trash

Having just passed a birthday that allows me to seriously consider retirement, I have also looked around me here at home and realized once again that there is just too much stuff. What’s the connection? Thoughts about retirement lead me to thoughts about moving, downsizing and that third act of life when one leaves things behind.

Spring cleaning is more traditional than autumn cleaning.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is by a Japanese “organizer,” Marie Kondo. This “International bestseller” has “2 Million Copies Sold” and that is bannered on the book’s website and the book seems to have caught the interest of many Americans.

I read an excerpt of the book  and rather than the oft-suggested approach of  “one room at a time” or “just discard ten items each week,” this book suggests the KonMari Method that seems to be a “category-by-category” system. Kondo recommends starting with clothes. Apparently, this is an easier category than books, pictures or heirlooms.

I think the Japanese connection here makes people think of the simplicity of a Zen garden or ikebana flower arrangements.

There is ritual involved, also very Japanese. Place all items on the floor. Pick up and touch them one by one. The question is not whether or not you need this item, but does it spark joy?

I do the entering and exiting winter clothing transfer each year, shifting long-sleeved shirts for more t-shirts, shorts and bathing suits. But my question (especially for my beloved t-shirts) is “Have I worn this in the past two years?”  I’m not sure that any of the shirts spark joy.

One article I read mentioned the science of the effect clutter has on your life and cites some UCLA study that looked at how mothers’ stress hormones spiked when they were dealing with their belongings.  It said that 75% of families in the U.S. can’t park their cars in the garage because they have too much stuff packed away there. My garage is a perfect example.

There is a program on TV about tiny homes and lots of articles about a new minimalism that is seen as a shift away from the materialistic mindset. This is far more than getting rid of those old books you will never reread and possibly never read.

I started selling some of my good old books back on Amazon. I gave boxes of them to the local library and to a church flea market. And there are still more. I have a room of vinyl record albums that I know must be worth something. And what about my comic books and 50 year-old issues of Rolling Stone magazine? My wife (not a collector) is quick to say that, “If they are worth something, sell them.” But no one seems eager to buy them – not that I’m trying very hard to get rid of them.

Can getting rid of stuff help you  stop worrying about things that hold you back and allow you to move forward?

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