Such is Life

Tidying up … one box at a time


In my early 20s, I made a comment that has become a long-running joke between my husband and me.

With ambitions to live abroad again or perhaps move across the country, I told him that I wanted to be able to fit everything I owned in my car, so I could easily move to my next adventure. Considering that my car at the time was a small Saab hatchback, it’s laughable that I thought such a notion was even possible.

A little over a year ago, when my husband and I moved into our new home, he loaded up yet another box filled with my possessions and remarked wryly, “Just going to have enough to fit in your car, huh?”

That would only be true if my car was actually a U-haul truck.

Even though I still have a romantic notion of living simply with very few possessions, the reality is, I am also hopelessly sentimental. In addition to furniture, clothing and other necessities, I keep boxes of cherished items.

To many people, they wouldn’t have any value, but to me, they’re priceless. Some boxes contain mementos and photos from past adventures, while others are filled with journals, books, photographs and decades-old handwritten letters from family and friends.

My husband — who, I should note, had fewer belongings to move into our new home — has encouraged me to try reducing the number of boxes in our crawlspace. (And just so you don’t think I’m a hoarder, it’s a relatively small number of boxes.)

Anyway, I recently tackled a couple of boxes and eliminated a garbage bag full of random things. I am making progress, albeit slowly.

With a baby boy who is eager to get into boxes, the task has become more difficult. I often wonder what I used to do with all the free time I had before my baby was born — but that’s a subject for another day.

As I contemplate what to keep and what to get rid of, I know many other Americans share this same struggle. The popular Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” is dedicated to the subject.

Kondo is an organizing expert from Japan who “has sparked a nationwide decluttering frenzy,” as NPR reported earlier this year.

She encourages people to ask a simple question when going through their belongings: Does it spark joy?

If you answer yes, then keep the item. If no, then get rid of it.

It’s an easy concept, and for sentimental souls like me, I can happily answer yes as I decide to keep that box of old letters.

But the reality is, quite a few of the belongings in the crawlspace don’t spark joy — not for me, and certainly not for my husband.

So I plan to eventually go through each box and get rid of more. Because I do love a well-organized and clean home — even if it doesn’t all fit in a car.