Let’s KonMari Our Money! And Our Underwear Drawers

Tokyo Story

Rachel Sugar is a friend of the ’Fold and contributor to Splitsider. We chatted recently about Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, about which we are ambivalent to varying degrees.

ESTER: Hello!

RACHEL: Hello!

E: We were discussing KonMari, which was huge in 2015, and how it applies to both our actual and financial lives, and you said you had so many opinions on the subject. Including this one, which I thought was very striking: “The life-changing magic of tidying up is making me want to financially tidy, too, but the only thing worse than cleaning out your closet is staring at half-finished excel spreadsheets.”

Would you care to elaborate? Or perhaps, to start at the beginning, what’s your relationship to keeping only what brings you joy?

R: So, I should preface all this by saying: I am not a hard-core KonMari-ite (KonMarier?). I have not even gone through my closet and fondled each item of clothing individually (yet — 2016 is going to be my year). But I do love thinking about it. The main thing that currently brings me joy about KonMari currently is the idea of how great it’s going to be when I do it.

I am also a big fan of KonMari thinkpieces.

That said, I have been on a KonMari-inspired cleaning binge — I feel like Marie Kondo would not actually approve, but it is what I can muster — and a big part of that has been dealing with Official Paper, which in turn, has forced me to face my various spreadsheets/filing systems. And they are, one might say, not in great shape: outdated, disorganized, incomplete, confusing, etc. Like, why are there cat gifs saved in my “Taxes 2015” folder.

I like to imagine that in 2016, I will not only have a perfect closet with vertically folded joy-sparking sweaters, but also a collection of neat and well-labeled Excel spreadsheets. But … it is less fun than the closet stuff, and more acutely stressful.

E: I love the idea of getting joy on a meta level from the KonMari idea of only keeping the things that bring you joy.

R: It is the best kind of joy — the kind that does not require action! I have more trouble with the actual doing part, because that requires getting rid of and replacing so many things. I should get rid of my spring coat — it’s terrible! It has a weird stain that I think is spray glue from standing up against where a poster used to be! But if I got rid of it, I’d have to eventually get a new one, and I wouldn’t, and then I’d just be cold a lot.

I’m trying, though. I got rid of a blouse with a grease stain down the front, because it did not spark joy, just memories of salad dressing. T-shirts with holes in them. Expired sunscreens. What about you? What is your current KonMari status?

E: I am an inveterate lover of clutter, so I am kind of a KonMari skeptic — I just don’t think a streamlined existence would bring me joy. That said, I am embarrassed by how many old, tattered items of clothing are clogging up the arteries of my closet, and how many books I’m indifferent to that are taking up valuable space on my shelves, and I want to have the motivation, on some level, to clean it all out. Even if I did, though, I suspect I’d fill all the gaps soon enough and be right back to where I started, because I’m still the same person, right? The person who has the same attitude toward years-old underwear as you have toward your spring coat.

But seriously, Sugar, get yourself a new spring coat off of Modcloth or something and then throw the old one away. Life’s too short.

R: You know what else is too short? The waists on most coats. (Zing!) But yes, I should. I will! I think for me, the appeal is just a feeling of peaceful control — of being able to find my cell phone on a regular basis, of not freaking out because I was supposed to submit a claim to my health insurance and now I can’t find the requisite documentation, that kind of thing. As a person genetically predisposed to panic, I think a streamlined existence would make me happier, even if that happiness is knowing where my horrible coat is when I need it.

E: Yes! It is very hard to be a disorganized yet anxious freelancer.

R: It is, mostly because it feels so self-sabotaging. Like, you’re a freelance writer in Brooklyn, cry me a river. Get it together and update your damn spreadsheets, you know?

E: Well, that’s one particularly unsympathetic way to think about it.

R: True! There are more and probably healthier ways to think about it. I tend to be kind of a black-and-white thinker in general, which probably isn’t the best, but which might be part of why I find the terrifying rigidity of KonMari so appealing. She demands you do exactly her steps, exactly her way, and while this makes me uncomfortably primed for cult membership, I am nothing if not a sucker for steps.

E: Steps are so appealing. Just tell me what to do is a wish I have with some regularity. Although the corollary wish is Ugh stop telling me what to do. And in between is a swirl of neurotic, repetitive thoughts, some self-flagellating, some affirming, all capable of keeping me up at night if I’m in a particular state of mind.

