excerpt from: the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo


Marathon tidying produces a heap of garbage. At this stage, the one disaster that can wreak more havoc than an earthquake is the entrance of that recycling expert who goes by the alias “mother.”

One of my clients, whom I’ll call “M,” lived with her parents and one sibling. They had moved to the house fifteen years earlier when M was still in grade school. Not only did she love buying clothes, but she also saved those that had sentimental value, such as school uniforms and T-shirts made for various events. She stored these in boxes and stored them on the floor until the floorboards were completely obscured from view. It took five hours to sort and clean. By the end of the day, she had fifteen bags to get rid of, including eight bags of clothes, two hundred books, various stuffed toys, and crafts she had made at school. We had stacked everything neatly beside the door on the floor, which was now finally visible, and I was just about to explain a very important point.

“There’s one secret you should know about getting rid of this garbage,” I began, when the door opened and in came her mother bearing a tray of iced tea. Oh dear, I thought.

Her mother set down the tray on a table. “Thank you so much for helping my daughter,” she said and turned to leave. At that moment, her eyes fell on the pile of garbage by the door. “Oh my, are you going to throw that away?” she said, pointing to a pink yoga mat on top of the pile.

“I haven’t used it in two years.”

“Really? Well, maybe I’ll use it then.” She began rummaging through the bags. “Oh, and maybe this, too.”

When she left, she took not only the yoga mat but also three skirts, two blouses, two jackets, and some stationary.

When the room was quiet again, I sipped my iced tea and asked M, “So how often does your mother do yoga?”

“I’ve never seen her do any.”

What I had been about to say before her mother came in was this. “Don’t let your family see what’s here. If at all possible, take the bags out yourself. There’s no need to let your family know the details of what you throw out or donate.”


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