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QUINTESSENCE

Come to Order

Human judgment can be divided into two broad types: intuitive and rational. When it comes to selecting what to discard, it is actually our rational judgment that causes trouble. Although intuitively we know that an object has no attraction for us, our reason raises all kinds of arguments for not discarding it, such as "I might need it later" or "It's a waste to get rid of it." These thoughts spin round and round in our mind, making it impossible to let go.

I am not claiming it is wrong to hesitate. The inability to decide demonstrates a certain degree of attachment to a particular object. Nor can all decisions be made on intuition alone. But this is precisely why we need to consider each object with care and not be distracted by thoughts of being wasteful.

To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.


- "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Declutttering and Organizing," by Marie Kondo

This small book (it is quite compact) has now sold over two million copies, a #1 New York Times Bestseller. What that says to me is that Americans are buried in stuff, desperate for guidance, hungry for personal organization, and stymied by the conflicting messages of "keep" or "toss." As I am an organized type by nature, even as a child my toys and books were boxed or alphabetized, I initially read this book out of curiosity. But half way through I realized I was learning, finally, how to really make decisions about the things I own without falling sway to the usual tired aphorisms such as "Waste not, want not," or "You might need/fit into/get back into this someday," and the ultimate trump card - "But I plowed so much money into that!"

Arranged into fun and cogent sections, with titles such as -
You can't tidy if you've never learned how
Storage experts are hoarders
Selection criteria, does it spark joy?
If you're mad at your family, your room may be the cause
Komono (miscellaneous items): keep things because you love them - not "just because"
Don't underestimate the "noise" of written information
An attachment to the past or anxiety about the future

- Kondo's book explains the deeper principles behind why we keep things, how best to organize them, ways to treasure them (proper storage), and finally, how to live firmly in the present in our day-to-day relationship with things.

I found my personal Waterloo in Kondo's section regarding books (apparently common enough to require its own section). While not so tenacious I finish books I do not like, or hang onto books I'm not sure I'll ever read (and have felt that way about for more than a year), I do keep the majority of books I buy. I consciously curate my book choices, in terms of personal esteem for the work, or with an eye toward collection completion (for example all the works by a favorite author, not just the few I enjoy). I collect print, not e-books (I like the physical beauty of books, and dip into pages at random), so the storage requirements for my books are impressive. Kondo suggests we consider things we own in multiples (e.g. sports equipment, clothes, books, music, toys, etc.) in terms of the pleasure they provide. This nudged me to rethink my approach. Unless I am investing in a complete collection for its future resale value, what is the personal value to me of the complete set? If, say, only one of three books by a certain author brings me genuine pleasure maybe I should let go of the others. The result would be fewer books taking valuable space, and of those books, having the ones I love.

I recommend you take a look at this spunky, practical little book. It is terrific. Kondo genuinely understands the complicated relationships humans have with things. The feelings tied up in objects - the obligation we feel to retain family heirlooms (my husband an I are currently discussing a certain unusable - to us - wood Norwegian cradle), the guilt over past purchasing mistakes (my sister bemoans the trend in jeggings), fear of an uncertain future, and its twin, an intrinsic appreciation of the value in a buck, and that perennially hopeful assessment that borders on wishful thinking (sure I'll be a size 4, go camping/river rafting/repelling again).

Kondo respects the true joy an object can provide. The principles of decluterring are not just to lighten the load (although that has undeniable merit), but to absolutely love and appreciate what we choose to keep in our lives. Now, today.

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