Several weeks ago, this column started off with the following quote: “Last year I joined a support group for procrastinators. We haven’t met yet!” (Author unknown)
The subject that day had absolutely nothing to do with procrastination. I just thought the quote was funny. Little did I realize the irony. That very night, my daughter said she had become a “minimalist,” and I had to admit being clueless. By the end of the next day, my life had changed radically.
First, I watched a Netflix documentary called “Minimalism.” Next, I became obsessed with a tiny Japanese bundle of energy named Marie Kondo, whose book is sweeping the world — “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Plus, she has a Netflix series called “Tidying Up.” I might just be the last person on earth to become aware of Marie Kondo. She is all about helping people de-clutter their lives and their living spaces. Her philosophy makes such sense: “If an item no longer sparks joy for you, let it go.” It’s that simple. However, Marie does suggest you thank the item for its service, then let it go to benefit someone else — or the dumpster.
Of course, there have always been theories on de-cluttering, but none of them ever resonated with me, like the one that says: “If you haven’t worn something or used it in five years, get rid of it.” Easier said than done.
I have been procrastinating for more than 40 years. My problem is mostly emotional, but also frugal. Almost everything I own seems to carry a sweet memory, often involving my late husband, Burt. The truth is he was the consummate consumer. He was not like most normal husbands. Early in our marriage, I learned to discourage him from going clothes shopping with me. Picture us walking into a store, and if I so much as glanced at (for example) a sweater, Burt would ask, “Do you like that?” If I even said it was pretty, he would insist on buying it. He would also call over the salesperson and ask if it came in other colors. You could not say no to Burt. We would leave the store carrying half a dozen sweaters, and my husband would be so happy.
He was like that wherever we went. At charity affairs he bid on everything, and we usually drove home with stuff he thought we should have or just because the charity was a good cause. A lot of that stuff is still living with me, although he isn’t.
I clearly remember the time we went to a big celebrity auction at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Some Hollywood mogul donated a shiny new motor scooter. Guess who got it? Yep, and we drove home with the top down on Burt’s Cadillac so the scooter could fit in the back seat. Our home at the time was at the top of a steep hill, and that wimpy motorized thing could not haul my 250-pound husband up the hill. I rode the scooter once but preferred my 10-speed steed, so Burt gave the motor scooter to a very happy young friend.
There is an old saying, “When you are ready to be taught, your teacher appears.” After watching all the episodes of “Tidying Up,” by Marie Kondo, I sprung into action. Getting rid of years of stuff is not something you accomplish in one day, and I am still at it after several weeks. Marie suggests you start with clothing. Remember those six sweaters? I haven’t worn any of them in years but kept them because Burt loved them. As I held each one and realized it did not “spark joy,” I thanked it for its service and put it in a bag with the others. The sweaters will make someone happy, and I will hang onto the memories. That’s how “Going Kondo” works.
As this overwhelming and challenging journey in de-cluttering progresses, I will probably write another column on the subject as encouragement — if I can do it, you can do it. For you seasoned citizens like me, just think of sparing the kids from dealing with your stuff after you’re gone. If you think your kids want your stuff, they don’t. They have accumulated their own stuff. If you think someone will want an item, take a picture, send it and ask.
This actually seems like an adventure since I got off the dime (and off my duff). The best word to describe how it feels is “freeing.” I have yet to tackle my office, Burt’s office, the kitchen, dining room, laundry room, pantry, several closets, the attic and the garage.
However, just today I decided to focus on an enormous collection of white athletic socks, which have been living in several drawers. A lot of them belonged to Burt and somehow got mixed in with mine. Here’s my theory: Since I don’t remember how we acquired so many socks, I’m highly suspicious these little suckers have been quietly propagating. You just can’t trust socks!
It makes me happy knowing how many feet — both female and male — are going to be a lot warmer before this winter is over.
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her cat, Purrfect. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor.” The book, with all proceeds going to the Rotary International Foundation, is available on Amazon, at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]