Karl the Curmudgeon Is Not a Fan of Marie Kondo

"Kid, do you think my house is messy?"

I choked on my beer and coughed a few times. I'm sorry? I said.

"My house. Is it messy?"

Messy is such a loaded word. . .

"Oh, come on, Kid, you won't hurt my feelings," Karl said. We were at First Editions, our favorite literary-themed bar, listening to a friend read from her anthology about how people found their pets.

Well — I racked my brain for the right word — yes.

"What do you mean, 'yes?'" demanded Karl.

I mean, yes, your house is messy, Messy. Karl hunched over his beer. Oh, come on, I said, don't pout, you wanted the truth. What did you expect me to say?

"I thought you'd at least be on my side," said Karl.

How can you have a side when it comes to your—ohhhhh, I said, realization dawning.

"Yep, she's on a rampage."

'She' was Karl's youngest daughter, Alexis, the organic vegan anti-chemical evangelist with a degree in Gender Studies who had been living with him for the last six years. She had been the assistant manager at the Pay-What-The-Universe-Invites coffee co-op until recently when the universe and their landlord had invited them to move out for non-payment of rent.

So she decided to go back for her MBA, and was bingeing Netflix while she waited for the school year to begin. Her latest favorite was "Tidying Up With Marie Kondo," the Japanese decluttering guru who tells people how to get rid of all their crap.

The MariKondo method helps you declutter your house by getting rid of any items that fail to bring you joy. You're supposed to hold each item and ask yourself if the item sparks joy inside you. If it doesn't, then you thank the item for its service, and donate, recycle, or trash it.

So what's she doing? I asked. I gestured to Kurt for two more beers while Karl still pouted, I mouthed 'he's buying,' and Kurt set the beers in front of us. He smiled and tapped the side of his nose.

"She's ruining my house," said Karl. "She's already gotten rid of 12 of my favorite coffee mugs."

How many do you have left?

"Just 23," said Karl.

You had 35 coffee mugs? I nearly shouted. My friend glared at me from the stage and several people nearby shushed us.

"No, 35 favorites. And now she's going after my plates and bowls."

Karl, I've eaten at your house. You have so many plates, you couldn't go through them in a month of Sundays. The two of you could easily survive on a set of eight plates and bowls.

"But she's not even giving me time to adjust. Last night, she was grilling me about plate joy or some nonsense, so I finished dinner in my study. When I got up this morning, she had put all the plates in a box in the garage."

What did you do? I asked.

"Put 'em all back."

So is she finished? I asked.

"No, she yelled at me over breakfast for putting my plates back and said she was going to dump them all when she got home tonight."

Well, you do have a lot of stuff. You've lived in your house for 30 years, and you're not one for throwing things away.

"Yeah, but it's all important stuff."

Is it though? I mean, your study is lined with bookshelves and they're all double-stacked with books, plus more books on top of those rows. You've got piles of magazines all over the office, and your stacks of mail look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Plus you've got two big piles of books near your desk—

"That's my 'to read' pile," said Karl.

I remember when it was just one big pile, I said. I also noticed my book is still in there, by the way.

"I'll get to it," said Karl. "In fact, I'll read it next."

You said that two years ago.

"I've been busy, and people keep recommending books to me."

You said that two years ago too. I finished my the last of my beer. Look, Karl, I said, I don't think decluttering is such a bad thing. I mean, I try to keep my office and my garage fairly organized, I don't collect every single thing that crosses my path, and I only focus on holding onto the essentials. Marie Kondo's method is all about alleviating anxiety by getting rid of things that cause you stress.

"So you think I should kick Alexis out?"

I am NOT saying that at all! People shushed me again, and a woman reading a story about her tortoise stumbled as she got distracted. She wants you to be able to focus on your work, and to not be so miserable or unhappy with all this junk cluttering up your brain. She only wants the best for you because she loves you, Karl.

"She wants me to get rid of half my books this weekend."

Your daughter is a monster, and she must be stopped.

The 3rd edition of Branding Yourself is now available on Amazon.com and in your local Barnes & Noble bookstore.