The life changing magic of tidying up it's not what you think

The life-changing magic of tidying up [it’s not what you think]

My husband has never heard of Marie Kondo’s bestselling de-cluttering book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, let alone read it.

If he had, it’s possible that the forlorn washing machine, currently rusting around the back of his outhouse, would have been moved ages ago…

The old washing machine was donated to us by some friends who’d recently bought a new one. We were moving into our new family house and were without one. So, we gratefully accepted it.

It was supposed to be temporary, until we bought ourselves a spanking new one. Which we soon did.


I made the mistake of getting it delivered when my husband was at home. (HUGE mistake!)

He stopped the delivery guys from removing and disposing of the old one.

Apparently old washing machine parts are extremely useful…for something.

And, I’m sure they are. However, I wouldn’t know…

4 years later and the washing machine is rusting outside. Untouched, forlorn, and certainly not dissected for parts. In fact, the birds made a nest on it this year!

That machine definitely does not – in Kondo speak – ‘bring me joy’. It’s an eyesore, taking up the space in which I could put a waterproof cupboard for my gardening bits and bobs.

Paying £9 to get rid of it when its replacement arrived would have brought me joy. But, it brings my hubby joy, knowing he can re-purpose it for something, at some point. He loves it for its scrap value and the potential it offers him.

So Marie Kondo, where do I go from here?

I’m already aware that I need to get rid of it. I don’t need to spend time thanking it for its service or discovering it doesn’t bring me joy. I know this. And I certainly don’t need to put it back its place because it doesn’t have one. (Other than outside…)

My problem is convincing the Womble I live with that it needs to go, and then actually getting rid of it. But how?

It’s all very well saying keep family members away from tidying (admittedly, I should have done that, to begin with.) But, there are consequences from throwing out other peoples’ things without permission…

This requires proper magic, the sort that only logical home economic thinking can provide.

Magic of home economic thinking

The magic of home economic thinking

Despite his love of ‘useful stuff’, my husband is a very logical thinker. He’s also unlikely to be persuaded by a book about the ‘magic of tidying’, or of ‘sparking joy’.

And talking to and stroking inanimate objects, à la Kondo…? Just. Not. His. Thing.

So, what to do? I need to appeal to him rationally, logically, and hopefully, appeal to his pocket too.

For people addicted to clutter, like my other half, there are psychological hoops to jump through before disposing of items is achieved. The related decision process makes him anxious!

To be fair, I feel similarly about books. I just love them. For a writer, there’s always the possibility of needing to find a quote, an idea, a concept… the thought of throwing out the source of my inspiration appalls me!

The difference here is that I don’t buy a book ‘just in case’. I buy a book for a specific purpose. And I will happily sort them out and find them a new home once that purpose is no longer there. In contrast, my other half keeps things because they ‘may be useful’ one day.

However, this is based on faulty reasoning. And I need to expose it. To do this, I must show that the personal value we gain from getting rid of the old washing machine is far more than the value we get from keeping the old washing machine.

This is the real magic of home economic thinking.

So, the first big question is what are the benefits of keeping the machine? What value does it add?

Benefits of tidying up

What are the benefits of keeping an item?

For me, there is no benefit to keeping the washing machine. If anything, quite the opposite – it’s getting in the way of me using the space more effectively. The washing machine is no use to me now and won’t be in the future – it’s already been replaced.

As far as I’m concerned, there are 3 types of household items:

  • Useful items;
  • Sentimental items; and
  • anything else, like rusting washing machines.

Sentimental items are self-explanatory. Any item falling into the third category is for recycling, for donating, or for the tip. Easy!

However, to be useful, an item needs a purpose – a benefit.

And for my Womble, there’s one specific benefit of keeping the machine. He can break it up, which he enjoys, and sell the parts. There’s both personal enjoyment and a monetary benefit here.

However, his argument that the washing machine may be useful in the future doesn’t stand-up. This is because being ‘may be useful one day’, has no purpose.

This so-called argument highlights the folly of prediction – humans making bad guesses about the future. It’s the hoarder’s equivalent of saying, ‘I will fit into those size 8 jeans again…!’

It’s very different from storing something that you know you’ll use it again, like half a sack of compost or that bottle of fish sauce at the back of the fridge. Here, the stored item is made best use of over time, not just today.

