Getting Down to Tidying Up

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Getting Down to Tidying Up

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I was organizing stuff when Marie Kondo was in elementary school.

Getting Down to Tidying Up By Judy Heft

“Are you really going to use it, mom?”

“I don’t know, I don’t want to throw it out,” I said

“If I’m just going to throw it out after you’re gone you might as well throw it out now.”

That’s the gist of a conversation I had with one of my daughters as we were going through old plates last month. Little did we know that decluttering was about to become the hottest conversation topic on the internet and in real life.

Everyone’s abuzz with Netflix’s newest star Marie Kondo. Her show, “Tidying Up,” seems to have struck a chord with a frenetic society that yearns for simplicity. Marie goes about decluttering in a way slightly different than I do, but her signature phrase — “Does it spark joy?” — is just another way of asking “Are my children just going to throw this out when I’m dead?” Sure, my way is a little more cynical, but you would be cynical too if your Timeless Himalayan Pink Salt expired on September 19, 2017!

This weekend I decided to attack four major organizational problems in the spirit of Marie Kondo, and with the realism of my daughter.

  • Wires: As far as I’m concerned, power cords are a form of pollution. I don’t think scientists anticipated how quickly they would spread and multiply. I knew where all my important chargers were, so I grabbed the cords out of the junk drawer and threw them out. I haven’t needed any of them yet!
  • Old Bills and Statements: Certain documents need to be retained, like insurance policies. Monthly bills and statements from vendors, however, do not. For most vendors, online bill paying provides more up-to-date statements anyway. If it still bothers you to shred your old bills, you can always digitize them — a much less burdensome storage format for your heirs to deal with.
  • Odd Plates: No one knows where they come from, but they keep coming back. I’m talking about odd and mismatched plates, cups, bowls, etc. Not only do they take up too much space because they do not stack right, they slowly suck your energy while you are sleeping. No one is going to want them, so you might as well throw them out.
  • Spice Rack: It was when I was cleaning my spice rack that I found out the bad news about my Himalayan salt. It turns out that I had a lot of expired herbs, which I took a little more seriously than the expiration date on my salt. While those had to go, there were also a lot of duplicates which I combined.     

I think having a clear desk leads to a clear mind. In fact, a friend of mine recently told me that he is having trouble meditating. I asked him if he ever considered it might be all of the chaos around him — that he might have an easier time clearing his mind if his space was clear.

As I told my friend, the process of decluttering can be done slowly, in baby steps. And whether you prefer Marie Kondo’s outlook or mine, the goal is to think about what you’re sorting and be honest with yourself about its current and future usefulness.

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