In an effort to help me Spring Clean the only way husbands know how, mine purchased me a copy of a very popular book on the Japanese art of tidying. I was a little more than offended, but because this method is so hot right now, I swallowed my pride and began reading. If you are unfamiliar with it, let me give you a quick run-down.
Basically, if you follow her method, you will never need to tidy again because everything will be useful and have its place. You tidy all at once and specifically visualize how you want your home to look. Discard things right away—if they don’t have a place, they don’t belong. Tidy in categories—shirts, then pants, then books, then papers, etc. There are some other rules and methods, but it all boils down to one thing: keep only what “sparks joy.”
I have to say, after reading it, I decided this was the biggest pile of garbage I had laid eyes on. Admittedly, that is an exaggeration because there are bigger piles garbage in every room of my home, in any direction I look from where I am right now. Her method summarized, doesn’t seem like a bad idea. In fact, it is a very smart way of cleaning and is probably extremely effective if you live in a plastic bubble, all alone on an island in the Bermuda Triangle, which she most certainly does. However, I was so shocked by what I was reading that there were times I couldn’t tell if it was satire or not. I had to research this woman a little bit because I needed to know if this was real, so I looked up some interviews and tried to find photos of her home.
In my favorite interview, she was asked something like, “What is your greatest embarrassment?” It wasn’t specific, so I interpreted it as, “in life.” Like, of all the days you have breathed, what is the one thing that you stay up until 3 in the morning thinking about, mulling over in your mind until you sweat yourself to sleep? Her response still makes me laugh. She said that she once found a pair of socks, balled up in her drawer of “curated” white shirts. She was shocked and ashamed that she could let something like this happen. Ultimately, to right this wrong, she took out her socks, thanked them for their hard work, unballed them, and laid them to rest in their drawer.
Whoa. My daily life is so ridiculous, I cannot even begin to categorize my greatest embarrassments, the least of which involve socks. If improperly putting away socks is the most shameful thing she has ever done, this should be a huge red flag to me that we aren’t going to agree on much. Still, I read on, hoping she would offer some advice for regular people. Spoiler alert: she doesn’t. This is missing from her book because she realized people like me don’t have a place in her home and are not useful to her. I don’t “spark joy” as it were, so I get tossed like a box of dried-up markers. One might think I would be offended by this, but I get it; my mess is the writing on the wall. Seriously. One of the children has written something on the wall.
I shouldn’t fault her for her way of life. It sounds nice to not trip over toys, or animals, or small humans. In fact, I do have place for everything and those things go into those places every night after bedtime; at least, they used to. The second my family wakes up, those things come back out and eventually we all forget where all the things are supposed to go so they just stay out because, what is the point? I’m getting so good at doing the “Sharp Toy Shuffle” in the middle of the night, I’d almost miss it if my kids put things away.
I would love to have everything in my home make sense. I want for things to stay where I put them and I want them to be beautiful to look at when I put them there. Some days I am so exhausted by how much energy I spend cleaning only to have it messed up within hours, that I want to just throw it all away. I want the dining room table to be for eating, not playing. I want the playroom to be for playing, not eating. I want my countertops sparkling and my floors bare. When I have visitors, I want them to marvel at the perfectly organized, shining example of a home that is in a perpetual state of “Spring Clean.”
Then the shine wears off. I take inventory of what this mess all represents. When I look at my sticky, toy-ridden, crunched up crackers on the floor, what-in-God’s-name-is-that-smell, home, I realize it is perfectly curated. All our family and friends have a place and it’s together, in the midst of our imperfections. I have filled this home and this life with people who spark joy in me and I wouldn’t want to tidy up that.