“Listen to this” I said to Cliff as I began reading the page on sorting papers: “Rule of Thumb – Discard Everything. ” As I continued reading the chapter on sorting papers in Marie Kondo’s New York Times best seller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I saw my husband’s eyes bug out, his jaw go rigid. I imagined his next move would be grabbing the book from my bare hands. (He didn’t.) Even though papers accumulate in our house like snowdrifts, he was having none of it.
It’s hard to dispute the dictum of a Japanese cleaning consultant like Kondo who claims that none of her clients have lapsed – and who has a three-month waiting list. She insists that if you organize your house properly, you’ll never have to do it again.
At the heart of her message is this: Keep something only if it sparks JOY in your life. And related to this: Give it away, if you think it will inspire joy in others.
So, I have divested myself of possessions I’ve held onto for decades.
Ribbons and sewing notions have gone to a church friend, Donna, seamstress extraordinaire, who has connections to talented women needing supplies.
Like my friend Carolyn, I have passed on items of fine dining. My wedding crystal went to my hair stylist and super hostess Jackie. Originally, I intended to donate my crystal (from The Susquehanna Glass Factory in Columbia, Pennsylvania) to The Community Hospice Thrift Shop. But before I ever got to the donation center, Jackie took a look, fell in love, and the crystal sherbets and glasses became hers.
By far the hardest thing to divest myself of is MY BOOOOOKS! They are part of my self-hood, my identity for the decades of my long teaching career. I am not the only book lover who wrestles with such impulses. Summer Brennan writes about the heartache of such a task here. Like her, I feel torn by the lure of Kondo’s promise of the magic of recycling and my impulse to embrace William Dean Howell‘s advice, “Oh, nothing furnishes a house like books.”
I’ve given dozens of books to Angel Aid, a charity for women and children. But I feel just as good when they land in the hands of young scholars, like Matthew, who can appreciate the nerdy translation of my Chaucer texts from Middle to Modern English, pre-digital translate days.
Matthew took my Milton text too, and two Survey of English Lit texts. He exclaimed, “I appreciate this. I can’t thank you enough,” followed by a smiley face and book emoticon.
I feel a certain lightheartedness at getting rid of stuff, especially if I can pass them on to people who appreciate their worth.
Grandma Longenecker can relate to such a feeling. She told me so in a letter from Rheems, Pennsylvnia in April 1975.
“They are busy at the shop, selling a lot of new equipment, I turned the shop over to Ray and house to Ruth, so I’m rid of that stuff.”
In other words, Grandma divested herself of two properties by deeding them over to my father and aunt. I’m guessing that she was immensely relieved of responsibilities for either property.
She continued to live in her lovely Victorian home until the day she died.
Coming next: A rollicking review of Marie Kondo’s book and a glimpse of the shop Grandma deeded to my dad. Neat versus messy? You decide.
Your tips for paring down and tidying up are welcome here. 🙂