Baby boomers, beware: we are being challenged. By a new Netflix program called Tidying Up. It is challenging us to declutter. But humor writer and professor Mary Kay Fleming of Crescent Springs, Kentucky, is throwing up her hands and won’t be carting her home’s contents to a consignment shop. Why not? Because she has learned the hard way that she must be content to let sleeping piles lie.

Maybe you haven’t heard of her, but much of America is falling hard for Marie Kondo. Years after writing her bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the author hosts a popular Netflix program teaching clients to retain only those belongings that “spark joy.”

A few holdouts refuse to embrace the craze. Instead, they’re crawling into their basements and hugging their garbage. Sadly, my husband falls into this group.

When he retired, I begged him to reduce the contents of the basement by half. I didn’t care which half. Four days later, he produced only one trash bag. What sparked joy for this man was to straighten junk into tidier and taller piles. Better than nothing, perhaps, but barely.

To his credit, he courageously unloaded his 10th-grade chemistry notes, recognizing at last the dwindling odds of being quizzed 50 years after graduating. We all celebrated the notebook recycling except our son, who feared it was “premature.” God help our daughter-in-law.

A yard sale.

As appealing as I find Kondo’s everything-in-its-place philosophy, there are recommendations I cannot accept. For example, she advocates emptying your purse each night, placing each item in its proper home, and storing the bag on a shelf. For aging boomers like me, this guarantees I will forget half my belongings the next day. It’s hard enough to remember my purse without the cruelty of finding it empty every morning. Besides, what if I have to make a quick getaway in the middle of the night? Not that I’m the kind of person who frequently goes on the lam, but still.

Mary Kay Fleming

I also struggle with Kondo’s trademark folding methods. The KonMari master claims that everything has a favorite way of being folded— a “sweet spot”— and must be displayed upright for easier selection. This includes everything from underwear to carrots. I gave up folding my own underwear 25 years ago when I had two preschoolers, a job, and no sleep. That decision definitely sparked joy. It’s unlikely I’ll prioritize arranging vegetables vertically in the fridge.

Hosiery, says Kondo, is especially fussy. “Socks in your drawer are essentially on holiday. They take a brutal beating in their daily work… The time they spend in your drawer is the only chance to rest.” To earn their cooperation, Kondo instructs us to roll and store socks on end like avocado rolls. But many middle-aged women suffering restless nights do not want their hosiery to sleep better than they do. Let the prisoners riot.

Perhaps the only way I’ll accomplish any serious downsizing is to send my husband out of town, purge like my life depends on it, and then claim a home invasion when he returns. Admittedly, this is a hard sell because few thieves break in to clean and organize. On the other hand, I might use the testimonials in Kondo’s book to motivate him. One reader crowed, “Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don’t. So I got a divorce. Now I feel much happier.”

Life-changing magic, indeed.


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