Konmari Kan-Do(ish)

We are officially single home-owners again! The condo closed at the end of June. The check was in the mail. It has been received. We had a ceremonious bank depositing ritual last Saturday. We have a single mortgage that we both intend to re-amortize (though god the paperwork and numbers and stuff). Doing so should cut our expenses to about a half or third of the last couple of months! FREEDOM! Adios Albatross. Hello Mt Vernon with two feet and a slightly plusher wallet in!

If you love something set it free. I loved that home. It was Chaya's original CRIBS ... And it makes me a little sad that she will never remember it. But on the other hand, we have so thoroughly acclimated to this home. Every month or couple of weeks of Chaya's life (and thus mine) feels like an entirely distinct era. The condo was several lifetimes ago already. It's time to charge forward!




Forget cleaning. That schtuff is pointless with a toddler. Time to GLEAN, winnow, sift and purify our material menagerie


Stuff!!! (AKA Dastardly dross and road blockage)

Life needs a healthy amount of existential exfoliation to enable evolution.

Let's get it on.

I have always been a bit of a purger. I don't have the same connection with material goods that many of us do. I am a gleeful regifter. I enjoy my trips to Goodwill on Black Friday and before other holidays. I always have a Goodwill bag stashed out somewhere.

Though I find that the more I age, the less attached I am to things generally. And particularly to signaling through my possessions. I once took great pains to maintain a cache of distinctive toys, accessories, objects, and clothes. Once upon a time, a shopping trip was a statement of identity. Pleasurable as each acquisition affirmed my place in the world and broadcast my inner feelings. I have become so exponentially less attached to this idea. I like clothes to be flattering enough but I really invest little into appearance. I dress mostly for comfort. I keep a backpack instead of any nice purse. I prefer my running shoes to be cute but I gave fudge all about my day to day shoes as long as they don't hurt my finicky feet. Perhaps it's the dawn of the digital era that allows me to feel more invested in an ethereal and virtual expression of the intangible inner world. Maybe it's just aging. Who knows. More and more I find myself bored with even window shopping. I take less delight in nicely wrapped packages at holiday times. Filling out the Amazon list feels more like an obligation!

I's funny in a sense that Andrew is far more emotionally invested in his possessions in many ways. I am the far more sentimental person. But in another sense, he is a cyclist and an engineer. He has a very respectful and thoughtful relationship with his "tools" and objects are tools. I acquire things in a panic and offload them in an equal tizzy. People, time, and experiences are where exert my caution, discretion, and loyalty. Their trappings may become totems, endued with their essence, but absent of this iconography, objects have little import to me. If I receive a gift that isn't right for me, I take joy in passing it forward with the belief that somebody else will find joy with it. Andrew has a very hard time letting go of a gift, even if it is clear he has no connection to it.

I acquire things with less serious thought, because I'm equally invested in the transience that my ownership will include. I tend to be cheap. I abhor the shopping experience. Sometimes I find it easier to simply acquire cheaply and upgrade as options open. I'm often so dilatory in purchasing a needed item, that I can only acquire through gifts. There is a great impact in value caused by the plentitude of alternative options. I feel opportunity costs overly well.

 Andrew deeply researches and considers his purchases. He holds onto things beyond reason sometimes. We do actually come to some very good mutual decisions on possession.

So finding a way to reconcile our approaches to things can be interesting, except that we both have come to realize that we also value empty space. A positive reframe of so many cavils and cantankery about a cluttered home. Different clutter may send us into tizzies, but generally, the clutter is mental chaos in a stressful and demanding time.

Although I purged deeply before moving, Andrew and I have a few rooms full of clutter. It's overwhelming and of course controlling our space gives us a certain symbolic approach to controlling that chaos that major life changes construct.
Bring on the the de-cluttering!




Andrew is also an engineer. While I do things in endless dribs and drabs, borrowing and stealing from several approaches and ad libbing as best I can, Andrew prefers a system. He's not utterly rigid, but he is linear. He does better starting from the beginning and going full-throatedly into the battle charge.

So we have landed on Marie Kondo.

With a healthy analytical skepticism about her particular client (middle aged Japanese women?) and how these things apply to our lives...

I can't comment specifically on the book, as I've never read it.

But we have a few basic tenets:

1. Take everything of a specific category. Put all possessions in that category on the floor, and then decide item-by-item if it "sparks joy." Keep only the joyful sparkers.

2. Get rid of anything that fails to rise to the level of joy. After revising "sparks joy" to something a little more utilitarian than actually getting twitterpatted  over your nail clippers. I mean, I like having enough shirts to make it through the week without doing laundry, but my soul doesn't sing at the second black t-shirt I have. And underwear... well I guess it brings me joy that I'm not borrowing Chaya's overnight diapers to get me through to the next cycle?

