Can This Marriage Be Saved?

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Some time ago, when the world seemed to be a more ordered place, there was a proliferation of magazines aimed at the modern woman. In Canada, “the” magazine of record was Chatelaine, while in the United States Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal filled the newsstands and mailboxes of the nation.

 For over 30 years, Ladies’ Home Journal had a trademark monthly feature called “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” where noted marriage counsellors and psychologists would weigh in on one couple’s current marital problems or plight.

A few years ago, Frank and I had our own “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” moment, although we didn’t actually recognize it at the time. 

Without too much thought or deep deliberation, we casually agreed to quit giving each other gifts on special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas. The loose agreement didn’t mean that we couldn’t give presents; it just meant we didn’t have to.

I am a notoriously difficult person to choose and buy for. When queried, it’s almost impossible for me to name anything I’m pining to have — well, except quality chocolate. Frank is usually less problematic as he always has a wish list (usually involving music) and yes, he loves iTunes cash.

After we went this non-obligatory route, I think both of us felt a lot lighter and less burdened. No longer was there guilt and worry associated with “mandatory” gift giving, but spontaneous gift giving became fun again. Sometimes we’ve even managed to migrate a birthday gift to someone else who was needier than either of us.

All of this segues rather nicely into the flurry of recent news and attention regarding the Japanese organizational guru and her philosophy of minimalism. When The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up digitally arrived on Book Bub for $1.99, followed by a reality series on Netflix, I was a goner. I needed to know what the big deal was.

After reading the book and streaming the child-size, child-like Kondo to my iPad through several tidying-up episodes, I haven’t really changed my mind that she’s probably just “bat-shit crazy” as suggested by a reviewer on Goodreads.

But underneath that well-mannered, courteous search for the items in your life that spark joy, Marie Kondo’s obsessional perfectionism does have a point. She may have been tidying up in utero, but the concept of simplifying the things in our lives that we need, want or love is a worthy one. When there’s a modicum of order in our day-to-day, we all feel more in control – and you never need to fret about finding your car keys again.

While I believe that everyone deserves a junk drawer of their own, and the right to keep what is personally meaningful in it, I also think for the good of the planet that we all need to reconsider our consumption of “stuff” and to decide where it fits on the continuum from need to want.

Strangely and inadvertently, I started making some of my choices a long time ago when in a feminist hissy fit, I cancelled my decades-long subscription to Chatelaine (along with gift subscriptions to my mother and sister). Somewhere along the way the magazine was no longer in synch with the values that I believed in, no matter how much editor Rona Maynard protested.

Perhaps Marie Kondo is onto something, but I wouldn’t count on it. There’s another new self-storage facility sprouting up on Highway 1, where there are already too many others to count.