Too Much To Enjoy

2017 Update

Last Lent, I wrote this post in throes of joy about how wonderful my decluttered, Kondo-ed closets made me feel. They still do.

But through some thoughtful article in the Atlantic and NYT Op-Ed, I have come to appreciate  another side, that if you don’t have much to begin with or have been forced to downsize, discarding possessions is more painful than liberating.  Great New York Times Op-Ed by Stephanie Land, “The Class Politics of Decluttering” and Atlantic article by Arielle Bernstein, “The Privilege of Clutter.”  While this revelation is kind of a “duh” insight, these articles are a reminder to consider the latest “cultural craze” from multiple perspectives.

Marie Kondo Does Lent: Too Much To Enjoy

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 This is the 3rd post in the Marie Kondo Does Lent series

So having read Marie Kondo’s book, “the life-changing magic of tidying up,” I set about trying to get rid of the excess clothing clogging my life. Easier said than done. Some of it was perfectly good. That’s where Marie Kondo’s concept of “too much to enjoy,” as a reason to discard things can be life altering. “Too much to enjoy” takes self-regulation from deprivation to curation.
This concept makes it easier to part with perfectly good clothing that doesn’t, as Marie Kondo says, “spark joy.” Rather than some arbitrary rule about getting rid of anything that you haven’t worn in a year, Marie says to ditch anything that doesn’t spark joy when you hold it in your hand. Because the goal of tidying is to create an environment that makes you happy.
There were a lot of clothes in my closet that weren’t making me happy. Stuff talks.
Take my purple silk shirt with the small oil stain on it. I pulled it out numerous times to examine it under different lights to determine if the spot was really big enough for people to see. I silently chastised myself for having been such a slob for staining the shirt in the first place and then piled on further self-flagellation for not being organized enough to carve out the time to soak it in a little Oxydol.
Or how about that size 8 wardrobe? A visual tongue lashing about how I used to be thinner every time I came across a pair of pants from the 80’s.

Result of Kondo-ing my clothing
Result of Kondo-ing my clothing

Since I Kondo-ed my clothing. I can now open closets without the fear of being attacked by clothing wedged in so tightly it explodes anytime something is removed. My well-ordered closets make me feel calm and competent in a way I never imagined. Everything has a designated place, so it is as easy to put it back as it is to drop it on the floor. I see the empty hanger and I know it is for my blue & green mock channel- blazer—the one I unearthed in a vintage clothing  store and took home for only $25—belongs. The one that “sparks joy.”

But it wasn’t easy getting there. Because as Marie says, “Tidying is a dialogue with one’s self.” I had to confront that I was trying to fill a childhood hurt with stuff(see post Separation of Self from Stuff). I had to forgive myself for wasting so much money, especially when money had become tight due to some bad business decisions I had made. And of course, I had to fully accept the present size 12 me.

7 Foot Lime Green Feather Christmas Tree
7 Foot Lime Green Feather Christmas Tree

So much of my accumulation of stuff had been on automatic—I like it, I deserve it, I buy it. I now find that having gone through the pain of discarding, I am less compulsive about buying. This past Christmas, I saw some miniature light up Christmas trees at $7.99 a piece delightfully twinkling away at me. My reflex reaction was to think how I could build a whole Christmas tableau around those little dazzlers!

But this thought was quickly followed by the memory of the 7-foot lime green feather Christmas tree that I painfully discarded the Christmas before during one of my Kondo-sessions. I left those lovely twinkling trees on the shelf…and importantly, did not feel deprived. I knew I would ultimately be happier without them.

Lent is an opportunity to “Kondo” your life and to question your assumptions of how you are living. It is time as my pastor said in his Ash Wednesday sermon, to ask yourself, “Are parts of my life on automatic? How much of my life am I just going through without realizing it? There may be many perfectly good things you are doing, but upon reflection, there are activities you find more fulfilling. Sometimes, there is just “too much to enjoy, ” and a little curation is in order.

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