Don’t let your family see - Finish discarding first

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing - Marie Kondo 2014

Don’t let your family see
Finish discarding first

Marathon tidying produces a heap of garbage. At this stage, the one disaster that can wreak more havoc than an earthquake is the entrance of that recycling expert who goes by the alias of “mother.”

One of my clients, whom I’ll call “M,” lived with her parents and one sibling. They had moved to the house fifteen years earlier when M was still in grade school. Not only did she love buying clothes, but she also saved those that had sentimental value, such as school uniforms and T-shirts made for various events. She stored these in boxes and stacked them on the floor until the floorboards were completely obscured from view. It took five hours to sort and clean. By the end of that day, she had fifteen bags to get rid of, including eight bags of clothes, two hundred books, various stuffed toys, and crafts she had made at school. We had stacked everything neatly beside the door on the floor, which was now finally visible, and I was just about to explain a very important point.

“There’s one secret you should know about getting rid of this garbage,” I began, when the door opened and in came her mother bearing a tray of iced tea. Oh dear, I thought.

Her mother set down the tray on a table. “Thank you so much for helping my daughter,” she said and turned to leave. At that moment, her eyes fell on the pile of garbage by the door. “Oh my, are you going to throw that away?” she said, pointing to a pink yoga mat on top of the pile.

“I haven’t used it in two years.”

“Really? Well, maybe I’ll use it then.” She began rummaging through the bags. “Oh, and maybe this, too.” When she left, she took not only the yoga mat but also three skirts, two blouses, two jackets, and some stationary.

When the room was quiet again, I sipped my iced tea and asked M, “So how often does your mother do yoga?”

“I’ve never seen her do any.”

What I had been about to say before her mother came in was this. “Don’t let your family see what’s here. If at all possible, take the bags out yourself. There’s no need to let your family know the details of what you throw out or donate.”

I especially recommend that my clients avoid showing their parents. It’s not that there is anything to be ashamed of. There’s nothing wrong with tidying. However, it’s extremely stressful for parents to see what their children discard. The sheer volume of the pile can make parents anxious about whether their children can survive on what’s left. In addition, despite knowing that they should rejoice at their child’s independence and maturity, parents can find it very painful to see clothes, toys, and mementos from the past on the rubbish heap, especially if they are things they gave to their child. Keeping your garbage out of sight is considerate. It also protects your family from acquiring more than they need or can enjoy. Up to this point, your family was perfectly content with what they had. When they see what you have chosen to discard, they may feel guilty at such blatant waste, but the items they retrieve from your pile just increase the burden of unnecessary items in their home. And we should be ashamed of forcing them to carry this burden.

In an overwhelming percentage of cases, it is the mother who retrieves things from her daughter, yet mothers rarely wear the clothes they take. The women I work with who are in their fifties and sixties invariably end up discarding or donating their daughters’ hand-me-downs without ever wearing them. I think we should avoid creating situations like this where a mother’s affection for her daughter becomes a burden. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with other family members actually using the things you don’t need. If you live with your family, you could ask them, “Is there something you need that you were planning to buy?” before you start tidying, and then if you happen to come across exactly what they need, give it to them as a gift.