Getting rid of things is not my thing, face-facts-wise. Getting things is more my jam. I’m the nostalgic, flea-market-going, tchotchkes-lovin’ type. I have anthropomorphic toys from my childhood, almost a dozen t-shirts that haven’t fit since the Bush administration (the first one), one two-headed duckling under glass, and roughly two million books. (Roughly.) I’ve enjoyed them. I’ve cherished them. But now I feel like moving into the next phase of my life – the non-lolling-around surrounded by stuff while I stuff my face phase – needs a pruning. Trouble is, while the habits I need to discard are bad, the things I should unload are good. Some are valuable, some are historical, some are rare, some are just plain cute. Now Marie Kondo is great at teaching me how to fold shirts, but she’s not helpful at helping me discern the wheat from the chaff. (Besides, what is chaff? Maybe chaff is awesome.)
To be fair, Marie does have method for winnowing out all the crap, er, chaff. You’re supposed to hold each item and ask yourself, “Does it spark joy?” I did as she instructed, and some items did not spark joy, but rather bewilderment and/or self-recrimination. Out they went! (Well, out they oozed. I mean, should I give it to Goodwill, sell it, or save it for a friend’s daughter who might be born one day?)
Look, Marie K., I’m tidying like crazy (literally), but it takes hours. Days. Weeks even. First of all, a lot of objects seem to spark hunger. Or thirst. Or spark a need to look at old photos or spend hours on Instagram. But the real problem seems to be joy. Get thee behind me, joy! Turns out my stuff is just doused with delight. What if my my Stray Cats tee still sparks big joy, even if it’s way too small for “thoughts and prayers”? And old my old college papers, where I got A+s? I’m supposed to toss stuff that proves I’m not the dim bulb I appear to be? But Marie, it proves I once knew my Heidegger from a hole in the wall. It’s like if I thank them and chuck them, not only are they gone, but so is that smart girl I used to be. If I get rid of all my 40s faux Nudie suits, that media executive that wore cowboy clothes to work never existed. Getting rid of my old race t-shirts feels like excising the only remnants of decades of long-distance running. Selling off my collection of 1930s Photoplays closes the coffin lid on that lonely little girl who found solace in old movies. If historians dig up these ruins one day, there will be no evidence that this clueless, nutty, bright and curious ectomorph was ever here.
The joy curdles into grief.
But Ms. Kondo, what if I find a way to make my mourning blossom into something as precious as what I’ve left behind? What if a Phoenix can rise from these ashes of tiny tees and interminable term papers? What if I bid a fond farewell to who I used to be, and while I say thank you to her I say “Hello” to a new me? Not a worse me, and not necessarily a “better me”, but definitely a me. Maybe this me can’t run marathons, or prattle on about Socrates or Sartre. But by pruning her things maybe this me makes room for new adventures, new ideas, new (albeit larger) clothes. I love all this stuff, but as Dickens’ Marley would say, “these are the chains I forged in life.” Marie, maybe it’s time to focus on who I could be in the future instead of clinging to who I was in the past.
I’ll thank and say good-bye to my beloved Stray Cats tee – while I bop to “Rock This Town” on iTunes. You don’t fit anymore, and I’ve got a new future to rock. (In bigger clothes.)