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Clutter

May 23, 2019

Our farm could break Marie Kondo’s heart.

 

She’s the woman, originally from Japan, who helps people rid their lives of clutter and everything that “…doesn’t spark joy in your life.”

My first thought when I read about getting rid of what doesn’t spark joy in my life was “Washington, DC,” but apparently that isn’t what she’s talking about.

 

Ms. Kondo’s point, and it’s a solid one, is that most of us have too much stuff, too much clutter in our lives. It’s making us less happy, even a little anxious.

 

She’s made a career out of helping people get rid of stuff.

Here’s the thing. The average size of an apartment in Tokyo is about 500 square feet. You don’t need to get rid of very much stuff in a place that small to feel like you’ve made a big difference. The house my wife and I live in is almost 3,000 square feet, (it’s not our fault - my great-grandparents are the ones who decided we needed that much room), an insane amount of room for two people.

 

On the other hand, speaking of sanity, it’s possible to fit all our grandchildren and their parents into our house and still have everyone remain more or less sane. So, there’s that.

 

But the house is the least of it. We live on a farm with several repurposed outbuildings.

 

By repurposed, I mean former hog houses that have been pressure washed, more or less de-scented, and filled with junk.

If I’ve done the math correctly, that means my wife and I occupy space which could be filled with twenty Japanese families.

 

Many of those families would be pretty grumpy about their living conditions, but you get my point.

 

I have a few quibbles with Ms. Kondo’s philosophy. First, she says you should trim your library to around twenty books. 

 

That’s hilarious. I just checked and I have 120 feet of book shelves in my main library, and we have a couple of auxiliary libraries as well. And that’s after I took four boxes of books to Goodwill. My rule when stocking book shelves is to look at a book and ask myself, “Would I want to read this again?”  I apparently say yes pretty often. 

 

In our dining room is a long cupboard full of stuff we never use. Really. Never. I’m not quite sure what I’d do with my great-grandfather’s mustache cup, or the crystal Viking drinking horn, along with dozens of other items that only my wife knows the origins of. I’d be willing to give a lot of it away, but here’s the thing. Who to give it to?

 

Seriously. My kids have too much stuff of their own and my grandchildren are a decade or more away from starting their own accumulations. And even when they have their own houses, are they going to want their great-great-grandmother’s crystal?

 

What do I want my grandchildren to have? I guess what I most want to give them is the stories of their great-grandmother who had an 80-year career as a teacher. I want them to know about all the nurses, farmers, and teachers in the family, all the relatives who spent long years in non-glamorous jobs doing more for the betterment of the world than any number of hedge fund traders. I’d like them to know about their great-grandfathers who joined the military during WWII because it mattered, and the uncle who joined the Marine Corps for the same reason. Most of all I want them to possess the story about their great-great-great-grandparents who left the place their family had lived for a thousand years to climb on a boat headed for an uncertain future, because they thought it was the best thing to do for the family they hoped to have.

 

I’ll let my kids decide what to do with great-grandpa’s mustache cup.

 

I’ve got more important things to care about.

 

I think Marie Kondo would approve.

 

Copyright 2019 Brent Olson

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