Secondhand News: In the age of ‘KonMari,’ furloughed residents find solace in purging closets

Hyattsville resident and government employee Meredith Muth filled her front lawn and first floor with giveaways. She claims she has never seen the Netfix series, ‘Tidying Up.’ Photo by Lauren Flynn Kelly

By LAUREN FLYNN KELLY — The people at Netflix wisely uploaded the bingeworthy home show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” at the start of the new year, when so many resolve to live more minimally. But what they may not have expected was an audience of furloughed government workers, many living right here in Hyattsville, looking for no-cost ways to spend a government shutdown with no clear end date.

If you’re not familiar with Kondo’s new series or the “KonMari” method made famous by her two-best selling books, the professional organizer wants you to do two seemingly simple things: take stock of your belongings and say good-bye to the things that don’t “spark joy.” Over roughly a 30-day period, the people featured in the show appear to have life-changing experiences by discovering they have 300 reusable shopping bags or Christmas decorations they’ve never even seen before.

In recent weeks, our local listservs and Facebook groups have been blowing up with offers of everything from old clothing and shoes to knee braces and scuba gear. And I can’t help but think there’s a connection between New Year’s resolutions, sparking joy and the shutdown. So I asked some of our residents who are on furlough why they’re focusing their energies on purging their closets rather than hitting furlough-themed happy hours (which, duh, still cost money).

“It’s too uncertain to spend money on entertainment or things you don’t really need. We can’t really go away or plan ahead because we don’t know when it will end, so you end up doing a lot of ridiculous things to keep busy and feel productive since you can’t work,” said Justine Christianson, who was thisclose to vacuuming salt off her spice shelf.

“My husband is a furloughed fed, and he’s purging stuff because I suggested to him it was time to clean the extra crap, I mean treasures, out of our son’s room so that we could one day hope to vacuum again. Good times!” said a sarcastic Laura Usher.

During the third week of the shutdown, Meredith Muth managed to fill her entire living room with items she posted on the Facebook group Hyattsville Barter & Trade. But she swore to the HL&T that she hasn’t seen “Tidying Up,” and that the extra time just gave her a chance to finally clean out her attic.

“I am finding this ‘cleaning out’ process to be somewhat rewarding, somewhat bittersweet and somewhat a very powerful reflection opportunity,” said Muth. “I am touching things that may be just junk to others, but actually reflect decades of memories, adventures and trials that brought me to where I am today. I think I spent five minutes just holding and looking at an old pair of dirty Tevas that have walked with me on four continents.”

I hope she thanked those sandals for their service, as Kondo would have her do.

“In this age of excessive stuff, it’s a therapeutic hobby to purge, very satisfying,” weighed in Jessica Butts, another government employee. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I tried to give away up to 10 pink sweaters at once!”

Furloughed Hyattsvillager Monica Elizabeth Gorman added that she has used the time for a deep clean. “The shutdown coincided with the new year, so there’s a lot of resolution purging,” she observed. “I’m doing the Apartment Therapy January Cure and it’s been nice to have enough time to clean things really thoroughly. I washed the outside of my bedroom windows for the first time in my life, and it really makes a difference!”

So what will residents do with all the space now that they’ve unloaded their belongings on their neighbors? “Walk in it without tripping!” joked Gorman.

All joking aside, I hope for the sake of all our neighbors that the shutdown ends soon, and that when you do return to your clean homes at the end of a workday, they spark joy.

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