Monday, September 14, 2015

Tidying up

Last week at the library, I picked up a petite, minty green book with the titillating title, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Those of you who frequently fret about organizing and getting rid of stuff understand the appeal of such books. I've joked before about my having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but I don't actually know if I sit at the low end of the autistic spectrum or merely suffer from an obsessive personality trait. 

How does one tell the difference? I checked the official OCD website* (of course, I did), but after a quick review of "symptoms," couldn't decide. Either way, the intense interest in controlling one's environment is a pain in the butt, diminishing the pleasure one should be taking from enjoying life.

Still, I was also curious because The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up was translated from the Japanese and the pictured author is a young, fragile-looking beauty named Marie Kondo, who seemed to me, a grizzled veteran of de-stuffing, an unlikely authority.

As I began reading the book, my husband told me Tidying Up is number ten in the USA Today bestseller list. Gasp! I am hugely late to the party of this glam guru who is a recognized international organizing celebrity who has published four books and sold over two million copies of them.

What is her secret? 

Her process of "tidying up" involves sorting through and discarding items by categories: clothing first, then books, papers, photos, and ending with sentimental items. She explains that having her clients start with socks and end with those emotionally charged items hones their decision making ability. The deciding criteria of keeping or heaving is does the item make you happy. As you examine and fondle each thing, if it doesn't spark joy, warm your cockles or tickle your fancy, out it goes. 

Sorting by category is brilliant, and looking for happiness in what you keep a wonderful standard, but the real kick butt concept of the book is that you must gather every item in the category and dump them in a heap on the floor. What sane person, beside my husband, would be able to live with a great heap of crap in the middle of the floor and not deal with it within forty-five minutes? And therein lies the secret: all the sorting and the deciding is done IN A SINGLE DAY. Your trash bags of discards are whisked away before you can change your mind. No do-overs.

Somewhere, along about shoes, long before you get to any sentimental stuff, I suspect you give up any sense of whether or not an item gives you joy; you just want the damn thing out of your sight. So, ultimately, "tidying up" appears to me to be a euphemism for the near total purge of all your personal possessions.

Could you do it? Would the appeal of a home as serene and uncluttered as a Japanese Zen garden override your desire to keep the stuff you thought to accumulate in this life---greeting cards, recipes, letters, art, books, collections of knives, guns, frogs, ducks, Beanie Babies, matchbooks, comic books, action figures, sea shells, rocks, bottle caps, key chains, Christmas ornaments, beer cans, snow globes, purses, angels and every photograph of yourself in which you looked good.  

I can't. Not yet.
E-ya later, darlings.
Aunt Rose
*Website for the International OCD Foundation: