examinations: 1.8

By Danielle Susi


Step One: Discard

Step Two: Decide where to put things

Or so instructs Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Yeah, I bought this thing. This best-selling, international sensation teaching readers how to get rid of stuff and never ever have to tidy again.

Kondo is a Japanese cleaning and organizing consultant who promises that tidying your home (which could take around six months) will reset your entire life. Follow her instructions and you’ll be able to sit in your clean home without the constant nagging of tidying, which then leads to increased focus on the task at hand and increased relaxation in the space.

I read this book on my long bus and train commute to work and sometimes wonder what people think when they see me reading it. I bought the book initially because I hate clutter, and as I’m sure most writers can relate to, my desk looks like a tiny tornado tore through it. I must admit that I am not yet at the part where she tells me how to get rid of the folders I have filled with bank statements and old drafts of poems. Perhaps that part does not exist.

Throughout the book, Kondo reminds us to only keep items that bring us absolute joy, and as someone whose personal and professional lives are so deeply connected, I wondered if the method could work outside of the home?

I’m of the mind that we must eliminate people and things that bring great sadness, stress, or anger into our lives, but I don’t think we can discard without considering the place these agitators hold. The discarding of things—even though it leads us toward a greater, more fulfilled life—is a difficult process that can bring up unexpected pain. We are willing to bear such unpleasantness because we understand that sometimes a great loss or sadness might be necessary to reach great happiness. Similarly, observing or being involved in emotionally abusive relationships might make you gentler and more sympathetic in the long run.

In no way am I advocating staying in abusive relationships or allowing that which you have control over to cause negative short and long term effects. But, life is complex and we often find ourselves surrounded by people and things that are vastly different than expected. If applying Kondo’s concepts when tidying up one’s life, we must consider how things ended up on the shelf in the first place. It’s only in this understanding that we can ensure the same things (or a slightly different version of them) don’t end up back on our shelves.  

As a writer, it’s difficult to think that everything in my life must bring me joy. For me, pain is a critical part of the creative process, and writing is the method through which I am able to examine that pain. Kondo asserts that there is no urge to get work done when there is tidying to be completed. But how can anyone think of tidying when there is so much work to be done?


Danielle Susi is the author of the chapbook The Month in Which We Are Born (dancing girl press, 2015). Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Knee-Jerk Magazine, Hobart, and The Rumpus, among many other publications. She is a columnist for pioneertown and Entropy; a contributor to American Microreviews & Interviews, The Conversant, and The Angle; and the co-editor of HOUND. She received her MFA in writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Newcity has named her among the Top 5 Emerging Chicago Poets. Find her online at daniellesusi.com.