Sunday, May 7, 2017
Maybe not exactly "magic."
"My interest in housework and tidying began when I was about five, and I believe that I was trying in my own way not to make trouble for my parents, who were clearly busy taking care of my other two siblings. I also became conscious from a very young age of the need to avoid being dependent on other people. And, of course, I wanted my parents to praise and notice me. From the time I was a first grader, I used an alarm clock to wake up before everyone else. I did not like being dependent on others, found it hard to trust them, and was very inept at expressing my feelings. From the fact that I spent my recesses alone, tidying, you can guess that I wasn’t a very outgoing child. I really enjoyed wandering around the school by myself, and I still prefer to do things alone, including traveling and shopping. This is very natural for me. Because I was poor at developing bonds of trust with people, I had an unusually strong attachment to things."
Well. I'm no psychologist, but... wait a minute. I am a psychologist. But you don't have to be one to see that this does not describe psychologically healthy development. And then there is this passage which I feel compelled to post in its entirety:
"This is the routine I follow every day when I return from work. First, I unlock the door and announce to my house, “I’m home!” Picking up the pair of shoes I wore yesterday and left out in the entranceway, I say, “Thank you very much for your hard work,” and put them away in the shoe cupboard. Then I take off the shoes I wore today and place them neatly in the entranceway. Heading to the kitchen, I put the kettle on and go to my bedroom. There I lay my handbag gently on the soft sheepskin rug and take off my outdoor clothes. I put my jacket and dress on a hanger, say, “Good job!” and hang them temporarily from the closet doorknob. I put my tights in a laundry basket that fits into the bottom right corner of my closet, open a drawer, select the clothes I feel like wearing inside, and get dressed. I greet the waist-high potted plant by the window and stroke its leaves. My next task is to empty the contents of my handbag on the rug and put each item away in its place. First I remove all the receipts. Then I put my wallet in its designated box in a drawer under my bed with a word of gratitude. I place my train pass and my business card holder beside it. I put my wristwatch in a pink antique case in the same drawer and place my necklace and earrings on the accessory tray beside it. Before closing the drawer, I say, “Thanks for all you did for me today.” Next, I return to the entrance and put away the books and notebooks I carried around all day (I have converted a shelf of my shoe cupboard into a bookshelf). From the shelf below it I take out my “receipt pouch” and put my receipts in it. Then I put my digital camera that I use for work in the space beside it, which is reserved for electrical things. Papers that I’ve finished with go in the recycle bin beneath the kitchen range. In the kitchen, I make a pot of tea while checking the mail, disposing of the letters I’ve finished with. I return to my bedroom, put my empty handbag in a bag, and put it on the top shelf of the closet, saying, “You did well. Have a good rest.” From the time I get in the door to the moment I close the closet, a total of only five minutes has passed. Now I can go back to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of tea, and relax."
I have to tell you that is one of the saddest things I've ever read.
But what I did do, which seemed to go smoothly enough although in spite of my lack of conversation with the house and the fact that I was in pajama pants, was go through the bathroom cabinet and weed out everything that we weren't using or was past its expiration date, and set up a system where back-up products were up higher and stuff used more regularly organized and accessible.
Also on the list of things that didn't happen: "One of my clients cleared out a closet and shed that she had neglected for ten years. Immediately after, she had a strong bout of diarrhea after which she felt much lighter." What. The. Hell.
In the end, I had a pile of 83 articles of clothing and 8 pairs of shoes to donate and my husband had off-loaded 54 articles of clothing and 6 pairs of shoes. This doesn't count the non-donateable items like socks and underwear or t-shirts too shabby to give to anyone. To be fair, I have significantly more clothes than my husband because women's clothing tends to be much more specific and varied. So his outgoing numbers represent a bigger percentage than mine.
She believes that clothes can guide you in their own folding: "There is nothing more satisfying than finding that “sweet spot.” The piece of clothing keeps its shape when stood on edge and feels just right when held in your hand. It’s like a sudden revelation—So this is how you always wanted to be folded!—a historical moment in which your mind and the piece of clothing connect." Sigh. Is this sort of animism really necessary?
She even wants you to gently fold your socks. Your socks. She chides one client: "I pointed to the balled-up socks. “Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?” That’s right. The socks and stockings stored in your drawer are essentially on holiday. They take a brutal beating in their daily work, trapped between your foot and your shoe, enduring pressure and friction to protect your precious feet. The time they spend in your drawer is their only chance to rest." Who knew we've been mis-treating our socks all this time?
Kondo is Japanese and she threw in this wacky little racist gem for good measure: "Japanese people quickly grasp the pleasure that comes from folding clothes, almost as if they are genetically programmed for this task."
Marie Kondo strikes me as rigid and obsessive in her routinized, solitary life. I don't want to be like her. So I think it's safe to say that I will not be storing my carrots vertically in the fridge, thanking my belongings before I discard them, texting my old phone from my new phone, weeping when I notice soap scum, setting my dishes on the veranda to dry, asking my house where something belongs, or throwing out any book I have not yet read. However, somehow it still encouraged me to start the purge I've been building up to do to get my house back to the uncluttered state I am happiest in. And my small closet? It currently has only clothes I really like. I may not feel my "cells buzz" when I gaze upon it, but you have to admit - it is now an organized thing of beauty.