Kevin McKeever: Tracking trends in tidying
Is there anything quite so American as the drive to accumulate stuff? The “he who has the most toys when he dies, win” mentality isn’t a modern phenomenon. Our forefathers had Manifest Destiny; your grandmother had those creepy Hummel figurines.
It comes as no surprise our national obsession to have more, more, more sporadically battles the reality that our homes only have room for less, less, less. This revelation originated with 19th century philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who mused, “Simply, simplify, simplify! Start with your cable TV package.” The brilliant backwoodsman was ahead of his time but, alas, lousy with marketing and body odor.
Why from one extreme to the other? Is it because we eventually realize we can’t find happiness in possessions? Is it because we can’t find the cat? Perhaps it’s guilt over the privilege we have inherited, either from genealogy, genetics or grandpa’s wartime profiteering schemes.
All I know is the answer will not be found in that kitchen drawer overflowing with charging cords and duck sauce packets.
So if you are among the many feeling the need for a material slimming down, let’s look at some of the hot trends in minimizing your excesses. But first a warning: If you want to research these methods further, Google the specific name or the phrase “decluttering trends.” Do not look up “cleaning fads” unless you are a licensed gynecologist. Trust me.
Swedish death cleaning
Sounds apocalyptic, but it’s not as frightening as the possibility of suffocating under that mountain of your kids’ grade-school art you have teetering in the closet. Death cleaning is actually one of the most altruistic ways of decluttering. The premise: If you can’t be tidy for yourself, be tidy for the loved ones who will need to clean up your crap after you kick one of 27 buckets you’ve accumulated in the basement. Don’t just whittle down your clothes and vintage oatmeal canister collection, make a “death kit” for your survivors! Include your will, vital records and Internet passwords. Burn your porn collection and those Nickelback ticket stubs lest future generations find them and think ill of you. Margareta Magnusson, the Swede behind all this, recommends looking at an object and asking yourself, “If a TV producer found this, would it land me on ‘Hoarders’? Or worse — ‘Dateline NBC.’”
40 Bags in 40 .Days
Just because you aren’t a Christian doesn’t mean you shouldn’t suffer during Lent. Rather than giving up vices such as chocolate and doing that floss dance, you simply fill up and pitch one bag of flotsam and jetsam a day for the duration. But as with Lent, this method leaves you longing to be back filling those empty spaces shortly after the mint hits the lamb.
Thanks to a new Netflix series, this once hot “magic of tidying up” philosophy from the Far East is again sweeping our nation’s garages out. Cute-as-any-of-the-buttons-spilling-out-of-that-shoebox-under-your-bed neatnik Marie Kondo (Japanese translation: “merry house downsizing”) wants you to only keep those things that “spark joy” in your life. Then you must fold them into small squares and stick them into small boxes she’ll sell you for $89 per three. (Kidding! Those have been sold out since last year.) The items you want to get rid of, she preaches, you should treat like presidential cabinet members: thank them for their service then trash them. Just not on Twitter.
Which method works best? It’s up for debate especially among certified professional organizers, like my friend, Kelly Humiston, owner of New Leaf Organizing Service in Stamford. She says her industry does agree on one thing, though.
“It’s not going to matter unless you stop the inflow of things,” she told me. “If you don’t, you are just going to need to keep doing this again and again. ... We need to stop the stimuli response of ‘I feel weird, I need to go shopping.’”
Luckily for me, my future as a gatherer and shedder seems set by my personal and professional choices. It’s not like anyone is out there accumulating middle-aged columnists. Duck sauce, anyone?
Stamford native and resident Kevin McKeever, whose nationally award-winning column appears here every other Friday, is a freelance writer for hire. Email him at email@example.com.