Disposing of/holding on

I was first introduced to Marie Kondo last year when I once received messages of friends asking me to adopt the wacky socks they do not want to use anymore. 

Marie Kondo has become a household name, so phenomenal that she has become more of a verb than a figure. To ‘Marie Kondo,’ as how I picked it, means to organize objects, and to let go of them on the basis of whether such thing sparks joy or not. The KonMari method has changed how people view objects and spaces and folding.

I did not jump into the Marie Kondo train right away, despite the promise of clarity from the people who have relied on it. For one, I liked my things the way they were—cluttered and kept. There was something romantic and mighty in enduring the mess of the world, in constantly maintaining a life even if it isn’t true anymore. Maybe there’d be other stratagems on living life without having to put what you value down the drain. This is me being conscious that I’d be framed as the heartless bloke who does not want anything to remain. Or be competitive and comfortable on impermanence that I do not know what it feels like to hold on.

The things I value keep on vanishing and I keep on feeling sorry for myself. But the earth keeps on rotating and evolving, and if I do not change my response from self-pity to gratitude, I would drown in metaphorical dirt. That’s one of the many things I have learned from losing (myself, you, objects, moments, the life I worked hard to build but didn’t realize), although I admit it’s a bitter pill to swallow. The Masterclass on Letting Go would commence as how it should, until I fully embrace the fact that I do not have the agency to turn back to my old, comfortable self. There’s no other way to unwind the clock’s hand.

This dei ex machina of sorts moves in an uncanny way when: 

  1. My parents decided to repair the wobbly floor tiles after the series of earthquake that ravaged our island. That required me to lift my furnitures and collections outside my room and at our porch. It was not long for me to realize that my book collection does not fit my shelf anymore, that I do not even remember buying them, and did not arrive in my room to collect dust. The same is true with the clothes I do not wear, shirts that are still covered with plastic because I decided I do not know what I really want. I keep on asking for postcards, stickers, and pens which were mixed with my other stuff. If I were to stand by my sentimental trait, they needed to be dignified and I did not do a good job on valuing them.
  2. My real Netflix companion over dinner is Mom, who had missed a couple episodes of Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. Our only argument would revolve only around my inability to speak to the phone because of anxiety and my being a messy cow. She weaponized the series when she’d prompt me to clean my colossal wreck of a bookshelf. Now and then she’d tell me the show confirmed that I am a cryer, but I had neither learned from it nor practiced the tips. She imbibed the show earlier than I did, unhauling the things that do not spark joy anymore (her couches, dresses; she convinced me to donate my printer, which I did with a heavy heart at first).
  3. I reinstalled my Messenger app and found my former housemate JM who asked me how webbed my house in Gensan is, and I told him that because of mobility restrictions, I have no way of knowing. His reply was endearing, saying that he missed cooking the same food for breakfast there in his repository of memories that is my house, and that feeling makes him want to cry. My command was a tall order, telling him to stop moping, and instead, we gotta move forward from the hours that shattered us because there’s no other way.
  4. Recently I met a new friend. We will call him D. I was enthused by his inclination on business, his rich experience in spite of his young age, his willingness to be the receiving end of the shade I like to throw, our more-or-less similar political leaning, and his belief system utilizing layers of tenets from minimalism, stoicism, Buddhism, and New Age. He would turn 22 the next day when we talked, so I grabbed and unzipped my stash of stickers to give him. When I discovered his lack of appreciation to material things, I put back my statement stickers that should have been my present: ‘be the light,’ ‘let’s smile,’ ‘wake up and smile,’ ‘pivot,’ and so on. Despite the freshness of our friendship, he won me over his belief that detachment toward materialism is a virtue.
My messy bookshelf

The dust and disarray after the repair gesticulated my need to reorganize my possessions. The initial understanding I needed to reconcile was that I had to do this all by myself. Nobody but me knows whether this or that sparks joy or not, if this stuff is just a stuff or emblems to guide me moving forward. Outside interventions to overrun the process will only complicate the act. I thought about the critical, agonizing moments in my life: the exhaustion sinking in while waiting for the plane to come, this door knob I needed to lock, the hospital visits, the deepest pit I am still to climb. I had nobody.

