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I was sitting in my bedroom surrounded by porcelain dolls. I had taken the boxes down from the attic, unwrapped each one, and placed them on the minimal surface space remaining in the cluttered room. Mum walked in at one point as I was lining up the barbies on the window sill.

“Wow, that’s a lot,” she said as she scanned the room full of little dolls in Victorian dresses staring blankly out of glass eyes. I sat back on the bed. I had no idea what to do with all of them. My great-grandmother collected dolls, and in my childhood, I too was a collector – of everything, including the dolls.

“Did you ever…worry about me?” I asked her as I picked up a baby doll in a full-length lace Christening gown.

“Weeelll…” She shrugged. I pitched backward on the bed and hit another pile of dolls I had forgotten, still wrapped in paper, and groaned.

I grew up with space to keep things. My family is known for storing memories in physical items, leaving them untouched for decades to preserve things at a place when they were wonderful. Moving to Italy and into city life made me begin life here with almost no items from home, and in the past years, what I choose to bring here is decided by how much extra space I have in a 50lb bag of luggage once a year or so.

In our apartment, and honestly in general in Florence, we have to get creative for storage space. My Pinterest boards are full of tiny apartment ideas and I recently got really excited about a new mop that takes up less space. Rami, also, has left most of his personal possessions behind in Syria, and then more in California after the mess in 2009. Neither of us has boxes to put in the attic, nor do we have an attic to put them in, so we’re already living pretty minimal.

Then, we watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Although I refuse to fold socks so they stand up or get rid of books, I will say that she got us inspired to reorganize the entire bedroom and kitchen. There are some things I’ve brought from home that are nostalgic – photo albums, a stuffed animal, a horseshoe from my family farm (which is apparently a common thing to bring through carry-on luggage in Logan, as I was so informed as I brought mine through). Rami has his stamp collection, a few photo albums, art from friends.

As we went through everything again, I realized that the things that really brought me joy were the ones I chose to bring here – and confirmed that while I sorted out my childhood memories this past summer – including the dolls.

If an item doesn’t bring joy – a t-shirt, a napkin holder, a piece of furniture, a porcelain doll collection from your childhood – it doesn’t have a place in the life that is being lived anymore. I tossed jeans that didn’t fit right in the donation bag. Old glass bottles from the kitchen that we were saving for a “project” went too. We’ll get more if we’re actually feeling artistic. I am determined now to fill my closet with clothes that all make me feel happy. We just opened up our kitchen and I don’t know if it’s all in my head but the house feels that much more comfortable – if not a little empty (we need wall decorations). 

Taking Marie’s advice definitely made a difference even in our already clutter-free lives so if you’re looking for motivation, absolutely check out her show on Netflix. I’m going to go joyfully enjoy making tea in my new tea and coffee corner.

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