Each spring, I observe the rising temperature with a mix of happiness and dread, because for those of us living in small spaces (my current digs are on the tiny island of Manhattan), it can mean only one thing: closet turnover time. In my compact apartment, with its even more compact closets, I wrestle every season with cruel, gut-wrenching decisions about the things I can and cannot keep, for myself and my three children. Needless to say, I’m terrible at it. So this year, I decided to finally crack my copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo, and take no prisoners.
This book, published last fall, has rocked the worlds of clutter lovers and haters alike. Kondo asks us to purge all unnecessary things — and be ruthless about it — in order to streamline our lives and free up mental space for worthier things (like saving the world or not spending 10 minutes each day at war with your overstuffed sock drawer). In any case, donating gently used, quality items is good for the soul. I’m all for the idea that somebody out there will cherish that ruffle-neck blouse as I never could — the one that made me look like a Victorian-era madwoman.
The simplest principle I took from Kondo’s book is that you should examine each item up for debate through the lens of one question: Does it bring you joy? Does. It. Bring. You. Joy. It’s such a great question — one that I’ve literally never thought to ask myself about my stuff, and certainly not about my old sweatshirts. And so, armed with strong coffee, Nanaimo bars, salty tears and near-dissociative efficiency, I got to work finding my joy.
Here are some things that are easy to purge: pants that are too tight (the opposite of joy!), sweaters with tiny holes in them, shoes that enrage the feet. Also, my collection of much-loathed strapless bras: You took up a lot of space, my uncomfortable friends. Enjoy your new life squeezing some other woman’s chest with the death grip of a hungry python.
Things that are difficult to purge: a favourite T-shirt with just a teeny-tiny hole, black blazers (“What’s with all the black blazers?” I asked myself as I rehung every single one) and objects that invoke beautiful memories, which is, of course, the real test. I know this because I’m actually quite good at tossing other people’s stuff. For example, I’m simply ah-mazing at purging melted spatulas from my parents’ ceramic utensil barrel, but when I see those same melted spatulas in my own kitchen I can’t help but think, “Remember all those fun times we had together flipping fried eggs?”
Organization experts tell you there are ways to deal with the memories part. Do: Take a picture of the object instead. Do: Make a quilt from tiny pieces of precious fabric. Don’t: Do what I did and put everything with a whiff of sentimental value in plastic bins and store them in a rental space. Other than that, the process worked. Would I do it again? Definitely! My summer sartorial choices will be much simpler, and dropping off all those donation bags felt great. Do I feel more joy? Yes, especially knowing that at any moment I can visit that storage place, tear off the lid of one of my rubber bins and inhale the sweet scent of my kids’ old pyjamas. Sorry, Marie.
Samantha Bee is a comedian, author, mom and and esteemed alumnus of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Also, she’s Canadian.