At a recent work party I had to offer one detail about my life that none of my coworkers already knew. My “secret” was that I have moved my household 14 times in the past 20 years. Ugh. And have I mentioned just how much I hate moving? (maybe once or twice)
One of my coping mechanisms for having relocated so many times is to live a fairly bare-bones existence. Just about every time I am tempted to buy something I imagine myself exhausted and packing boxes and ask myself if that new widget is really worth the effort that it will take to relocate it when the time comes (as it inevitably will). Though I’m no Miss Minimalist, I’m not too far off from that end of the extreme, either.
Despite the fact that I’ve already internalized a fairly simple lifestyle, when a friend recommended The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering & Organizing, I downloaded a copy of the book despite an earlier decision to avoid decluttering self-help books. I found that it affirmed a few of the habits that I’ve already incorporated into my life. For example, I only keep things that I love (or as Kondo says, “items that bring delight”). So if an item has a bad memory associated with it, or if it brings up negative feelings rather than pleasure, then off it goes to the Goodwill. Ditto for items that are redundant or broken or threadbare. Then for those delightful items that make the cut and stay in my home, I find a permanent place for them so I can put them away and keep the house tidy.
One element of Kondo’s book that rang especially true for me is that she recommends folding one’s clothing and linens into tidy squares and stowing it upright, in drawers. A favorite time of the week is Sunday afternoon when I’m doing laundry and I take the warm clothes out of the dryer and fold them into tidy piles based on who they belong to and/or where they are stored in the house. I have particular folding patterns for cloth napkins and bathowels and tshirts and sweaters and skivvies. For me there’s a lot of comfort in the ritual of folding the same dishtowels and tank tops and pajamas every week, and I especially love how the fabrics of such things become softer with age (and as I touch each item, in my mind I rehearse the story of how I acquired it–that crazy pair of socks from Portland or that blouse from Brussels or the tidy stack of matching washcloths that I bought to mark my move from my student apartment to my first real house).
The satisfaction that I feel from folding my laundry is certainly heightened by the fact that such rituals are how I have made “home” in so many places so quickly over the years. Because home has not been a precise location, but a set of comfortable behaviors that I brought along with all of those packing boxes, to each new space.