MUSED Literary Magazine.
Non Fiction

A Decidedly Untidy Existence

Julie Kaye Henderson

Although not an avid shopper in general, certain stores contain one temptation after another. REI, which, among other things, sells tents, hiking boots, and backpacks, belongs in this category. Yesterday I visited the REI in Keizer, Oregon.

After admiring lightweight rain gear, I casually perused their discounted footwear. A pair of unabashedly red Merrel-brand cross trainers demanded my full attention. They, much to my simultaneous surprise and delight, fit perfectly. As I traversed the store in them, my appreciation ballooned. Once sufficiently convinced I would regret shunning this opportunity—I have, especially in recent years, struggled to find suitable footwear—I purchased them.

This shopping excursion illustrates my quest to purchase and/or retain objects which provide tangible satisfaction—or, according to Marie Kondo, the Japanese author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, anything which “sparks joy.”

Recently I read this bestselling volume. Her method is blessedly straightforward: instead of focusing on what you can discard, decide what is worth owning. This is accomplished by holding every item to see if it sparks joy. If it does, keep it. If it does not, you should recycle or throw it away.

Her approach can seem idealistic bordering on impractical. Why would, for instance, my garbage containers or tax-related documents provide tangible gratification? Yet for once I am not overrun with skepticism. A foremost reason why: while packing up my Moscow, Idaho apartment, I discovered numerous items I hadn’t used in years. After making over six trips to Goodwill, I could no longer justify spending precious minutes sorting. As a result, these questionable items were packed up. They will, assuming I’m not distracted by a tragedy or medical crisis, be sorted through soon enough.

Marie Kondo’s book was entertaining and thought-provoking. I learned about Japanese culture; I also brainstormed how to develop a healthier relationship with my belongings. All hoarding tendencies, especially regarding information, require attention. My quotes, notes about writing, and travel ideas have become painfully plentiful. Several clothing items, including a colorful sweater I purchased in high school and haven’t worn in years, aren’t worth holding onto. Other items, a grouping which includes my hardcover copy of A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, I cannot imagine parting with. I’d rather relocate this item oversees before relinquishing ownership.

It is laughably easy for me to be keenly interested in tidying when unable to effectively do so. Even if I sifted through everything in my 2009 Honda Accord right now, half of my things are already in North Dakota. While I don’t exclusively daydream about ways to improve my life, many ideas, no matter how eagerly entertained, are never executed.

Will my rekindled enthusiasm for tidying last? Can I effectively apply Marie Kondo’s approach to everything I own? Unless my interest in cooking increases, for example, I doubt my kitchen knives will inspire positive feelings. Ditto for the ratty towels I use for deep cleaning. However, if I remember what these items help me accomplish, appreciation is possible. A slight change of perspective can, especially in this instance, work wonders.

Until I give it a proper try, I won’t know if her decluttering method will transform my life. Her book features many success stories. She goes so far to claim that her method NEVER fails. While I don’t know about that, I am undeniably intrigued. As I learned while backpacking the Appalachian Trail in 2012, I can happily live without most things. Even if less isn’t always more, it is time for me to discover when it is. If you are on a comparable quest, I wish you the very best of luck.