I checked out a book from the library the other day called Kiki & Jax, with a subtitle about friendship. The Illustrations are colorful, and it looked like it might be a nice story for my younger kids.

When I started reading at bedtime, the story struck me as odd. Kiki kept losing her toys in her messy house, so she and Jax couldn’t play. One day, Jax rang the doorbell, but Kiki couldn’t get to the door until Jax gave up and went home. It seemed an odd premise, and I wondered what to make of the book, when it suddenly became clear. Jax was telling Kiki how to sort through her pile of stuff and tidy up, and he said, “If it sparks joy in your heart, keep it! And if it doesn’t, thank it and let it go.”


Well, it turns out this kids’ book is a spin-off of Marie Kondo’s bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I never actually read that book, but Beth and I talked about it a couple of years back, and the line in the kids’ book about sparking joy was so memorable that it immediately sent me to google.

I told in a previous post how I get anxious when I have too much stuff around, and I love organizing even if I’m not good at doing it efficiently or keeping a clean house. I love getting rid of things, except that I love keeping things.

Do I follow Kondo’s advice? Well, here’s what goes on in my house:

  • First, we don’t go shopping, and I only buy with a concrete reason. I can say with some pride that Beth and I were once featured in Redbook as a “financially compatible” couple, as we both liked to save money by simply not buying things.
  • We have lots of books: classics and reference works in history and theology and philosophy, and bunches of illustrated kids’ books. Generally, I keep classics and reference books, and get anything else from the library or in ebook. Other stuff I’m pondering selling on ebay.
  • Sadly, I hold on to empty electronics boxes for years. They’ll be indispensable if I ever resell anything, but I admit it’s probably excessive.
  • I am a hoarder of digital movies and photos. This has paid off, as I can show my kids lots of footage of Beth, like several hours of recorded videochats with family over the years.
  • For the house, I hang on to scrap wood, solid sheets of hard plastic, large cardboard boxes, strips of velcro, straps with buckles, most anything that might be just the thing for a project. And I actually do use these things pretty routinely.

Maybe I choose not to follow Kondo’s advice, or maybe it’s something a little different: I find joy in repurposing what I already have.

I do not mean that I paint old crates for decorations. I mean that I cannibalized scrap wood from a broken deck to build a pair of sawhorses for my basement; then I removed an attic fan from my garage ceiling, cased it in an old cardboard box, and strapped an air filter on the back (thanks to Ki Park for the suggestion) to catch sawdust.

The reason I can do this kind of thing without drowning in junk is that, since I know it will be hard for me to get rid of stuff, I generally avoid buying anything in the first place. And if something I’m not using is a uni-tasker, and not very flexible for multiple purposes, I throw it out or give it away.

I would enjoy hearing how other people deal with getting rid of stuff, or else organizing what they have. Has anyone tried using Kondo’s approach?