Last week, I started an exciting job at Wonder Book, a labyrinthian used book store near our new apartment in the D.C. suburbs. I got lost between the African American Culture and the Science Fiction sections the first time I visited—it took several minutes to find my way back to the cashier. In other words, I am in writer heaven. My job is to help find a home for every book that comes to us. But one thing is already clear: The volume of donated books has gone off the charts since the launch of Marie Kondo’s Netflix series.
The manager says the number of books has become difficult to manage. And because of the surplus, the payout each customer receives is smaller.
I myself donated two boxes of books to them a few weeks before I started. And about a month before that, I hauled three paper sacks of books to the Little Library down the street from our old apartment. All because I had watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Before seeing the show, I had been a huge skeptic of the KonMari method. But her charm and innovative ideas won me over.
But now I am one of the people clearing out my personal library because a lady in Japan says to. Does that make me an asshole?
I’m caught in the middle. As a new employee dealing with the excess of books, it is frustrating that people are able to pass the buck to us. And yet I washed my hands of my books I had bought without thinking. Same with donations to Salvation Army—Joe and I threw our bags of extra clothes and house decorations into the back of a truck and drove away.
Shouldn’t we be required to be more accountable? Shouldn’t we feel some guilt?
Maybe guilt doesn’t help. Maybe it’s a slow burn of change. The KonMari method forces us to become acutely aware of how much stuff we own after stacking, for example, all of our clothes into a mountain on the bed. And she says none of her clients has relapsed and returned to their former over-consumptive lifestyle. At the book store, we are dealing with a wave of people beginning to understand how much clutter they have allowed into their lives. Ideally this wave will pass because people have become more conscientious about their purchases. I know I certainly have.
Fifty-seven books still sit on my shelves even after I KonMaried the shit out of them. Yet those left are no longer based on an idealized version of myself—it was time to admit I won’t read that 400-page Martin Luther King, Jr. biography one day. They are books that satisfy me and my true self, as I currently am.
And then when I inevitably stock up on more books using my employee discount, I will choose only ones that spark all sorts of joy.
Until next time,