What I Learned from an OCD Person’s Book

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I am not a clinician, but a few chapters into this book and you will find yourself reading it incredulously. This author, if she is not clinically OCD, she is awfully close. Her relationship with stuff and her extreme drive to declutter it, as well as to be attached to things, and actually assign feelings to things she is decluttering is odd to say the least. Nevertheless, I had the book on audio, and I was in a mood to declutter, so as I was cleaning, I listened to it.

If you have not already figured it out, I am talking about Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up.

As I was working, I was carefully considering her suggestions and followed some of them. One of the main thing she talks about is that if you touch an object and it does not spark joy, you should let it go. Well, as I was going through my closet with that idea in mind, I was able to get rid of many things. The previous test for getting rid of clothes was: Have I worn this in the last year. The truth is, I don’t like to shop or spend money on clothes, so many of the things I wore on a daily basis, really were not things I would go out and choose. Some were too hot, or did not fit well, or I rarely wore them because they were high maintenance (requiring lots of special care or ironing). With this new thought in mind, I got rid of things that I only wore when I did not care what I looked like. And frankly, that was when I was home all day with my family. The problem is, if that is what my kids see me in all the time, that is how they will eventually dress, too- and I did not want that for them.

Check out this fun picture of Sarah. She helped her dad carry the mirrored part to the street, and then this clever photo was the result. The “magic” art of tidying up, indeed.

The next thing she talked about that changed the way I saw things was that it was okay to appreciate the value something gave you, but if that time is past, you can appreciate it’s past service and let it go. Now, she takes this to an extreme level. She thanks the object in an almost idolatrous way for it’s service and talks to the object, and as she describes it, believes the object feels better knowing it’s not being ignored in a drawer anymore.

One of the things I gave away because of this is the dresser I have had since I was a child. I have never purchased an adult set of furniture for our bedroom. This dresser was not a family heirloom quality piece, but a particle wood dresser. All the drawer tracks were worn or broken. Most of the drawers were pretty unusable, so I only used two of the drawers regularly anyway. In a swift, radical move, I took those two drawers of things, put them in my closet, and pulled all the drawers and put them in the trash. I did not have the strength to take the dresser apart and downstairs to the trash, but by pulling and discarding the drawers, I knew I meant business. So as soon as Duncan and I had time together, we dragged that thing to the trash. As I pulled the drawers, I said aloud: “Thanks for serving me so well, sweet dresser, but I am glad to see you go!” I felt like a fool saying it. And I mostly did it to make fun of the book a little. But the fact is, it felt good saying it. I do not know why I hung onto that dresser so so long. But I am glad I now had a means to emotionally process letting it go.

The final thing that changed the way I think is how she described someone’s closet. It has a lot of things with words on it. She described how the brain feels cluttered when it has to process words all the time. So as I have been decluttering, I have been trying to be aware of how many wordy things I have displayed around my home, and centralizing them in one place, or discarding them. The fact is, some of the scripture things I have around the house were just like white noise, I never even noticed them anymore because they had been hanging there for so long. But by centralizing them all in one place, I now notice them again, and I have to admit that not having the words around does make the rooms feel less cluttered.

So, even as I write this post, realizing that about half of what she said in her book I found bordered on the ludicrous, I am glad I read it. I am also glad that I am having more blocks of time to devote to tidying up, as my youngest daughter is now five! And I do like the question about whether or not things spark joy. That is a better gauge for many things for me than the usual one about having used it in the past year.

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