“During this year’s winter break, however, I discovered a book that I hope will change my life. Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is a beautiful exploration about our attachment to things and one of the first I’ve read to explicitly examine our relationship to books and journals. Kondo’s work has helped me understand that my problem is not organizing — all of my files are color-coded and all the cans in my kitchen pantry are arranged with labels precisely aligned forward. Instead, my issue is simply having too many things and commitments to manage effectively.

“To test Kondo’s model, I began with my sock drawer. She asserts that the key to an uncluttered life is to be able to see everything we possess. So, instead of tossing rolled socks into a drawer, she is emphatic about requiring that all sock pairs be placed side by side in an orderly manner. Each sock pair must have its own space. When the drawer is opened, all sock possibilities must be clearly visible….

“First, I discovered that I have 27 pairs of running socks, more than I ever imagined. Second, there was no longer room for socks without sisters. Out they went: No more waiting for their second halves to show up in the future. Seeing all of my socks so beautifully organized gave me a sense of peace and order, and the sock drawer now whispers softly, “We are here and we are enough.” I will never again utter the words, “I can always use running socks,” when one of my daughters asks me what I want for my birthday.

“Inspired by my sock drawer, I decided to apply Kondo’s theory to my university office and created a visual way of documenting and color-coding every single project, committee, and initiative that is currently filling my days. I gave myself one desk drawer to hold my visual inventory, but will manage all work related to them in matching digital files. I am old school, so be sure to let me know if you figure out a way to create the same effect electronically.

Read more about Allison M. Vaillancourt’s academic decluttering at Chronicle Vitae.

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