Does anyone know any good deprogrammers?


  1. nomdeplume says

    “Does anyone know any good programmers?” No, all I know is that whenever I decide the time has come to clean out those draft manuscripts from 1972, or those lecture notes from 1980, or the conference abstracts that were later published which I have in book form – whatever it is, the certain fact is that the day AFTER I finally throw them out is the day I will get an unexpected query about them, or I will discover they are relevant to something I have decided to do. The only answer to this problem is to NEVER throw anything out, and I have a study, an attic, and several large cupboards full of paper and books to prove it…

    I hope you and you wife find this helpful. I know my wife does.

  2. says

    I remember as a kid being rather conflicted about throwing away my old pillow. I think it was because of the association to being relaxed and comfortable. It lead to some personification.

    Emotions don’t have to make sense. They are what they are. Sometimes, what seems pointless to you is helpful to someone else.

  3. mrquotidian says

    My wife and I are making a long-distance move in a month or so and I am dreading going through all of my old artwork from college and gradschool that should simply be thrown away. It’s going to be rough, but it’s got to be done (it’s all so terrible; why do I keep it?).

    That said, I completely sympathize about this show.. My wife tells me that Kondo suggests you hold and item in your hands and ask if it brings you joy. If it doesn’t, you get rid of it. I’m all for de-cluttering, but I’m not sure the ability to illicit joy in my life is the standard by which I should keep something around. My toilet doesn’t bring me any joy, but I’m sure as hell happy it’s there!

    I suggest that you take up a hobby that can be done on the couch that you can distract yourself with when the show gets too hard to watch… That way you can spend some time together without your eyes rolling back into your head permanently. You could also barter watching the Kondo show for something your wife isn’t crazy about.. I’m sure she sits though some stuff she doesn’t particularly care for as well :)

  4. gijoel says

    Compulsive hoarding is thought to be a form of OCD. If thanking clothes helps ease the pain of letting go, then I’m all for it.

  5. tacitus says

    My sis-in-law was watching this show while I was visiting, and was quite taken by it. She, and the rest of her family are as secular as they come, so there’s little chance of them following any of the more woo-ish prescriptions in the show, but from what little I saw, I can see why so many people are tuning in. Most people aren’t as tidy and as organized as they want to be (myself included), and the show appears to have plenty of good common-sense advice bundled up in its attractive, if a little cloying, format.

    Oh, and PZ, your wife’s got nothing on me when it comes to being a pack rat. Somewhere upstairs I still have utility bills from 1987 neatly stashed away, and bank statements from 1981. I did manage to throw away many years worth of credit card receipts recently, but only after I filled an entire file storage box with them.

    I need help…

  6. says

    Introduce your wife to a subtle form of minimalism. No cult required, just always find ways to get rid of crap that isn’t adding value to your life. You two can definitely do it together.


  7. Charlotte Benton says

    The most important room in any house is the garage. It acts as a sacrificial room to keep the rest of the house uncluttered.

  8. SchreiberBike says

    We spent a nice weekend in a one bedroom apartment in a central city location last summer. When we came home and looked at all the accumulation around us, it felt claustrophobic. Maybe we’ll retire someplace someday where we won’t have the space to be pack rats. It’s been a good experience. I’m never going to fit into those clothes anyway.

  9. unclefrogy says

    wow what s subject!
    I have a hard time throwing anything out if I can see some kind of value $ in what ever it is or it will be needed 2 days after I throw it out.
    Ephemera also has an importance as the memorabilia which personally has a value to me that goes beyond and small monetary value it may have.
    I have acquired through time a small deposit slip receipt from the gas company from the early 1950’s that is for the house I grew up signed by my mom and after her divorce from my dad, I also have check stubs from years and years, menus from the 40’s cocktail napkins included in fact elements of life stuff that without any effort would vanish.
    the other thing I would add to this is from my personal experience is that your stuff will equal 120% of your space and it makes very little difference what you do. Increase your space and with time depending on how much added storage space added will again be filled to 120%.
    might be similar to Murphy’s law
    More room more stuff
    though it is productive to go through it all once in a while especially the memorabilia the other stuff is fun too.
    uncle frogy

  10. says

    I read Marie Kondo’s book a few month’s ago and found it… interesting. My mother’s people are all packrats; my father’s lot would probably put you in the trash if you stayed in their house long enough! I tend to oscillate between the two extremes. And I’m a sucker for “systems”… yes, that’s a copy of “Getting Things Done” on my shelf, why do you ask?