Costs of tidying up

Assess the costs in tidying up

The first thing to note here is our sunk costs are non-existent. A sunk cost is money spent that we can’t get back. Since we never bought the machine in the first place, or paid to get it delivered, we have no sunk costs invested in the machine.

In theory, this means we avoid the sunk cost fallacy trap as there aren’t any sunk costs. The sunk cost fallacy is where you continue to do something that does not benefit you because you’re already invested in it. A good example is keeping expensive clothes you never wear because you’ve bought them! This is a sunk cost fallacy.

However, in reality, my hubby is keeping the machine simply because he has it and he thinks it’s a waste to simply get rid of it. I view the time taken to put it in its resting place and the space it uses up as sunk costs. Not to mention the eyesore it creates… Ergo, it’s another sunk cost fallacy – the storage equivalent of throwing good money after bad. It’s completely irrational! And the longer we keep the machine, the more this ‘space cost’ increases.

Opportunity costs

There is another cost worth considering. This is the opportunity cost of keeping the washing machine. This measures the cost of a choice in terms of the opportunity missed.

So, we could sell the washing machine on eBay for ££s. These ££s are the opportunity cost we’re missing out on by keeping the washing machine.

There’s also my gardening equipment cupboard to consider. 1 x kept washing machine = 0 gardening cupboard. (And 1 x nagging wife…!)

Cost of disposal

I mentioned earlier that I made the mistake of arranging for delivery of my new washing machine and the collection of the old one. This meant that my husband prevented me from paying £9 to have the old machine removed.

I’m now left with a problem. If I get rid of the machine, I’ll have to pay for someone to come and remove it because it won’t fit into my car! This won’t be cheap. Certainly far more than £9…

So, logically, from a financial viewpoint, does it now makes sense to keep hold of the machine unless we take it apart and sell the bits? Quite frankly, I’d be prepared to pay for someone to pick it up and dispose of it – that’s how badly I want to get rid of it!

But, realistically, the obvious thing to do, once again, is to break it down and sell the bits.

As money in the hand now is worth more than money in the hand in the future, it also makes sense to get rid of the old machine sooner rather than later. The time value of money lowers the future option value of the machine. (And another reason why it should have gone 4 years ago…ahem.)

Tidying up is a series of trade-offs

In a nutshell, the only real benefit to keeping the old washing machine is to break it down and sell the parts. The costs involved mean we should do this sooner rather than later too.

There’s nothing magical about tidying up. It’s simply a series of managing the trade-offs between keeping certain items and getting rid of others.

My hubby maybe a womble but he is logical.

As I write, the washing machine is being taken apart. It’s going on eBay shortly…

The life-changing magic of tidying up is not magic at all. It’s good ole’ home economic thinking.

Do you live with a hoarder? How do you deal with it? Did a book about tidying up change your life, or did you find another solution? I’d love to read your comments below.

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tidying up it's life changing magic but not how you think
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4 thoughts on “The life-changing magic of tidying up [it’s not what you think]”

  1. Emily Gray Ghauri

    Love this article, Rachael! I’ve been a Kondo fan for many years now – I LOVE creating space (which is my highest value in our little house!) and make most of my Kondo decisions based upon the question ‘do I need this item or the space more?’! Being impetuous when tidying, I think I’ve missed many opportunities to realise the monetary value of a lot of items I’ve eschewed from the house as, in the moment, my space and time were of the utmost importance. Actually, I dread to think how much £value I’ve swiftly got rid of in my urgent quest for space and order. I think, having read this brilliant little article, I will try and add the monetary value element into the decision making from now on! Saying that – if I’d had a rusting washing machine eating-up my space for a few years, I’d happily pay a LOT of money for someone to take it away!

    1. Putting a £ on things is the only way I can convince him to depart with his treasures! Luckily, the washing machine has now gone…except the drum is still loitering. Apparently, it’ll be a fire pit…fingers crossed!

  2. Pippa FitzGerald-Finch

    I know you are right, but now I feel that I shall have to wade into the back of my wardrobe and ditch those lovely dresses that I wore for performing over 30 years ago and have never worn since. Hmm. Good luck with that washing machine. Who knew that it would come to life for dyeing a shooting outfit!?

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