Last fall, I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, mainly because I was the only person who hadn’t yet. First of all, the book is NOT about tidying up, it is about getting rid of all of your stuff. Really, it’s a welcome breath of fresh air for so many who are overwhelmed by the Western drive for consumption.
Though I never wanted a mansion and a Learjet, I definitely bought into the idea that one needs a nice house filled with furniture and goods from Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel. I desperately wanted my own house so I could paint the rooms as I pleased and hang anything I desired on the walls. When we bought our house and moved in, I thought, surely we’ll never have enough furniture to fill this place. Wrong. Consume, consume, consume, and now we’re out of room. How does this happen? We expand our lives to fill the space we have. My mind had grown uneasy with the amount of stuff I’d accumulated, and Marie Kondo’s book validated and confirmed my disgust. My wife and I had a sign that read to the effect of, “It takes very little to lead a happy life.” A nice sentiment, yet we wouldn’t fault visitors for missing it, as it was strewn among the clutter of plates, bowls, small appliances and other knick-knacks overpopulating our kitchen. Oh, the hypocrisy!
Well, after devouring the book, I was ready to sell it all and move in to a studio apartment downtown. I quickly realized that I no longer live alone and couldn’t make unilateral decisions like that. My wife and son would probably not support this plan. Anyway, I got working on what I could control, which was my own stuff. The first few sessions of purging were exciting and energizing. Getting rid of clothes was easy. Kondo’s advice to only hold on to items that “spark joy” is wonderful in its simplicity, and is surprisingly effective. Now I by no means followed the book to the letter. I’ve still got work to do, but let’s finally get to the topic of this post.
My stuff was strewn all about the house: perched on shelves, hidden in cabinets, and filling closets. My stuff was everywhere, yet I didn’t really have a place of my own. One of the lessons of Kondo’s book is that everything should have a place, and “somewhere inside the house” is not exactly what she had in mind. I wanted a place where I could keep the things that mattered to me and be in sole control of its clutter. I dusted off my old desk that I had as a kid (saving it, of course, for when my son needs it, I told myself…) and installed it in front of a big window at the landing at the top of our stairs. It’s got many dents and gouges and a very prominent water ring, but it’s mine. It’s my space where I can keep my pared-down collection of things that bring me joy. Now, I don’t love looking across our alley at our neighbor’s drained above-ground pool, but I do love working in natural light every day. I love that I have a drawer for all of my thank you note supplies, plus a few Andes mints my wife gave me for Valentine’s Day. My desk is old and a little beat up, but I genuinely love sitting down to work in front of it each morning.
Today I’m grateful for my own space. It sparks joy.
Image: The desk that has traveled with me since I was a kid.