Being Deliberate About Your Pants And Power Tools: Material Awareness For The Lifestyle Maximalist

  1. It’s for boring, joyless minimalists with no hobbies who want to throw away everything
  2. Throw away everything that doesn’t SPARK JOY “ok but what about useful stuff”
  3. She talks to her socks

Maximalist motivations to purge

As a hoarder with roughly 15–30 pursuits (active at various times, and depending how you count) distributed across engineering, crafts, home improvement, music, drawing, movement, and more, a staggering array of nerd friends and community mailing lists constantly giving away free useful stuff, a lifelong habit of peeking into discount bins everywhere, and a deep and abiding love of thrift stores, I collect a lot of useful things. I use a decent chunk of them.

Incidentally, as a second-generation Asian American, I grew up trained to save all bags, napkins, boxes, plastic utensils, and hotel toiletries, and store them under the sink. I am a lifelong hoarder of such things. So I personally found the book pretty helpful and actionable for extending my desire to live deliberately throughout my physical space.

Tidying as a tool for self-awareness

The KonMari book can be quoted and summarized very succinctly, but I found it a really valuable read for bringing me into fuller awareness of my unwanted stuff, and the ways in which I interact with my stuff.

Does it spark joy?

As a crotchety and cynical old fart (greatly belying my deceptively innocuous physical appearance and occasional spurts of optimism), I was at first put off by the seeming sentimentality of Kondo’s motto, “does it spark joy”? Because what about items that are just plain useful?

The logical inverse of “does this spark joy”

“Spark joy” is a snappy and simple heuristic that works well for many categories, and significantly less well for utilitarian objects.

The second clause, “during something that happens frequently”, is key. Otherwise, I would have leeway to collect items for all kinds of delectable, never-to-be-realized potential hobbies.

Useful spare supplies

What about spare supplies? Well, toothbrushes are usually sold in packs, and having a spare handy can be convenient. But what about a bulk pack of 24 that you got on sale?

Other boring-utilitarian items to apply this inverted question to: spare batteries, lighters, scissors, dish soap, cables, light bulbs, home improvement supplies, medicines and supplements, old grocery bags...

The trap of organized clutter

Another trap of saving more useful items than you need is that you can always trick yourself into thinking you might as well save more of them.


The comfort of organic chaos

My room isn’t a coffin, but it’s a good 30% smaller than any other room I’ve lived in for more than a month— 8’x12’, with a window that lets in less light than a lightwell. But people always perceive it as significantly larger. It’s because I conceal nearly every inch of my wall space with textural, interesting, well-loved, cozily arranged objects, many of which I’ve made (and therefore have difficulty letting go of). Their softness and chaos hides the boxlike frame of the walls and expands inward into a tiny world in each square foot of nook, shelf, and corner.

Hidden clutter is still clutter

Before cleaning, my room outwardly appeared, if not immaculate, at least well-loved and organized. My well-loved items were prominently on display, and no one else knew about all my hidden caches of secret shame clutter. But every drawer, every labeled storage box, every hidden space, and every back half of a shelf, was chaotic; overpacked to bursting with useless and old junk. So even though the things I used and loved most were highly visible, I was weighed down mentally by having to regularly sort through my secret shame stashes to find useful things.

The true value of tidying: streamlining your decision space

After I purged my closet (by about 30% overall), it wasn’t that much less crowded, and I doubt any friends would notice a visual difference. It looked pretty much the same, just a little less cramped.

Talking to your socks

This was the second most quoted phrase I’d heard about KonMari, and I was unsurprised to find that she is approximately as weird as the phrase makes her sound. (But so am I; aren’t we all?) And yes, she wants you to talk to your socks and thank objects for their role in your life. What I didn’t know is that Kondo was a miko in a Shinto shrine for several years, which suddenly makes a lot more sense from a cultural norm perspective than a random American tidying expert talking to their socks.

Assessing an object’s role in your life

Having a “conversation” with your objects is especially valuable when assessing whether you should keep them or not. If you feel weird about talking with objects, remember that you are not talking to the object itself, but to the inner piece of you that has an attachment to that object. It’s a really helpful crutch; humans are often shy about our emotions, and not everyone is brash enough to directly unpack their feelings.

When I feel shy, insecure, prickly, or anxious, I don't talk to the amorphous blob of feelings inside my head that may easily fly into a bottomless negative spiral. Instead, I simply project my insecurities onto my plush cactus.Although I have become capable when necessary of directly confronting the swirling mass of feelings within my raw self, it's about 100x easier and simpler to listen to my plush cactus say them, then bop him gently on the head and tell him all the things I needed to hear.
It's basically weaponizing broken-healer syndrome against itself. If you are compelled to heal others with your same problems instead of healing your own problems -- why not simply make one of them an external self-projection?



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autotelic polymath with an overwhelming compulsion to reverse engineer things I’ve never tried before