    That little ritual of thanking the item before discarding it might be riffing on a bit of Japanese folk belief that isn’t explained in either the book or series. There is a concept in Japanese folk belief of “Tsukumogami“, that is, of old objects picking up malevolent spirits. Maybe Kondo’s little ritual is a shout-out to that belief. I think it’s a good way of bringing the object’s life-cycle to a definite close, by making a little ritual out of it instead of stuffing it in the back of a drawer somewhere in the vague hope that it might be useful someday. And even though it might seem a bit silly, I think we all do develop emotional attachments to our stuff, even the more cerebral of us.

    mrquotidian @ 4:

    That said, I completely sympathize about this show.. My wife tells me that Kondo suggests you hold and item in your hands and ask if it brings you joy. If it doesn’t, you get rid of it. I’m all for de-cluttering, but I’m not sure the ability to illicit joy in my life is the standard by which I should keep something around. My toilet doesn’t bring me any joy, but I’m sure as hell happy it’s there!

    Yeah, the “does it bring you joy?” seems like a rather inadequate metric, doesn’t it? A rather cynical Irish blogger I was reading around the same time as I was reading the book made another valid point: it kind of assumes that joy-bringing is independent of time. It doesn’t necessarily follow that just because something brought you joy this week that it will do the same thing next week. (Also, being an Irish blogger, she pointed out that if you had two items bringing you equal amounts of joy, it was probably best to go with the more waterproof one, given our climate 😁)

  11. says

    I’m largely on board with LykeX @3 on this (and others who have made similar points).” As they say, “Emotions don’t have to make sense. They are what they are.” If it’s works better to play along with someone’s emotions to get them to do something they need to do than to tell them their emotions are stupid and illogical and doing so doesn’t really harm anyone, then it would seem best to just do that.
    Another way to say this is to say that the “bogosity” is likely already there (if it wasn’t, the person would have probably ridded themselves of the old belongings by now). Deal with it instead of against it.
    Also, things can relate to memories, which I would not label as “bogosity.” I’ve had difficulty parting ways with some of my late wife’s belongings because they remind me of her and throwing them out (or recycling if I can) raises the concern that I’m, in a sense, throwing away memories. I know that’s not really the case, but it’s difficult to suppress such thoughts nonetheless.

  12. komarov says

    I could throw things out or I could rent a warehouse and be ready for the day I need that half-ton of scrap paper, a thousand small cardboard boxes or if all my new(ish) clothing is destroyed in a freak tumbledryer accident, forcing me to wear the old(er) stuff.

    More seriously, why is seemingly every major media outlet across several continents and language barriers putting out articles about this woman? Given the premise I’m not convinced she’s come up with something so profound that everyone must know immediately, such as first contact with alien life (not counting old socks). It can’t be that it’s an international slow news day either. Trump’s president, the environment has had enough and the world is, generally speaking, on fire.

    By a process of elimination it must therefore be a conspiracy. And who has to gain by starting everyone on a spring cleaning craze? That’s right: Collectors! They’re after our “worthless” trinkets and will do anything to take them from us!

  13. says

    The most important thing about chucking stuff out is to not harbour any regrets about the process. You need something (that stayed in a dusty box for 7 years) a week after you threw it out? Grin madly and move on.

  14. ridana says

    #12 from Cat Mara:

    There is a concept in Japanese folk belief of “Tsukumogami“, that is, of old objects picking up malevolent spirits.

