The Boxes in My Closet That I Just Can’t KonMari

It seems like everyone everywhere is jumping on the Kon Mari bandwagon.  My Facebook feed is full of pictures of neatly rolled and folded t-shirts and washcloths and people posting about how they threw out and donated bags upon bags of items that no longer spark joy.

I admit that I haven’t watched the show or read the book, but from what I understand Ms. Marie Kondo teaches people to improve their lives and reduce their stress levels by simplifying, de-cluttering, and overall “tidying up.”  Items that no longer spark joy or serve a purpose should not be kept.  Instead you thank the items for their service to you, and then let them go. 

A couple of weeks ago I found myself with an unexpectedly quiet house while my 3-year-old took an unusually long nap, and I decided to give a bit of the method a go.  It felt awesome.  Since Ms. Kondo encourages tidying items by category instead of location, I started on several boxes of old baby items that no longer were needed. Very quickly I prepped three large bags of items that had been appropriately thanked and were ready to be sent on to either a new owner via Goodwill or into the trash.  I moved on to papers from my grad school days, and the recycling bin got a whole new infusion of items, leaving me with a great sense of accomplishment and more room in my closet.  Since I was in my closet already, I decided to turn to three boxes on the top shelf that have sat there, untouched, for nearly two years.

I pulled the first down and opened the lid.  I sorted through some of the items, held them in my hands, turned them around, and thought about the lives they had lived.  The items in these boxes did not spark joy, and they had no real purpose. 

They were the exact type of clutter that I really should thank, package up, and let go.

But I couldn’t do it. 

After taking a deep breath, I packed those three boxes up back up and stuck them back in the back of my closet. 

You see, in those three boxes are items that are left over from my grandmother’s apartment when she passed away two years ago.  Most of the things from her life have long been passed onto other family members, given away to places that can use them, or disposed of in appropriate fashion.  But those three boxes of items–unfinished crafts, cards, a few pictures, a few letters–they remain in my closet. 

And although I know I should, I’m not ready to move them on. And maybe, just maybe…that’s okay. 

My pastor once told me that grief and grieving is hard work, and holy work.  During the process of working through grieving emotions, we have to be kind to ourselves and recognize that there is no straight or easy way to do that work.  We also have to give ourselves TIME.  More time than one wants to think is necessary.  I think those three boxes represent some of the grief work that I still have to do in this scenario.  Someday I’ll be ready to pull them down, hold those unfinished crafts, thank them for how they remind me of my grandma, and let them go. But not today. And probably not tomorrow. 

And in thinking about it, I am realizing that my first assessment of the utility of those three boxes wasn’t quite on the mark.  While the items inside may not spark joy, they are serving a purpose.  They are reminding me that grief is hard, and grief is not linear, and the hard work of grieving cannot follow anyone’s prescribed timeline. 

So for today, I’ll put the boxes back in the closet, and continue that grief work until I’m ready for the next step.


Sarah Bengtson
Sarah is a proud Iowa native who currently lives in North Liberty with her husband and 2 sons. She grew up in rural Benton county and moved to the Iowa City area in 2005 to attend graduate school at the University of Iowa in Physical Therapy. Now she balances raising two growing boys with a work as a pediatric physical therapist. Outside of work and family, Sarah loves music, playing her cello, running, baking, crochet, church activities, and cheering for the Hawkeyes and the Minnesota Vikings.


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