Bookish Thoughts: The Value of Discarding


There were some stand-out quotes and ideas from the book “The Art of Discarding: how to get rid of clutter and find joy” by Nagisa Tatsumi that did not fit in with my review format, so I decided to make my perusal of this text into a mini-series. For this post I will be pulling lines from the book and discussing my thoughts on them.

“It feels good to have things you like around you.”

I think this is what influenced Marie Kondo’s belief of items sparking joy. The Art of Discarding focusses on getting rid of things and figuring out why we feel guilty in doing so rather than taking joy in creating a clutter-free space. Using the KonMari method puts an emphasis on the decision to keep only what makes us happy so that we are surrounded by only what we love, and adds a more positive element to the act of discarding that Tatsumi missed expanding on.

Let the task of disposal be an opportunity to reflect on the real value of your possessions. Thinking about why you’ve got them will help give you a sense of why they have a hold on you.”

This “task of disposal” isn’t necessarily the actual act of getting rid of something, but rather the process of deciding what stays and what goes. You may immediately know when something has great value to you and of course you will keep it, but other items require more thought. By debating an object’s worth to you, figuring out how an item came into your possession and why you still have it, you can more easily make a decision about disposing it. And by going through everything you own , discarding everything you don’t want, you will have the knowledge of always being surrounded by things you value.

I think Marie Kondo’s habit of thanking items being discarded is meant to help with the feeling of guilt that takes hold when we try to get rid of something. It invokes Tatsumi’s reflections, but follows through with a means to give closure. We consider the item’s usefulness, appreciate all it has done, and then set it free —both the item and our burden.

“Keeping something because it would be a waste to get rid of it is a kind of torture.”

Being enclosed by things we never use is just as stressful, if not more so, as dealing with that sense of waste quickly. Our homes are supposed to be relaxing, but tripping over things or constantly having to dust items we don’t even like or never being able to find where we’ve put something just adds more and more unnecessary aggravation.

The truth is, you will likely forget about the item(s) you tossed last month, whereas the daily reminder of seeing something just sitting there on your shelf is constant. You are, in essence, torturing yourself. You need to understand that you don’t waste your money any less by are allowing the object to remain in your possession but go unused; you would be better to donate it so the item itself doesn’t go to waste.

“You may intend to put something in a place temporarily, but once it is there the chances are you’ll never move it. Even if the place is unsuitable.”

I am very guilty of procrastination, of not knowing what to do with something, and deciding to deal with it another day. The problem with this is you find yourself with a box of junk you could have gotten rid of a year ago taking up space, or now have to find homes for everything that was in the box.

After spending a month sorting through stored miscellanea, I have realized it is far better to just do it right away. Figure out exactly where you want something to go and put it there —be it in the garbage, on a kitchen shelf, etc. If there is no room where you want to put it, figure out what you can toss so the new item has a home. It is a lot easier to tidy up small things for a few minutes here and there than to do it all at once when the clutter makes you have a mental breakdown.

“To stop seeing things as sacred you have to tell yourself one thing: when I am dead, it will be trash. You can let the floor collapse under the weight of books, but when you die… your books will be bought up as a job lot by a second-hand bookshop. Wouldn’t it be better to clear things out instead and enjoy a clutter-free life while you can?”

This generalization of everything basically being trash is something I don’t quite agree with, particularly as the author used books in one of her examples of this. I do get the necessity of not placing too much importance on everyday objects as it can create reasons to keep everything no matter what it is. So repurposing the idea as a question when trying to decide if something can be discarded — “If I die, will it be thrown out or considered a keepsake?”—  is a good one. However, in itself, it is not a valid reason to discard your “sacred” possessions.

I don’t think friends or family will want to keep my entire book collection intact, and fully understand a good portion will be donated to an opportunity shop should I die. What needs to be considered is how much I love my books and just knowing they are there makes me happy. So, no, it would not be better to get rid of them now because their loss would decrease my joy rather than add to it.

“If you have it, use it. If you don’t use it, don’t have it.”

This is a great idea, because everything you own will not be wasting away on a shelf and essentially saves you money. I’m not saying to allow your toddler to eat off the good china, but why have “special occasion” dishes that you only use twice year and require storage while also having everyday dishes? It makes more sense to just have one set of dishes that you love and use them all the time. Giving something a special status brings you back to that whole allowing items go to waste through a lack of use, so stop storing things and just start using thing. If you have no use for it, then there is no point in it taking up valuable space.

“The first step in any effective approach to storage or organization is disposal.”

If you have tidied up an area but it still looks messy, then you probably have too much stuff and didn’t really consider each object’s use. Personally, I have a terrible tendency to not look through my things and just neaten up the piles when I really should be sorting through what can be discarded. If all the things you need and love have a designated location, you won’t need to implement any organization/storage strategies. You won’t need to spend money on so-called “easy” solutions or remember random methodology of experts, everything will just have a place in your space.

“…because of the pain you’ve experienced discarding things you’ll begin to hesitate before buying new things too readily – Eriko Yamazaki, An Economical Life”

Tatsumi pulled a quote from another writer that has a basis in both her own practice and the KonMari method. The thought is that by having to go through all your belongings, assessing them and deciding what to do with them, then dealing with that feeling of wastefulness you will think twice about what you bring into your home. The reason why you have to complete the whole process yourself, is so that you don’t perpetuate the problem. Every time you have to analyze your belongings and work through your fear of waste, you fine-tune your decision making abilities.

Did you find any of these quotes thought-provoking? Give me your opinion!
Stay tuned for the Tatsumi’s top ten list of ways to declutter!


Author: JaimeKristal

JaimeKristal is a freelance editor and writer. She started her book review blog "Tales of a Booklover" for the enjoyment of sharing her love of reading, writing, and editing.

One thought on “Bookish Thoughts: The Value of Discarding”

  1. I feel oddly good discarding things once I start, but those first 2-3 things in the discard pile are difficult! Also yes, I really struggle with putting things temporarily away but not getting rid of them after, sigh. Big mess for me!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s