    Not necessarily malevolent. Well-loved tools that became tsukumogami were either benign (or playful pranksters) or could even be helpful. However, if you tossed them out carelessly, they could turn on you and bring misfortune. :) Also they did not acquire souls until after 100 years, so sometimes people tried throwing away 99-year-old things, which could also give rise to spirits vengeful over such callous treatment after a century of service.

    I guess I learned my packrat ways from my Depression-surviving mother. But recently I had need to dig up an old pay stub from a job I had in the 70s, and that’s the sort of thing that reinforces the behavior. I have fantasies of just burning the house to the ground to get rid of everything, but potential damage to neighboring properties prevents me from acting on them.

  15. patricklinnen says

    Thanking clothing for service I would say is a Shinto thing. For instance, if you don’t want your antique dolls to murder you in your sleep, you need to bring them to the shrine to thank them, bless them and then ceremonially burn them.

    You have to get clarification from a Comparative Religion major or someone that studies Japanese culture. The only reason I have heard of the practice is from reading about Japanese Youkai (spirits or monsters depending on how you look at them) called tsukimono, some of which (the Youkai) border on being considered Kami (high-ordered spirits or gods), and some of the slice-of-life manga that touch on religion and shrine workings.

  16. says

    My late mother was similar. When she moved into a nursing home several years ago my sister and I were busy keeping ahead of my father as he threw things out preparatory to moving to a retirement unit. My mother never threw anything out among the hoard was our old school reports. lots of “can do betters” there and mountains of Birthday cardchristmas cards and mothers day cards. She also hated chocolate but kept almost every box she had ever been given, unopened but definitely inedible. There were two real treasures though. Her collection of hand written recipes. I am still trying to winkle the lemon slice recipe out of my sister who took possession of it. The real treasure was a letter from my aunt, the sister closest to my dad. It was a welcome to the family and expressed her gratitude for marrying my father who suffered most of his life from PTSD as a result of service in WW2. They were happily married and very close for nearly 70 years. So when you go on your scorched earth chucking out binge take the time to ponder the significance of what you are tossing.

  17. Matt says

    Oh, it’s terrible. My wife suggested we watch an episode a few nights ago. I keep very little, but my wife has some hoarding tendencies (but only in specific areas) so at first I was excited that she was seeing the light and wanted to support her journey. Nope. After one episode with all of the thanking of inanimate objects, I bowed out. My support only went so far. The next two nights I went to bed early. That is my suggestion. I got an extra hour or two of sleep while my wife watched some more episodes. Both mornings when I woke up (well rested), there was a pile of stuff that no longer brought my wife joy. She was kindly giving me a chance to test these items for joy before getting rid of them for good. I told her that in the future she can have final say and just assume I’m good with it. The only downside to my plan is that while we now only have 2 cookbooks instead of 4, we still have about 20 boxes of baby clothes instead of, say, ZERO. I think my wife is done with the show, though, as she wanted more instruction and less storytelling. We both agree that “Extreme Cheapskates” is a far better show for getting on ideas on how to live with less.

  18. Artor says

    You can do what I just did. I bought a school bus, and I’m converting it into my new home. It’s spacious, but I’m going to have to get rid of a lot of my shit. Like, a LOT a lot.

    Or not.

  19. says

    We moved from 80 square metres to 120 square metres in 2017. I threw out tons of things in advance. There are still unpacked boxes (and I still haven’t found my power banks).
    If our Bundesland had a motto then “better have and not need than need and not have” would be it.
    I come from a line of poor people. Throwing away things is not customary.

  20. Sparksintolife says

    If its receipts and old documents and stuff, you could consider taking smartphone pics (readable closeups) of it before throwing it out. Much easier and quicker than scanning. I dunno, I’ve always appreciated having nice clean spaces, for me that massively outweighed the emotional attachment to stuff.

