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Keepsakes are not clutter

Richard O’Leary moves house and realises he won’t be taking over from Marie Kondo any time soon. He likes his stuff just the way it is.

Opinion

Keepsakes are not clutter

Richard O’Leary moves house and realises he won’t be taking over from Marie Kondo any time soon. He likes his stuff just the way it is.

Marie Kondo, I am not. Like all of you, with the exception of the hermit who has just spent 10 years in a cave and picked up a copy of My Weekly Preview on the way down from the mount, I have heard of the Japanese organising consultant.

For the benefit of our recently returned recluse, Ms Kondo, with her little turquoise book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, kicked off a decluttering craze across the planet. People have thrown out stuff left, right and centre.

Now, I never bought the book. It seemed to defeat the purpose to get one more thing to try and work out how to get rid of.

But what I’ve been able to gather through osmosis and a quick Google search is Kondo has a two-pronged approach – put your hands on an object and if it doesn’t spark joy, throw it out, and leave what is left in a visible spot.

Now if those rules are some sort of test my recent house move, it has been a spectacular failure.

I had all the opportunity in the world, swapping a big house on acreage for a shack on the beach.

So as I sat in my new digs a week after moving, squashed between boxes, bean bags and plastic tubs, I wondered where it had all gone wrong.

The reality is if I only kept the objects that gave me joy, my place would be as plain as a padded cell – which would not be bad in itself.

Nonetheless I found myself surrounded by stuff. Books. Boxes of them. First editions. Gifts. Life-changers. As a slight compromise I did donate a full set of Encyclopaedia Brittanicas to the local op shop.

School stuff. Photos, projects, essays, HSC results, the posters used in my campaign for school captain. Kept them all.

Uni. Dreadful depressing poetry.

Uninspired drawings. Photo with Gough Whitlam at a speech he delivered on campus. Didn’t sacrifice any of them.

TV career. Twenty-year-old VHS and Beta tapes. Pulled out, hovered over bin, and repacked. Will never be transferred to a digital format. Will never get rid of them.

Kids. Every drawing, painting, card, photo, certificate, ribbon and report card. If one of my boys put pen to paper, even if it looks like somebody has just been trying to get a biro to work (which may well be the case), it stays.

These things are not me, but they matter. To me.

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Richard O’Leary is a journalist, a political advisor and a father who knows there’s a deeper meaning to life but struggles to find it.

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