It was Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up that almost caused me to crack. A friend had given it to me as a gift, muttering something about my home resembling a pop-up flea market. For months it sat on one of the many teetering stacks of books that form part of the obstacle course I call a living room. But at the beginning of this year, in yet another attempt to get organized, I poured a drink, opened the book, and prepared, as the author writes, “to change my life forever.”
Ten minutes later, after finishing the section on discarding, I rolled my eyes and tossed the book onto the coffee table amongst the magazines, unopened mail, Post-it Notes, journals, pens, earbuds, and loose change. “Does it spark joy?” I huffed. Glancing around the living room, I couldn’t find one item that didn’t bring me some sense of comfort or satisfaction. Envy, pettiness, crippling anxiety, inconsistency, frivolousness, conversations with my mother—these are the non-joy sparkers I’d really love to discard. But the items that comprise my clutter? I love all of those things. Discarding any of them would be like losing a friend.
A few days later, after banging a shin on my vintage umbrella stand (the brass one, not the chrome one), I gave the book another chance, flipped past the nonsense about discarding, and turned to “Chapter Three: Tidying by Category.” I was hoping for advice on how to sort and arrange my belongings, but when I reached the line, “It feels good to get rid of unnecessary items,” I knew the chapter title was a ruse. “Tidying” was just a euphemism for throwing things away. I skipped forward a few pages only to read that an unwillingness to discard items was caused by either “an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.” It was then I slammed the book closed and determined Ms. Kondo to be a real buzzkill.
That evening, while waiting for some friends to arrive, I tidied up the living room in my usual manner. I grabbed a large cardboard box, filled it with clutter, then hid it in the guest room. Voila! I debated on what to do with Ms. Kondo’s book, but in the end decided to squeeze it into a cabinet, where it remains today. It doesn’t necessarily bring me joy, but it was a thoughtful gift from a good friend, and I just can’t bring myself to discard it.