5 Steps to Tidying Up (The Pam-Bam® Plan)

declutter concept (keep, recycle, trash, sell, donate - handwriting on color sticky notes

I am a neat freak. Although I need glasses to see the TV or the car in front of me, I can spot a dust bunny 300 yards away in the middle of the night–in the dark–without my glasses. (Same can be said for spiders of any shape or size if they are in the same county as me.) Don’t even get me started on clutter. It disturbs me.

Y’all have probably heard of Marie Kondo. She’s the spritely wee pixie who has written four books on “Tidying Up”—and the joy, magic and delirium thereof. She’s also the star of a Netflix series embracing the “Kon-Mari” method, which is Kondo’s lifestyle brand. According to the promotional materials, “Kon-Mari inspires people to choose joy and complete their tidying adventures.” In other words, there is life everlasting in a row of well-rolled panties organized from light to dark and then grouped and color-coded into rows of reds, blues, etc. (Same goes for bras, socks and mittens.)

On the TV show, Kondo lights on a messy person’s porch like a joyful giggling butterfly, spreading glee and tidiness with every beat of her little wings.  Kondo’s interpreter, in a far less giddy tone, instructs the incredulous slovenly to take every article of clothing they own and dump it into the middle of the room, buy half a million dollars-worth of Tupperware and stuff the rest of their earthly belongings into it before deciding which personal items no longer elicit dizzy happiness. Before the items can be removed from the premises, however, befuddled homeowners are asked to bid a fond adieu to the pieces that are going to live on a nice farm with other junk to play with because a box of zippers and paperclips has feelings, too.

I see nothing wrong with anthropomorphizing dogs and cats (I have been known to attribute human feelings and thoughts to squirrels and deer, and once, a mama opossum), but in what realm of the universe do my yoga pants get depressed?

Yeah, I’m gonna say it. I don’t like this well-ordered little broad, but what ticks me off the most about Kondo’s “tidying up” success is that I thought of it first, to which my step-kids, ex-husbands (plus the one to be) and multiple friends and family members will attest. The only difference between Kondo and me is 100lbs and the fact that I do not demure femininely when telling people how to clean their shit the f up. I have never suggested oh-so-gently to a single slob in my life to thank their crap before stuffing it into a Hefty bag destined for Goodwill. “I don’t care! Just get it out of here!” is every bit as effective as origamically folding a sweater you haven’t worn since sophomore year into the shape of a sand hill crane before rubbing its pilled sleeve across your cheek as you whisper, “Farewell, old friend. Thank you.”

Ms. Kondo has created an empire from basically, what?—getting people to clean their rooms without breaking down and curling into a ball? Oy.

According to the Kon-Mari method, there are five precious guidelines for creating harmonious blah-bi-dee-blah in your surroundings: 1) before you do, you must visualize, 2) streamline your stuff, 3) pay attention to your feelings about jobs, 4) focus on your needs first, and, 5) be grateful for the lessons. Aw shucks.

In what I like to call the Pam-Bam® plan, from my eponymous soon-to-be lifestyle megabrand, we’ve compiled something perhaps more…down-to-earth.

5 Rules for Getting Your Shit Together (and getting rid of your shit).

1. Visualize someone else cleaning up your mess.

“Someone” who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your “lucky” Badgers sweatshirt with the wapatoolie vomit stain that looks strikingly like a cross between Vince Lombardi and Giannis Antetokoumpo. This special someone will tear through your closets, drawers and cupboards with cyclonic F5 efficacy until all that is left is stuff with the price tags still on. Yep. Everything else is gone. But you don’t want that, do you? I didn’t think so. Now go and clean up your own damn mess before I give you something to cry about.

2. Weed, weed, weed.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. What I am referring to is the pruning, culling and whittling down of the massive array of random stuff you have accumulated to either fill a void in your life, a hole in your heart or that empty space in your ex-husband’s closet. If your first reaction when you pick up an article of clothing is seriously?—you’ve gotta stuff it into the charity bag. (Your seriously creepy faux rabbit fur vest will perfectly round out the go-to look for a hipster with skinny legs, and there will be more gruel for starving orphans.) Weed, weed, weed equals win-win.

3. Kill your emotions.

Cleaning up is not fun. Get over it. You’ll eventually feel better if at first you grieve the loss of your 2013 March Madness beer koozie collection or the vast assemblage of chipped and broken Franklin Mint decorative Wizard of Oz Collector’s Edition 100thAnniversary plates—sans the Tin Man, which was lost during a particularly raucous New Year’s Eve party.

There is no room for guilt or recrimination in the Pam-Bam® plan. What you can’t bear to throw out, simply box up and give to a friend who promises to deliver it to Goodwill. It goes without saying that your friend will use the “drop off” in the Dumpsters behind Pick n’ Save.

4. Pay attention to your needs. Ha!

Your needs. Who cares? No one. What matters is that you have a perfectly fine edifice designed specifically to house automobiles, landscaping and snow removal equipment, and yet you park in the driveway year-round and have built a shed behind the garage for your lawn mower, snow blower, rakes and shovels. If you find yourself outside in -20 degrees Fahrenheit weather, chipping your car out of a 4” thick block of ice, you need to clean out the frickin’ garage.

One area in which Kondo and I are in total agreement is the “worry about your own shit” dictum. (I paraphrased.)  Your partner is completely within bounds if, when you insist she get rid of the broken down wheelbarrow, the toboggan that just needs wax and a some light carpentry, and a 10’ deep stack of dingy green industrial storage bins full of god-knows-what, she insists you reduce the number of junk drawers in the house from 15 to 10. Fair is fair.

5. Be grateful for the lessons.

This crap you’re getting rid of; Kondo says even if it wasn’t a “happy thing,” you need to thank every item you are letting go of and appreciate each for giving you an experience. I tripped running up some steps a couple of years ago when my sandal went one way and my foot the other. I did not thank the stairs or appreciate the footwear for the experience. I MOTHERFUCK!!!ed both of them all the way to the emergency room.

Kondo’s exercise is designed to help us learn about ourselves. What do you what to know? You’re a hoarder. Be grateful someone hasn’t already called the Department of Health and Housing on your untidy ass.

If all else fails, pour a bath or a glass of wine and relax. The thing about messes is that they will be there tomorrow. Wanna know what optimism really is? It’s learning to appreciate that the mess will be there tomorrow because today you have more important things to worry about than color-coding your bras. Today, the dog needs walking, your soul needs feeding and your friends need face time with you. That’s where the joy is.


(Since I have sworn off Facebook, I sure would appreciate it if you’d share the blog on social media, assuming doing so wouldn’t embarrass you by association. So…thanks!)

Share this: