From an Empty Drawer to Walking Through the Himalayas

This post is part of the #Purge365 series about a midlife journey through a year of purging a house – and a life – of unnecessary things. Click here to see all previous posts.

Today I achieve something unexpected. I am done cleaning out a drawer in the kids’ computer desk, and there is nothing to take a picture of.  The drawer is completely empty!

Huh.

I feel a new sense of accomplishment. An empty drawer is definitely another level above my tidy sock drawer I was previously so proud of. I feel imperceptibly lighter. Maybe there is more to this Marie Kondo thing than I’ve been willing to admit. Maybe she is right with her thesis that an uncluttered house, a house where you’ve thanked unneeded items and sent them on their way, is a bigger reward than just less clutter.

Perhaps it gives you joy because it gets you closer to that fantasy that you’ve harbored the last few years. That fantasy where you simply walk out of your house one day without telling anyone where you’re going, to a place where no one knows you and expects nothing from you. A place where no one needs you to urgently find things for them, to fix things for them, to buy things for them, or to throw things away for them because, by God, they can’t be bothered to even do that. Yours may be different, but my particular daydream has me wandering through the Himalayas as a begging monk (or, I suppose, a begging nun, if you want to be a stickler), equipped with nothing but an empty bowl to fill with whatever mercy the strangers I encounter might wish to share with me.

The closest I have come to this fantasy is the week I spent climbing Kilimanjaro. Like I say in the blurb of Kilimanjaro Diaries: “No cooking, no fighting kids, and an army of porters to lug everything up the mountain. It has all the trappings of a dream vacation.” Forget for a minute that achieving that zen-like state took several months of preparation and a good chunk of money. There is just something about doing nothing but walking, slowly, doing lots of thinking, and following the path in front of you.

Now, if you know me, you might point out how crazy that sounds. I’m not particularly fond of the outdoors, especially not the cold outdoors. I don’t like walking all that much. And I especially don’t like heights. Why my fantasy has to take place in a cold, high-up place vs, say, the streets of Havana, I do not know. But I have had it for a very long while. Getting rid of my non-essential possessions and seeing the tangible proof thereof in today’s empty drawer makes my fantasy seem a teensy bit less abstract. Even if I still have 79 drawers to go.

One of my goals with Project #Purge365 is to help others achieve the same sense of satisfaction. Perhaps you’re reading this and are looking for tips how to get to your own empty drawer. So what was in that drawer, you might ask?

cluttered drawer before Marie Kondo-ing it
The desk drawer before I decluttered it

Here is what was in it:

  • 2 wireless computer mouses (mice?). What’s remarkable is that they have lasted this long – up to 10 years for the older one, I’d guess. Every time I was looking for a mouse in the past, I’d open this drawer, try first one and then the other mouse, and couldn’t get either to connect. In Marie Kondo’s parlance, they didn’t just not give me joy, they made me angry. Why did I hold on to them? Well. In theory, you know, they did work. You could put in a battery and the light would light up. Surely someone in the future who needed a mouse could use them. But all evidence pointed to the contrary. Whenever someone did need a mouse, neither of these two could be made to work. Why should the outcome be any different in the future? The lesson I have learned is this: A thing doesn’t possess any value based on what it once cost to acquire; it only possesses a value in terms of usefulness – or yes, joy. If it’s useful, if it sparks joy, you keep it. If it doesn’t spark joy, you need to get rid of it.
Does this man spark joy? (a picture of Donald Trump)
If it doesn’t spark joy, you need to get rid of it.
  • Several chargers for electronic devices we no longer possess.
  • Several old iPhone boxes. Why, for the love of God, do we keep those old iPhone boxes? They are so beautifully made, that’s why. They just seem too good to be thrown away right off the bat. And then they remain forever in some drawer that only exists because you thought you needed a place for incompatible computer mice, unneeded ear buds, and empty iPhone boxes.
  • 2 clipboards. What on earth will you ever need a clipboard for, I ask? I have never once gotten into a situation where I thought, gee, if only I had a clipboard to do this task better with. Just doesn’t happen. And if for some reason someone in our household needed a clipboard, chances are they wouldn’t know it was there and would order a new one on Amazon, leaving me with even more future clipboards which, after a search for the best place to store them – because I am an orderly person – I would end up putting into the same drawer with the already existing ones.

When I set out with Project #Purge365, I was proud to have thought of it all my own. I hadn’t read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I wasn’t going to be one of those Moms jumping on the bandwagon, following this new fad, only to lose interest after a few weeks. Who was this bossy Tiger Mom anyway, telling me that my house was cluttered and that I wasn’t doing a good enough job keeping it tidy?

But I can already feel myself caving, being lured by, well, the life-changing wisdom of a petite, soft-spoken woman who is as opposite from a bossy know-it-all as can be (leaving me, briefly, to reflect on my unflattering penchant for forming prejudices even though I like to think of myself as a liberal and open-minded person). To see what I mean, you’ll have to watch an episode of Marie Kondo’s new Netflix series of the same name. Folding t-shirts will have never seemed so alluring to you.

And perhaps the question of Does it give me joy? isn’t limited to physical things. What if we are able to look at our whole life that way? Granted, many tasks we spend our days with simply have to be done. But I’d say there is enormous potential to cut back. We may think a task needs to be done, but does it really? Do we really have to post a picture of the awesome meal we just cooked on Instagram? Does it really give us joy, if we are completely honest?

To explore this further, I suggest another book with life-changing advice, if not as politely expressed: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k.

An empty drawer after Marie Kondo-ing the kids' desk

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