Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
I’m not sure if you’re up to date with this Marie Kondo phenomenon; if not, let me catch you up. Marie is a Japanese woman who wrote the best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which talks about, well, tidying up. In a new Netflix reality show, she goes into American homes and helps families transform their clutter into cleanliness. Now, I haven’t got too far into the series, but the gist of her philosophy, which draws from the Japanese Shinto religion, is that one shouldn’t keep anything in one’s home that doesn’t “spark joy.” The show has its champions and its critics, but it has got me thinking about my relationship to stuff.
As someone who has moved a lot and over large distances, I have become prone to occasional bouts of purging. When I moved in with my partner last year, he called me “aggressively pro-trash” for this reason. I retorted by calling him a button-hoarder. (He would not get rid of his drawer full of useless buttons!)
Anyway, I like downsizing from time to time because it gives me a sense of lightness—of being able to pick up and go whenever I feel like it. Of course, this habit is born partly out of necessity (it is expensive to move with a lot of stuff) and partly out of privilege (I have the resources to replace something if I really need to).
At the same time, though, I do have a tendency to hold onto little things—a ticket stub to a ballet, a green wig, an Italian wedding favor, a crumpled strip of photo-booth images, a museum brochure—that serve no real purpose other than nostalgia. This attachment to small memorabilia reminds me of the choices people make when driven from their homes—whether by choice or otherwise.
What is your relationship to stuff? Has it changed over time? Let me know so I can include it in a future edition of the newsletter.
What we’re writing:
Thrift stores are feeling Kondo-mania. ¤ Where the “pizza and pipes” craze is going strong. ¤ Want less overcrowding? Offer free soba and tempura! ¤ Young couples are crowdfunding their first homes. ¤ An expansive digital archive of American architecture magazines. ¤ A moon landing—on the High Line. ¤ Paper maps still matter! ¤ “In the time of Geocities, people would think, ‘Oh, I’m walking around in a different reality,’ and that is no longer the case. It’s all us.” ¤
What we’re taking in:
“… although people are blurred, omitted, and chopped up in Street View, they are a constant and strange undercurrent to its manufactured world.” (Popula) ¤ “I found $90 in the subway. Is it yours?” (New York Times) ¤ Coast down the Chile Highway: The I-25 from Las Cruces to Denver. (Eater) ¤ The photographs of the Oakland Redevelopment Agency “allows us to explore myriad visual narratives, including those that did not serve the city’s interests at the time.” (Places Journal) ¤ Punjabi Deli—a pitstop for New York cabbies—now faces extinction. (Roads & Kingdoms) ¤ “I have noticed a recurring thought-pattern that unspools every time I travel Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson.” (Tuscon Weekly) ¤ Meet the Atlanta community sacrificed to the Super Bowl. (Bitter Southerner) ¤ “In the 1960s, the lesser-known space programs of Lebanon and Zambia offered glimpses of how utopian plans for a changed geopolitical world had their corollaries in a larger cosmos.” (How We Get To Next) ¤
View from the ground:
@rznagle got a sweet night shot of Manhattan's archway. @lucaschiconi_urbanismo captured the uniformity of Brazil's Edifício Martinelli. @agence.spatiale’s shot of high-rises in Sao Paolo. @_rawfail's riverside shot of Toronto could give you chills.