  21. madtom1999 says

    I found my house looks a lot tidier if I dont let the declutter gurus in in the first place.

  22. Derek Vandivere says

    I keep imagining the conversation:

    “And this object, does it give you joy?”

    “Well, Marie, I use it to shovel cat shit into the garbage, so no.”

  23. A. Noyd says

    Cat Mara (#12)

    There is a concept in Japanese folk belief of “Tsukumogami“, that is, of old objects picking up malevolent spirits. Maybe Kondo’s little ritual is a shout-out to that belief.

    I was thinking the same thing, actually. Not just that, but the Buddhist concept of lingering attachments is pretty prevalent in Japan. Known locally as “miren,” it’s permeated the colloquial language to mean more mundane kinds of attachments and regrets, but still retains the religious sense. So Kondo’s ritual could be both for what you suggest and for getting rid of “miren.”

    Yeah, the “does it bring you joy?” seems like a rather inadequate metric, doesn’t it?

    I’m also guessing there’s something getting lost in translation with this whole “brings joy” business. “Miren” are specifically attachments that weigh you down and keep you from feeling joyful (and ultimately keep you from enlightenment). So, if Kondo is coming from a Buddhism-influenced angle, it makes perfect sense to say that lacking joy in having a thing is a sign that its time has passed and you need to get rid of it.

  24. lesofa says

    It’s been some time since I read one of her books, but I’m pretty sure she addresses the issue of things that don’t necessarily bring you joy, but are useful. Bringing joy isn’t the only standard she proposes, but it’s the main one. (Not sure about the TV show though, as I haven’t seen it.)

    I think it’s a fine method. It certainly helped me get rid of a lot of clutter in my small apartment and I do feel better at home now. But I agree it seems quite woo-ish at times. Just ignore those parts.

  25. says

    we still have about 20 boxes of baby clothes instead of, say, ZERO.

    Clothes are easy. They can be donated and bring other people joy and use. I kept the first onesie I bought for each kid as they may want to have such a piece of personal memorabilia later, but the rest was first lent to other people and then donated as we decided to be done with having kids.
    Clothing comes in three versions: can be donated, can be salvaged for fabric scraps, is thrown away. As the kids have grown the focus shifted from category 1 to 3. What is a problem is shoes. Not that I’m shoe obsessed. It’s more like I wear them until they’re five uses from falling apart and then I buy new ones. But how could I throw away shoes that I could probably wear five more times (but don’t want to because my feet get wet)?
    Yeah, I don’t throw away things that are still usable but not sellable or donatable. When renovating the house, my dad went through my “random screws box” (by now I have three of them) and said “You inherited the horrible habit of keeping all screws because you might need just that one from your maternal grandpa”, before he continued saying “just like I got it from mine!”

  26. eliza422 says

    I guess I’ll play devil’s advocate, as I loved the show, have the book, and am trying to implement some of the ideas (the practical ones, not the more “spiritual” ones).
    The little rituals she trains people in are to get rid of the emotional attachment they have with what, to an outsider, is just a thing. An example of an item I have is a crocheted afghan my grandmother gave me when I was a kid. It’s kind of ugly (total 70s colors), but I still have it. It’s the only thing I have from her that I’ve kept. When I see it (it is out!), it gives me a little warm feeling, thinking about her. Now, if I had an entire closet of things from grandma it would be a different story.
    It reminds me of when my father died – when my siblings and I were at his house his wife kept trying to get us to take his collections with us. I had no need for 25 different Don Quixote figurines, or 50 bird sculptures. I took one of each thing and that was it – it was enough for me to remember my dad and what was so important to him. Having 100 of them wouldn’t make me remember him better!
    A good example on the show is the couple expecting their first baby. The husband struggled to throw away the old mailbox that had been on the house when they bought it. It seems ludicrous! But he talks about how his family immigrated here from Guatemala, they had nothing, now he and his wife were able to buy a house down the street from his parents – such a significant achievement of their success here. He had imbued all of that into this stupid mailbox that wasn’t even theirs!
    I was a big fan of the old A&E show Hoarders, and you saw that all the time on that show. Admittedly hoarders have a mental illness that sends this behavior to the extreme, but the same tendencies were there. The object – and it could literally be anything – becomes imbued with memory and significance. The act of throwing it away seems like discarding the important person or event, the person fears they will forget, or that it tarnishes the memory.

