I used to watch Gilmore Girls with one of my friends who watched the show religiously. The reboot, “A Year in the Life”, was hit or miss for me; I didn’t care about Rory’s plot line at all. It was interesting to watch cosmopolitan millennial reality creep into the sleepy privileged small-town bubble of the Gilmore Girls world, but the grounding factor, the heart of the show, was not the “Girls”-esque casting about of Rory Gilmore, but the tragic aftermath of a mother and daughter who never got along, trying to cope with the loss of their husband and father, respectively, while the best-friendship between mother and daughter falls to the background. It’s why I both hated the show and loved it way more than the original: while Rory seemed to regress in maturity and complexity, Lorelai and Emily seemed to grow and learn even as their dynamic was, on the surface, the same.
Lorelai: [walks into her mother’s house] What what what…
Emily: [ordering around an army of domestic workers] They go outside. The boxes. [turns to Lorelai] Oh, good. Did you call?
Lorelai: D-did I-
Emily: Because today is a very bad day.
Lorelai: Mom, what on earth is going on here? Who are all these people?
Emily: Oh, that’s Berta.
Lorelai: Yeah I know Berta.
Emily: And that’s Berta’s husband… no, THAT’s Berta’s husband, that’s his brother, and I THINK those are someone’s parents.
Lorelai: And the kids?
Emily: I thought they were all hers but now I’m not sure. [picks up a jacket, regards it for a second, then tosses it aside.] No, this goes.
Lorelai: Mom, what… [exasperated] can we get a minute?
Emily: Fine. [turns to the room.] Could you all give us a minute alone? [gestures wildly with hands]
Lorelai: Mom, “alone” looks a lot like “gas”.
Emily: Well I don’t know how else to communicate with them. Leonard Marlin’s daughter works at the UN, I had her come over and she can’t figure out what language they’re speaking either.
Lorelai: Mom, what is going on here?
Emily: You mean with the house?
Lorelai: Uh sure, start with the house.
Emily: I’m decluttering my life. You know Marie Kondo?
Emily: You don’t?
Emily: She’s Japanese.
Emily: You still don’t know her.
Lorelai: She’s Japanese?
Emily: Well she wrote a best-selling book on decluttering. So I’m decluttering. I was starting to feel claustrophobic here. You know I’d wake up in the middle of the night feeling like this house was closing in on me, like I couldn’t breathe, you know?
Lorelai: Oh yes, I know.
Emily: So one of the ladies in my garden club had bought this book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She said it made everything better. Are you paying attention?
Lorelai: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Emily: You know it?
Lorelai: Was it written by that Japanese woman Marie Kondo?
Emily: Well people swear by her. She tells you you have to take everything you own out and put it in piles on the ground. Then you pick up each possession and you hold it. If it brings you joy you keep it, and if it doesn’t, out it goes.
Lorelai: Mom, he’s taking the dining room chairs!
Emily: They don’t bring me joy. [turns to maid, gestures wildly] This box needs to be taped. [turns to Lorelai] Oh by the way if I get a terminal disease I want to move to Washington State to die. They let you do that there.
Lorelai: Die? They let you die?
Emily: With dignity, and in your own timeframe. I’ll die there and then you need to ship me back here for burial, which costs a FORTUNE, I found out. So in the safe there’s an envelope labeled “body-shipping cash”. I could also go to Vermont, but we vacationed there once and it was terrible. Squirrels. So Washington it is. [Lorelai hands her a tumbler of scotch] It’s the middle of the day.
Lorelai: Taste it. See if it brings you joy.
Emily: [sits down with the glass in hand] Oh god. I haven’t sat down in six hours.
Emily: [takes a sip, sighs]
In the chaos that is life, we all look for moments of serenity that feel like truth while clutter and noise feel like the things that are keeping us from being our best selves.
For a woman of means like Emily Gilmore, status had been everything. She and her husband were high society–but they were high society together. She had been the perfect wife: knowing all the social conventions, being the perfect hostess, poised and polished always. A member of the DAR and a gardening club and various other exracurriculars open to high-status Connecticut women, her stuff was symbolic of the life she had built that revolved around her husband. Marie Kondo seemed like a wonderful contemporary reference to how the old-fashioned status-obsessed world of the elder Gilmores is no longer relevant. No longer tethered to the homogenous world of her husband’s success, Emily is unsure how to live her life, and it begins with her things: stuff that’s tying her down to an old life she no longer identifies with, now that she’s lost the one partner that made it feel important.
How’s my life going? Well out of curiosity I started reading “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up”, which I found online as a free PDF. Unlike Emily Gilmore, I haven’t had any big changes lately. I just feel my mortality more than ever, and the dark side of Marie Kondo is how, though she is upbeat and infuriatingly excited about the possibilities within the clutter of your life, we seek her (and other minimalists out) as a tool for recalibrating our view on “things”: if they don’t “spark joy” then why are we carting around mementos and clothing and books we don’t need? Millennials are at a strange point in human history when “things” cease to have value, when we are more nomadic than ever.
Sure, many people probably read Marie Kondo because maybe their lives are fine and they just want to neaten up the house. But who is worried about what other people think of their messy house but other people whose lives are messy and they want to conceal it? I don’t buy that this isn’t the next trend in self-help. I should know, I read it. Out of curiosity, of course.
Where I live seems to have no meaning for me. It’s a place to gain experience, but it’s not home. I don’t feel I have a direction yet; I have no job lined up for graduation. I’m the perfect candidate for fitness tracking, bullet journalling, and konmariing.
That’s not to say that any of this is a waste of time. When life feels chaotic and overwhelming, the best thing one can do is start exploring. When I know that, after having moved 10 times in 6 years, I will inevitably move again, being prepared is hardly the worst idea.
I thought when I’d write this post that I’d talk about the incessant pressure that everyone feels for their home to reflect their life, for neatness and tidiness always, to appear to have one’s “life together”. I’ll get to that another time. I’m not sure I’m buckling to pressure though, as much as I am trying to systematically put pieces in order. Or maybe I’m on the selfish path of pushing people away and isolating myself in an attempt to understand myself, thus making me feel lonely thus making having the perfect home/cocoon/amount of stuff feel imperative.
Who knew “spark joy” could be so complicated?
Lorelai: So come on mom, talk to me. [exhales sharply to prepare to address the elephant in the room.] Why are you wearing jeans?
Lorelai: Because it’s terrifying.
Emily: I started this process with my closet, and nothing I owned brought me joy, so I ran out of clothes. I don’t even know where I got these.
Lorelai: They’re mine.
Emily: They are?
Lorelai: Did you not notice the Billy Squier patch on the butt?
Emily: You can have them back when I’m done.
Lorelai: I have not been pining for them.
Emily: I have to get back to work, kitchen’s next.
Lorelai: Stop. You’re not gonna have anything left.
Emily: That’s okay, what I DO have will bring me joy.
Lorelai: Mom… nothing is gonna bring you joy right now. Nothing. Your husband just died. When some time has passed and you realize you’ve given away all of your carefully chosen stuff, you’re gonna track down Marie Kondo and kill her, and then you’re going to go to jail wearing those jeans, and the Winchester Mystery Family will be living here in your ball gowns.
Emily: [teary eyed] I don’t know how to do this.
Lorelai: Do what?
Emily: Live my life.
Lorelai: Oh mom…
Emily: I don’t know what to do or where to go–I’ve forgotten which side of the bed to sleep on. I was married for 50 years. Half of me is gone.