Marie Kondo mania is in full swing again thanks to her Netflix special. I haven’t watched the show yet, but I read her book at the beginning of 2016, and wrote two posts in 2017 on the connections between messiness and creativity — “Tidying Up” and “The art of finding what you didn’t know you were looking for.” They eventually became chapter 8 (“When in doubt, tidy up”) of Keep Going, which begins:
(If you want the rest, you’ll have to pre-order the book.)
Thinking back to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, what disturbed me most — as a writer and an artist — was the idea that how you feel NOW in this very moment is the most important factor in whether you should keep or discard something.
Books are the obvious example (already covered here), so let’s take photographs: Kondo says to keep a certain amount of photos from an event, and toss the rest. And yet, I recently looked through a box of loose photos from my wedding, and I found all kinds of interesting photos that didn’t interest me when I was putting together our wedding album.
You’ve probably experienced something similar: A photo you didn’t think was interesting at the time, later on you find it more interesting than the stuff you chose to frame. My friend Clayton Cubitt once tweeted something along the same lines:
I realize that nowhere does Kondo explicitly say this, but there is a kind of anti-collecting streak in the book. Most artists are collectors, if not hoarders, and we don’t just collect the things that “spark joy”: we collect things (objects yes, but also hunches and ideas) that we’re unsure or ambivalent about. Things we get the feeling we could use later.
It tickled me recently to read this piece, “Edward Gorey, Pack Rat”:
When he wasn’t writing, drawing, illustrating, and designing—and even when he was—Edward Gorey was collecting. Over the course of his life, the artist gathered, and kept, everything from tarot cards to trilobites to particularly interesting cheese graters. “We ask the docents not to use the word ‘hoarder,’” says Hischak, grinning as he surveys the House’s newest exhibit, which focuses on Gorey’s pack rat tendencies. “But he really did hoard interesting things.”
I suspect that, like Gorey, every creative person has just a tiny bit of a pack rat in them. (I like that Gorey referred to his collecting as “accumulating.”)