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Sharing Mana‘o

Driven by an overwhelming desire to declutter my home, I’ve begun practicing the KonMari Method. Well, maybe “practicing” isn’t the right word. “Dabbling” is more accurate.

I haven’t read Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” or any of her follow-up books. I’ve never watched her on TV, not even YouTube. But thanks to newspaper articles and online features, I have a grasp of her KonMari basics, and I’m trying to incorporate a couple of them into my life. It’s not as simple as she makes it seem.

Kondo is best known for her “spark joy” test. A professional home organizer since the age of 19, she advises clients to hold each item in their hands and ask themselves, “Does it spark joy?” If the answer is no, the item must go. But not before giving it thoughtful, respectful thanks for its service. Honoring your relationship with an item, she says, makes parting easier. I don’t know if that’s true, because I haven’t yet found an item I’m willing to part with.

It sounded so logical a couple of years ago, when I first heard about Kondo and her unique approach: focusing on what you want to keep, rather than what you should throw out. One at a time, I held souvenirs and CDs, books and bracelets, even T-shirts in my hands and tried to honestly answer the question. A few things, mostly sentimental keepsakes like my son’s first lock of hair, prompted an immediate smile and a resounding yes. More often, my inner conversation sounded like, “Does this spark joy? Mmmm, sort of . . . Well, not really, not anymore. But I remember when it did! So maybe it will again, later on . . . I’d better keep this, just in case. For future joy.”

This time around, I resolved to answer the joy question using only my heart and not my brain. In the past week, I’ve held only five items, all of which still bring me joy. The problem is, they also bring countless memories, enough for me to dwell on for days. At this rate, I should be clutter-free sometime around 2050.

Last night, as I dug into a cup of Zippy’s chili, I noticed that, without looking, I’d happened to grab my favorite spoon from the kitchen drawer. This spoon and a matching butter knife are the last remaining pieces of the stainless steel flatware set my parents received as a wedding gift, so they’ve been around longer than I have.

The design is simple, no fancy curls or flowery etchings, just a single grooved border along its curved top. The weight and feel of it has always suited me, as far back as I can remember. I think I was in high school when my mother bought a new, heavier set. By then, we’d lost maybe half of the old utensils, but Mom kept them in the silverware drawer because I preferred to use them. When I got married, she gave me the two or three place settings that remained.

This spoon has held countless mouthfuls of Rice Krispies, cherry-flavored cough syrup, and the best shrimp curry in the world (my mom’s). It has stirred Carnation milk into my hot cocoa, and brandy into my eggnog. My son and I each had our first taste of poi via this spoon, and it may very well deliver my last taste of anything. It’s been with me through three marriages and a dozen house moves.

If not for Marie Kondo, I might never have seen my spoon from this perspective. Thanks to her, I now enjoy sweet moments like this daily, as I consciously consider the various objects in my home and my life. The house is still a cluttered mess, but it’s full of joyful sparks.

* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.