One thing leads to another, leads to tossing a screw... 2015.02.11


A couple Saturday nights ago, when I should have been contemplating sleep, I was instead contemplating clutter. A library patron’s request for a book reminded me that I really need to focus on de-cluttering in all facets of my life, but a post on Facebook by my old college friend Martha really set me in motion to give it a lot more thought.

Martha shared the article, “The Power of Positive Purging Your Stuff: When you de-clutter for retirement, think of it as rightsizing, not downsizing,” from’s internet publishing arm, “next avenue: where grown-ups keep growing.” 

I’m not thinking about retiring, but with all the clutter we have, I figured I probably should start the “rightsizing” process right now, so I read eagerly—and widely.

The article contained links within it to other articles, and a sidebar of four related links. I clicked “Take the 30-Day De-clutter Challenge: It's hard to discard things when you're a collector, but it can be done” (as opposed to the sidebar link, “30-Day De-clutter Challenge: What I've Learned; Halfway through, I've got a pile of junk and gained some wisdom, too”) which led me to “5 Best Ways to Lose the Clutter for Keeps: Clear out the junk and gain space in your home and clarity in your life” which led me to “Shop Your Closet: Find your fashion winners—and your true style.” 

And then I went back to the “5 Best Ways” article to click on another interesting link: “Giving Things Away Can Make a Life Transition Easier: When her mother-in-law needed to move into a smaller place, the author found a creative way to ease her sadness,” a very wonderful article in which the author helps her mother-in-law pick out the things she really wants to keep (instead of following her original pronouncement to “just throw everything away” when she was forced to downsize), and give away the rest of her belongings in a “free flea market” outside her house.

That story led me to “The Zen of a Small Kitchen: No dishwasher, stainless steel appliances or counter space. Having less has proved an enlightening—and more healthful—experience,” which, as a homeowner with a relatively small kitchen, I really needed to read.

Somewhere during this hopscotch journey through self-help clutter sites, something in the original article sounded familiar and I went back to the Facebook post and there she was under “Related Links,” the current queen of the de-cluttering movement and the author of the requested book, Marie Kondo, in two more links: “Home Organization Advice from Marie Kondo,” a New York Times article about Kondo’s method of de-cluttering, and “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” a link to an NPR review of her book, which advises keeping only what sparks joy and saying goodbye to the things you don’t keep. 

I don’t want to tell you what time I went to bed, but I would guess Sybil already had. That’s my measure of how late I’m up. If Sybil was in bed before me, it must have been pretty late.

I was about to start washing dishes on Sunday when I remembered something about my travels through clutter links. I walked into the dining room where David has converted the buffet to a makeshift stand-up desk. He is in residence in front of the buffet most of the weekend. If you  appreciate the Observer for nothing else, appreciate David’s dedication to writing fresh stories and news every weekend.

He doesn’t really appreciate being interrupted when he’s working at his buffet-desk, but I had just remembered something very important to tell him. If I don’t tell him right away I’ll forget what it was. I know I could just write it down, but chances are, I’ll lose the paper or forget to read it or he won’t be around when the paper surfaces again or the paper won’t surface for ages. So, I routinely interrupt.

“Last night one of the things I read about was the 30-Day Challenge. The first day you throw away one thing, the second day, two things, until the 30th day you throw away 30 things. What if we both did that?”

“Don’t you have dishes to wash?” he responded.

“So, you’re not interested? You don’t want to do it?” I ask.

He picked up a little item, held it up and said, “This is a screw,” and tossed it in the dining room’s little trash basket.

Day One down. I think we’ve got this.