So skilled at packing too much stuff 2015.03.11


I don’t like to brag, but I am really skilled at something that makes me prouder than all get out: I can very accurately match the volume of one thing to the volume of another. 

For example, one night recently, David made granola. He was already up past his bedtime when the granola came out of the oven, so he asked me to put it away when it cooled. He waved his arm toward some glass jars on the counter by the stove, but I barely paid attention. I was reading Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing,” which I mentioned in a recent column.

That is one engrossing book, at once hilarious in its admonitions and shockingly thought-provoking: the author makes incredible claims and takes herself so seriously. I meant to bookmark it up with sticky notes, but I figured I’d never forget some of her outlandish ideas: “Place every item of clothing in the house on the floor.” (Then, one by one, hold each item and ask yourself if it sparks joy. If not, thank it for the work it has done for you, and place it in the discard pile.)

When sorting papers: “Rule of thumb—discard everything.” Regarding storing socks: “Treat your socks and stockings with respect.” “If you’re mad at your family, your room may be the cause.” And my favorite, “Storage experts are hoarders.”

It’s not just that her ideas are outlandish, it’s the way she conveys them with such conviction—but without any clear evidence to back them up. I’d call her brazen, but she seems too nice a gal to say anything negative about her. In a nutshell, she’s saying, “Do this my way, because I say it works and if it works for me, it’s true and it will also work for you—Do it: your life will be filled with happiness.” (Pretty big nutshell?)

OK, that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but I really liked the book—and her ideas while they made me laugh and seemed totally incompatible with my life, are really making me think about stuff.

 Stuff. Right. Granola. Volume. Yes, I was telling you about David’s granola. Hours later, when I remembered I’d promised to put it away, I took a good look at his jars: one quart jar, two liter jars and a half liter jar in which to pack the two cookie sheets of granola. 

“What the heck!” I thought, “It’ll never need that many jars!” I estimated the two liter jars and the half liter jar would be entirely sufficient, proceeded to load the granola into them, and—I was pretty much precisely right.

I am equally skilled at packing suitcases, packing the car for road trips, packing groceries in self-checkout lanes, packing packages to mail—if it needs packing, I’m your woman. It’s painful for me to watch David pack the car when we go on a journey for anything longer than an overnight. I have to bite my tongue and surreptitiously rearrange when he isn’t looking. In deference to David, his belongings barely account for anything when we travel, so he really has no need for this particular skill of mine.

But, back to Kondo. Her book really got me thinking: what good is my packing skill when what it really indicates is that I have too much stuff and I want to bring my stuff wherever I go—if I didn’t have a ton of stuff to put in the suitcase or cram into the car in the first place, my amazing packing skill would never be called into play. I suppose it’s still a great skill when putting away granola or leftovers from dinner, but I’m going to take Kondo more seriously now.

And, the first thing I’m going to do? Return that other book I’ve been reading (by Jeff Yeager, the Ultimate Cheapskate), back to the library: “Don’t Throw That Away! 1,001 ways to reuse your stuff.”