Tidying Up, part 1

Tidying Up, part 1

Photo by Mike Keeling

Note: This is the first part of my Tidying Up series, where I discuss the journey I’m taking with Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and my reasons for doing so. Read on. (:

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with “stuff”.

As a child, I couldn’t seem to put things back where they belonged. My belongings would be strewn around my room with no rhyme or reason. This would irritate my mom, but I would ignore her warnings until she would “clean” everything up herself by throwing everything in the trash. Sometimes it was traumatic, like the one time my favorite plush snake was suddenly missing from its resting place on the floor. Yes, I’m still pining for that damn snake!

Part of the problem is that I don’t think I was ever actually taught how to straighten up. I don’t think I was given a “here, let’s clean this up together” session to instill in child-me an internal tidying schedule. It’s entirely possible that I was taught those things many times and they just didn’t stick, but my mom was a single mom. With how exhausted she must have been all the time, it’s also possible that she just thought it was easier to clean up after us kids than to make us clean up.

Regardless of anything that did or didn’t happen as a child, I’m an adult now, so it’s on me, and I still struggle with some things I struggled with as a child, liiiiike using products that I own. Give me a fancy new set of colored pencils and I’m the happiest person in the world, but don’t expect me to actually USE them.

I guess my thinking is “if I use it, I won’t have it anymore”. For some reason I’ve always had this scarcity mindset that makes me super conservative about “wasting things”. So, I won’t use the damn colored pencils because I might end up “wasting” them.

Logically, I know it’s ridiculous. If I don’t USE them, I don’t really HAVE them either, do I? Colored pencils weren’t made to sit in a drawer in fancy brand-new packaging and just be looked at once in a blue moon when I open the drawer. They were meant to be USED, and what’s the point of having them if I don’t use them? Plus, all the fun I would have with them means there’s no chance of them being wasted.

I’ve always been overly conservative when it comes to certain things, and it’s been a tough habit to break. There were times in my past when I held onto things that I hadn’t used, and probably wouldn’t use, because of the “but I paid a lot of money for it!” thing – the fear of wasting money, or buyer’s guilt, or whatever you wanted to call it. I’ve always struggled with a kind of “unfinished project” guilt. And sometimes, I ended up having to mourn the loss of something that was ruined by the elements. That’s a special kind of pain, when you realize the item you wanted to use, but didn’t use because of fear of wasting it, ended up being truly wasted anyway because it dried up or got water damage or was destroyed in some other way. That’s a special kind of kicking-your-own-ass.

So, adult-me has developed a problem with stuff – or rather, carried the problem over from childhood. Going by the reality TV shows about hoarding, I’m not a hoarder by any means, but I recognize certain issues that I have that cause me to hold onto things after they’ve outlived their usefulness. For this reason, I am undertaking the KonMari method described in Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

I’ll be back with more in part 2 of this series. (:

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