By now you’ve surely heard about Marie Kondo. If not, she’s the spritely Japanese woman who’s encouraging Americans to clean out their houses and only keep items that spark joy through her Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” She’s currently making the media rounds and taught Stephen Colbert to fold a fitted sheet on the Late Show. She’s also the reason thrift shores around the country are at maximum capacity.
Kondo’s recent rise in popularity didn’t surprise me. I first heard about her method in 2014 when mentions of her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” started popping up on Pinterest and self-improvement blogs. I read the book back then, decluttered our spare bedroom, and started dutifully rolling/folding and standing clothes upright in my drawers. While not a KonMari (the shorthand for her method) devotee, I did adopt and adapt some of her strategies into my regular routine.
Recently, after watching an episode of her show and feeling inspired, I revisited my closet with a new sense of urgency. If an item of clothing didn’t make me happy when I touched it, I banished it to a Hefty yard-waste bag in the middle of the bedroom floor. When I finished, pretty much only yoga pants and riding breeches remained. I obviously have my priorities.
With my house fairly under control, I then turned my attention to my tack room. However, I found KonMari-ing horse-related items way more challenging than cleaning my closet. Does a mullen-mouth snaffle spark joy? Not really, but it might come in useful one day. Ditto on a pair of spurs I haven’t worn for five years. And the last time I sold all my 82-inch blankets because I was determined to never own another giraffe, the next giraffe promptly made himself home in my paddock and required—you guessed it—a new 82-inch wardrobe.
As I sorted through tack, I also noticed something else: I have owned certain items for more than 30 years. For example, I won a green nylon bridle with my pony at my first gymkhana playday, and over the years that little bridle has taught numerous young horses to accept a bit. Holding it, I was reminded of all who had worn it: Beaver, Ed, Chase, Lacey, Margie, Buzz, and Jack. Those memories sparked a lot of joy, but it’s old and worn, so I thanked it for its service (part of the KonMari method that encourages mindfulness) and let it go.
Things in my tack room that spark joy:
- Higher-end saddles. I’ve ridden in my share of not-quite-right saddles over the years that fit my budget but maybe not my horses or me. I finally have a small collection of quality saddles that fit my horses.
- Quality saddle pads. I have one brand of saddle pad that all four of my horses love. I let the rest go, opting for quality over quantity (which means I need to do horse laundry more often).
- Harness-leather Western reins. I’m primarily an English rider, but I find nothing as tactilely satisfying as holding a set of high-quality harness leather split reins. They spark joy, they get to stay.
- Natural fiber brushes. One stiff, one medium, and one ultra-soft.
- A Dollar Store hair brush I use for manes and tails. Somehow this has survived for years.
- Shedding blade that also works as a sweat scraper. I like that these play double duty because, with our crazy weather in the high desert, we could very well face bathing and shedding seasons on the same day.
- Brushing and dressage boots with working Velcro. Because what’s the point if they don’t stay on?
- Heavy-duty bell boots. After years of buying cheap bell boots, only to have my horses destroy them on ride No. 2 (my mares are both overachievers when it comes to stepping through from behind), I’m having visions of bell boots swirling around in that Pacific Ocean island of plastic. I’m going to do my part by opening my wallet a little wider and investing in better bell boots that last more than a week.
- Cotton longe lines (two for ground driving) with rubber hand stoppers. These are my favorite. I love their weight and that they don’t burn my hands if I’m gloveless and a horse gets a little exuberant during longeing.
- Surcingle. For those days I don’t feel like saddling.
- Fish scale. This is technically in my feed room, not the tack room. But it brings me peace to know my horses are getting the correct feed amounts by weight (rather than volume). Careful measuring means it easier to budget and plan for feed purchases, and that equals joy.
Things that don’t spark joy (and maybe incite anger, at least in the case of rodent-destroyed blankets):
- Ripped or stained saddle blankets;
- Bits with teeth marks;
- Old saddles that don’t fit any of my current horses;
- Low-quality leatherworks (bridles, stirrup leathers, etc., that are unsafe and unpleasant to use);
- Composite stirrups (after not being able to pick up a lost stirrup on the trail, I’ve decided these aren’t for me);
- “Spare” halters that are stiff or falling apart;
- All outdated medications and topicals;
- Mane-braiding yarn (because, let’s face it, as a dressage rider I’m never going to sew in braids);
- Any broken bridle I’ve “kept for parts”;
- Anything with Velcro that no longer sticks;
- Draw reins (the last time I used these, one of my mares flipped over, so I’m done with the entire idea of gadgets that keep horse’s heads down);
- Polo wraps (I kept the two cleanest sets of white for clinics, but all the color ones are gone);
- Any dented or dated helmet;
- Pull-on riding boots (it’s zippers or nothing for me these days);
- Boot hooks and pull that went with the zipperless riding boots;
- Broken clippers; and
- Any horse blanket that has been chewed on by a mouse or packrat.
During this process I also got out the label maker and labeled my bridle racks. Additionally, I bought and labeled clear bins for each horse to store his or her boots (this makes packing for a haul-out lessons super easy) and set up an extra grooming kit that will live in the horse trailer. It’s not perfect yet, but I’m feeling more organized. Now, if only Marie Kondo could teach me how to fold and store horse blankets as well as she taught Colbert to fold that fitted sheet.