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Making a Hobby Out of Getting Rid of Sh*t


Tidying up is hard.

Sometimes stuff sits in your closet for so long that the piles become a part of your peripheral, and you don't even notice they're there anymore. What if you need that rusty pair of pliers? What about the abandoned buttons, traveling like nomads amongst coins and bobby pins, found in your old jacket's pockets? I'll probably, definitely sew them onto that pair of tattered jeans at the bottom of my storage bin... right?

If, like me, you've been on a cleaning frenzy lately, it's likely you've read (or at least heard of) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. She tackles the idea of organizing, keeping, and discarding things with one simple rule of thumb: Does the object spark joy?

Seriously, it's that easy. If the thing makes you happy then you keep that thing. If the thing has served it's purpose in already making you happy at one point in time, you thank that thing for the joy it sparked and keep going.

What about the things that don't spark joy at all? There's no reason to hold onto things that no longer (or ever did) serve their purpose to make us happy. Why didn't anyone think of this sooner?

I had already employed this kind of approach when I decided to move to Portland because, like KonMari, I had to. Where the KonMari method limits us to the question "Does this item spark joy?", I was limited in other ways.

I had to consider "Will this fit in my car? Is this thing necessary?" It's surprising that most of the stuff I thought I "needed", I didn't.

But, this process was made even more difficult for me personally in the face of grief. Not only had I decided to move to Portland, cleaning out an entire 3 years worth of accumulated crap between 4+ roommates, but I was also dumped with my dad's stuff while helping my mom downsize. And let me tell you, anyone who has ever had to sort through the things their deceased loved ones have previously touched or cherished will understand how monumental of a task this is.

I remember laying everything out in my dining room. Every book, CD, elementary school report card, hair straightener, vase, dish, record, piece of clothing, bike accessory, kitchen item, candle. Towards the end, our house was a biohazard, and I had become, if I wasn't already, a crazed person.

I found myself obsessed with purging, packing little by little into boxes, sifting through carefully, thinking "sure this will fit", "this is nearly half of the books I own, it shouldn't be too heavy." "I'll definitely need a salad spinner."

Of course, this happened in waves. I nearly always had boxes for my friends to go through when they came over. I started blasting co-workers, social media and Craigslist, even hollering at neighbors to come over and take my stuff. Free piles were weekly if not daily occurrences, taking things out as often as I took out my trash. I also came to know Tonto, the Waverly Goodwill worker, pretty well. But the more I went through, the more I realized I STILL had too much stuff. This went on until the day that I left Maryland, abandoning wooden spoons and spatulas on my mother's front lawn.

With that being said, sure, there were things that I needed to replace when I got here. But for the most part, I already owned things that were special to me: two pots my mom had in her first apartment, a vintage oven mitt that I found on my 23rd birthday, my dad's hunting knife and waterproof matches, to name a few.

Now that I'm moving in with a partner, naturally there's a lot of...stuff. Not only do I have to revisit the KonMari methods, but now I have some experience under my belt.

I highly recommend checking out The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, especially if you're looking to create space for happiness in your life. But here are a couple key tips about tidying up that I've gathered from my own experience, as well:


1. It's okay to not be ready to let go!

If you are grieving (a loved one, a relationship, a past life), it's likely you aren't in the right mindset to make big decisions about what to get rid of quite yet. This is okay.

Don't get rid of things because you feel that you have to, or because they are negative reminders of what was. That could very likely change in six months. In the midst of my own grief, I don't necessarily regret getting rid of what I did, but I do wish I had given myself more time to decide to get rid of it. Go easy, take it in waves, and don't make impulsive emotional decisions.


2. Sell, Sell, Sell

I wish I had done more yard sales. Now, when I go through my things I'm ready to give up, I take that stuff straight to Crossroads or Buffalo Exchange. I'm sure you'll be able to find your own local consignment shop that you enjoy.

I don't even care about the cash: I'm all about that store credit, which certainly helps when I find other things that spark joy.


3. Clothing Swaps

This was a regular occurrence in Baltimore that I wish I could find more of in Portland, so I put one together myself a few weeks ago. I invited friends over who brought their own things, and some didn't bring any at all.

After making careful decisions about each and every item, and attempting to sell it for store credit, this was my last resort. The best part? It's free!

What are some of your favorite methods for tidying up? How do you make room for happiness in your life?


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