The morning I began worrying that my neighbors would call animal control reporting a strange, decaying smell from next door, I knew it was time. The old produce and strange condiments stockpiled in my refrigerator needed to go.
My inspiration for this monumental undertaking? Marie Kondo, Japanese cleaning consultant and recent lifestyle phenomenon. She preaches the importance of getting rid of all unnecessary items. Her motto is "throw everything away," not "take all the things out of your house and give them to me," so I figure I must truly believe this since there's no self-benefit. Unless you count the deluge of money she makes from her international best seller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Kondo founded the KonMari method, which begins (in bold) with "Start by discarding. Then organize your space, thoroughly completely, in one go." Her name is becoming a verb in the self-help sphere, which I'm actually OK with. Yo, I Kondo-ed that laundry mountain yesterday! reads exponentially more cool than I spent my Saturday night reading comics at the Laundromat. The method sounded without a doubt like the purge my refrigerator so badly needed. So I loaded up on giant garbage bags and ample gloves from the office and made aggressive iCal reminders so that I couldn't back out.
The actual act of clearing out led to a lot of self-questioning. Do I need the half tablespoon of Dijon mustard in a baby food-size Tupperware? Do I need the failed pickled turnip experiment that I've been pushing progressively deeper into the void? And then there was the can of cheap beer my neighbor (from last year's apartment) knocked on my door to give me (without reason) one night. Her kind, unexplained gesture made me feel not so alone, and I kept it even though I knew I'd likely never drink it, because, duh, liquid from a stranger. As a proud hoarder, I believe anyone who can toss childhood relics without a care to have a small piece of soul missing. A sketchy can of beer is a far cry from a prom dress, but still.
But I reminded myself that I was breathing through my mouth because it smelled so bad, stiffened up and threw everything away.
It took the better part of two hours due to sheer mass, in large part from an overambitious summer CSA I thought I could handle on my own. I found five ears of corn. In January. They didn't look that gross, though, or at least were hiding their true colors inside the husks. The eggplants, however, were a different story—four months of neglect turns them into squishy, unrecognizable orbs that turn to goop when you try to pick them up.
When I got to the crisper drawer, I had to haul the whole thing downstairs and dump it in the garbage bin. The loiterers outside the busy bar on my New York street corner looked nonplussed and said nothing, as New Yorkers do.
Three garbage runs and nine pairs of gloves later, I was done. And I felt better, knowing I'd also discarded of the slovenly part of me that'd been putting off what I knew was necessary for months. Should you do it, too? I think we need Marie Kondo telling us to do this, because our parents are no longer knocking on the door every five minutes, risking a backlash of teenage lip just to pleasantly remind us to "clean your room right now, young lady, or you're grounded for a month." Kondo is the mother telling us to do things, but she does it in complete silence, permanently smiling up from the cover of her book. She can humble-brag and get away with it ("I never tidy my room. Why? Because it's already tidy"), because she is superior with her cleanly ways.
So even if you don't subscribe to the full "purge your house of any and every object" credo, clean your refrigerator. Soon. It was definitely the move. I don't miss having to mouth-breathe every time I open the fridge for a snack. I don't miss the mustard; I don't even like mustard. And I definitely don't miss the can of unidentified beer.
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