The Easy & Affordable Trick That Broke My Worst Home Habit

Photographed by Sean Santiago.
"Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved," declares Marie Kondo in her influential organizing bible, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. "This is why tidying must start with discarding."

But, what if you can't let go? I am a serial hoarder, derived from a long line of serial hoarders. Learning to undo the years of terrible home habits that I picked up from my parents (Where should I put today's mail? On top of last year's mail?) has been an ongoing process.

I still have a tendency to just stack piles of crap on top of other piles of crap, all around my tiny bedroom. My wallet routinely shows up in my bed, in yesterday's pants pocket, in a desk drawer. I just don't think getting rid of things would help me as much as having a dedicated, intentional spot where my things can "live."

Which is why I skipped ahead to the chapter where Kondo encourages readers to designate a space for each "thing." Now we're talking. For months, I'd been stashing matchbooks in a drawer, telling myself I'd follow designer Lily Bunn's advice and seek out a pretty and practical match strike. ("So much better than a flimsy little paper matchbook," she says.) But I never found anything that I particularly liked, and my collection of silly little matchbooks kept growing.

The truth is, I picked most of them up because I like them, flimsy though they may be. No, I can't take each one, cup it gently in my hands and feel it whispering to my soul about purpose and meaning. But, they're useful. I swipe them at pretty much every restaurant I pop into because I'm cheap — or, if we're being gracious, pragmatic. I don't even think I'd know where to get matches if I didn't simply encounter them. Who buys matches?

I don't, so I bought something else. A new thing, with a new purpose. It's an adorable bowl in which I store my matches — out, in plain sight, a proud emblem of my budget-minded ways. It does bring me joy, and when I cup it in my hands I can feel my chakras tingle, ever so slightly. It also makes clear that I have plenty of matches for now, and can stop hoarding.

Is my tidiness an illusion? Maybe. Do I still have a clutter problem? Definitely. But I did one small thing that made my room better, and I'm happy. Isn't that all that matters?

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