    What I do like is that Marie Kondo does say she’s not trying to make you throw everything away – you should keep what is important to you. One of the ways to identify which things to keep is the “sparking joy” idea. I interpret it to mean I’m happy to see / use this item, or it’s so singular a thing (like my grandma’s afghan) that it stays.

    I know I’ve rambled a bit, but I thought it would be helpful to explain to people who don’t make these kinds of emotional attachments to stuff a different point of view on the show. Again, I dislike the greeting the house / waking the books / thanking the stuff – but I think the underlying concept of the method is strong.

  27. drst says

    I’m definitely tired of people mocking the “does it give you joy?” question. She’s not asking that question about things like pots and pans that you need for cooking, or anything that’s a basic necessity for living. It’s not a question asked about the toilet. You ask that question about things that you don’t actually need, like clothes that no longer fit, or old papers or books you likely won’t read again. The larger point is “why are you keeping unnecessary things when they don’t provide you with even a simple level of happiness?”

    But hey, she’s a non-white woman who is popular and making lots of money right now so obviously she has to be mocked incessantly.

  28. call me mark says

    Minimalism is a form of rich-person privilege. If you throw all your stuff away, if you’re rich and you find you need something again, you just buy another one. Poor folk can’t do that.

  29. says

    ridana @ 16: I suspected “malevolent” might have been too strong a word to use. There isn’t a good adjective to describe the workings of supernatural beings whose motivations might not necessarily make sense from a human perspective– which is odd, really, considering how often they show up in world mythology, from Germanic elves to Celtic aos sí. There is “inscrutable”, but given that word’s problematic history of use in the Far East, I’m not using that!

    (Slightly OT, this conversation just reminded me of some of the folk-religious customs, and the ways different layers of such customs can interact. For example, when I was a kid in Ireland in the 80s, it was still customary for kids to build a “May altar” to the Virgin Mary during the month of May and decorate it with hawthorn blossom which flowers at that time of the year. Except for two of my mother’s aunts who were otherwise very devout Catholics– up to and including having one of those scary-ass eyes-follow-you-around-the-room Sacred Heart devotional pictures in their living room that scared the shite out of me as a kid– for whom you’d assume May altars would be right up their aisle. They would not have hawthorn blossom in the house because it was a “fairy flower” and thus somehow unholy. I’d love to have known the origin of that particular superstition, or how the two beliefs managed to exist in opposition…)

  30. stroppy says

    Interesting topic and comments esp. regarding memories and (to use a term of art) numenous qualities of objects.

    Going through family archives it’s hard for me to conceive of throwing out photos. It would be like throwing out pieces of somebody’s life. Same with letters. Same to some extent with things that were once loved and intentionally assembled around a person’s life; or even things that were simply manufactured with care.

    For my own, let’s be honest here, crap; it is physical memory that would be permanently lost if I tossed it. I mean, hmm, it seems something happened to how my memory functions, I’m guessing some time around the early 70’s?…something to do with a concert… I wonder… Maybe there’s some crap around here that will bring it back for me…

  31. asbizar says

    PZ, I am a psychiatrist. If hoarding is causing trouble and distress for the person (which I am not sure is true in this case as your wife seems to like it actually), cognitive behavioral therapy is the way to go. You could still talk to her about how this has caused problems (if it has) and then ask her if she would be interested in doing something about it.

  32. says

    Nah, it’s not obsessive hoarding. It’s more a matter of badly filing papers away in boxes, letting them accumulate, and then losing interest in sorting and discarding. She’s not possessive of all the crap at all, it’s just a matter of not wanting to deal with it after the fact.

