What Happened When I Stopped Being a Slob

Recently, I joined the ranks of woo-woo, minimalist hipsters everywhere, and read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. I decided to read this book that I had so often mocked, because a) it’s helpful to occasionally know something about what you are mocking, and b) I was planning to purge a lot of my unused things, and wondered if there might be some good pointers in the book.

I generally fall somewhere in between “clean freak” and “messy slob,” at any given time, typically cycling between the two, but lately I’ve committed myself to focusing on a smaller number of essential things, and this means eliminating what doesn’t fall under that heading, including material possessions.

This is not a review of Kondo’s book, as such, but I will say a few things about it nonetheless:

  • It’s totally nuts. She thanks an inanimate object for its service before getting rid of it, going so far as to send a “thank you” text message to her old phone upon replacing it with a newer one. She greets her house each day upon returning from work. The book is what you get when you mix a cry for help with genius marketing.

  • Many of the ideas in the book are very effective, if you can get past the nuttiness. The basic clothing organization ideas are simple and excellent, and the decluttering techniques outlined are worth the price of the book all by themselves (although I’d say this book is the perfect candidate to check out from the library, but I digress).

I ended up throwing out or donating roughly 30% of my possessions, including my prized baseball card collection (ok, ok, I kept the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card). The end result, after a few weeks, is very interesting. I feel lighter and less burdened by “stuff,” in a hard-to-describe way. I find myself spending more time working on projects in my living space, which was previously moderately cluttered, and I have been significantly more productive and focused overall. On top of it all, I actually enjoy spending time in my newly tidied living space and take pride in its cleanliness.

After this exercise in purging, I noticed a few other things. Keeping my desk clean at work has led me to overcome small obstacles much more easily. When my desk is a cluttered mess, I tend to put off simple tasks because I can’t find the reference material I need and end up switching inefficiently between tasks. When I do regular purges of my desk space, workflow becomes much more efficient.

Jordan Peterson has famously given the advice “clean your room” to anyone looking to accomplish anything meaningful, and it is solid advice, both literally and figuratively. Living a catholic life, by definition, means striving to lead an ordered life, and this order should extend to one’s living and work spaces. If we live in a disordered environment, it will be that much more difficult to orient the rest of our lives toward accomplishing what is important. I highly encourage anyone reading this to take stock of their living and work spaces, purge what is superfluous, and put what remains in order. You will be surprised at the momentum this generates in your life.

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