WOSTER: Don't count books as clutter

If the world hadn't given us all social media, I might never have heard of Marie Kondo and her book about decluttering one's life. I've always been good at cluttering, but the only time in the last 40 years I've tried to de-clutter was three year...

Terry Woster
Terry Woster
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If the world hadn't given us all social media, I might never have heard of Marie Kondo and her book about decluttering one's life.

I've always been good at cluttering, but the only time in the last 40 years I've tried to de-clutter was three years ago. That's when we moved from a 10-room house (with basement and crawl-space attic) to a home less than half that size. Maybe it would have been easier if I'd known decluttering has its own book.

We eliminated an enormous amount of our accumulated "stuff'' during the move. But we needed a storage shed for our boat. And before we were through, every bit of space behind, around and under the boat was stacked high with tubs of holiday decorations, spare coffee makers, odd pieces of lumber, blow-up water toys that probably leak, fold-up lawn chairs that wobble, a round coffee table I made with planks from the booths at Bill and Pearl's Tavern in Chamberlain, an over-sized plastic tub stuffed with computer cables and power cords I'll never use, a spare printer, orange flags on wire posts to mark sprinkler heads, and two good-sized cardboard boxes packed with books that we don't have room for in our current house but that I absolutely could not bring myself to give away.

About the books: In our big house, we had books stored everywhere. We saved probably every book either of us ever acquired, whether paperback or hardcover, fiction or nonfiction, how-to, self-help or do-it-yourself. I gave away my entire science-fiction collection, even "Stranger in a Strange Land.'' That's how committed I was to de-cluttering. But you simply don't give away Saul Bellow's "Herzog'' or your two-volume biography of Bobby Kennedy. So, having no room for those treasures, they sit in a cardboard box in the storage shed.

Books and how to get rid of them, in fact, tipped me to Marie Kondo. I saw an online argument raging over whether people should give away books. Kondo, the expert, apparently said people should dump things that don't bring joy, including books. An angry mob of online people disagreed, saying they'd give up their books when they were pried from their - well, you know the rest. I immediately disliked the expert and sided with the book lovers. Maybe that's why I have on my work desk two big stacks of books I've acquired since the move.


Kondo tells how to simplify and organize by getting rid of physical items that don't bring joy into your life. Here's a quote from the internet about how you should declutter your closets: "Kondo asks that you consider your clothing's feelings: Are they happy being squashed in a corner shelf or crowded onto hangers? Are your hardworking socks really thrilled to be balled up?'' The writer added: "It had sounded out there when I read it, but suddenly my clothes looked totally miserable.''

I don't know about you, but never once have I looked in my closet and thought that my shirts and slacks were feeling miserable hanging there together or that my "hard-working socks'' might be depressed about being balled up. I feel like such a non-caring person.

But, listen. Clutter isn't all bad. When we moved into our big house in 1972, I found in the attic a box filled with pieces of glass. I probably should have tossed it, but who was it bothering up in the attic? Twenty years later (and I know I'm slow) I noticed that the big windows in our living room had leaded glass panels but the window in the dining room was plain. I retrieved that box of glass pieces from the attic. We found a guy who leaded them together, crafted an additional piece to replace a broken one and created a leaded-glass panel for the dining room to match the ones in the living room.

When the afternoon sun struck that leaded glass, it refracted into a rainbow of light across the walls of the dining room. The joy I got from that was worth 20 years of attic clutter.

And, truth be told, I still wish I'd kept more of our old books.

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