My greatest fears in life are mostly irrational: Getting stung by wasps (they can’t get me if I don’t leave my house), heights (I can’t even climb up the second step of a ladder), and becoming a reclusive old man who hoards newspapers (Razorcakes, maybe) in the hope I’ll get to read them all one day, stacking them floor to ceiling, only to be crushed to death after they topple over and careen into my frail and aging body.
Actually, that doesn’t sound like a bad way to go. Too bad I don’t know how I’ll stack them that high if I’m afraid of ladders, and newspapers will likely go extinct before baby boomers do (Razorcake will live forever, though, right? You’re a subscriber, right?).
I don’t want to be the guy who rents a storage unit just so I can have more space to stash my junk.
But my fear of having too much stuff is very real. I’ve collected music, comics, video games, and all kinds of ridiculous Transformers. I’m running out of space in my home, and I don’t want to be the guy who rents a storage unit just so I can have more space to stash my junk.
Last year I became obsessed with the viral hit reality TV show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. For those of you who haven’t watched the show, Marie is a tidying consultant who helps her clients manage clutter in their homes. What makes Marie special isn’t just her charm; she infuses her traditional Japanese Shinto faith into her work, creating a spiritual, peaceful, life-affirming process for discarding shit junking up your home.
Plus, I love that her process takes on a mildly anti-consumerist bent, especially when we’re constantly bombarded with advertisements urging us to crap up our lives with the next cheaply made product that’s more likely to collect dust than love and adoration.
(One of the criticisms I’ve seen of Marie is that she’s not anti-capitalist. She’s just anti-clutter. Marie is a consultant and is trying to earn a living. Yeah, she’s trying to sell her services, her books, and her stuff, too, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have good advice.)
What makes Marie Kondo’s method work so well is that it’s simple: only keep what you love, or as she says, discard what doesn’t “spark joy” in your heart.
As you go through your home, you pick up each item individually, brush the item gently to awaken their spirits (per Marie’s Shinto traditions, which is that everything has a spirit), and if it doesn’t spark joy in your heart, you thank it for its service and place it in the discard pile.
After finishing the first episode, Rachel and I embarked on a cleaning rampage. We dropped off about a dozen full garbage bags of clothes and random stuff to Goodwill, and the stuff worth a few bucks went to eBay and local stores for trade-in.
When it came time to start tidying my collections, I started losing steam…. This shit is way harder than on TV.
When it came time to start tidying my collections, I started losing steam. I was wracked with indecision. I couldn’t figure out what to keep and what to toss when all of it was creating anxiety. This shit is way harder than on TV.
Now that Rachel and I are hardcore staying at home to avoid COVID-19 exposure, all my possessions felt like they were becoming the giant newspaper stack of my nightmares, looming over me, plotting my demise, and biding its time.
One of my friends unloaded his beloved GG Allin, Queers, and Screeching Weasel albums. He realized these bands he loved no longer represented his values, and he got rid of them as a way to reconcile who he used to be with who he wants to be now.
I was inspired to take another stab at tidying after watching one of my friends unload his beloved GG Allin, Queers, and Screeching Weasel albums. He realized these bands he loved no longer represented his values, and he got rid of them as a way to reconcile who he used to be with who he wants to be now.
When artists you used to love have messages that are no longer compatible with who you are today, you don’t need to keep their music around.
Chucking my Screeching Weasel records into my trade pile was easy, but I still struggled with the rest. I ordered Marie Kondo’s book in the hope that some tips and details got left out of her show, and I wanted to refresh my memory a bit, too.
I devoured Marie’s book once it arrived. She is way more eccentric than she comes off on TV, and I’m totally here for it. In her book, Marie describes being obsessed with cleaning since she was five years old (you know what I was obsessed with at that age? Nintendo and Ninja Turtles). When the other kids in her class had recess outside, she was inside tidying up her classroom.
Marie is a fanatic, and though I didn’t buy into all her advice about how tidying could change your life, I love her system, and I did find a few nuggets of wisdom that were worthwhile and helped me shape up my collections so I could better enjoy the stuff I have.
If you loved something once, that doesn’t mean you need to keep it forever. I have endless stacks of CDs that I haven’t revisited in twenty years, and nearly all of it is sitting on my hard drive. I don’t need the disc to revisit it again. I didn’t count, but I’m pretty sure I unloaded about half of them.
If you receive a gift, you’re not obligated to keep it forever. The gift was a way for someone to express their feelings. Once that’s done, and you don’t need to use it anymore, the gift just becomes clutter.
Sometimes books never get read and albums never get played, and that’s okay. They were meant to bring you joy when you got them. If you never use them, they might bring joy to someone else who will appreciate them more.
If you want to get rid of something, don’t make the mistake I did and look up the value online. Now I’m reluctant to break up my incomplete collection of Dead Kennedys LPs because I’m unsure if I’ll find another copy of Frankenchrist that comes with the infamous NSFW H. R. Giger poster Penis Landscape, which is the best part of the album.
If you love something, don’t just shove it in a bin. Find somewhere where you can appreciate it.
Thanks to Marie’s book, I was inspired to make one more purchase: a storage bench from Ikea (the Stocksund), which had enough room to store nearly 400 CDs. Whatever didn’t fit, I’m tossing out. If I have an album on more than one format, I’m just keeping the LP, though I’m making some exceptions for CDs that used to travel with me everywhere such as Against the Grain or Kerplunk.
Demos and albums of local bands in slipcases went back in storage, where I’m totally happy to hang on to those forever (call me elitist for not including them in my new storage bench, but it’s hard to quickly search through those anyway). The hundreds of other CDs hit my trade/toss pile.
Plus, the storage bench is replacing two nightmarishly uncomfortable chairs where the backs curved forward, almost if they were designed by crooked chiropractors scheming to give customers neck and back problems. The only time those chairs sparked joy was when I realized I could replace them.
Unfortunately, I’m not as terrified as throwing out my back as I should be for someone lurching past their mid-thirties. After leaving the bench in my garage for a week for COVID-19 safety, I dragged the thing into my home by myself and assembled it alone like some kind of masochist, spending the next day with a heating pad on my back.
I’d say the pain was worth it. Getting to flip through my favorite CDs and play them on my stereo is such a joy after keeping them in storage bins for roughly a decade.
Marie Kondo recommends tidying in one fierce swoop, but given how much thought I give to managing my albums and other crap, I’m comfortable taking my time.
I still feel like I have too much stuff, but right now I understand what I need to do to manage it, and it doesn’t feel like a burden. Well, at least until I have to do this again.
Will Kenneth lives in Jacksonville, Fla. ALL > Descendents. (Facebook | Instagram | w o l f m a n w i l l [@] g m a i l)