Feighan: A move forces us to confront our ‘stuff’

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
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As a child, Japanese organizer Marie Kondo was so obsessed with tidying that she used to sneak into her siblings’ and parents’ rooms and purge items she didn’t think they used or wore enough.

If they asked about a missing jacket or shirt later, Kondo would lie, insisting she knew nothing, according to her internationally best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

Kondo has clearly come a long way since those sneaky days but she never lost her tenacity for tidying. And look at her now. She’s a world-famous organizer and even preparing to launch a TV show this year.

Though Kondo’s approach — keep only your possessions that “spark joy” and pitch the rest — isn’t for everyone, it certainly makes you think about what you own and why.

I’ve been thinking about the KonMari method a lot these days as my family prepares to move to a new house in a couple of weeks. Tackling cramped closets, basement storage racks and bulging storage bins has made me realize something I knew before but wasn’t ready to confront: I am a pack rat.

Sifting through one of many “memory” boxes during our packing, I found all sorts of unusual mementos that I felt the need to save — the page from my work desk calendar the day I got married 15 years ago, my sister’s prom picture, a receipt from Denny’s during a memorable family trip this summer, even a sombrero. And it’s a really big sombrero (you never know when you may need a large sombrero for a large Cinco de Mayo party or costume).

But touching my memory boxes during my packing may have been my first mistake.

In her beloved book, which has sold 6 million copies, Kondo writes that there is an appropriate order for tidying and to steer clear of items with emotional attachment until the end. Start with your clothes because you’re the least likely to be emotionally attached to them so it’ll be easier to purge, she recommends.

From there, tackle books, papers, Kimono (which is Japanese for miscellaneous items) and then items that have emotional value.

The reality is what has emotional value now may not feel the same in 10 years. Mementos, photos and other items change in value as more “life” happens. I have hundreds of photos of old pre-children trips, some of which aren’t even in focus. Why keep them?

Local organizer Betty Huotari of Logical Placement in Fenton believes how we view our belongings — or holding onto “stuff” — may be changing with younger generations. She says millennials don’t seem to be as attached to belongings the way other generations are. Minimalism also is very on trend right now.

“If you look at young kids, maybe in their 20s, there’s a good chunk of them who are minimalistic,” said Huotari. “They’re not sure how long they’ll be at a job or an apartment so things don’t mean as much to them as they meant to Mom or Dad or Grandma or Grandpa. ... There’s a different take on it.”

And maybe that’s a good thing.

I come from a long line of pack rats. My mother has rows upon rows of boxes in her attic and garage, items she may “one day” use or can’t part with. When I was pregnant with my son nearly eight years ago, she told me she still had her maternity clothes from when she was pregnant with my youngest sister. My sister is now 33.

As we prepare to move, I want to take a different approach. It may not be extreme as the KonMari method, but I want to spend less time tackling clutter and cleaning up. I want to find a place for everything we own. And I want to feel OK passing on gifts or other items that have done their job but don’t suit my family anymore.

What we all really want in the end isn’t more stuff. It’s time — with the people and things we love now.


Twitter: @mfeighan

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