Decluttering with Astrid (2)

Astrid (47) is, together with Irene, the founder of Flow. She lives together and has two kids. Every tuesday she writes about the sense and nonsense of decluttering.

A very difficult and somewhat dangerous territory: throwing out Mother’s Day presents, jokey anniversary gifts or other questionable, kitsch offerings. All of which have been given with the sweetest of intentions, but that you are now stuck with. It’s happened to me once before: a pile of children’s drawings lying in the paper recycle bin, and a very angry son fishing it all out. In any case, I often linger with this kind of stuff in my hands when I’m tidying up. Should I throw away something that someone has chosen or drawn for me? Hmmm, I really can’t do that, can I?

It’s funny, in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (a book that I will frequently refer to in this blog, so my apologies in advance, but there really are some very funny and useful ideas), Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo says that it’s really okay to throw out that pasta necklace your child made which is now slightly peppered with fungus. Or the vase from your aunt, which you knew as soon as you had unwrapped it, would never end up on your windowsill. According to Marie, the gift was, in fact, not the vase itself, but the gesture of kindness from the person who gave it to who. She says that what the person was really giving you was a sense of happiness. A gift is not a thing, but a way to express one’s feelings. And you can’t throw a feeling away. Thank the gift (Marie is a true believer of giving thanks while cleaning) for the pleasure it gave you when you received it. And then get rid of it.

Another solution is the dice game I sometimes play with friends. What we do is this: everyone brings five gifts they want to get rid of, and you throw for them. The aim of this game is to try to bring home something nice from the collection while simultaneously trying to pass the unwanted items off on your neighbour or friend. It would take too long to write all the rules down here, but let’s just say you end up having an entertaining evening “losing” all those knife rests, pizza cutters and tea light holders, and at the end of the night, your girlfriends go home with all your stuff, which they’ll most probably end up throwing away anyway. But at least this way, you won’t have to deal with the guilt.Translation: “Week 2 – The gesture counts”