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Friday, July 01, 2022 — Houston, TX

Cleaning house with the guru of tidiness

By Ryan Lee     4/6/16 12:02am

It was a Saturday when I threw half my stuff away. My inspiration? A book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” written by the “guru of tidiness” Mari Kondo. My relationship with my dorm room was strained. While others saw a boring but harmless room, I saw the mounds buried behind my drawers and the skeletons stuffed in my closet. Sometimes the mound would surface like a sperm whale, and I had come to expect his presence every time midterm season rolls around. But Kondo promises this does not have to be if I follow her “KonMari Method.” So, armed with the bible of decluttering, I set aside a Saturday to give that whale a KonMari poke.

12:00 p.m. Clothes. According to Kondo, I was to handle each article of clothing and ask myself, “Does this spark joy?” If the answer is the negative, then it goes to the discard pile. Now, I would not consider myself an owner of a large wardrobe. But when I piled everything on my bed, the wall of cloth in front of me surprised me. The selection process was not too bad. It turned out there was a remarkable number of clothes that I had brought from home but never touched since. What struck me in the end was that half of my clothes filled up an entire trash bag while the other half sat inside a single drawer. The goal was to fit the entire wardrobe in one location, so mission accomplished.

2:00 p.m. Books and papers. The same rule of thumb applies, and it is supposed to get progressively harder. This was the point when I realized I am not quite an erudite, having not many books to begin with and thus not so much to discard. What I did have was a bonfire worth of papers. I knew that I had a loss aversion mentality toward papers, spanning from flyers for programs that I might apply for to returned homework that I might need to study for finals. However, Kondo has an axiom that hit close to home: If I did not bother to look now, I would never be bothered enough in the future. It was time I face the hard truth. Those flyers had application deadlines long past, and those past homeworks would be useful only if they were already part of my regiment. Gone were the papers alongside my delusions of grandeur; gone too was the elaborate filing system I’d created during O-Week but had yet to practice.

3:00 p.m. “Komono,” or miscellany. There is an episode of “Friends” where it is revealed that the uptight Monica has a secret closet where she hides all her messiness. I had one such place, and I knew not what evil lurked in the heart of that drawer. As I proceeded through the KonMari Method, I found that, somewhat ironically, most of the junk in there was organizing material. The compartmentalized trays with spaces either too big or too small took up more room than saved. The collection of Command strips, all still in their packaging, lay nesting inside my equally neglected magazine filers. A stash of cardboard boxes I had saved had now grown into furniture in its own right. All this and more — discarded. As illuminated by Kondo, the only organizing system I need is the shoe box. Simple and no fuss.

4:00 p.m. Mementos (gasp). A friend once suggested me to take clippings of articles I have written, and since then it was something I did quite mindlessly. I now stared at the Thresher editions at hand (too lazy to even make clippings) and asked myself: Does this spark joy? The answer: No, this is like anti-joy. I do find joy in journalism, but not like this. Another dilemma was O-Week paraphernalia. I am grateful for my O-Week family, but none of that stuff sparked joy. For this, I resorted to Kondo’s secret trick: Give a proper send-off. So I laid everything out, clapped my hands together, gave a slight bow and said, “Thank you for your service!” The whole ritual felt absurd and embarrassing, but it somehow worked and I was able to carry on with a clear conscience.

5:00 p.m. When the dust settled, three bulging trash bags sat in my room with half my stuff in them. It has been a week since that Saturday, which gave me time to consider whether the KonMari Method is really “life-changing.” I think to some extent it is. For one, it has obliged me to rethink the things I have chosen to keep, such as my plushie collection that now sits on my bed. I do not think the book is for everyone, but for those like me who would like to feed their neuroticism, I strongly recommend it.

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