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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

The Aspirational Lightness of Being, part 2

(The Aspirational Lightness of Being, part 1.)

Most of the junk I have accumulated over the past thirty-four years is stored in towering stacks of Rubbermaid bins in my mother’s basement. Understandably, my mumsy has been hinting for quite some time now that she would be extreeeeemely happy if I were to winnow my (90% aspirational) collections of books and kitchenware. So I put out fourteen (!) bins, boxes, and bags for Vietnam Vets, and there’s still a lot left to go through.


Olivia was not happy when I told her I was going to Freecycle my Jem and the Holograms dolls. In the end Nancy let her take them all home!

You may have heard of this Japanese book about decluttering called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s a bestseller, and lots of journalists and bloggers are talking about it. Personal organizing is an industry unto itself, of course, but after reading Marie Kondo’s book (on the plane home to New Jersey) I understand why people are so enthusiastic about it.

Kondo’s signature strategy is this: you’re supposed to pick up the item in question (actually touch it) and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?”

At first this seemed kind of corny. But I found that asking this simple question made the keep-or-toss conundrum incredibly easy—and the more I asked it, the more I realized that many of my possessions are still mine only because I either feel guilty about letting them go (unread books, unused gifts, my own handknit sweaters, etc.) or have just been too lazy or disorganized to dispose of them properly (like shoes I never wear anymore). Granted, the low-spark or no-spark factor is probably much higher on my possessions in New Jersey (I did leave them behind, after all), but I bet there are still a lot of things I’ll want to let go of once I’m home again. (I’m still in New Jersey as I write this, so it’ll be interesting to see how I view the objects in my bedroom when I get back to Boston.)

I shared The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up with my mom, and she laughed hysterically when I read the following passage aloud:

Now I realize that people who have a convenient place to send things, such as a parents’ house, are actually quite unfortunate. Even if the house is large with rooms to spare, it is not some infinitely expanding fourth dimension…

(The mother of the client in question came to Marie afterward for help in dealing with her daughter’s junk!)

Here are a few more tidbits that really resonated for me:

  • My basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away. Corollary: When you attend a seminar, do so with the resolve to part with every handout distributed. If you regret recycling it, take the same seminar again, and this time apply the learning. It’s paradoxical, but I believe that precisely because we hang on to such materials, we fail to put what we learn into practice.
  • On demoting tired clothing to “loungewear”: ...[I]t doesn’t seem right to keep clothes we don’t enjoy for relaxing around the house. This time at home is still a precious part of living. Its value should not change just because nobody sees us…What you wear in the house does impact your self-image.
  • When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role.
  • On regretting throwing something out: Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something.
  • Human beings can only truly cherish a limited number of things at one time.
  • By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past.

That last one is why I need to get rid of about 85% of my possessions: you gotta release everything that’s over and done with to make space for all the exciting new stuff that’s waiting to come into your life.

Mary Modern drafts? Destined for the recycling bin. (There are plenty more novels to write.)

Bulging portfolio of grade-school and high-school artwork? Recycled or trashed—ALL of it!—because I don’t need proof that I could have been an artist. (What sort of artist would I like to grow into now?)

Pressed roses given to me by a very sweet young man on my 17th birthday? I scattered them in the woods behind the backyard fence. (Hello, love!)




As Marie Kondo writes, The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past. When you put it that way, I can actually get excited about cleaning out my closet.



Elliot familiarizes himself with the Jem and the Holograms cast of characters while the kiddos take inventory.


1 Comment to The Aspirational Lightness of Being, part 2

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    August 31, 2015 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    I’ve decided to use this renovation as an opportunity to process and get rid of stuff. I have too many piles of magazines and mail and other misellaneous crap so that I can’t find the few items I actually need. Organization and everything having a place are key!

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.