Material Reactions


Like many, when I move to a new home, I’m forced to acknowledge a painful reality: I have way, way too much stuff. People who know me well know that in my case, it’s pretty bad. I have a strong attachment to things — things of many different kinds. I’ve always been materialistic. I enjoyed shopping from a young age, but not because of an addiction to the transaction itself — rather I have an addiction to possessing items. Particularly pretty items.

I’m a homebody, and I find great comfort in being surrounded by my things. I’m sort of a hobbit, really. I like having my space and my things arranged just so. Organizing and decorating after a move is actually a dream come true for me. I’m sure this comes as a shock to no one.

But the actual moving of the objects, the lugging of boxes and small furniture and random bits and pieces to storage and then back out of storage, through halls, in elevators (thank goodness for elevators), and even in some cases rolling a few items down the street several blocks … it all gets to be a bit much. I had to come face to face with my addiction to stuff. My parents had to come face to face with it too. My dad loved that.

Before I moved, I started reading a couple of books on feng shui. I find the concept really interesting but didn’t know much about the principles. Maybe I could use my stuff and my space to create calm and healing energy. Hey, if there’s even a remote possibility it could help my health, I’ll do it. I mainly needed some kind of change from my dreary, cluttered, sad-feeling dorm room where I’d been lying in bed sick for weeks. There just wasn’t good energy there anymore. I didn’t know anything about chi or all that, but even I could tell.

Then I started reading Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, recommended by a friend who told me it was a “crazy book” that told you to get rid of tons of things and thank you shoes at the end of the day. Tons of people are going nuts over Kondo’s “Konmari” method, so I thought I’d give myself a chance to buy into the insanity. And with moving, it’d be the perfect time to de-clutter.

The book is indeed crazy. Kondo talks about starting her career in tidying when she was five years old and tried to organize everything in sight. I was like that too as a kid, but that’s just because I was weird. She insists that the way to go about getting your stuff clean and organized is to go through each item and ask yourself if it sparks joy. If it does not, you get rid of it. Instead of “what do I get rid of?” you’re supposed to think, “what should I keep?”

This is the part where the people who helped me move will read this and go, “why didn’t you do this BEFORE we moved all of your stuff??” I tried. I got rid of a bunch of clothes and a few small household items I knew weren’t worth keeping. But I had about a day and a half to pack after the bar exam, and so I didn’t have time to really try her method. But I’m trying it now, and so far, I have to say: it works.

I’m not going to be a minimalist. I just can’t see that happening for me. I still have a strong attachment to material things. But this method is helping me let go of that a bit. Really, it’s based on the idea that your possessions should exist only to your happiness and wellbeing — not just to be there. So, I can still like my things without being so materialistic that I must have all the things or keep things I no longer need or care much about.

So far, I’ve gone through my clothes, shoes, bags, and the like. I knew this would be difficult but probably the most rewarding category for me because of how much I like buying and wearing cute clothes. But between what I eliminated before moving, in my stock at my parents’ house, and the past two days since moving in, I know I’ve gotten rid of more than half my clothes. Possibly two-thirds. And I feel so happy about it. Everything fits where it belongs. I followed the Konmari method of folding clothes and actually enjoyed folding my socks. I’m not kidding. And it’s not just because I’m weird. Before this I would have told you that no normal person should ever enjoy folding socks (or really even fold socks at all). But this method is genius.

So, I’ll keep going with it and see where it takes me. I already feel less burdened. And maybe this will make more room in my life (and possibly my budget) for other great things.

4 thoughts on “Material Reactions

  1. I did this the entire month of June. No joy? No going into our new house! It was exhausting and liberating. The month of July was unpacking all the joy 😀. I feel your pain and joy of purging. 💜

    • It must have been nice to unpack all the joy! Makes for a more pleasant process. There are still a lot of things I have sentimental attachment to, but I at least was pretty good about cutting down the excess amounts of clothing 🙂

  2. Welp, we picked the wrong time to send a package your way! If it does not bring you joy, simply give it to a friend (although, that would be ironic as “joy” is literally written all over it). It feels amazing to cleanse and create a fresh start through organization. Enjoy your new place! Oh, and we sent the package to your new address but there is no apartment number. I am assuming that means you own the whole building?!

    • Oh dear, of course your sweet gift will be received with tons of joy! Thank you guys so much, it is so kind. And being so used to living in a house I so very often forget and leave off my apartment number — luckily they know my name here already (“Kelly Cosby, the one who had tons of IKEA furniture delivered”). But yes let’s pretend I own the whole thing 🙂

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