The right stuff

When you search the word ‘declutter’ Google you get 1,130,000 hits on Google. Or at least that’s today’s result. Tomorrow it will probably be 1,140,000, because apparently Google likes round numbers and because apparently we think more is more. One of the most popular books of late is The Life-changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering And Organizing by Marie Kondo.

Ms. Kondo has been anointed the Martha Stewart of Japan, but probably that analogy is just to put her in context for a North American market. Near as I can tell, Japan has always been the poster-child for lack of stuff, as evidenced by bedrooms that get packed away each day and luggage that gets purchased on a trip-by-trip basis because there is no place to store it once you get back. Martha, on the other hand, seems to have no end to the possibilities of stuff to acquire and houses (if you can refer to her residences as houses with a straight face) in which to store it. But I digress.

There is no doubt that we all have too much stuff and that even includes me, one who prides herself on not having too much stuff but who in all likelihood has way too much of it. I think part of the issue lies in the notion that having stuff – if it’s the right kind of stuff – defines who we are. You need not look much further than the driveways of my current neighbourhood to figure that one out. I get that you might need an SUV to ferry the kids to school and back, but does it really need to be a Mercedes SUV and do you really need two of them, unless of course one of them is for the nanny.

Our garbage transfer station has a place where people can leave certain stuff for other people to scavenge. Sometimes it’s potentially useful stuff but mostly it is stuff that never started out being useful. Like a long shallow wooden bowl-like thing that might be for a holding a baguette or very fat olives (left by someone, picked up by me, soon to be returned to the dump) and a pristine device for mixing salad dressing that was clearly never deployed for its supposed purpose (left by someone, picked up by me, soon to be returned to the dump – is there a pattern forming here?)

Marie Kondo dictates that you put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it. The question this raises is how come there is so much stuff out there that is incapable of sparking joy, and in particular certain categories of stuff that struggle mightily to achieve anything close to KonMari nirvana. Jeans, bathing suits, and winter boots, I’m talking to you. Somebody with more ambition than me will surely see the money making opportunity in doing a ‘reverse Marie’ and churn out only things that are joy inducing. But I won’t hold my breath.

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