In the Age of Quarantine, Marie Kondo is Out of Luck

I’ve been imagining what quarantine is like for Marie Kondo in her tidy home, surrounded by the six items that spark joy in her heart. She is fully prepared for a military inspection or a surprise visit from her in-laws, but she wasn’t ready for a global pandemic. I, it seems, have been preparing for this my whole life, mainly by not tidying up.

I am not a hoarder, let’s be clear. But I am a stasher. I stash things in closets and drawers, because it seems wasteful to throw them away. Seven perfectly good, slightly crumpled cocktail napkins and a dull pair of left-handed scissors might come in handy. I have always had the sense I might need this stuff later, and later has finally come.

My stashing started to pay off immediately, as the second day of our quarantine was St. Patrick’s Day. My husband’s ancestry and my children’s names are Irish, so I usually try to be festive. Party City had been deemed non-essential (I’ve been saying this for years), so I shopped around my house for decorations. In my main basement junk closet, underneath six rubber spiders and a ceramic bowl covered in eyeballs, I found five green plastic leprechaun hats and a mylar shamrock centerpiece. I held them to my heart, and they sparked temporary relief.

The following week, it was my son’s 14th birthday. There’s got to be a party around here somewhere, I thought. In my backup basement junk closet I found five mismatched party hats and a poker set. There was a deck of 51 cards in my largest kitchen junk drawer. In another junk drawer primarily dedicated to potholders and straws, I found previously burned candles shaped like the numbers one and four. In fact, I have candles to last through his 19th birthday, if it comes to that. I made a Happy Birthday sign on the other side of a discarded science fair poster board. It was a good day.

As my house has become its own microcosm of the greater world, or maybe the Mall of America, I have come to see my stashing as a parenting super power. Online learning seems to involve a lot of video production, and video production calls for props. Marie Kondo’s kids have clean lines and open spaces; my kids have stuff. You need a pair of adult sized butterfly wings? Got ’em. A monkey costume? Sure, but we’re out of bananas. Index cards? There’s a set of 20 in the bottom of my black purse outlining a novel I decided not to write. Flip them over and get to work! A bag of assorted googly eyes, a half-empty bottle of purple t-shirt dye? Yep. Rubber bands, you ask? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

I’m worried the Kondos are bored out of their minds. They’ve given away all of their books, they’ve already rolled all of their t-shirts. I’m pretty sure they know where all their stuff is. I now look forward to the 45 minutes per day I burn looking for my wallet, my hairbrush, the carrot scraper. It’s something to do.

I am decidedly not bored, and in an unexpected turn of events, I’ve started tidying up. Yesterday I took every item out of my mudroom (ancillary basement junk closet) and made a mountain of sports equipment and single gloves. It was a nearly transcendent experience, sort of how I imagine going to heaven might be, where all mysteries were revealed to me. I found the bike lock and the jump rope and all of the missing baseball mitts. I found six missing water bottles and the source of that smell.

It’s safe to say that I have junk closets and used birthday candles to get me through several more years of this. I’ll need the next 30 days alone to work through my discarded school supply cupboard. If things really get bad, I’ll tackle my own closet, but I’m already patting myself on the back for hanging on to a few pairs of those bigger, elastic waist pants.