Sayonara, Stuff

Now we reach the point in the proceedings where we don our headlamp and go spelunking in the closet for the box that holds our warm weather wardrobe.

Whereupon we discover, once again, that our summer clothes have mysteriously shrunk. Those frothy bits of confectionary that we wore to outdoor barbeques are now straining to button over–can it be, a gut? Those cute shorts in multiple colors are all a tad tight … ugh, everywhere. We shall not even broach the topic of The Bathing Suit.

Down, down into the box I go, looking for something that fits and therefore proves that I have not gained weight since I shoved this box in the closet last fall and returned, with relief, to the time of Big Fuzzy Sweaters and cuddle socks and hot chocolate with schnapps.

So I sat down–no time like the present to procrastinate–and read Marie Kondo’s bestseller, The Life -Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

tidy cover

Nothing is so tiresome as a convert–paleo, gluten-free, born again, tedious all–but this little book changed me from person who clung to stuff–clothes, books, china from relatives I never knew–to a person trying to reduce her belongings to ”only those that spark joy.”

Kondo has you put your hands on everything you have in a particular category, ask if it brings you joy, and if it doesn’t, you thank it for whatever it did for you–even if it just made you feel good when you bought it after a wine-fueled lunch–and send it on its way to bring someone else joy. It’s a simple approach: more peaceful and less punitive than the try-everything-on, buy more storage “solutions.” (“Storage experts are hoarders,” the book’s brisk chapter heading snaps.) The Container Store should be scared.

As I dig through my box I see plenty of things would spark joy if I could fit into them but … Seven–seven!–bags later I have whittled my summer wardrobe down to a set of tops and skirts that fit and that I actually like. I even fold them in the KonMari method (I had to check it on YouTube first)  and line them up like color-coded Chiclets.


Image courtesy of my closet

This book showed that you can teach an old WASP new tricks. I come from centuries of Yankee parsimony, where you wear clothes until they’re threadbare and even then they’re good for gardening. My father would leave the house in my grandfather’s raincoat, I have my mother’s cardigans from the 1950s, and Christmas isn’t Christmas until you iron spent wrapping paper so it can be used next year.

It was profligate–vulgar, even–to dispose of something you’d been given or paid money for, and joy had nothing to do with it. Kondo does not truck with such Puritan judgment. Somehow the act of saying “thank you and bye” to those itsy shorts made it safe to let them go. It was weirdly freeing to discard piece after piece that I’d avoided year after year, wistfully waiting for that magical moment when they would make me feel young instead of mortal.

Kondo says you should do it all in one swell foop I mean one fell swoop, but I got tired and a little sad so I stopped for the night. I was back at it the next day and am still sawing through my clothes (the first category she asks you to purge, since they are not as personal as photos) … And I’m determined to tackle the next group, and the next … Maybe I’ll end up with only a mumu and a copy of Middlemarch. I can’t wait to see.