Channel Marie Kondo & re-gift your cr*p this festive season

De-clutter your home and score points with your loved ones at the same time. Remember: one man's trash is another man's Christmas present

15 December 2019 - 00:00
The queen of tidying, Marie Kondo.
The queen of tidying, Marie Kondo.
Image: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

"The true purpose of a present is to be received," writes Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, her thrilling and trendsetting bestseller that sparked a Netflix series. It's one of the most profound things I've ever come across in a self-help book. The 5 Languages of Love? For who? The Secret? What secret? The "true purposes of a present is to be received" - now that's something I helped myself to very, very quickly.

Last year my wife made me spend a large portion of our weekends trying out new things: flotation tanks, Tarot card readings, recessed memory therapy what-whats. Before you make assumptions about whether my wife is a weird pepper-eating hippie who bathes once a year in a pond she might just happen upon, let me clarify, she is not.

I was committed to doing all of this with her for research for her book: Self-Helpless:
A Cynic's Search for Meaning. I hated everything except the Marie Kondo experiment where I finally got to live out my dream: throw everything in the apartment out and cut down on crap. A lot. And that "everything" included a lot of gifts.

If you go through your home you'll be surprised at the number of knick-knacks you have that serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever or that you will never use. Yet, you hold onto them because of guilt. Because someone you love or who loves you has spent time thinking about you enough to go out and make or get you a present. Sometimes it's for your birthday, sometimes it's just for soema, but most times, it's for Christmas — the ultimate gift-giving season. Which essentially means January starts off with a home filled with Clicks soaps, scented candles and gimmicky stress-ball type things.

Because I have OCD, I had all these trinkets tucked away in a storage basket. But, even though they were hidden away and neatly packed, they ate away at the part of my brain that firmly believes, much like Kondo, that you should only keep the things you use. But the guilt, oh the guilt.

That is until Kondo came through with the cancel-culture I'd been waiting my whole life to hear: if you try using an item that you've received and it doesn't suit you, thank it for the joy it brought you when you received it, and bid it farewell. A gift's main purpose, Kondo writes, is to be received, because it's a way that people show their feelings for you.

That's it. That's all you have to do with the little lemon zester you'll never use. Remember that it meant something to you when you received it. Remember that giving it to you meant something to the gifter, be grateful for both those things, and then let it go along with the guilt.

But what do you do with them?

The obvious thing is to re-gift. But I'm also a firm believer in re-gifting only if you know the person well enough to know they will truly find use and pleasure in the gift or, alternatively, re-gift if it's something that sparks joy for you. And let's be honest, if receiving the gift brought you a lot of joy, you'd keep it. So here's what I do - I hand over a box of prezzies to the SPCA. A couple of times a year, they have jumble sales or raffles where they use all the donated items they receive from the good citizens of surrounding towns.

I've no idea whether that kitten and mom pair who were found abandoned in the nearest drain are really going to use that Oh So Heavenly lavender flavoured body talc they won at the Thursday night Bingo sesh, but I live in hope. Perhaps on a day when the ammonia disinfectant smell is particularly pungent, the scent of that body powder will spark a paw-sitive, unabashed sense of joy.