“He who dies with the most toys wins” was a popular, annoying bumper sticker in the 1980’s. Most people would disagree with that statement nowadays because at some point, belongings that were once desirable become clutter. As the comedian and wise man Steven Wright points out, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”
There is an entire industry built on our need to reduce clutter. Storage “systems” and containers provide opportunities for buying even more things to store the things we already own. Of the 40 plus books on Amazon’s site dedicated to clutter reduction and household organization, one stands out. Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering, asserts that “Ultimately, tidying up gives a person the mental space to figure out what they truly want out of life.”
Kondo’s decluttering business is well known in her native country, Japan. Her approach is unique and simple: Gather all items of one category (such as clothing), spread them out on the bed and choose what to keep and what to get rid of. The deciding factor should be whether the item causes “a spark of joy” upon handling it. If it does not spark joy, discard it.
The spark-of-joy method is somewhat more difficult when it comes to sentimental items such as letters and photos. Something that works for me is to take photos of the objects as well as scans of documents and store them on my computer. The mementos are preserved there, nicely catalogued, and I don’t have to search through boxes.
Kondo’s method is influenced by the Shinto concept of animism, the belief that non-human entities possess a spirit. For example, she advises readers to thank and honor their belongings before throwing them away. That may not resonate with western sensibilities, but certainly recognizing that shedding no-longer-necessary trappings from the past can help one live in the present.
And in your newly decluttered life, if you need one more bit of something, you’ll have a place to put it.