The chucker and hoarder theory of life

Marie Kondo is a neatness consultant. This is not the same as being a neat freak—which is how I like to think of myself. A neatness consultant is a person you pay for tips in tidying up. If it’s Kondo you want to meet, then you need to sign up and wait three months before you can meet her in Tokyo and learn how to transform your cluttered home into a space of “beauty, peace and inspiration".

If you cannot wait or afford the trip, you might want to just buy her best-seller, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying. “The Japanese sensation—1.5 million copies sold" will teach you the KonMari (Marie Kondo, get it?) that will transform your space and soon after, your life.

If you don’t want to read the book, then here is a cheat sheet. Very simply, the KonMari method begins with step 1 (chuck), followed by step 2 (organize). Cheat sheet over.

There are preconditions of course. Chucking is an organized business. You don’t just reach into your drawer of greying underwear and throw it all out. You must first collect all your clothes from every corner of the house (excluding presumably the ones you are wearing, or maybe those too, I’m not sure), place them in the centre of the room where you are working and then pick each item up one by one. Does this give me joy? That is the mantra you apply to everything you own. If the answer is yes, then the argyle sweater your mother gifted you on your 21st birthday stays. If no, then it is simply thrown out. Bus. “In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure," writes Kondo.

Once you’re done with your clothes (starting with tops and ending with shoes), get started in this order with the rest of your stuff: books, papers, miscellaneous items and sentimental items. Photographs come last because, as Kondo knows, they will distract you as you browse through, meandering off on long journeys of "remember when…"

When discarding, you don’t simply chuck into a garbage bag. That is sacrilege. No, you look at the about-to-be-doomed item, thank it for the work it has done for you, and then place it in the trash.

The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying: Ebury Punlishing, 248 pages, 499.
The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying: Ebury Punlishing, 248 pages, 499.

Kondo does not advocate giving things away either. If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for your younger sister or pimply nephew either. It’s a rule I seriously question in a country like India where there is no shortage of non-governmental organizations and charities literally begging for your discarded woollens, shoes, books, appliances. Are there no needy people in Japan, I wonder? So yes to chucking. But no to trashing.

I find myself in disagreement with Kondo on another issue. The KonMari method is designed to make tidying a once-in-a-life experience. If you follow her method, she promises, you will never tidy again.

I find this preposterous. For me, tidying is a comforting daily ritual. Like brushing your teeth or bathing or exercising or eating breakfast or rubbing your dog’s tummy. In the same manner that many people spend a ritual 15 minutes in their little prayer corners, I spend at least 15 with my “daily shelf method". A bathroom cabinet today, the shoe shelf tomorrow. DVDs now, workout clothes later. It never ends. And I’m glad it doesn’t. Because tidying is never a chore. There’s something deeply soothing, meditative almost, about those 15 minutes of daily sorting that leaves me energized, in control and ready to face (almost) anything.

But there is one issue that Kondo does not adequately address that has left me feeling deeply frustrated with her book. And let me give you a bit of background before I come to it.

Everyone knows that the world is made up of two types of people—chuckers and hoarders. This has nothing to do with gender (all that nonsense about men from Mars, women from Venus). Some people are just born to hoard, some people just love to chuck. That’s the way it is.

For some inexplicable reason, chuckers are attracted to hoarders, and vice-versa. Look at any marriage and long-term relationship around you and in nine out of 10, you will see chuckers pairing up with hoarders. It’s a recipe for disaster and for the life of me I cannot fathom this fatal attraction. Every time I attend such a doomed coupling I want to stand up and shout: “Don’t do it. Stop. You will spend the rest of your life bickering over instruction manuals and out-grown clothes. GET OUT NOW."

But, no the ceremony will continue and six months later you will invite them for dinner and he’ll be sulking because she’s chucked out his childhood Archie comic collection. Or she’ll be mad because he’s just had a hissy fit over her collection of 231 shoes that has no place for his solitary sneakers.

So here’s my question, Ms Kondo. How do chuckers and hoarders reconcile, and can there ever be a happily-ever-after for them? I ask because I am married to a hoarder of world-class talent. Kondo says, if I clean up my stuff, the rest of the family will fall in line.

Not true. I have spent over 20 years cleaning and beaming, throwing and thriving. My husband has yet to derive even the tiniest inspiration from me. Unmoving as the sphinx, he sighs as I emerge, dust-covered, triumphant after sorting through medical reports dating back to 1993. “Where’s the manual for the new air-fryer?" he will gently ask. And of course I haven’t a clue. And of course if it isn’t there already, it belongs to the bloody trash.

Yet, we chuckers have our guilty secrets. Last month when the husband was away on a business trip, I finally could hold myself back no longer. Out came the red suitcase stuffed with pants that no longer fit. Down came the carton with shirts that haven’t been worn in the past four years. And out went everything. No time to sort even. Just a big pile, hastily wrapped in a guilty bundle, packed off to the Cheshire Home charity. No time to even say goodbye and thank you.

Hoarder husband hasn’t found out yet. But when he does, I will roll my eyes, helplessly point to The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying, and blame his cousin who gifted it to me.

Namita Bhandare is consulting editor, gender, Mint.

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