I have said before that I’m a hanger on of things. I’ve been known to keep thrift store T-shirts I wore in high school simply because I cannot bring myself to part with the memories. What memories?, I wonder, as I write the previous. Why in the name of everything holy and good am I hanging on to this boys sized Medium Coca-Cola shirt that I wore 3,000 times in my high school years? The reason I finally have this self-analysis is a book. A damned book. A garbage book that made me reevaluate myself and my attachment to mementos and various other junk. This self-analysis is, obviously, no fun.

The book’s question is, does this Coca-Cola T-shirt spark joy? If you’ve read it, you know which book I’m talking about. The book is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

It’s funny, though, that I have been affected by this book because my reaction to most of the book was maniacal laughter. She talks about walking into your home and saying thank you to all of your objects. (Ha.) She talks about how, when you start clearing out your own things, your family will be inspired to do the same. (Double ha.) She says, once you’ve tidied, you’ll never have to tidy again. (HaHAHAHA with my hair on end whilst I trip over 10 dolls and backpacks and books and Beanie Boos on the way to the toolbox where I can find the most weapon-like hunk of metal with which to beat a pillow.)

I particularly found skippable the chapter where she focused on books. How to get rid of your books. How you are never going to get around to reading any of the books you haven’t read yet on your shelves if you haven’t read them already. How “someday” will never come. I looked at my to-read shelf, with its ever-growing pile of pages. I stood up and walked over to the unread books and gave each a gentle pat. “Don’t worry, my loves,” I said, following the author’s treat-your-objects-as-if-they-were-alive philosophy. “You are safe.” And then, quietly, with my fist in the air, I added, “We’ll show her!”

I found the author smug when she talked about reading lifestyle magazines since she was 5. I found her stingy when she suggested using only shoe boxes to organize. I found her annoying when she talked about her easy 5-minute routine of putting stuff away every time she walks in the door. (I imagined my own walking-in-the-door experiences…where by minute five, 800 articles of winter clothes are strewn across the floor and school papers are scattered on every possible surface and one child is begging for a cut-up-apple and the other is finding something of the other’s take that will make her most mad and I am frantically running from the pantry to the fridge because I have only recently remembered that dinner happens every day and today falls into that “every day” category.)

And finally, I particularly loathed the end section, where she spent a good deal of time comparing tidying to salvation, and for some reason, included that it could be a good diet technique. (Sorry, lady, but when you said one of your clients cleaned her shed and then had to run inside because her bowels suddenly reacted as if she’d taken an overdose of Pepto, I did not find the idea of tidying more appealing.)

However. Despite every major complaint listed above, I am changed. Gone are my days of glorious, glorious hoarding. After tearing through this garbage book, I found myself in my closet, knee deep in the likes of Coca-Cola T-Shirts, asking the damned question: “Does this spark joy?” Four garbage bags of shirts got a “no” in answer to the question, and, despite my every instinct, I found myself saying the sentiment she suggests to anything that was seeing its sorry end: “Thank you for your good service.” Apparently, all I needed to get over my hanging on was the idea that I could part on good terms with all of my things I was done with.

“Goodbye, shirts. I loved you. You did good.”
“Goodbye, shirts. I loved you. You did good.”

Next, I’ll move to my Komono. If you don’t know this word, it’s my favorite tidbit to have gleaned from this garbage book. As best as I can tell, it means all the crap in your Junk Drawer. What a lovely word for such a previously un-loved place. I plan to go there next. I’m concerned, though. What if I ask myself, “Do these paper clips spark joy?” And the answer is no? I’ll give them a hug and send them on their way and head to Staples the next time the kids need to connect some paper together. (And since the author suggests no bulk buying, when I go, I’ll hold a paperclip up and ask, “Do you sell these individually?”) It may be a pain, but hey, my komono drawer will be exquisite!

I think I am writing this to define paradox. I loathe this book, and yet it changed me. It helped me realize that there are things around me that I know I should get rid of, that are taking up space, that bother me when I see them, but I am hanging on to them. It helped me to ask, Why? It helped me to turn off the long string of reasons that something I don’t really want is worth keeping. It taught me the life-changing magic of shut the h@## up.

And now my closet is not bursting. It has space. I see only what I want to see when I look in it. It, gasp, sparks joy.

I think everyone with a stuff problem should read it. I’d let you borrow mine, but, well…


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