KonMari and that one last box.
“No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important.”
On Sunday, Facebook memories reminded me that it was a year ago since I had read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and started to KonMari my entire apartment. Over the next couple of months I took everything out of my closets, everything out from below my bed, everything out from my kitchen cabinets, and sorted through each and every thing, one by one. I held every item I owned in my hands, felt every item I owned in my hands, and asked myself one question for each: “does this bring me joy?”
I went through my clothes and got rid of a dozen or so garbage bags worth. I went through my books and got rid of two boxes full. I went through three boxes of papers and condensed them to less than one. I went through my toiletries and my spices and my shoes and my pots and my pans. I went through albums and albums full of old photos, discarding all the extras from those days when we always ordered two copies of each.
I went through everything in my apartment and tossed anything that didn’t bring me joy.
I went through everything, that is, except for that one small pile.
There’s a specific order of tidying in the KonMari method: clothing, books, papers, komono (miscellany), sentimental items. The final category of KonMari is “items that have sentimental value.” These are photographs, these are souvenirs, these are mementos. These are the last things you sort through because, as Marie Kondo says, they are the hardest items to discard: “mementos are reminders of a time when these items gave us joy. The thought of disposing of them sparks the fear that we’ll lose those precious memories along with them.”
I threw out garbage bags worth of photos. Garbage bags worth of them. I threw out every photo that I had printed when I was in that transition period of still printing photos from my digital camera. I threw out every photo duplicate I had. I threw out every sleeve of negatives I’d never touched. I tore photos from scrapbooks and slipped them into regular albums, discarding my notes and drawings and the accompanying ticket stubs and school dance invitations and saving myself space.
I threw out piles of greeting cards, birthday cards, graduation cards from nearly twenty years ago.
And I had no problem doing so.
I thought that photos would be the hardest things for me to toss. I’ve always had a camera in my hand and prided myself on documenting everything. But then I looked at, held, photos from high school and college and my early twenties and couldn’t even remember the day, the people, the situation I had captured. Most of the millions of photos I took years ago were meaningless to me.
Mind you, I still kept one copy of most of the photos, even if I couldn’t remember the day or the people or the situation, which is probably truly against the KonMari teachings. But whatever. I did throw out anything that was blurry or truly bad or so under exposed it was nearly black.
And that was well more than I expected of myself.
I was getting to the end of tidying everything in my apartment. I’d gone though all of my clothes and books and papers and komono and photos. All I had left was that one small pile. That one small pile of sentimental things.
And then I stopped. I didn’t touch it. I moved on.
And here I am, a year after starting to KonMari my apartment, with that one small pile, with that one box, still tucked away on the top shelf above my closet.
“If you just stow these things away in a drawer or cardboard box, before you realize it, your past will become a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now.”
I read that line in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up before I even started tackling the tidying project for myself. I wept as I read it and as I wept I was thinking about that box. The box I knew that I would eventually have to handle. The box I knew I would eventually have to go through. The box that I knew was probably holding me back. Weighing me down.
And then I went through my clothes and my books and my papers and my komono and my photographs knowing that at the end of it all was that box.
And then, I didn’t touch it.
I left the box, the small pile of sentimental things, in a corner of the shelf above my closet.
And they’ve been there for a year.
And it’s not like I forgot about that box. I know it’s there. I know it’s waiting. I know, maybe, that it’s holding me back from saying I completed this KonMari project.
I know, maybe, that it’s holding me back.
“When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go,” Marie Kondo says, “there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear of the future.”
By not going through this box, am I just holding onto a past I shouldn’t be holding on to? Is this box just weighing me down and preventing me from moving forward? Or is it OK to be a little sentimental? To hold on to a few physical keepsakes of our past? I mean, even I admit that Marie Kondo can be a bit of a nutcase organizer who probably lives in a completely empty box surrounded by nothing but air. She wants you to get rid of everything that doesn’t bring you joy and sometimes I think that’s because nothing gives her joy.
So sometimes I think that maybe it’s OK to be sentimental. Maybe it’s OK for that box to remain where it is. Tucked away where I don’t have to deal with it. For that box to remain in my life. For sentimental objects from the past to remain in my life. Maybe it’s OK to hold onto those things.
Or maybe I am just attached to the past. Or maybe I do just fear for the future. Or, maybe, maybe, I am still just holding out hope for the future.
I know that I should go through that box. I know that if I do go through that box most of the things inside will not give me joy. Even if they once did.
“By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past,” Kondo says in her book. But maybe I’m not quite ready to process my past. To let go. To fully move ahead.
Maybe with or without that box in my life I will forever live in the past and the future.
Maybe with or without that box in my life I’ll forever have a weight that holds me back and keeps me from living in the here and now.