Cleaning Up

HELP, I’m roiled in moil, chaos on every side of me. My life flashes before my eyes, although the only thing I’m cleaning  up threedrowning in is the sorting of minute particulars. It’s a cautionary tale.

Some time ago (has it been weeks?) I bought a copy of a benign looking little book called the life-changing magic of tidying up. It  had occurred to me, on numerous occasions that this is something I ought to be doing, tidying up, I mean, and so this looked like the answer to if not my prayers, probably somebody’s.

Marie Kondo, the author of this tiny, gracious, and well-written book is a person who styles herself as a “cleaning consultant.” In her native Japan, she runs an apparently wildly successful business, telling people how to sort and why and then how to take care of the remainder. Her even more wildly successful book has sold in the millions and has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list – not always a great recommendation, but in this case, apparently signifying buyer satisfaction. So I bought.

cleaning up fourThe magic of tidying up comes in steps and with admonitions. For example, chapter 1, Why can’t I keep my house in order? pins us right to the mat. There we are, we keepers of too many things, exposed in a bright, but forgiving light. Chapter 2, Finish discarding first, cautions not to get fixated on a single room and not to begin the storage project till all is sorted. That will only lead to fatigue and incompletion – a thing I have to admit I have noticed in the past.

Chapter 3, Tidying by categories, is the beating heart of the book. And here are the categories: clothing, books, paper, and miscellaneous items.

Chapter 4, Sorting things to make your life shine and Chapter 5, The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life, promise much, but I haven’t got there yet. I mean, I have read them, but basically, I’m still sorting.

I began with clothing and that was relatively easy, took only about a week, and filled me with optimism. Then, I did books, and that was a little harder. Now I have come to the locus of all difficulty: paper. I’m not even ready to think about miscellany – though I have noticed a lot of it on the way to this spot.

cleaning up twoMost of the paper in my life resides in my office, which happens to be where I am right now, penning this complaint. Before me: opened and bulging file drawers, stacks of paper, boxes of photographs and (the horror, the horror!) more books. It’s a old cliché to say something looks like a cyclone hit it, but I think I’ve reached verisimilitude on that issue.

Do I recommend the life-changing magic of tidying up? Oh, you bet. And I’ll probably have even nicer things to say about it, if I ever finish this paper stacktask. But excuse me, I have some sorting to do.

 Susan Shafarzek

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