Dreams of unfussy, Architectural Digest-worthy interiors where empty space is the prevailing décor swirled through my brain upon first reading Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I'd always been in awe of big, bright, and airy spaces as a kid, and in retrospect I'm pretty sure it was because the homes in which I was brought up were anything but. The grass is always greener. I lived in a modest '70s-inspired home that had a perpetual den feel, accented by a beige shag carpet, orange velvet chairs, and a wall unit with as many media, photo books, records, CDs, tapes, and more as would fit. Embarrassing amounts of toys, pogs, gadgets, Furbys, and electronics were stowed away in my closet because I had to have them, not because I wanted to use them. Call it the collector's curse. When we moved to an even smaller (if not more functional) home in Connecticut; the clutter accumulation continued. I always tried to figure out why, and in the end after arguing tooth and nail with my mom, who'd frown upon my efforts to organize our space, simply enjoyed being among her things.
I now realize that my mother and I have very different tastes (sorry, Mom). For me, and I'm sure many others, Tidying Up didn't just promise a new aesthetic: It was a deep-reaching affirmation of the décor dreams I didn't even know I had. Finally free from the shackles of my clutterful past, Kondo gave me permission to do what I'd always wanted to do: discard relentlessly. Marie Kondo did in fact change my life. On most days, I maintain that it's all for the best. The problem? Like any new habit—trendy meal plans, new workout regimes, or even social media—too much of a good thing is rarely actually a good thing.
Cue the decluttering madness. Once I started to purge, I couldn't look at a single thing without asking myself whether it brought me joy in the moment. That's where I went wrong: instead of sticking to Kondo's one-day rule, I made decluttering a lifestyle, and my answer to the "joy" question largely depended on the mood I was in.
Sacrificing authenticity for the sake of a specific aesthetic or adhering to a method, while it felt joyful in the present, wasn't contributing to long-term happiness. Of course there is a time and place for decluttering, always. You shouldn't feel buried under your stuff. But one of life's little joys is to walk into someone's home for the first time and see their story. Autobiographical home décor is far more interesting than a super-minimal interior devoid of warmth and personality. To be clear, I'm advocating for a more intentional and less pressured way of living that allows for expansiveness and expression. Since doing a major overhaul in 2015 and redecorating my home, here's what I wish I hadn't discarded: