I should have known better than to get hooked on the new Netflix series titled "Tidying Up" based on the best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo (I blame Jill for the suggestion.)
Nonetheless, Marie - who speaks mainly japanese and stands less than 5' tall and no more than 90 lbs - exerts her considerable charm and proven methodology with soft-spoken authority and grace. ("I love mess," she giggles in her lilting broken english.) There's no judgement here, just no-nonsense coaching, gentle persuasion and abundant compassion.
I should note for those of you who haven't yet seen the show that Marie doesn't arrive with a team of happy organizers in tow (only an interpreter); she's NOT doing the actual clean-up; she's TRAINING the homeowners to care for the things they have and more importantly, how to live with less! (What a concept.)
Although I'm fairly "tidy" by nature, I have to admit that the drawers and closets in my home hold way more than they ought to, and because I spend a fair amount of time looking through other people's closets, basements, attics, and garages, I can emphatically attest to the fact that I am not alone - not by a long shot!
Simply put, we Americans are over-consumers (You can thank Amazon for elevating "I must have it now." to epidemic proportions.) and nearly all of us have more than we need, or have space to accommodate. In my experience, the more storage space a house offers, the more homeowners tend to fill it up!
Marie works on a very basic principal: if an item doesn't "spark joy," there's no need to keep it. After a brief meditation to center herself with the energy in the home (welcome to L.A.), she has her stressed-out clients throw every scrap of clothing they own (undies, socks, coats, ties, T-shirts, SHOES!!!, etc., etc., etc.) onto the bed so they can face, head on, the sheer magnitude of "stuff" they have accumulated with little thought or real intention. Ditto for the kitchen, garage, home office, and any other offending spaces. If an item "sparks joy," they set it aside. If not, she instructs them to say "thank you," and then (here's the hard part) GIVE IT AWAY! (I hope my boys are paying attention.)
Yesterday, California Closets transformed our tiny little kitchen pantry, easily creating 3x the amount of storage we had when it was basic shelving, AND then following Marie's advice, I chucked everything we don't need or use.
That massive juicer Tristan talked us into that was used twice . . . gone.
Open packages of stale spaghetti noodles . . . in the trash.
A set of salt & pepper shakers I already own, but bought on sale at Home Goods anyway . . . see ya.
Burnt potholders and stained tea towels . . . goodbye! (I mean, "thank you" and goodbye.)
And when I was done with the pantry, I tackled the Lazy Susan, the cupboard full of can goods, and finally, the Tupperware drawer. (I was on a roll.) I even took down the greasy screens above my stove and soaked them in ammonia. And when I finally wore down - and my husband and dog could safely come out of hiding - EVERYTHING, including the 30lb-bag of dog food, had a place. A place for everything!
Why am I sharing my OCD tale???
Because we're rolling into the spring market and whether you'll be contacting me soon to help you prepare your house for sale, are thinking about it well down the road, or would move tomorrow IF the right house presented itself (There's actually a fair number of you in that category.), I'm suggesting that you begin decluttering NOW.
In other words, "Why wait?"
Believe me, your kids won't miss those participation trophies, they'll never notice the history papers or broken pottery you tossed, and the Lacrosse equipment that hasn't been touched in years . . . why are you hanging on to it, exactly?
No, I'm not completely devoid of nostalgia, (I still have my wedding album, although not the wedding gown.) After all, Realtors work in the "memory" business as much as anything else. Often, we're invited into people's most intimate journeys as they transition from one life event to another, so there's a certain amount of compassion that's required, no matter what the circumstances.
Like Marie, I'm hired to move Sellers towards their goal, whatever that may be. (Hint: usually it involves selling for the highest and best price.) Which means that I'm inevitably going to encourage you to purge, pack and give away everything you don't want to carry forward come time to sell. (Why crowd the next home?)
There's another parallel between my work and Marie's: there's no "magic pill" that gets you from point A to point B; there's just diligence, hard work, and some uncomfortable truths (like we all have too much sh#%!) Speaking for myself, having worked through our linen closet, the laundry area, and the dreaded bathroom vanity, I absolutely DO feel better now that the house is better organized. (And that's the point,I suppose.)
Here's the good news . . . all those lovely memories; those baby teeth under the pillow, the team parties, Christmas mornings or Hanukkah lights; the baby's first steps, the graduation, the neighborhood potlucks, the book club meetings, and the joyous family celebrations in-between; those slice-of-life moments all go with you (and they don't require a box to store them in)!
So get started spring cleaning, figure out what brings you "joy" (You'll know it when you feel it.) and then let the rest GO! I promise you it will make any move down the road MUCH easier, less overwhelming, and dare I say it, far more "joyful" in the meantime.
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.