I thought I had Kondo-ized my apartment last spring when I wrote about the 40 Bags Challenge and my take on how Marie Kondo’s mantras applied to me. I embraced letting go, I recycled like a crazy person, I made a bazillion trips to the Goodwill Store, the clothing giveaway box in the building’s laundry room, and NY Public Library – all in a deliberate attempt to unclutter my living space. And then, I thought I was done.
But lo, I had only scratched the surface. I really don’t have anything near what I could honestly call clutter, but oh my, do I still have stuff. It is weighing me down when I need to fly. It surrounds me and makes me crave the inertia I feel when I sit on my very comfy couch, watching reruns of Law and Order. I take off my shoes, my feet become one with the rug on the floor, and I look around to find many, many familiar things – even after letting go of around 65 bags of stuff during Lent.
It’s all about the inertia that I am causing. I rest, I am calm, I am safe, I have no burning reason to get up, get dressed, and get out of my living room. I’m cushioned by stuff – still. When I come home, my stuff flows and pools around me like those empty plastic balls the kids jump into when you go to playrooms.
Specifically, I have an embarrassment of dishes. I have four separate sets of dishes, if you don’t count my mother’s china which is stored in Michigan. The set I use every day is made of cheap plastic. Some dishes are souvenirs from McDonald’s, some were on sale after Halloween a few years ago, and three pieces came from one time I thought if I was going to eat my lunch at my desk at work, I should have dishes. Dumbest idea ever – why would I want to wash dishes at work when I could order takeout and eat out of the containers?
The next set is comprised of the remnants of six clear glass plates I bought when we first moved to Washington Heights almost 20 years ago. I have three left – they mean a lot to me. And they are still really popular alternatives to the everyday plastic.
Then, I have the set of six place settings and a serving platter with a New York skyline border from 2001. I bought them right after the attack on the World Trade Center to commemorate the Twin Towers’ place on the skyline. I have mugs that match and the bowls are really heavy, but perfect for big servings of pasta.
And finally, I have lovely china from my kids’ great grandmother. When they sold her house, the china traveled across the street to the new house, where it sat mostly unused until the new house was sold decades later and it all came to me. The china has moved twice since then and I have lost a number of plates and a few teacups – which under normal china conditions would be a deal breaker. But this massive collection was once 14 complete place settings with service plates and extra teacups. I still have 21 teacups, 14 lunch plates, 14 bread and butter plates, but only 9 dinner plates. I’ve used it all twice in nearly 20 years.
So, I can’t tell exactly what makes me want to keep things I never use. I agree that variety is key to living a rich life, but I have so much that I never use and now, it’s got to go. I have sold my home and I am replacing a very spacious two-bedroom apartment with a minuscule, pied a terre studio. If I don’t use it, I don’t take it with me.
Channeling my new-found Kondo organizing skills, I have been taking things into my hands, giving them a little kiss goodbye, thanking them for their service, and then letting them all go. Clothes, linens, coats, papers, magazines – all thanked, all gone. I have cleared out two whole kitchen cupboards already and two shelves in each of two more cupboards. Drawers will be easy because I already have Baggie-ized my office supplies with pens in one Baggie, paper clips in another. and my clothes are now 7 bags fewer than I had a month ago.
I am still downsizing, tossing, giving away, throwing away, and I have learned some key things:
- When Marie Kondo talks about putting everything in one category, like books or clothes, in the middle of the floor and then sorting through it, she is so right. When I did books, I found a Volume One to a book series I nearly gave away because I only had in front of me Volume Two. Once I put all the books together I could see where I had too many of a single author or book and where I could reunite volumes in a series.
- I now know how important that step is when Marie Kondo talks about thanking something for its service. I found I really did need to say goodbye to some things that had time-traveled with me. Like my nightshirt from Interlochen where I was a summer camper in 1972. I had not worn it since 1972, but it always made me smile when I fished it out of the trunk.
- Sort and organize mail in the moment. This is something I think will be most difficult going forward. I tend to keep things now, toss things later. I have to learn how to assess keeping something so I don’t have to deal with it later. The best organizers will tell you that the fewest times you handle something the more efficient is its use.
I went shopping for a new couch today – I’m not ready yet to buy a new couch, but it’s coming up. Now I have a massive sectional sleeper sofa that could fit in the new place but I would have to sacrifice a lot to make it work. The saleswoman was pretty insistent and a little grumpy and confused at my questions. She’s probably working in a job that isn’t satisfying, And she probably has too much furniture, all bought at an employee discount under some obligation to the store.
I am moving on. I know I will be very happy knowing that I am keeping what I use and giving away what I don’t use. I can honestly say I no longer need to see collections of objects in order to be happy and feel safe at home. I can remember the nightshirt, the dishes, the books – I do not need to keep them stored around me.
Marie Kondo says that if something is so desperately important to you that you cannot let it go, then why keep it in a box in a cupboard or closet. Bring it out, enjoy it. I’m ready to do that.