Do You “Respect Your Possessions”?

Pile of garbageYet another blog post generated from a Gretchen Rubin idea. (I guess at some point I’ll have to start paying her a commission.) She had an interview this week with Marie Kondo, the incredibly successful organizer/declutterer who has now written a second book, Spark Joy. I just went online and downloaded the audiobook from the library, so expect to hear about my going on another ninja clearing-out raid in the days to come, the same thing that happened when I read Kondo’s first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up


One section struck me in the interview, right at the end. Rubin asked Kondo if she could name someone who had been a big influence on her habits, and she replied:

My grandmother taught me the importance of tidying up even those places you don’t openly see, such as the insides of drawers and bureaus. She recognized the intrinsic beauty in belongings and took pride in their presentation in her home. When she dressed and accessorized, she applied the same philosophy to her personal appearance – everything mattered. I developed my initial respect for my belongings as a result of her influence.

While there’s no danger of my ever becoming a Nervous Neat Nellie, I do like the idea of “respecting” my possessions. Things that are just part of the sludge that seems to accumulate are not useful or beautiful. Right now as I write this I’m reminded that there are three flashlights in our junk drawer. Two are those nice Magnalight heavy-duty things that we bought in some fit of practicality or another, and one is a little cheapie that may not even work. You know what? I’m not sure that we’ve ever actually used any of them. And now smartphones have a flashlight feature, so maybe we don’t need any of them. And I wouldn’t even want to think about how many screwdrivers we have, or tape measures. The problem is, you have something but you can’t find it, so you go out and buy another one. All of this stuff builds up. In our case, reckonin’ day’s a-comin’!

Some ninja-like raids are going to be needed as we prepare for our move. I look at the garage and despair, but I remind myself that Jim will deal with most of it and that I have already cleared out quite a bit of stuff, as I was able to pass on most of the items used for the Chorale receptions to the woman who took over the task of organizing them. And I have several pairs of shoes that I’m discarding (is that respectful?) because they’re worn or uncomfortable. So those are going. I’m trying to stick with the idea of finding things that work for me, even if I end up spending more money initially. If I buy a pair of shoes online mainly because they’re on sale and then they’re so uncomfortable that I can’t wear them, every single penny I spent was wasted. But if I buy something well made and comfortable, I should be able to wear the item for years. The plan right now is to work toward having almost all of my shoes be from Vionics, the company I’ve raved about in the past. (No, I don’t get anything from them for saying this.) As I sit here, I’m wearing the flip-flops that I put on first thing in the morning and usually wear all day. There’s a “dressier” pair, with a bow, and I have a pair of Vionics dress sandals on the way. My current all-day pair is going to wear out fairly soon (I think I’m on year #2 with them), so I plan to buy another pair before we go on vacation this summer, and then get a pair of their walking/running shoes this fall. That will pretty well do it for the time being. Pare down, pare down, buy quality, use what you have, give away or throw away the rest. Eliminate and concentrate, as dear Anne Ortlund says.

I’m certainly not going to ask the Kondo Question “Does it spark joy?” about every blooming thing I pack up for the move, but I do want to be consistent about asking, “Will I ever really use this?” What’s the point of having things just sit on the shelves? I’m getting rid of one set of china, and I’ll probably give away my everyday dishes and get something that matches the new kitchen. The old dishes have served me well for 15-20 years, and I got them on clearance at 75% off, so now they can go grace someone else’s table. I won’t spend much on their replacements. I’m getting rid of the griddle that doesn’t work well because it has channels along the sides to drain off the fat, but I don’t want the fat drained off. I threw out the rusty food mill. I’m getting rid of the glass bowl that belonged to my mother, as it bothers me that some of the points around the edge are broken. But I’ll keep her candleholder, and her green glass dish, and her etched crystal goblets. I’ll keep the Noritake china that I bought 40 years ago through the china club at May D & F. I’ll keep the three lovely bowls, and the two decorative plates, and the pottery pitcher that I use to hold my spatulas. Those things do spark joy. And while I’m getting rid of a ton of books, the Freddy the Pig collection will continue to have a place. See? I’m not completely unsentimental.

Well, perhaps I’ve maundered on long enough about my possessions. There will be more to come, I’m sure, as we work our way through the process of clearing out this house. What do you have sitting around your place that could be let go, either to someone else who could use it or to its final resting place? (The dump, in other words.) I always feel a great sense of relief when I take a load to Goodwill or when the trash guy comes and takes away a bunch of stuff. The incredible lightness of being, and all for free.

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