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January 16, 2019

Author Q&A – Tidying Up with Alison Stewart


Are you just as obsessed with Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo as we are? Then you’ll know that most people have a basement, attic, closet or storage unit filled to the brim with stuff. Junk details award-winning journalist Alison Stewart’s three-year investigation into Americans’ growing obsession with junk. In honor of the paperback reprint of Junk, we asked Alison for her best home decluttering tips and what items she refuses to throw away. Hopefully this blog post sparks joy.


What advice do you have for people whose New Years resolutions are to declutter their homes?

First of all I would enlist the help of a friend to be your “Vanna White” and hold things that you are on the fence about ditching. There’s research that shows that, for some people, touching an object can lead to a sense of ownership. You can make a more objective decision if someone else holds the item. I’d also say use a professional organizer if you have a big project. There’s a reason we go to pros to dye our hair or train ourselves. Sure you could do it, but a professional can make all the difference in terms of efficacy and time.  Finally, figure out what you are going to do with the things you discard beforehand and factor that into your clean up time.

How was the writing process of this book different from that of your other books?

The process of writing this book was different because it required me to ask a lot of personal questions. I was going into people’s homes and entering their lives.  Often people who need help from professional junk removal or organizers have just gone through a crisis, so I had to walk the line of being empathetic but maintaining some objectivity.  I also had to look at the societal issues and changes that have enabled us all to have so much stuff. It is really hard not to accumulate things these days.

What five people—living, dead, fictional or nonfictional—would you have over for your dream dinner? 

I would love to have my late mom and dad, Michelle and Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter—all people I admire.

What do you hope readers take away from reading your book?

That they are not alone if they feel overwhelmed by their stuff. Also that something you may have needed at one point may not serve you now.  Getting rid of things acknowledges personal change and evolution, and by curating your belongings you can make room (physically and metaphorically) for those things that work for you, not oppress you.

 What did you learn while writing this book that you still carry with you? 

Mindfulness is the key to keeping the things you want in your life.  Really think about everything you buy. Really think do I need this, can I fix this, will this make things better in my life or will it just be one more thing in my life. And that storage units are a slippery slope.

Is there any item that you’ve kept throughout the years and refuse to throw out? 

MANY! Specifically I have a bunch of MTV memorabilia that reminds me of such an amazing time in my life, that stays. No, I don’t need an MTV News mic cube but I still have it!

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