Have you Marie Kondo’d your house yet?

(Essay)

If you haven’t heard of the tidying up guru Marie Kondo, you are in the minority. We heard about Kondo in early 2019. It wasn’t that we were disorganized or that our house was in a mess. But I must admit that there were areas, such as the library, that needed attention. It was overflowing with books. It so happened that we were having a hard time finding a place for new acquisitions. There are only a few ways one can keep books on a shelf. They go either vertical or horizontal. We had hardcover books, some thick ones on gardening, landscaping, old Life magazine hardcover books from the science series on subjects such as Energy, Cell, Mathematics, etc. Several classic paperback novels we had bought and some were given to us by friends.

When we heard about Marie Kondo, we thought we would learn a new way to handle the task of tidying up. We watched one of her shows on Netflix. Marie is a petite, perky, and amiable Japanese organizing consultant who first takes a tour of your house. She invites all members of the household to sit on the floor with her and meditate. The meditation, according to her, puts everyone at an excellent emotional level. She never does the work of tidying herself but makes you do the job. Her most essential instructions are simple. Gather everything that you have accumulated and piece by piece, decide which item brings joy to your life. If an item does not, then it should be a candidate for disposal. She visits you many times to see the progress and provide more advice if needed. In the show, we saw the family got rid of bundles and bundles of clothes and other items that they did not need and were donated.

So, we thought we should start with tidying up our library. My wife, Bharati, and I spent an entire weekend pulling down all the books. We began by making three piles. One contained books that we thought we must keep. The second contained books that we liked but had no chance that we would ever reread them. Some paperbacks had turned brown and were too old, and the print was too small for us now. In the third pile were maps, tour guides, and notes from the writer’s group meetings I used to organize. These needed to be evaluated carefully before discarding them. I thought twice about the Life magazine books, reasoning that they would be useful for grandchildren in the future. But, then again, one can Google for anything and get the latest information. Out they went to the donation pile. On the second day, we placed about ninety books in cardboard boxes to be taken to the local library for donation and restocked the shelves with what we needed.

“Are we sure we want to get rid of these books?” I asked Bharati.
“Yes,” she replied. “There is a slim chance that we will go back to read these. Besides we can always loan any of them from the library.”

We organized the books we kept in a new way. All maps and guides together in a folder. All reference books to the top right shelf of the bookshelf. We arranged novels and biographies by author names.
We stood back and looked admiringly at the slim and trim library.

“Doesn’t it look good?” I said. “Now everything is where it should be.”
“You’re right,” Bharati said. “Our library is good enough to show it to our visitors. Before I didn’t feel like bringing anyone in the study.”

We were charged up to tackle other rooms.
“There is no rush,” Bharati said. “We’ll take one room at a time.”
“That’s fine, but we better do it before the Kondo bug disappears from us,” I said.

We waited two weeks to start the next challenge, the laundry room. Our laundry or mudroom has a door to the garage, a small closet that we have converted to a pantry, a side by side clothes washer and dryer with three white cabinets above. Each cabinet was filled with god knows what we had accumulated. We started by keeping small tools like screwdrivers, Allen wrenches, and markers in a medium-sized plastic container. The masking tapes, packing tapes, stapler went in the right corner of one of the cabinets, the hammers to the left. The laundry soap went right on top of the washer. The cabinet to the left was for Knick knacks like candles, paper table cloths, etc.

See it doesn’t take long once we decide to do it,” Bharati said. “Now, don’t change anything. We have everything organized.”
“Why would I do that?” I said casually. I didn’t know why I was the culprit to disorganize everything.
Another mission accomplished.
“What do we do next?”
“The garage.”
“That’s a big job.”

It wasn’t a big job once we started it. We pulled our cars out of the garage to give us plenty of room to work. On the floor near the wall facing the garage door, we had about half a dozen cardboard boxes of various sizes with packing material, mainly from goods we had bought from Amazon. For some reason, I thought these would be useful to ship things when needed. Now they were an eyesore. Out they went for recycling. So did the paint cans, parts of the wood shelving that we had taken down a while ago that now were of no use. The light bulbs, picture hanging kits in shoe boxes, nails, and screws in bottles went on separate shelves in a cabinet to the left. Wow, we didn’t know we had so much space in the garage.
We took a breather after six hours or so of continuous work.
“We clean the floor, and we are done,” Bharati said.

Everything looked neat and organized when standing back near the garage doors looking in. When we brought the cars in, we noticed enough room to keep some of the bulk purchases from Costco. One cannot explain the satisfaction that comes with an accomplishment. We went inside and celebrated with a cold beer.

Almost every year, guests start arriving in springtime. This year was no exception. Entertaining, showing them around the town, especially a visit to Washington, D.C. are routine chores. This year’s guests were younger and volunteered to visit D.C. on their own.

“That’s great,” I said. “It’s not that hard. We will give you the metro maps and drop you off at the station. Give us a call when you are done, and we will pick you up.”
That idea appealed to them.

I went into the study looking for the metro maps we had saved. I didn’t remember where they were. I scanned the bookcase, every nook, and cranny. They just weren’t there.
“Did we get rid of the maps by mistake?” I asked Bharati.
“No. I am sure I placed them all together. They must be somewhere. Look carefully.”
I did look but didn’t find them. Before the cleanup, I knew they were on the top shelf of the right-hand tower of the bookcase. Now, I was getting frustrated.
Well, don’t waste time now, I said to myself. I printed the metro map from the metropolitan authority web site. We solved the immediate problem, but I was not happy that I couldn’t find the maps we had saved just for such occasion. Well, what can you do?

A month later, my son in law, Ryan, who was visiting for the weekend, wanted to chop a piece of wood.
“Can I borrow your hatchet?” he asked.
“Sure, it’s right here in the garage.”

I looked where I thought it was, but it wasn’t there. Both of us looked at all the shelves and cabinets. Finally, we found it placed under the shoe box with the tapes. The hatchet was small and flat and wasn’t readily visible. During the cleanup, we had put it at a location we thought would be obvious to find. When I purchased it, I had placed it on the wall shelf facing the garage door.
“That’s what happens when you tidy up,” Ryan said, half in jest, of course.

Two days later, as I was looking for a book on the bottom shelf of the bookcase, I discovered the folder with all the maps. It had moved from the top to the bottom, albeit methodically arranged. It was under a stack of paper. I was happy we had not lost it.

I am not worried anymore about the tidying up. Bharati never showed any sign of concern. Look, I thought, it is like getting used to a new car. When it is brand new, you are not familiar with all the bells and whistles. Hell, it took me a month to know how to initialize the trip meter on my new car. I didn’t have to do it until I filled up the gas tank for the first time. Then it took me a year to find out that I had two USB chargers, one hidden in the glove compartment and the other in the console between the driver and the passenger seats. It’s the same thing with our new arrangement. We will get familiar with it and start liking it.

Did all this bring joy to our lives? Yes, at least for now.

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