2.01.2015

Object Permanence Project Week Three, Or: Adventures in Life-Changing Magic!

Welcome back to the Object Permanence Project, wherein I let go of the unnecessary and work to appreciate with joy what I already have. 

I have never read a book on organization, tidying, minimalism, or anything of the sort. Self-help books are just not my jam. However, this week my attention came to rest on a veritable Tidying Phenomenon of a book, featured in the New York Times and set to be made into a documentary film in Japan.

I refer to Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing."

Here is her advice: Organize by category. Scour your house for everything in that category, put it in a heap on the floor, and go through the pile item by item, taking each object into your hands and considering its existential place in your life. She recommends the question, "does this spark joy?"

Discard everything that does not spark joy. Organize the rest.

I wouldn't have read it (probably just tried the advice), but then I read the Goodreads reviews. Hilarious. 

My favorite, by "George," read, in its entirety, thusly: "Do you like talking to furniture? Do you believe shirts have souls? Are you insane? This might be the book for you." Other review highlights included, "Interesting if read as the autobiography of a tidy-mongering obsessive," and "The book is short and sweet, and the author is bat-shit crazy."

Bat-shit crazy? Just my style. 

So I read it.

I was very taken with it, indeed. For a book on cleaning, she has an intensely individual voice. She is charming and very quirky. She talks to her socks. She places no value on tidiness for the sake of tidiness (neither do I); she finds value in how tidying helps us focus on other things more easily. "Tidying," she writes, "is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order … After all, what is the point in tidying? If it's not so that our space and the things in it can bring us happiness, then I think there is no point at all."

And most congruent with what I have been trying to do here, she also focuses on appreciating what we have: "We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of … I had been so focused on what to discard, on attacking the unwanted obstacles around me, that I had forgotten to cherish the things that I loved, the things I wanted to keep."

Yup. That's what I want to do.

So yesterday, I embarked upon following her advice. She instructs her disciples to begin with clothing.

Every article of clothing I own, piled on my living room floor.
Baby for scale. (Baby is not actually an article of clothing.)


So that was a lot of clothes. I would say I spent a righteous five hours in sorting, discarding, folding, and putting away.

I'm not a huge shopper, and I have often culled clothes on a smaller scale, so I did not think I had quite so much clothing (or so much to get rid of). Kondo points out, though, that if we store our things in multiple places (I had) it is easy to overlook how much we have.

I filled five 13-gallon kitchen trash bags with clothes and shoes for donation or discard. (Note: This was a delightful project to do with a baby. He was very engaged with chewing on belt buckles and banging boot heels against the floor.)

In the end, everything I decided to keep fit neatly into one chest of drawers and half of our small closet (Rob has the other half) except for some outerwear, etc that I keep on the coat rack or in the mud room.

One of the aspects I find most delightful about Getting Rid of Stuff is that the more I let go of stuff, the less I want to shop for new stuff. That's pretty great, and I think it's because the more I mindfully surround myself only with things I love, the less I feel I need.

If I can open my drawer and feel as if I am really pleased with every shirt in there, I feel the need for new clothing much less. The same with books, etc. On the other hand, if I open the drawer and only see things that I have no real interest in wearing, I feel tempted to buy more.

Further, the more I let go of the more I realize how little I truly need (except for books. I "need" a lot of those.)

Speaking of things I really love, here are my appreciated objects for this week. It is cold here — 9 degrees Fahrenheit minus windchill at 12:30pm in the sunny, blue-skied afternoon. I am feeling a great deal of appreciation for my everyday outerwear.

This coat wins Most Valuable Player in my wardrobe. It is a rather ancient Burberry that I picked up years ago in a second-hand shop for almost no money. It has a zip-in wool liner for cold weather. It gets more wear than anything else I own, hands down. I wear it all four seasons, zipping the liner in and out. It has been with me to Kenya and China. I lost the belt on a plane ride into Shanghai but that almost makes me love it more, not less. I use it as a raincoat, my winter coat (layered up with sweaters), and a blanket when I travel. I have it dry-cleaned once or twice a year to get the inevitable coffee stains out, and while it is at the cleaner's I feel bereft. I don't know what I'll ever do if and when it finally dies because this is not a coat I could afford to replace new.

Both the hat and scarf are from Sweet Lady Jane in downtown B'ton. I love the scarf in particular — it is a finely woven merino wool and it's also an infinity scarf. I wear it both as a scarf or as a shawl, it wraps around my head easily to keep out the wind, and it is attractive enough to be worn at work. The hat is just plain old acrylic, but it is warm and has a darling wooden button accent that I love. Navy blue goes with everything. (Not pictured: black and white wool mittens, from a yard sale.)

Outerwear. It's important to love your outerwear during winter in northern Vermont.

That's it for this week, then! Object Permanence returns next week, with more discarding and appreciating.