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Challenge: Open Discussion

I love my kids. But do they bring me "joy?"

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Note to Netflix: If you want me to binge-watch any of your original series, simply release them in the depths of winter. Only subzero temperatures and mountains of snow outside my garage could prompt me to shuffle through my on-screen programming guide, stumble across a show starring a Japanese millennial who dubs herself a “tidying expert” and think, “Hey, THIS looks interesting.”

Of course, I’m referring to Tidying Up, the recently-launched series that has homeowners like me looking at every item in our living quarters and wondering if we should toss it on the curb or fold it neatly into thirds.

In each episode, Marie Kondo, the show’s 34-year-old host, introduces desperate hoarders to the KonMari method of organizing. In short, KonMari means attacking your junk by throwing an entire room’s contents into a single pile, holding each item individually and asking aloud, or silently if verbalizing with T-shirts creeps you out, if that item still brings you joy. If the answer is no, the item goes to the nearest thrift store or trash receptacle. Kondo then shows how to store the remaining items in dainty, compartmentalized boxes and clear, plastic bins. And clothes? Kondo-folded pants and shirts end up so small, they could pass for dinner napkins.

Intrigued, I described KonMari to my wife, who immediately nixed Kondo’s methods. “Every item in this house brings me joy,” she said.

“Even your framed REO Speedwagon poster?”



OK, so any shared room is joyful, even in the middle of the night when I’m tripping over empty Amazon cartons on my way to the bathroom. Got it.

So, I decided to test KonMari in my home office, the one room that belongs exclusively to me. Unless anyone wants to watch a DVD, as my closet houses the family Blu-ray player. But it’s mostly mine.

I was in the midst of informing a hardcover book of barbecue recipes that it had become joyless when my 16-year-old daughter appeared in the doorway.

“Why are you talking to a picture of a pork chop?”

“Never mind. What’s up?

“I need the car keys.”


“I’m babysitting. I’m supposed to be there in 20 minutes.”

“You never mentioned this to me.”

“Guess I forgot. Can I have them?”

“I have spin class at the health club this afternoon,” I said. “How am I supposed to get there if you have the car all day?”

“Can’t you use the treadmill in the basement? I mean, you’re still exercising. What’s the difference?”

True, both activities burn calories. So does screaming at adolescents, an endeavor I briefly considered. Instead, I abandoned the barbecue conversation and took three steps toward my daughter. Alarmed, she backed away.

“Dad, what are you doing?”

“Come here,” I said. “I just want to hold you.”

Glancing at her iPhone she said, “Now I’m supposed to be there in 15 minutes.”

“Come here,” I repeated. She relented. I embraced her, closed my eyes and whispered, “Does this item still bring me joy?”

As expected, she recoiled. “Why are you referring to me as an item?”

I didn’t answer. Lost in thought, I recalled her early years: The squeals of delight after evening baths; the “I love you Daddy” notes, created with recently learned penmanship, that appeared on my desk; the hugs I received when she was happy and the tears I wiped when she was sad.

Then I thought of the eye rolls, the closed bedroom doors, the nonstop texting, the one-word grunts and the other behaviors one associates with being a teenager. It wasn’t even close. She and her sister continue to bring me joy. I’ve never doubted it. But a little reminder, courtesy of KonMari, never hurts.

I tossed her the keys. “Be careful.” I believe she grunted in the affirmative. As she left, I reminded myself she would be off to college in two short years. The house would be noticeably less cluttered.

A question for Kondo: Can love be folded and put in a box? If so, I’m your next client.

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