Editing is the key to happiness

By Dennis Hinkamp

Tidy is such a passive word. You can’t ruthlessly tidy but you can ruthlessly edit. Tidy is the new word that goes with the Marie Kondo cult. There is nothing wrong with her philosophy. We all aspire to clean out the garage and junk drawer…someday. We share the dream of filing our taxes early and digitizing those 5,000 Ektachrome slides we inherited.

Just as often, I dream of arson or a climatic act of god that will make the tidy decision for me. As long as I have our insurance up to date and we get out of the house with the dog, I would not be entirely sad about hitting the reset button on our possessions.

To be fair, Maria Kondo is a pretty ruthless businessperson with a sales pitch of getting rid of stuff that you already bought because of someone else’s sales pitch. It is the inverse, mind meld Zen of anti-consumerism and Amazon returns. On her Netflix series she actually kneels and says a little prayer in the pre-tidy homes she takes on. That is pretty brilliant because all she is selling is her philosophy; sort of like the Seven Habits guy. The Chicken Soup for the [Fill In The Blank] Soul guy seems to have fallen out a favor. I thank vegans and animal rights activists.

Kondo’s checklist is relatively straightforward for inhabitants of first world countries. You tidy in this order: clothes, books, paper, komono (miscellaneous Items) and sentimental items. I’m imagining people in second, third, fourth world countries and homeless shelters saying, “You have clothes and books? We just want some tidy food.”

Having a category with an exotic name (komono, not to be confused with the giant human- eating dragon) that translates to miscellaneous seems a bit of a cheat. Long haul moving companies refer to miscellaneous as “chowder”— the stuff that resides in the hellish, indecisive limbo between dumpster and garage sale.

The verb “edit” seems more straightforward to me since I have spent most of my life manipulating words. On a daily basis I edit words, video, audio, email and anything else that gets in my way. Editing feels good, even if it is just electrons. Editing can be angry, arrogant or gentle. You have to negotiate between competing egos.

Not all editing is necessary; not all clutter is bad. Material clutter is what keeps Deseret Industries and thrift stores in business. Deseret Industries provides jobs, hours of entertainment and holiday costumes to millions. It also keeps you humble by introducing you to people who really need to shop there. Not far behind are dollar stores and their edgy best-used-by-date products. Who doesn’t appreciate vintage tuna?

I like the old En Vogue anthem, “Free your mind and the rest will follow.” If you can tidy/edit your mind, the rest will follow. Can you edit out those past relationships, perceived slights and grudges that visit you in your pre-waking hours? It has got to be the next big thing. Heck, we are editing animal and plant genes right now. It can’t be too much of a techno advance to ask someone to “edit out stepdad and while you’re there that really embarrassing thing when I was 16.”

Mental clutter can be a good thing. It is what keeps you from focusing on the real politics, death and taxes. Reality can be too stark and tidy.

Dennis Hinkamp turned 63 recently and has a lot more to edit from his timeline than you younger folks.

This article was originally published on February 28, 2019.