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Constance Alexander: Bringing order to chaos isn’t easy, thankfully, there’s probably a word for that


Okay, okay, okay. I admit it. Like millions of others striving to bring order to the chaos of their lives, I succumbed to the marketing of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and bought the darn book.

Now, as I take a step back to admire the results, I take pride in my pristine bureau drawers. Clothes are folded in threes and lined up in tidy rows. As a result, I can pluck a garment from the columns with ease, and bask in the imagined glow of the meticulous and color-coded arrangement.

My mother, who twice a year – in the name of spring and fall cleaning – dumped the contents of my bureau on the bed and ordered me to get my stuff in order — would be in awe at the transformation.

Transforming my closet is more difficult, although the first step’s a cinch. The Ms. Kondo way says to snatch everything from the hangers and create a huge pile in the middle of the floor. Then, going through each item, one should reflect on whether it has served its purpose before deciding to keep it or give it away.

In the midst of that process, I discover I cannot bear to relinquish the sweater I wore on my first date with my husband, more than thirty years ago. And I cannot relegate my silver oxfords, worn only twice, to the discard basket. Marie Kondo would definitely not approve.

Likewise, she would be horrified by my books. They are all over the house. On shelves, on the floor, cluttering my bed-side table, the precarious literary towers threaten to tumble every time the cat jumps up to explore.

My books, even those I’ve never read, are welcome to stay. They are like party guests I haven’t yet met. When I get to know them, I am sure I’ll like them, so why would I send them away?

Consoled by my metaphor, I wish there were a way to aptly describe the situation. And then I discover the Japanese word “tsundoku,” which means “the art of buying books and never reading them.”

While I enjoy creating a personal universe of orderly storage arrangements, I find I take more pleasure in the art of discovering words that de-clutter the language.

For instance, Schadenfreude, taking joy in someone else’s misfortune, comes in handy on certain occasions, as does hygge, from Danish, indicating comfort and coziness that inspire a feeling of contentment or well-being.

Pochemuchka, Russian in origin, is a person who asks too many questions, while “iktsuarpok” is the Inuit term to describe the frustration associated with waiting for someone to show up.

The French phrase, esprit de l’escalier, refers to the perfect retort that comes to mind too late, as one is walking down the stairs and away from the situation.

Lately, with the legislature in session, I find myself struggling with words for some proposed laws. For instance, how can one possibly describe Senate Bill 150, which advocates letting people carry concealed guns without permits or training?

And wouldn’t it be handy to have a word that encapsulates the negative impact of increasing exemptions for Kentucky’s open records act, meaning less information available to the public, as proposed in House Bill 387?

On the positive side, if all goes well in the state senate, sexual harassment will become an offense under the ethics code for state lawmakers. There is a word, or actually a phrase, for that one: It’s about time.

For a list of useful words with no English translation, log onto www.lifehack.org.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at calexander9@murraystate.edu. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.


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One Comment

  1. DeecDonnelly says:

    What a delight it was to read your writing after so many years. Thank you for bringing me on board.

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