If Marie Kondo tackled PD

Several months ago, when Los Angeles was hit with much needed rainfall and I was at home more than usual, I spent some time cleaning and rearranging things.  I even managed to watch one episode of Marie Kondo’s Netflix show.  Unless you have been hiding under a rock the past few years, you can’t escape the influence of Marie Kondo, organizer extraordinaire, whose book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  has transformed homes around the world.   Her signature phrase when determining whether or not to keep something is “does this object spark joy?”

Her KonMarie method is everywhere, in the office, at school, and even in politics.  A quick search found that a writer for an Israeli newpaper asks is Marie Kondo can ‘fix the Israeli-Palestinian mess.’

So how does all of this apply to People with Parkinson’s?  There is some merit in decluttering. Getting rid of those things that just take up space is a good thing, right? One less thing to trip over. One less thing to keep clean. It is also supposed to make our lives easier. In the book, she has a number of lessons that we should adhere to. Or maybe not…….

1. “Nostalgia is not your friend”.  Kondo says to go through one category of stuff at a time.   When going through all of those boxes stashed away for a rainy day, you may find yourself being drawn in by something that detracts you from your goals. Unfortunately, it is all too easy for that to happen to us Parkies. Finding something that was once meaningful may send us off into a different direction than originally planned. Or we get so absorbed into a project that we completely lose track of time and forget about other upcoming obligations.

So I decided to move a lot of photo boxes full of prints, negatives (remember those) and even photo CD’s, from a downstairs closet that I needed for those things I had removed from my book shelves in a first attempt at the KonMarie method. 20 boxes of photos are now sitting on my daughter’s dresser, waiting for someone to go through them and put them away. And another 4 have been sitting on my dining room table for weeks. I started to sort them, and found some family gems. Who says nostalgia is not your friend????? Those photos brought back so many memories, of times when PD did not get in our way and slow us down. I have now spent many hours sorting and resorting. I can’t get rid of these photos, even if I don’t know the people in them. Inertia has set in and neither Mr. Twitchy nor I can get past the nostalgia and finish the job. Those boxes will probably sit there until I need to use the table for other things, like eating.

2. “Does this object spark joy?” Of course it does, or I would not have bought it in the first place. My oldest daughter always asks, when she comes to visit, why we have so much stuff? “Get rid of it!” she says. “You don’t need it”. My response to her is always: “but you got that for me.” That usually quiets her for a little while. Besides, that object “sparked joy”, simply because she thought of me when she was traveling and brought me something that “sparked joy” in her.

I decided that maybe she is right and there is too much stuff on display. I removed some of it and put it in boxes which now reside in the 1/2 empty downstairs closet, with the goal of rotating things in and out, like in a museum. Then promptly forgot about them.

3. “Start tidying by category”. Which one? Many of us have been in our homes for many years and things are all over the place. With PD, it can be hard to focus on just one thing. So I thought, lets start with the photo boxes. Need I say more……..

This past weekend there was an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “The Joy of Clutter: What Marie Kondo got Wrong”. The author argues that we are in danger of de-cluttering our ways to empty lives. Yes, getting organized is important, but keeping some of those meaningful objects around becomes richly autobiographical. For those of us with PD, whose dying neurons are slowly robbing us of who we once were, keeping those things becomes ever more important because they remind us of who we still are. And that is a good thing.

Making A Clean Sweep?

“We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.” Marie Kondo

My kids have been bugging me to get rid of things in my house.  They tell me that I have too much stuff.  When I point out that some of it is theirs, they don’t want it either, but I should keep it here for them anyway, either because they can’t bear to part with it or they claim they don’t have room for it.

We have been inImage result for broom sweep our house for 30 years, long before Parkinson’s moved in as a permanent resident.  Raising three children and an assortment of dogs and hamsters kept us busy for many years.  The kids have all moved out, we are down to one deaf 14 year old dog,  and we don’t even notice all of that “stuff” until one of our daughters calls attention to it.  Where did it all come from anyway?

We are trying to go through things when we have a free hour or two.  Neither Mr. Twitchy nor I have the patience to do this for longer periods of time.  However, we do need to make a stab of cleaning out the house.  So I turned to my old pal,  Marie Kondo’s book:  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing which was all the rage a few years ago.  Her basic philosophy:  When going through your things, hold each object and ask if it brings you joy.  If not, get rid of it.  And when you get rid of the object, say “thank you and goodbye”.

But Marie Kondo did not understand Parkinson’s.   We cannot choose what we want to get rid of.  Parkinson’s takes things away from us, no matter how precious they are.  Things that once brought “sparked Joy” are often reminders of who we were in a life before PD.  We don’t want to forget what we could do before, so we can’t let go.  Things we took for granted, such as driving, are challenged by the Parkinsons visitor in our homes.  Stairs become an obstacle course and tremors try to keep us out of the kitchen, away from sharp objects.   With Parkinson’s in the house, many things may not bring us joy anymore for a variety of reason’s, so do we just get rid of them?  It took us more than 15 years to part with the ski’s that we no longer used, because they reminded us of those wonderful times on the ski slopes with family and friends.  We knew we could not ski anymore, but year after year we put off giving them away.  The memories were just too strong to ignore.

And then there are all of those “souvenirs” from our travels around the world.  When our youngest went off to college, we started taking wonderful vacations and I often joined Mr. Twitchy on business trips around the world.  There was always something fun to bring home as a reminder of those trips.  Recently we realized, maybe we need to stop bringing back so much stuff.  It is taking over our house, as our daughters pointed out to us.

So the purge begins.  It often takes more than one time going through a closet or bedroom to determine what we no longer want.  Do we really need to keep all of those give-away t-shirts in ugly colors?  Oh, but that one was from the night Mr. Twitchy played guitar with his law firm band at the Whisky (where all of the famous rock stars played in the 60’s and 70’s).  So what if it is full of holes?  Or what about my calligraphy supplies from 20 years ago.  Many tubes of ink and paint are dried up.  Other things are missing.  It is difficult for me to write with Parkinson’s affecting my right hand.  But that is who I once was – a calligrapher who designed invitations.  How can I dispose of these things that remind me who I was before Parkinson’s?  This is the emotional aspect of “cleaning house”.  You know in your head, that you should get rid of those 4″ heels that you can no longer wear because of PD, but your heart just won’t let you.  How do you make that decision?  I just keep the shoes in my closet so that I can see them.  I can always dream, can’t I? (A certain Parkinson’s Diva I know would wear them anyway 🙂 )

Going through the things in my living room last week,  I realized that I really don’t need to keep everything out.  Some of it can be put away and rotated in from time to time, bringing new memories to replace the old ones.  The same goes for many other things that we have collected over the years, including books.  So many things that once seemed important no longer bring us “joy”.  With Parkinson’s living in our house, our priorities and our interests have changed.  It is time to let go of some of those things. but not all them.  We still need them around as reminders of who we really are, even with Parkinson’s.

A classic from George Carlin about “Stuff”.  Enjoy!