The Real Life-Changing Magic Happened After I Finally Tidied Up

published Mar 8, 2019
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I have a confession to make: I haven’t watched “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.” But that’s mostly because I don’t watch anything. Watching the newest show right when Netflix releases it seems like a waste of my brain energy when I would rather be thinking about Henry Cavill’s Mission: Impossible-Fallout mustache or that Chrissy Teigen Instagram post of John Legend on vacation slowly rocking Miles in his swimsuit when she asks “Can you do GIFs on a video?”

But that doesn’t mean I don’t know what “spark joy” means. I use the “I love mess” GIF almost daily! I know that I could potentially change my life if I just relearned to fold my t-shirts!

From what everyone says, I know I should watch it. I really, really need to tidy up. I know I have a clutter problem: I have moved around a box of magazines I know I will never read from apartment to apartment since 2011. My bag of cords is actually an entire shoebox. I still have some clothes from high school that no longer fit. In short, I am less than perfect.

It may sound like I am a hoarder lite—and maybe I am—but it’s not that I can’t get rid of things. I have a Scorpio’s finesse for cutting things (and people!) out of my life. Once a year, or so, I will get in a mood and decide to go through small portions of my bedroom to see what feels dead to me. But instead of moving all of this out of my apartment, I get tired and end up just putting them in another box under my bed or in my building’s storage unit.

What’s keeping me from saying the final goodbye? Going through the things have already taken a lot more time and energy than I thought, so I’m rather exhausted when it comes time to do the heavy lifting. But, also, I don’t really know what to do with them once I’ve decided I don’t want them anymore. Throwing that much stuff in the trash seems irresponsible. I know I should donate some of it, but Goodwill and the Salvation Army don’t do pick-ups in Brooklyn—and I keep dragging my feet on giving up a weekend to going through everything and then having to figure out a way to get all of the stuff to a donation center since I can’t just pile it in my car.

I work a lot, travel a good amount, and am extremely social. So when I’m home with nothing to do, I very much value my downtime. My solution to my problems so far has just been to put all this stuff where I can’t see it and lie to myself that I will eventually deal with it sometime. Maybe I’ll even take a day off of work to do it? (It should be very clear to everyone so far that I will not do this!)

Anyways, now that you have the background, I have a story for you: This past weekend, I decided I had enough energy to sort through some of the crap that was under my bed. I had to clean my room anyways, so I thought why not take an additional 20 minutes and see if anything no longer “sparked joy.” I gave myself the blessing of not feeling bad about tossing things. About 15 minutes later, I was overwhelmed, but I had managed to fill up a small Bath and Body Works bag of things I had collected that I finally admitted to myself was “junk” (a bluetooth speaker I lost the cord to, some sunglasses that didn’t look good on me and never would, various candles I didn’t really like the smell of). I also had a J. Crew bag filled with shoes that I realized I would never wear again and/or were kind of smelly.

I was on my way to throw these things in the trash (judge all you want, I have already absolved myself from being a good person), and then I had an epiphany: Why don’t I just put these things on the sidewalk? Maybe someone will find something useful in there? (I live on a residential street in Brooklyn that gets some, but not a lot of foot traffic, just as an FYI.) So I hung the bag of shoes on a railing and put the small Bath & Body Works bag underneath it around 3 p.m. I told myself that if no one had taken it by sundown, that I would just transfer everything to the trash/recycling.

In New York City and its surrounding boroughs, there is a culture of leaving furniture out on your stoop or the sidewalk for whoever wants to take it. There are young, unpaid interns that furnish their entire apartments this way each summer. Everyone’s always on the lookout for that interesting antique or other goodie that someone, like me, can’t be bothered with disposing of in a more planned manner (Even Genevieve Gorder praised NYC’s stoop swap culture when I interviewed her). However: Be careful, leaving furniture out on the curb on non-garbage collection days can get you a fine from the sanitation department.

By 3:15 p.m., the Bath & Body Works bag had been taken and maybe half of the shoes were gone, too. Wow! This was a true lesson in one man’s trash is another’s treasure! I forgot about the bag and went to bed. It snowed overnight and the next morning, as I set out for work, I noticed the bag had fallen. For some reason, I decided to not be a good person and decided I’d deal with it later. Surprisingly when I got home, all of the shoes except one pair were gone.

I am now 100 percent more willing to get rid of things that are sitting around waiting for me to take them to Goodwill knowing that I can just put them outside. Maybe the real life-changing magic of cleaning up all along was New York City?

The moral of the story? You shouldn’t be afraid to start things because you don’t know how you’re going to finish them. A lot of things magically work themselves out and I’m slightly embarrassed I resisted trying to tidy up sooner.