Keeping it clean: spark joy by chucking out the clutter - even your books

When Rebecca Davis decided to quit drinking, she made it her mission to find 'alternative' options to stay sane in an insane world. Here's Part IX of our conversation with her about this arduous odyssey

13 June 2019 - 10:00 By Mila de Villiers
Rebecca Davis, author of 'Self-Helpless'.
Rebecca Davis, author of 'Self-Helpless'.
Image: Leila Dougan

Think "Rebecca Davis".

Adjectives including "SA's very best white" (merci for that one, Marianne Thamm), "award-winning journalist" and "the woman who puts the 'wit' in Twitter" ought to be conjured.

But "self-help author"?

If "nah, bru" is your initial response, not to worry - this born cynic would agree hands down.

Self-Helpless - Davis's latest contribution to the local literary scene which chronicles her year-long "journey" of immersing herself in the world of auras, chakras, sweat lodges, mindfulness and (much) more - was spurred when she resolved to undertake "one of the most difficult things I've ever done": Quit Drinking.

'Self-Helpless: A Cynic's Search for Sanity'.
'Self-Helpless: A Cynic's Search for Sanity'.
Image: Pan Macmillan

Intrigued as to why the struggle was so onerous? Take a look at the facts:

The former Rhodent (all together now: "eat, sleep, mare, repeat!") discovered alcohol at 18 and pursued her newfound hobby with such a "passionate intensity" that by the time she reached 34 she calculated that she had spent roughly 9,984 hours of her 16 years as dopper, well, drinking.

Abstaining from the Demon Drink made Davis question How. The. Hell. sober people cope with an increasingly insane world?

(And she has plenty to worry about - giraffes are facing extinction, Day Zero remains a shaky reality, the world is running out of sand... Things are even bleaker now than in '87, R.E.M.)

Cue the alternative method quest to stay sane inside insanity.

Keen to hear how that went down?

Take a deep breath ... Hold for three ... Exhale ...

Aaaaand read:

When the guru of decluttering makes you chuck books*

(*and you're - gasp! -  totally fine about getting rid of that sh*t)

A chapter in Self-Helpless details Davis's foray into the world of decluttering.


"Decluttering" entails paring down your life and the guru thereof is the bestselling author, now-famous star of her own Netflix show, and Twitter's favourite red-carpet celeb at the 2k19 Oscars, Marie Kondo.

Kondo built her empire around the philosophy of ridding oneself of objects in your immediate surrounds which don't "spark joy". 

(Basically you walk around your place, look at a thing, and upon asking yourself whether said thing "sparks joy" and the answer is "no", sorry my china - away with thee.)

And not even books (!) are exempt from Kondo's credo.

In between pensive sips of her coffee, Davis concurs that "Ja, it's a shocker ...

"She writes in her book [The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up] that you need to approach books, unfortunately, with the same ruthless attitude that you do your other possessions when you're paring down your life."

This was a bitter pill to swallow for Davis, yet - upon examining her own bookshelves - she realised that why yes, she does own books which don't incite a feeling of joy.

"And I found that the act of chucking out books that I finally came to terms with that I would never read ... there was something very liberating about that because I think we all have those books.

"Particularly, you know, prize winners, long books, one day I will definitely read this," she says, pronouncing "definitely" in a mockingly convincing tone.

"For now, this YOU magazine will do just fine. I'm just getting rid of all that sh*t," she nonchalantly shrugs. 

Davis also dismisses how precious we are about books by automatically thinking that reading a book is superior to watching TV. "It just isn't true a lot of the time," she levels.

"You should see some of the sh*t I read, like trashy detective thrillers. There's no way that is a higher form of art than some of the great dramas on TV these days."

We shouldn't be treating books in this kind of rarefied sense compared to other possessions, she furthers. "I mean if you're going to treat any possessions like that, I agree - let it be books. But just get rid of that sh*t! Chuck those books you're never going to read!" she ardently states.

"Do it. Life's short," Davis continues, before concluding her sentence with a casually raised eyebrow and stoic "Yolo".

(Millennial game = 100 emoji).

Stay tuned for Part X: Bidding adieu to novelty slogan t-shirts.