Jamie Novak shares de-cluttering tips…and a dark secret, in Morristown

HIDDEN TREASURES? No, no, no, according to de-cluttering guru Jamie Novak at St. Peter's, Morristown, Jan. 17, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
HIDDEN TREASURES? No, no, no, according to de-cluttering guru Jamie Novak at St. Peter's, Morristown, Jan. 17, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Jamie Novak is a humorist and writer who knows a lot about de-cluttering homes. No surprises there.

But during a talk at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown this month, she let slip a deeper, darker secret.

Novak has supernatural powers.

De-cluttering guru Jamie Novak at St. Peter's, Morristown, Jan. 17, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
How did she KNOW??? Jamie Novak at St. Peter’s, Morristown, Jan. 17, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

As she addressed the monthly Inreach Luncheon and Lecture Series, a certain reporter–who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons–came to the queasy realization that the author of Keep This, Toss That has been materializing inside his apartment, undetected, with alarming frequency.

'Keep This, Toss That,' by Jamie NovakHow else would Novak know about the “scoop-and-stuff” panic bags of junk heaved into the bedroom moments before visitors arrive?

Or the moth-eaten college clothes wedged under a bed perched precariously atop risers for that very purpose?

Or the smushed holiday bows, just begging to be re-used on some distant Christmas? 

Or the hierarchy of shopping bags, from utilitarian to way too upscale for gifting…or any other practical use?

Video: This woman is supernatural, all right:

The crammed drawers that defy opening…the precious plastic “sporks”….the free chip clip missing a spring…the Tiger Stadium cups…the melted birthday candle…the A&P pepper tin with the 1998 expiration date, awaiting its vintage moment on Antiques Road Show

Never mind buying Novak’s book. Dial 9-1-1!  Call Ghostbusters!!

DON’T GET C.U.T.E.

“Go about collecting memories, instead of collecting stuff,” advised Novak. “When you keep it all, the really good stuff is lost.”

Japan’s Queen of Clutter Conquest, Marie Kondo, insists on systematically tackling entire categories of items.

TIMBER!!! De-cluttering guru Jamie Novak at St. Peter's, Morristown, Jan. 17, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
TIMBER!!! De-cluttering guru Jamie Novak at St. Peter’s, Morristown, Jan. 17, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Novak’s approach is more like a Chinese proverb: A cleanup of a thousand items begins with a single yellowed greeting card.

The Scotch Plains resident advocates a piecemeal, “10-10” approach to organizing. Set a timer and devote 10 minutes to finding 10 items to share, sell, donate, recycle or toss.

Bring a beverage.

“If you stop to go to the kitchen, we know you’re never, ever going back,” Novak said, as howls of laughter reverberated in the Parish Hall.

Video: Where to begin?

Repeat this procedure for 10 straight days, and you just might gain some momentum, she said.  One tip: Instead of stockpiling treasured items, keep digital photos of them and let the slideshow play in a digital photo frame.

Yes, certain items are worth retaining. You probably don’t want to discard your children in favor of slideshows.  But steel yourself for inevitable De-Clutterer’s Remorse. 

De-cluttering guru Jamie Novak at St. Peter's, Morristown, Jan. 17, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
De-cluttering guru Jamie Novak at St. Peter’s, Morristown, Jan. 17, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

At some point, a use will emerge for the frayed shoestring that once hid in the bathroom drawer that required a crow bar to pry open.

“We can’t possibly save everything for every possible circumstance that might come up,” Novak counseled.

Better to repeat her definition of “cute” every time you are tempted to rescue something from the trash pile.

That’s C.U.T.E.

Can’t. Use. This. Ever.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me.  I have to help a certain reporter excavate his 1984 Ghostbusters gear from the closet.

Video: Don’t get C.U.T.E. with her!

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