Contrary to my Instagram feed, I have little attachment to clothes except your shirts you lent because I didn’t prepare to stay longer and your home was my home. I also didn’t have the energy to go through all of my apparel, but next week, I will. I was more keen on decluttering my bookshelf that had papers as building, with postcards and newspapers I picked because I want to remember that day and pens and maps and train routes and museum guides lying in wait.

True to the KonMari method, I placed the books on the floor. Many times a shaky foundation out of small pocketbooks over hardcovers knocked over the stacks. The common patterns on my collection were the books I read, the books I am too proud I read (*coughs* War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy *coughs*), the books personally signed by the authors, the books given to me, the books with my name on the table of contents, the books I hoarded, and the books that once astounded me but I’ve outgrown because they don’t resonate with me anymore [Exhibit A: F. Sionil Jose; Exhibit B: Krip Yuson; Exhibit C: authors who condone the Tyrant (yes, Philippine writers do not get along it’s a TLC reality show for me)]. For several hours, I put the books in three locations: the bookshelf (they spark joy), the large container (they slightly spark joy), and the eco-bag (they don’t spark joy/I moved on). 

Notebooks that I had to hide to focus on the now; books in the container I will re-stack after buying a new shelf.

Table 1 presents such categories of my book collection:

Books gifted to meBookshelfStay 
Books where my name appearsBookshelf Stay
Books I have readContainer20% to be stacked at a new bookshelf; 80% to be given away
Books I still revisit (talking about War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard)Bookshelf Stay
Books I promise to read this yearBookshelfStay
Books I promise to read in the futureContainerTo be stacked at a new bookshelf
Books I hoarded and will no longer readEco-bagGive away
Old magazinesEco-bagGive away
Books by people I have problems with, ideologically that isEco-bagGive away/ Dispose of
Thank you.

The fourth row of my bookshelf, which used to be filled with messy books and dailies, was surprisingly empty. I have so much space to spare for anything that’d dare to come along.

I never thought I’d be able to tidy them.

I thought I had delved with my emotions after arranging my bookshelf. The combination of papers, komono (miscellaneous), and mementos sitting on the floor tapped my harbored nostalgia. It seemed like a treasure hunt of the riches I forgot I had, and it hurt to crave for the moments that remind me of them.

It’s nice to meet you again, my diaries and planners. Wooden bookmarks. Paper bookmarks. The half-baked essays and poems with my shoddy handwriting (It’s embarrassing to read my couplet about me being confused if it’s tears or ink that’s running on my paper). A note for my 26th birthday and a tiny candle inside the cube canister. A postcard given by a Malaysian friend who thanked me because I told her that gender is fluid. Lots of IDs for conferences, trainings, leadership camps. A thank you card because I helped sort the supplies of a treatment center for the young people in Georgia who are struggling with emotional and behavioral health issues. A manuscript for the writers workshop I participated in. Photographs with students in the state university I thought I will retire from. Liquidation reports of the teen health program I led. Business cards I was given, thinking we’d need each other someday. Train cards I can use in Metro Manila, Singapore, and Washington DC. My baby cousin wasting my memo pad to tell me she loves me and that roses are red, ‘violates’ are blue, and I am ‘hassome’ because she wants to know the passcode of my iPad. Keys I collected, forgetting what they can unlock. Wristwatches that stopped telling time. “Serenity prayer,” my psychiatrist wrote on her Rx paper. Your gift—a set of colored pencils because you know I love jazzing up my notebooks. The wee block that would have completed the toy whale I gave you; you had no idea where this one block should be placed, so you gave a small part of yours.

I could go on and on to remind myself that those days are behind me, and even if I’m terribly missing those days, they have brought me to where I am because I was/am loved. 

Meanwhile, the world is still in its mundane self. The decluttering/keeping method did not reward me a cure for sorrow. I will lose more as time goes by, but it’s comforting to believe I have a wider opening for your entrances and exits.

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