  33. says

    A. Noyd @ 27: I hadn’t heard of “miren”[1] before. I imagine in a Buddhist-oriented culture, teaching people to let go of stuff is important.

    [1] I came across a great Japanese word recently in an essay on Japanese aesthetics. Somehow, I imagined it as a drinking game between German and Japanese.
    German: I am German. I am the language of the Enlightenment and of Romanticism. Many of the greatest Western philosophers and artists have expressed their thoughts using me. I have many great words: Schadenfreude. Weltschmerz. Zeitgeist. Many other languages borrow those words, even my braggart cousin, English. How about that? (raises glass to lips)
    Japanese: Yūgen: “It is like an autumn evening under a colorless expanse of silent sky. Somehow, as if for some reason that we should be able to recall, tears well uncontrollably.” (sips beer nonchalantly)
    German (glass dropping from numb fingers): Fuck, you’re good.

  34. Ragutis says

    The last time my parents moved, my dad threw away 2 suitcases full of photographs, a dozen or so carousels of slides (NOT the broken slide projector, however), my first teddy bear, and my collection of tour shirts (including signed ones for Iron Maiden, Steve Vai, Cinderella, Badlands, and Slayer) but kept his coffee cans full of assorted screws, nuts, bolts, and washers, a percolating coffee pot older than I am (as well as several drip models whose carafes had broken long ago), and ties that went out of fashion before bellbottoms did. And the mattress he sleeps on has got to be nearly 30 yrs old.

    It would be easy to say that he just isn’t sentimental, but he still has the suit he was married in (which he wants to be buried in), a bag of dirt from his hometown (which he wants to be part of his grave) and though my mom has been gone nearly 5 years, her clothes still occupy about 2/3ds of the walk-in closet.

    Anyway, I’d never heard of this woman, and now in a day I’ve run across her 3 times. Here, Wonkette, and somewhere else that I don’t remember. At least she isn’t telling people to stick rocks up their hoo-has or selling gold-plated vibrators.

  35. says

    call me mark @ 32:

    Minimalism is a form of rich-person privilege. If you throw all your stuff away, if you’re rich and you find you need something again, you just buy another one. Poor folk can’t do that.

    I agree with you, to some extent. Those “tiny house” people, for example? They can bite me. While I’m all for lowering one’s ecological footprint, buying a miniaturised dwelling and parking it in the corner of a five-acre field in the middle of nowhere has all sorts of implications for sustainable population density and utility services provision, don’t get me started. But in Japan where living spaces are much smaller compared to Western standards (especially American ones) and rents are crazy expensive, I think that having lots of stuff is much more a rich-person thing than it is in the West. But even in the US it seems to be a more common thing now that even people on relatively modest incomes have to rent those storage spaces to deal with the overflow of crap from their houses, if shows like Storage Wars are any indicator?

    Yeah, I went there, I mentioned Storage Wars in a Marie Kondo thread. FITE MEH! 😁

  36. JustaTech says

    I got her first book a few years ago and while it was an interesting read I only ended up applying really one of her suggestions, which is to fold your shirts so that they stand upright in the drawer rather than being stacked so you can see them all at once.

    That and the “do it all at once so you don’t lose momentum” is a pretty good idea too.

    As for the “spark joy”, I found the best application was with clothing. This shirt I never wear, does it make me happy? Or does it not fit/is itchy/ is unflattering? If it makes you unhappy and isn’t essential, get rid of it. I also used the “spark joy” / makes me unhappy as an excuse to get rid of some creepy little statues my husband’s grandmother had given us. Sometimes you just need a nudge.

    (As for “why is everyone talking about this lady again?” it’s because she’s got a new show out on Netflix and she was a big thing a few years ago, and there’s good copy in the voyeurism of looking in people’s homes.)

