Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is city editor of the Napa Valley Register.

The new Netflix series, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” has the power of revelation.

American families invite Kondo, the chipper Japanese guru of decluttering, into their homes for top-to-bottom cleanses. What follows is reality TV of the best sort. Lives are changed ... for the better!

After viewing two episodes, I wanted to test the KonMari method. Admittedly, I am not the perfect candidate. Most people accumulate far more stuff than I.

Cheryl, a better candidate, wasn’t interested just yet, so I went solo last Sunday. I committed two hours to shaping up my dresser.

Per Kondo, I emptied all five drawers onto the carpet, creating a heap of shirts, socks, shorts and odds and ends, most of which I never wear because they lie hidden beneath my favs.

In the corners of several drawers also lay personal memorabilia. I unearthed a cache of envelopes more than 30 years old containing my children’s baby teeth, my long lost Swiss Army knife, a wrapped sugar cube from Les Deux Magots cafe in Paris, two passport pouches, my “four gallon” donor pin from the blood bank, stick matches from practically every non-Napa restaurant I’ve ever patronized and my divorce papers.

Kondo suggests that we bring order to our homes by keeping only things that spark “joy.” With that principle in mind, I went at it.

First my socks. I counted 40 pairs, 30 of which I NEVER wear, include one with non-slip glue dots on the bottom, a gift from Queen of the Valley. Being socks, only a few bring joy. But I had the room so I decided to keep all but one pair with worn elastic. I handed off three orphans to Cheryl, hoping she could find their matches.

My underwear drawer was equally boring. I already rotate. Everything went back in, folded the Courtney, not Kondo, way.

Next, my long-sleeve, collarless shirt and sweatshirt drawer. Not much going on here. Inspired by Kondo, I tossed an old jersey marred by paint splotches and a once-favorite sweatshirt with unsightly tar stains.

My most challenging drawer was next. It held my summer tops, mostly T-shirts. I had more than 40 of them jammed in there, including 17 from Turkey Trot races at Thanksgiving.

Many Turkey Trots had never been worn. Either too big or too buried. Other tees were too cool to put on lest they wear out. I speak of my Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam), my OBX (North Carolina Outer Banks), my University of Iowa where my son once taught.

I assessed my tees for practically an hour, viewing each one as an old friend. What an impossible task, deciding which ones get to stay and which ones get the heave-ho.

Still, the drawer was bursting at the seams. Yet, unless I got ruthless, I’d be making a mockery of everything Marie Kondo stands for.

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Sucking up courage, I put aside a half dozen generics for Community Projects. Cheryl popped in to claim a handful of too-large, all-cotton tees for car polishing.

If I were going to keep the remaining 33, the least I could do was fold them as Kondo prescribes and nest them like sleeping kittens so that half would be easily visible. The result was a pleasing rainbow of colors.

Finally, my bottom, catch-all drawer containing sweats, gloves, scarfs, old glasses, glasses cases, some 8x10 photos, a bizarre grape pruning knife glued to a plaque.

I choked up trying to decide what to do with my saggy college sweatpants circa 1964 with “Rutgers” printed at the waist. Freshman gym class — what memories.

Then I bit the bullet. Goodbye, Rutgers. To the trash can with you.

How did that feel? At some deep level, liberating. Thank you, Ms. Kondo.

My afternoon of tidying up ended spectacularly. In an unmarked envelope, among other envelopes addressed to the Tooth Fairy, I found two crisp $100 dollar bills and nine crisp $20s.

I have no memory of hiding this cash. Perhaps it was a gift from Kondo.

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Kevin can be reached at 707-256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or kcourtney@napanews.com.


City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.