Hopewell’s home and the fine art of Japanese Tidying

Beautiful home design by http://kumfree.com This is NOT my home.
Beautiful home design by http://kumfree.com
This is NOT my home.

Every time a new make your home a haven guru comes a long I bite….Of course I’ve learned to BORROW these books, because who wants all that book clutter? Right.  Anyway, currently there’s a Japanese “tidy-ing” guru who not only wants us to pick up the living room in the ordinary way–you know, get the coffee cups, ice tea glasses full of sunflower seed shells, medical bills, cat toys and grown son’s clothes out of the living room each night–that’s just the start! This person wants us to pick up EVERY single object and decide if that stray sock or cat toy or tea glass or family heirloom or Churchill book or over-watched DVD “gives joy?” Tidying, you see, is about joy.

CocolaundryNow Americans are not well known for “tidying.” We clean, we scrub, we pick-up, we straighten, we organize, but “tidy?” I’ve never heard an American say “I’m off to tidy my room.” So, perhaps it’s a language issue. Maybe the Japanese word for “tidy” doesn’t translate perfectly? Could be. Maybe its like drinking wine from bowls—a cultural thing that we American’s just can’t understand? Maybe.


Back to the book and my living room. Clearly this person does not live in the same universe as the Hopewell family. Well, maybe my nephew’s branch. They have it together. Both are business school grads. The rest of us didn’t get that DNA. Anyhoo, according to the book we’re supposed to gather all the junk treasured belongings into one room. Then, with eyes aglow to catch the magic of that half chewed catnip mousie or 12-year old tube sock that has a college emblem on it and is a true Hopewell family heirloom (my branch, not the nephew’s) and decide “Do I get joy from this?” (And here I assume it is lasting joy we are supposed to feel—not the quick-fix momentary joy, like when we find actual matching socks in the same dryer load).


So I tried this on a small scale last night. I gathered my assistants. Well, the one who got the couch blankie next to me. The other two were in the chair and in her Halloween Candy bowl atop our ancient tv.

Ok—yes! They are CATS. No, I don’t have friends in “real life?” Wanna make something of it??? I didn’t think so, punk…..

But, as I was saying. I assembled the junk treasured belongings within reach of my end of the couch (but not those that might disturb the cat who was asleep on the blankie). Here’s a partial list of the “good stuff.”

  • A flower-themed insulated iced tea glass from a few summers ago ( bought after Church at the Dollar General in Hammersville because we were out of eggs and I didn’t want to go all the way to Kroger and it was Welfare/Social Security week so I didn’t want to go to Sav-A-Lot just for eggs) filled with spit-out sunflower seed shells by the last remaining Ukrainian in the house.
  • Those famous IU tube socks from son’s 8th grade years. Only socks of his that go into and come out of the laundry as a pair. World has been known to stop on those rare occasions when this does not happen.
  • A dvd on watercolor painting found in the coat closet which we use to store junk treasured belongings, but which is now ignored because it is behind the old couch.
  • 40 or so odd socks that have taken up residence on the fireplace hearth since after the graduation party in June.
  • Wire easels left on the fireplace hearth after the graduation party in June.
  • A few discarded paper napkins.
  • A plastic tumbler that must have held milk a few days ago. Probably finished by a cat—it was on its side.
  • A pair of boxer shorts with no fold creases.
  • A few books
  • A child’s watercolor paintbrush of the dollar store variety. (Odd since we have no children in the house).
  • An ad for a hair stuff store
  • A notice from the college financial aid office.
  • A notice from the cashiers Union.
  • A cat brush.
  • The kitty laser toy.
  • The t.v remote (which definitely brings no one joy—it only works on Thursdays near Easter)
  • Random drawings, apparently for full-chest tattoos. (Hopefully these are for men?)
  • A discarded drier sheet (well, approximately HALF a drier sheet—I’m too cheap to use a whole one).
  • A book on sketching in nature.
  • Assorted pens, most of which probably didn’t work so hence the pile of pens.
  • A USAF key thingy (Lanyard?)

Well, no need to list them all. I’m sure YOUR living room has things like well-coordinated fleece throws, pillows that aren’t used ever as a placemat and shelter-porn magazines, but this is MY house, ok?


So I picked up an odd sock to decode the possible level of “joy.” Sadly, the first thing I noticed was the smell of really old French fry grease. Hmmm. Saying a quick prayer for safety I ran my hand down the side of the couch…yep….sock two! (Plus a fork, a part of a cigarette pack (odd since “no one” smokes) a wife-beater undershirt with smell similar to the French fry sock, several paper napkins, a lime green Sharpie and an old copy of Guideposts). I moved on to another odd sock. This one was missing a heel. I walked to the kitchen trash and rid my house of this joy-sucking edifice so that our home could finally be a haven.

Back to the couch. Petted the awakening cat and lost valuable time convincing her that it was not, in fact, time to fill her food bowl. Grabbed a new sock. Sniffed reluctantly. This one was one of those short ones that don’t cover a man’s ankle quite. I think my son was in 7th grade when we bought these. It, at least, smelled like dryer sheet. It therefore gave me joy and I was off rapturously remembering the look of pure joy on my little 7th grader son’s face when I handed them to him, brand new. He said, sweetly:

“Why didn’t you buy Nike ones?”

These are the memories a mother cherishes.

Done for now with the socks I picked up the napkins and, being non-joy producing, I pitched them in the kitchen trash. You get the idea.

2catchairNow, when I surveyed the scene I saw a blanket made by a relative who no longer speaks to me unless at, say, a family funeral, my daughter’s high school art project—a ceramic hamburger, the sweeper in its box because a) it is again clogged and b) there’s nowhere else to store it, but don’t worry the box fits under that end table.

But what brings me joy in this room? There’s the cross my co-workers gave me. The only decent portrait of my family when I was a kid—my Dad very 60’s with a cigarette in hand. Those bring me joy. And the cats, they are joy-bringers. (Unless they are bunny/mouse/chipmunk bringers. Then they are non-joy bringers and really annoying.)

I reached for my phone and dialed the obvious. 1-800-Got-Junk. I used them when I left my first house many years ago. After clutching my heart at what it costs to remove the non-joy bringing junk treasured belongings when you live in the middle-of-nowhere as opposed to a city neighborhood, combined with the cost of buying new furniture, painting the room, buying new curtains and curtain rods, and I decided to re-evaluate the re-evaluation.


After careful consideration, I left the socks where they were, slipped an over-watched dvd into the player, carted the dirty socks, non-fold-crease underwear and a towel I hadn’t noticed before to the dirty clothes hamper and picked up a book.

And I found that joy—that lasting joy.


3 thoughts on “Hopewell’s home and the fine art of Japanese Tidying

  1. jeannegrantwebb

    I my goodness, girl, I was there with you! I loved, loved, loved this piece. Any I don’t like that silly book either. It brings me no joy.


  2. sjbraun

    Ha ha — I was there with you as well! I find that watching the Hoarding shows on TV is my best motivation for … um … tidying. lol. I get the idea about only keeping things that bring you joy, but frankly, it makes me so tired to think of considering whether or not each item gives me sufficient joy that I will probably never start on downsizing … loved this a lot. Your humor writing is awesome! Now THAT is something that does bring me joy! How about a post on ‘Mila decluttering?? 🙂


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