What Fresh Hell?

Berlin - March 8, 2018


I woke up last night – not unusual – I wake up many nights at two or three regardless of wine or coffee – I’ve heard that sleep is disrupted at my age – people joke about it, although it’s not so amusing when it’s dark and one’s mind churns. I try to remember my German lessons, which article, das, der, die – which one adheres to which noun. Then a name becomes stuck. I can’t remember someone’s name a name that would have at one point in the past tripped off my tongue but now it unglues itself and only hours or days later will it pop unbidden into my head and I think I’m coming down with my heritable brand of cognitive decline.


Musings about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

First, a story about tidying and neatness. Years ago, a pillar of the church in which I grew up, died suddenly after being hit by a car. She was beautiful, wealthy, gracious in that southern way, and had a gorgeous singing voice. After her death, I heard my mother exclaiming to a friend, “My goodness, on the morning she died, it was shocking, so unexpected, but her kitchen counters were absolutely spotless, not a thing on them.” What the fuck?! I realized right then, that no, death is not the end. No, we, and I really mean, women, have to worry about our remains of the day and who’s left to be rooting around in pantries, bedside tables, our dresser drawers. And making comments.

I am not one of the millions who bought or read Marie Kondo’s book. The title alone makes me anxious. I am much more likely to watch (horrified through splayed fingers) Hoarders on TLC and then scrabble around my house grabbing at junk to throw away.

Nor am I an expert on Japan and have only been there twice. Each time made me a tiny bit nervous. They are, to a man, woman and child, extremely neat and incredibly tidy. Their clothes are ironed and classic, their whites blinding, and the children’s school uniforms are starched, without blot or stain. My husband and I, lurching around at rush hour in the Tokyo subway, seemed galumphing, blowsy and wrinkled. I didn’t see a single Japanese person in Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto or Sapporo who didn’t appear professional or unprepared for rain, wind, typhoons or earthquakes. I’m not sure if Marie Kondo’s book is for the average American.

However, here comes a revelation: After reading only a review of TLCMoTU, I began to subtly transform my own life. No, I didn’t stand before the contents of my closet and contemplate the clothes that do not bring me joy (most of them, even the ones that fit). I haven’t thrown out birthday or anniversary cards after wishing them bon voyage and gratitude for their making me smile.

Today I ROLL THINGS. My clean towels now look like terry-cloth jelly rolls and I place them in pyramids. I find this calming. I tackled my underwear drawer and pitched those that have been with me since Bush 41 and 43. My panties are rolled so that now when I open my underwear drawer, they look like the contents of a bento box lunch lovingly prepared by a Japanese mother for her school child. Maybe Marie is magic.