The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up… the Bookstore Basement

Elizabeth Bluemle - August 22, 2016

We at the Flying Pig, like most of the clutter-bound world, *love* Marie Kondo’s brilliant little bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Kondo’s approach is so simple it’s foolproof: put your hands on everything, keep what sparks joy, and give the rest of your stuff a new life elsewhere. Care gently for what’s left, give it space and appreciation, and you will have a restful, clean, happy space around you.
Obviously, there’s more to the book and philosophy than outlined above, but the tenets above are at the heart of the book, and several of us on staff have, if not completely transformed our living spaces, at least made many changes in our homes as a result of this little book. I couldn’t help thinking of Marie Kondo as five staff members and I delved into the basement storage at the bookstore. We should appreciate this space; it’s almost as large as our store. But of course that’s a bit of a curse as well as a blessing, since it allows us to accumulate and save items we really should be dispatching.
The basement holds not only ten years’ worth of off-season holiday merchandise, non-returnable books, extra gift wrap, currently unused display cases, shelves, and spinners, promotional items deemed worthy of saving, store decorations, helium tanks for balloons, things we’re saving for teachers, flying pigs we’ve been given over the years that are either too bulky or too fragile to display on a daily basis up in the store, extra tables and chairs, bulky office supplies, and ARCs from seasons past, and past records from the store’s 20 years of bookselling, but overstock books and cartons of books that we don’t immediately need upstairs.
It’s a treasure trove that mice occasionally invade, especially because of the restaurant in our building, so we put as many things as possible in plastic tubs, odd-sized things wrapped in sealed plastic bags. Cardboard boxes are vulnerable, as are dark corners of the basement. I’d bought gloves and dust masks for everyone. We went through the entire pack of 25 gloves. (Yes, 25. It’s bizarre. Why would anyone sell an odd number of nitrile gloves??) No one opted for the masks. I don’t blame them; they’re hot and claustrophobic.
As we were cleaning, I couldn’t help inventing variations on Marie Kondo’s key question, “Does it spark joy?” “Does it spark terror?” I’d ask myself and staff. “Does it smell of mouse pee?” Fortunately, we didn’t have to answer “yes” too many times. But a few are a few too many. Eek!
I know you probably want before and after pictures, but I’m going to hide our clutter behind my Vermont friend and organizing guru, Porter Knight’s, words from her website:

“The internal transformation is more important than external appearances. Getting organized is about improving your decision-making capacity and exercising discipline to actually make decisions. A picture doesn’t capture this internal learning. A picture only shows how things look; an “after” picture doesn’t give you insight into a client’s improvement. What matters is that the client experiences a breakthrough in their own ability to make decisions and be productive in pursuit of their goals.

“We must also make an unexpected point about neatness: “Neat” and “organized” are not synonymous, though neat can often be a product of the organizing process.”

I think we can definitely claim success at decision-making and productivity. After a long day’s effort, our basement is much neater than before. We can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel toward productive, active use of that space and a release of many things that were holding us back.
Of course, we didn’t get to the (much smaller and mouse-free) store office, which had been our original goal for the day, but we made a start up there, too.
It was very funny to find, in a tub of out-of-print picture books to sort through, this very appropriate title:

2 thoughts on “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up… the Bookstore Basement

  1. Richard

    Thanks for the timely information , now if I can actually do it ( maybe Tomorrow ). My storage of books for the store grew by 6000 last week and there is no room…

  2. Carol B. Chittenden

    There’s Mouse Cleaning and mouse cleaning. One Thanksgiving Day (having no alternative, and two free hours) I reorganized the display materials in the basement at Eight Cousins. There, at the back of a deep bottom shelf, I found the remains of some ears of indian corn that had been part of a fall window theme several years previously — and since been enjoyed at length by one or more very contented mice.
    When it was time to prepare to sell the store and place a value on the tangible assets, I was very glad that the basement was no longer the chaotic pit it had been years before, all topped with an inflatable kayak known in house as Das Boot.
    So your encouragement to proceed with serious sorting is good advice. However, Porter Knight’s views to the contrary notwithstanding, please post a photo fo the After!


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