Regrets of a declutterer?


HALLIE EPHRON: Poor Marie Kondo has experienced some rough sledding as late. The author, after having blockbuster successes from her books and television show that helped the rest of us fold our underwear and declutter our homes, seems to have hit a wall.

After having child #3 she’s woken up to the messiness of the world we all live in, tolerate… and often love.

CNN quotes her:
I am busier than ever after having my third child, so I have grown to accept that I cannot tidy every day – and that is okay!”
From the way the press piled on, it looks as if many of us have fallen out of love with tidying for tidiness’s sake. Or maybe we’re all experiencing a bit of buyer’s remorse after getting rid of items that it turns out we care about.

Clutter versus caring. I certainly can be pulled in both directions.

I’m glad I did not throw away a single one of my husband’s drawings, even doodles on scraps of paper. Even after I scanned them. And I have no use for it but I’ll keep (thank you very much) a green glass swan that I bought of eBay to celebrate my first novel, in which a green glass swan figures in the story.

But I don’t miss a single one of the 37 boxfuls of his books that went to Ken Gloss and the Brattle Bookshop. (Jerry’s Bar Mitzvah suit is still hanging in “his” closet.)

Do you look at the stuff in your house as clutter, or as stuff to be curated and cared for? Is there an item you’ve gotten rid of that you’d love to have back?

JENN McKINLAY: I can’t think of anything I’ve ever given away that I wish I had back. Sometimes I lose things and I do feel badly about that, but otherwise nope. I loathe clutter, tchotchkes, collections of any kind. No thank you.

My aesthetic for my house is “no one lives here”
which Hooligan 1 called sad, but I countered with “there are five cats and two dogs, it’s their house” and it is from the screened in porch (catio) we built for the cats to the yard that was not meant for a lush lawn and garden but rather a place to dig holes to nowhere and chase tennis balls.

The only thing I collect is pet hair and I purge that with my handy Dyson.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I have the same collection, Jenn, what a coincidence! Although I’m down to one cat and two dogs (from a high of two and three respectively) now the girls have moved on.

I’m not a terribly sentimental person, so the papers, etc I must keep don’t pile up in excess. I think there may have been one or two things I’ve gotten rid of that I’ve said, “Oh, shoot,” sometimes afterwards, Hallie, but they’re always easy-to-replace items like, I don’t know, a corkscrew. And like you, I had ZERO regrets saying good-bye to Ross’s huge library of books, dipping into every major conflict from the French and Indian war to WWII. Victoria sold them all on eBay, and I delight that somewhere, some other dad is getting his military history itch scratched.

As for Marie Kondo, I’ll pass on what my mother said to me when I moaned about the impossibility of keeping the house tidy with three kids:
“They’re only young for a little while. You’ll have plenty of time to clean house after they’re gone.” And she was right.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I LOVE throwing/donating/decluttering. I’m not always great at it (see: books) but I am determined. And as for regretting the “loss” of something. Hmm. Usually I do not miss things, not even for one tiny moment. If I have donated it, I take delight in that someone else has it, and is happy with it. I mean–if someone else loves it, and I gave it to them, that’s the most wonderful thing! And such an incentive to me.

I have only regretted giving away one thing. A certain pair of shoes. But I thought–oh, well, Never mind. Don’t cry over donated shoes. Whatever. And then...I FOUND THEM. I guess I’d donated them to myself. But I hid them first, apparently, to make myself be grateful.

Ruby slippers.JPG

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I've been reading about Marie Kondo's travails with a bit of amusement but also sympathy. It must be tough to have built your career on a principle and then find you can't maintain it yourself.

But I do LOVE decluttering and if I've regretted throwing anything out I don't remember it, so it must not have been too much of an emotional blow.

Too many books, of course, and I have to tackle them periodically. I also have accumulations of certain things like London Transport posters, London photos, teapots, dishes, but those don't really bother me. It's the general clutter, the daily stuff that builds up that drives me nuts. I'm always telling myself I should take one drawer at a time, but then there's finding the time to do it…]

HANK: Here’s the secret to one drawer at a time. Take out the drawer. Dump it in the middle of the floor. Then you cannot ignore it. THEN: Think of it as a jigsaw puzzle Seriously. It’ll be fun.

HALLIE: AAAAAGGGGH! Me: running screaming from the room.

RHYS BOWEN: I grew up with a mother who tossed everything out the moment it was not needed (including my beloved toys, but we won’t go into that). I’m married to a collector/hoarder who keeps every letter he ever wrote to the electricity company.

I once tried to declutter his office. It didn’t work as he wanted to see and read every piece of paper before I discarded it.

I like to work in a neat office and I’m good at filing.

One of the reasons I love being in Arizona is that the house is purely functional. No added clutter anywhere since we’ve only bought what we absolutely need here. Our California home has forty years of accumulated stuff–children’s trophies, stuffed animals, John’s clothing of the wrong size that he won’t throw out.

So every now and then I have a great purge but the children say “Don’t you dare die and leave us with all this stuff.” I couldn’t contemplate moving.

LUCY BURDETTE: Oh poor Marie Kondo. Watching our daughter juggle three little kids and a big job, it’s amazing they all live, never mind live neatly. I’m not too good at throwing things out, especially books.

Truly, I have more than I could ever read, with more on the way. I did manage to give some away to the library book sale by asking myself sternly: “can you see yourself reading that anytime soon?” If not, someone else can enjoy!

HALLIE: So, were you bitten by the declutter craze, heedful of Marie Kondo's advice to keep only those "things that speak to the heart?" Are you happily rid of it all or experiencing twinges of seller's remorse?