Marie Kondo, the woman behind the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is experiencing an up-tick in popularity right now (I started this post in January, so just go with that thought!). She just hosted a show on Netflix, but her book has been around for a number of years now. Funny enough, I just got around to buying it and reading it. And while I haven’t yet completed the last 30%, I can still say it was a revelation. Not because I am a hoarder that desperately needed to rid myself of large quantities of unwanted items, but because she carefully explains what I knew in my heart, and allowed to flow freely. What is so life-changing about her philosophy is the understanding that some things we have do not end up serving the purpose that we originally intended them to serve, and it’s okay to let them go without realizing that intention.
Intention is a powerful word. When we pick something up and ask ourselves if it still brings us joy, we examine our intentions for the object. I hadn’t realized how much guilt there is wrapped up in storing objects. So many clients come to designers with the primary goal of ‘creating more storage’. And as I have said so many times in the past, ‘You don’t need more storage, Sis, you need less stuff!’ Too many times I have seen people hanging on to things because they represent something completely unrelated to the object. For me, it’s a bread maker. Store bought bread is loaded with preservatives, so I want to make home made bread for my family. In the 19 years that it has sat in my kitchen island, have I ever made a loaf of country white? Nope. But it sat there, representing the kind of mother I want to be, if I had more time. The truth here, though, is that it’s just a bread maker. It’s not the holy grail of motherhood. And I never once have used the thing. I have no intention of making bread, so I should give it to someone who does! That’s the subtle difference between intention and sparking joy.
When it comes to deciding whether or not to purchase something, the same idea applies. It’s asking myself, ‘what specific unmet need does this fulfil?’ When you ask, ‘why do I need this particular thing?’ instead of ‘do I like this?’, the buying decision becomes much less complex. If you are close to my age, you probably find that there really isn’t much out there that you need that you don’t already have. Further, a lot of the stuff you thought you needed, you really don’t. So when it comes to purchasing, the question boils down to, ‘do I not already own something that can do this?’ If the answer is no, by all means get it. But one of the most fun things is when you take something you already have and repurpose it to fulfill an unforeseen need. That armchair languishing in a spare bedroom would look amazing reupholstered and in the foyer. The frayed edge denim look is SO easy to accomplish by ripping the seam of those old jeans you haven’t worn for a year. Don’t just float along, really look at what you are doing and ask yourself why. The why is the intention, and that’s the whole point!