  37. Onamission5 says

    There’s forms of stashing I get, like keeping the baby crib, some clothes, and some toys just in case– I mean it’s not like babies cease to exist in one’s life just because one’s own have moved out of that life stage, and you never know when those things might come in handy but you won’t have the resources to go out and buy them in the moment. Moving boxes for those who don’t have housing security, same. Stores don’t give them away like they used to, now you’re frequently expected to add purchase of packing materials to one of the more expensive life transitions. Some beloved pieces of my old wardrobe have found new life amongst my teen daughter and her friends, others have been repurposed as costume elements. I even get keeping the old toaster in case the new one craps out on you before its expected life span. If you move around a bunch but don’t have a lot of free cash on hand, then holding on to shelves or curtains you can’t use right this minute and cabinets that don’t fit in the current dwelling has its place. I keep buttons, rubber bands, safety pins, and nails if they’re still useful because I developed that habit when I was dirt poor living without ready transportation; when you need one of those things you need it and it doesn’t make sense to spend a carton of egg’s worth of money to buy a whole pack of X if you only need one or two X. Even providing you can get to a store that sells notions in a timely manner, of course.

    There is a point at which holding on to old things becomes more of a burden than letting them go, but I don’t know what that point is, and all I’m certain of is that it’s not the same for everyone. Maybe it’s when you find yourself buying the same stuff you already have because the stuff you have is lost or broken. Maybe it’s when the closets or room you use for storage can no longer serve double function. Maybe it’s when you find yourself looking at storage units even though you already have a garage and a shed, or when you need to find paperwork from last year but it’s buried beneath paperwork from ten years ago.

    I’m a saver and Spouse is a throw it away, we’ll buy it again later’er. Except when it comes to actual garbage (knotted string, empty spools of weed whacker twine, packaging from potting soil, the boxes things came in) which I try to dispose of in a timely manner and he collects allover the place in cans, boxes, and buckets for a once a year big purge for some mindboggling reason. I suspect it’s less “I want to keep this” and more “dealing with this displeases me so thus can be procrastinated,” much like my Pile Of Paperwork that remains on the counter no how many time I sort it.

  38. andyb says

    Maybe if you thought of this as Swedish “death cleaning” you’d be more receptive…I also spend enough days out of the year without access to a toilet, that I’m quite sure my toilet brings me joy.

  39. kaleberg says

    Kondo might be a little flakey, but she’s dealing with a real problem. Americans are prone to clutter. The increasing size of our houses is a sign of it. We have more stuff, and we need more room for more stuff. Some people have a lot of trouble throwing things away. There’s often an emotional attachment or a feeling that it might be needed someday. More seriously, there is inertia. Once the pile reaches a certain size, it becomes so daunting that the idea of going through it and sorting things out seems impossible. I Kondo gets a few people to address their emotional attachments and fears more clearly and directly, she’s doing a service. If she gets people to start shoveling through the pile, even just accepting the idea that it can be done, she’s doing a good thing. So much of it is about emotions, that I’m surprised that Kondo takes her approach.

  40. me says

    I’m an admitted fan of having less stuff and purposely bought a very small house in hopes of limiting my accumulation of stuff (among other reasons), but I’ve come to side-eye the declutter movement. We have an entire culture built and designed on consumption. In fact, the whole house of cards comes tumbling down when people stop consuming. So what do we do? Tell people to clear out the things that no longer bring them joy… so they can buy more shit that meets their joy needs of the moment. All about the joy, huh? As a person who is intimately familiar with retail therapy and impulse purchases in this era of Amazon available from bed at 3am, I am pretty suspicious of looking at stuff in terms of joy. So while I know that a lot of people have way more stuff than they need, and that it can be easier to let some of that crap go if you put rituals around the process, the promotion of the Marie Kondos of the world plays into an underlying pathology of clutter as an economic necessity- at the expense of anyone’s sustainable joy. I don’t doubt that she means well, but I can’t help but see her (and her popularity) as a symptom of systemic dysfunction rather than the solution to our clutter woes.