News and Opinion from Anne Barone to Keep You Chic & Slim

|| 19 february 2015

De-cluttering in Paris

Clutter is the hot topic of discussion in Paris? Well, at least, among the expat community.

What prompted the discussion in Paris (as in many other locations) is the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. I wrote about my experience reading the book in a 26 October 2014 Nouvelles titled The KonMari Tidying Technique.

At the time I wrote that post I had read about one-third of Marie Kondo’s book. I did subsequently finish the book. But I have not yet completed my decluttering. Much clutter is gone, but I still have much to be sorted and either discarded or given to a worthy cause. (80% of this is family memorabilia I inherited when my mother went to the nursing home, 15% is business-related files that go back to the beginning of my writing career. The other 5% is clothing. Time for another closet cleanout.)

In her recent New York Times column on the focus on decluttering, Pamela Druckerman, an American writer living in Paris (and mentioned in previous Nouvelles for her books on French parenting) writes that cheap Chinese goods are greatly responsible for our clutter. But I believe the tendency today to buy and keep much more than we need cannot be entirely blamed on the Chinese. An incomplete list of other factors contributing to clutter: ease of purchasing new items, time required to clean out no-longer-needed items, large living space to accommodate large quantities of possessions, sophisticated advertising that prompts purchase of unneeded items, dizzying advance of technology that forces us to frequently upgrade to more sophisticated devices necessary for work and comfortable living. I am sure you can think of other factors.

Pamela Druckerman writes:

A study of middle-class families in Los Angeles found that just one in four families could fit a car in its garage. (It also found that mothers’ stress levels rose as they described their household mess.) Americans who struggled to afford health insurance and college could nevertheless buy lots of stuff, sometimes on credit.

Pamela Druckerman concludes that she finds it impossible to resist the de-cluttering fever of the moment. She is filling garbage bags and hauling the items away. Then she adds:

But the more stuff I shed, the more I realize that we de-clutterers feel besieged by more than just our possessions. We’re also overwhelmed by the intangible detritus of 21st-century life: unreturned emails; unprinted family photos; the ceaseless ticker of other people’s lives on Facebook; the heightened demands of parenting; and the suspicion that we’ll be checking our phones every 15 minutes, forever. I can sit in an empty room, and still get nothing done.

It’s consoling to think that, beneath all these distractions, we’ll discover our shining, authentic selves, or even achieve a state of “mindfulness.” But I doubt it. I’m starting to suspect that the joy of ditching all of our stuff is just as illusory as the joy of acquiring it all was.

No, not illusory, I can testify. As have many of you Chic & Slim readers who have emailed to tell me about the benefits you have enjoyed from getting rid of unneeded excess.

Marie Kondo has good suggestions in her tidying book for dealing with material clutter. For dealing with other, non-material clutter I like the advice of psychologist Belleruth Naparstek that I quote in Chic & Slim Encore. The passage is from her Weight Loss guided imagery program (available from her Health Journey’s website).

Belleruth Naparstek sums up the ways you make progress toward losing weight and staying slim:

“. . . You are getting rid of excess baggage piece by piece, you are cleaning out the overstuffed closets of your heart, your mind, your house, your body, your life. . .”

Pamela Druckerman is right that more than our material possessions likely require de-cluttering. But that torn sweater you will never find time to mend and those 60 plastic flower pots in your garage are a good place to start a de-cluttering of “your heart, your mind, your house, your body, your life.”

From material items you can go on to decluttering other areas of your life.

be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone