I Tidied Up, but There’s Still No Joy
Marie Kondo promises joy through decluttering, but what if it only reminds you why you’re sad?
To live a happy life, just follow the steps laid out in Marie Kondo’s bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Bluntly summarized: Put all your shit into a pile, pick each item up one by one, and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” If the answer is “yes,” keep it. If the answer is “no,” thank that item for its service and let it go.
That discolored spatula coated with the weird sticky film that’s impossible to wash off? Throw it out. Those underpants with the expanding hole that always seem to be the only pair of underpants you can find when you really, really need to find a clean pair of underpants? Say thanks and toss ’em.
Sure, thanking a pair of busted panties sounds silly — many, many words have been dedicated to just how silly it sounds since Kondo’s book was first published in the United States in 2014 — but Kondo’s process makes sense. Because what’s left after you complete the tedious process? A life free of clutter and full of joy! Theoretically, at least. And like millions of others who read Kondo’s book — it’s sold over 10 million copies worldwide — I couldn’t wait to get started. My life had been consumed by stuff for years.
In late 2013 I moved across the country, away from the only place I’ve ever called home, into a house previously inhabited by a family member with a hoarding problem. It didn’t take long before living amongst the mess — my husband’s and my boxes delivered from Seattle, my father-in-law’s vast collection of nonsensical contraptions ordered from late-night TV, and all the brown recluse spiders who had built their homes in between the foot-high stacks of old mail, magazines, and paperbacks — started to chip away at my mental health.
I’ve lived with depression for most of my life and when it hits, at least in the beginning, I have almost always tried to chase it away by busying my brain with some kind of project. It’s an automatic reflex, even to this day. I’ve baked hundreds of batches of cookies over the course of a couple months. I’ve committed to absurd-at-the-time fitness goals. I’ve challenged myself to listen to every Phil Collins song every waking…