R: One thing you can do is think about folding your socks. It’s very soothing. Even just thinking about how you will do it is soothing. And Marie Kondo’s empire has to be built largely upon people who aren’t actually enacting the Life-Changing Magic, right? — just thinking about enacting it.

E: Or satirizing it. Or using it to reflect on mortality.

R: I love both of those pieces! They spark joy and self-reflection. Even reading Goodreads reviews of TLMoTU is a weirdly soothing pastime, if you can’t sleep. These are rich times we live in.

E: For the record, I don’t ball up my socks. I’ve always tried to pair them neatly by their tops.

R: That is the most impressive thing I’ve ever heard. I ball up my socks. I think they’re cool with it. (It is probably not ideal for the elastics.)

E: I’m kind of an animist, in a way: I used to worry, as a kid, when putting silverware away in the drawer, that the spoons would get jealous of the forks if I put too many of the latter in at once, or that my stuffed animals would resent each other for getting unequal amounts of attention. But I have to say, I really can’t bring myself to give a shit about what my socks may or may not be feeling. The emotional lives of socks isn’t high on my priority list, I guess?

R: That is incredibly charming! Also, that feels right to me. Your socks can deal.

E: Spreadsheets, though. Spreadsheets matter. In my very first job out of college, I was a effectively a secretary, and I was sub-par. No one ever trained me! I’d come out of four years of liberal arts college! I had no idea what I was in for. My boss yelled at me a lot. It’s wryly amusing to me now that I’ve put myself in a position where I am responsible for so much of my own administrative assistant-ing, considering how Not Good I am at it.

R: I have actually been in charge of bookkeeping! Twice! Hilariously! I worked very hard at it, and was very bad at it, and I think any skills I learned from doing did not carry over into my current life.

E: Wanna swap horror stories? Last year at tax time I forgot to hand over one of my most important 1099s. Just entirely forgot. I also forgot (??!!??) to deposit a $1500 check and only came across it like twelve months later, still in its envelope. Now that’s embarrassing, to have to go to your employer and say, “Hi, so, I know this is going to majorly screw with your payroll, but you sent me $1500 last year and I never put it in my account, even though I thought I did, and can you maybe reissue it to me?” I seriously considered walking away from the $1500 — and that is money that I need and could very much use — because oh, the humiliation. It tastes like burning.

R: Oh no! But you did it, and you got your money, and it was okay.

E: Uh, technically not yet, but I am told it is forthcoming. I like how you assume there’s a happy ending, though!

R: Haha! Also in 2016, I am an optimist. I’m trying to think if I have any horror stories, and I think I’ve been very lucky that I haven’t yet done anything irreparable (to my knowledge), but: this is my first year filing taxes as a full-time freelancer, and I think I did not … keep records as I should have. It is fine, probably — uncharacteristic optimism! — but figuring out what is going on is going to be much more labor-intensive than if I’d just scanned, filed, and entered documents as every single piece of freelancing / life advice tells you to do.

E: Ben has saved my life more times than I would like to count by helping me with that administrative part of things. He takes pictures of all the checks that come in now, for example, which is such a basic thing, and yet still a thing I simply can’t / won’t manage to do. In so many ways, he’s my Vera.

R: That’s sort of my secret, too — partner-outsourcing. I was in fact given a Doxie for Valentine’s Day a few years ago (a portable scanner, not a dachshund), with the intention that I would become my own Vera, but …that is not what happened. Instead, the Doxie is set up with his computer, and we still do not scan our grocery receipts, which was once the plan.

E: The Doxie! We have one too, and it is also set up with Ben’s computer, although Ben has since upgraded to another scanner he likes better.

R: A Doxie is not a personality transplant, it turns out. We should have gotten dachshunds instead.

E: Well, I’m glad to hear you’re optimistic in 2016. Maybe I will set a small, achievable goal for myself for the year — it’s not too late for that, right? — like cleaning out the tangled mess that is my “lingerie” drawer. It would probably improve my quality of life not to have to bushwhack through a jungle of old, ill-fitting undergarments just to find a pair of clean underwear every morning.

R: That is a great goal, especially because it can be done while watching television.

E: It’s like you know me, Sugar. The only good chores are the ones I can do while listening to podcasts or with Netflix on in the background.

R: Amen! If you cull your lingerie collection, I will get rid of that coat.


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