3. Do some weird origami folding something to do with drawers and nest your remaining bags in bags.

4. Work your way through the categories until you get to the dreaded "miscellaneous" - something that sounds a lot like Kimono when Andrew says it (komono).

5. Chose a place for everything. Spend the rest of your life replacing everything as toddler gleefully runs around and empties the very bowels of any particular storage. Retrieve everything from the bottom of the stairs and the areas around the house where windows aren't screened. Check the trash, as that is definitely a PLACE for many things in toddler's eyes.

6. Maybe remodel the basement to install a tatami room in which to put all the children's toys and various other sundries. Then argue about what an American equivalent might be, while marshaling for an understading that allows a "family room" even if that doesn't fit the Japanese usage.

7. Hold various religious rituals to honor the things you are sending away, thank your house for being awesome, and recharge your shrine tokens. Then hit your local yogacardioblast and acknowledge your own whiteness.


And off to the races we go. We've made it through clothing and just handled bags.




Kiddo Konmari? 

I've been struggling and determined to provide a healthy amount of empty space for Chaya, both in time and physical space. I think this is really valuable for children. Space to be bored. Space to be creative. Space to run! Space to discover the world without it clamoring for directed and filtered attention.



Sounds lovely, but it's so easy to create junk piles of pullulating potpourri with a child. Even a trip to the dentist gets you a new hunk of plastic. We aren't quite at "birthday party" level of party-bag junkquisition, but it's coming soon.


Though seriously, the hunks of plastic aren't the problem. That's easy to toss (or just leave in the recycing when toddler inevitably decides it deserves to be there while she's hunting for empty gun containers). It's the really "nice" handcrafted toys from ethically sourced companies. The playsets. The random thing some lover-of-Chay just had to get for her. Or which mommy and daddy couldn't resists. Hey Chaya loves new things every day and we want to encourage her passions. Car! Get a neat toy car with moving wheels! Motorcycle! For sure! Giraffe! Stuffed giraffe times two for every mood of the day! Pony! Ok, sure! Ooooh science experiments!

It all adds up. She's at a stage of just-almost understanding objects and ownership. Developing attachments and trying out "my" and other possessive pronouns. But she still has a certain fluidity in materialism at this point. She adores sharing. Even insistently pressing objects into the hands of others.



And she mostly gravitates to a few toys that we leave out. Long before Kondo, I have been very big on finding "a place" for all of her toys. We leave a couple of them in specific places around the big room. Otherwise, there are specific drawers for various toys. If we can't fit her toys in the drawer, then I think maybe she has too much.

She helps a little with keeping the baby slush pile under wraps by losing things, throwing them in the trash and otherwise tossing out the toys (usually her favorites, unfortunately, but such is life). Still... we could manage some contracts and organization on her end as well.

Future Stuff:

As we move to the next stage ourselves, I'm remaining conscious. Andrew suggested that - given my relationship with things - the issue is far less an attachment to things that I need to set free, but to address acquisition.

I've also already begun to take steps towards that. I've begun eschewing the chore of filling out my amazon list, requesting donations to my favorite charities in my name  or teas and candies. I know many people root for experiences over things, and I support that. But that's a balance for an introvert of course. And sometimes I manage never to get to those dance lessons or massages I used to fall back on. Dark chocolate is good, of course. Easily stored but also easily consumed.

Then I wonder about Chaya. Unlike Andrew, my glee in gift giving and receiving is a pure experience. We wrap things in colors. We love exchanging trinkets. And I strongly remember the elation in that activity. I want to preserve that somehow.

But I don't want to just substitute being mired in STUFF with being mired in JUNK FOOD (the obvious alternative). So I'm thinking on that. What encapsulates experience but is significantly transient and special? That's a work in progress. A little of both with lots of wrapping and easily worn things? Cards for me, for sure. Alternative traditions. I think there's a place for gifts of possessions. The idea is to ensure they are things that truly bring joy and will be part of one's life. It's the mindlessness that we're attempting to address.

For Chaya's second birthday - and for my 35th - we are going to the zoo to see those darned giraffes. I'm not quite sure from there.

In the meantime, we're only a small ways through the Konmari order. The easy stuff is handled. Moving through shoes now. And then onto the really tough stuff, like papers and other stuff still shoved in boxes. But it's a longterm investment.


So in the interim, if you feel like giving a gift, please let it be your presence. Your support. A big stash of dark chocolate. And maybe a gift certificate to some such thing or other.
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