Marie Kondo meets her match.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Marie Kondo would lose her mind if she had to work with car people. If the famous clutter killer is on your radar, you know exactly what I mean. If not, let me explain.
Marie Kondo is a petite Japanese woman who’s having an outsized influence in popular culture these days. Her bestselling books and popular Netflix TV series take a unique approach to one’s belongings and how to keep them tidy. In essence, it boils down to this: If something you own doesn’t “spark joy” when you hold it, it’s time to thank that particular thing and send it away. By “spark joy,” she means your whole body should perk up, literally, when holding it, as opposed to feeling let down if it doesn’t. She has special strategies for keeping those joyful things neat, like folding shirts into tiny balls that nestle, not stack, in a drawer, so you can see all of them.
Thrift stores and other clothing donation outlets are feeling the effects of thousands of Kondo Method followers ridding their closets and drawers of joyless stuff. My wife is hooked, and she’s eyeing the rooms and closets in our newly empty nest with the vigor of a convert.
I need to keep her out of my office.
Car people are collectors by nature. You know this because you are one. I’m not sure why the two are connected, but I’m certain they are. Among a certain generation, the collector gene, as I’ve named it, can be explained as a residual effect of the deprivations of the Great Depression and the rationing during World War II. That reasoning doesn’t fly, though. Among Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and other demographic groups that followed the Greatest Generation, their collector gene is just as dominant, even with easier access to more stuff.
We like to gather things that interest us. We aren’t content to just look at them, we need to own them. And often we need to own more than one. Cars, pieces of cars, car parts, car pictures, car books, car calendars, car toys, car T-shirts. Gotta have ’em.
And my guess is every one of those things would pass the Kondo test with flying colors. The owner of a dozen Deuce grille shells could pick up each one, and no matter how dented, dull, bent, or covered in patina it was, joy would bloom in his heart for each one. Likewise the owner of several barns, storage sheds, and other outbuildings full of project cars. Sure, there might be a clinker or two among them, but for the most part he would see the potential in each one and feel that joy as he touched their dusty fenders and smelled their musty seats.
I have no huge car collection to Kondo-ize. My parts stash is pretty much limited to one Stromberg carburetor, a Meguiar’s wash bucket, and an “If This Van’s Rockin’ Don’t Come Knockin’” license plate. (Hey, cars have been built from less, but not by much.) But when my better half gets that look in her eye, what I fear is her attention turning to my (admittedly) cluttered office.
Artwork, photos, press passes, plaques, and other memorabilia cover almost every square inch of the walls. Die-cast cars line shelves and are parked on the few inches of empty desk space they can claim. You can imagine the stacks of magazines in here, from copies of HOT ROD going back to the 1950s to remnants of my own work over the past 30-some years. All of which make me happy.
And then there are the books. Literally floor to ceiling, some double-stacked in shelves to the point that I have to rotate them semi-regularly to remember what’s back there. Have I read them all? No. Do I plan to? Honestly, probably not. But many are invaluable resources I use to research stories for this magazine and others. Some are college textbooks I can’t bring myself to toss, outdated as they are. Some are novels I’ve loved
and do plan to reread someday. And some stay on the shelves in solidarity with my ink-stained brothers and sisters, totems of this contradictory business: a very solitary process that we hope will result in something that will reach the masses.
It was interesting to me that the inevitable backlash to Kondo’s tidying approach had to do with books. Her Kondo Method was interpreted as saying one should keep 30 books at most. Kondo has since clarified that position. She said she wound up with about 30 books after tidying her own space.
“The important concept of my method is that you focus not on what you want to discard but what you want to retain, what you want to keep in your life,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “So if you love books, if you’re passionate about books, go ahead and keep them with every confidence.”
So maybe she’d go easy on us car people after all. A more passionate bunch I’ve yet to meet.
> Bob D’olivo, the prolific head of Petersen Publishing’s Photographic Department, always prided himself in taking a more creative approach to what he shot for the magazines rather than just making a record of what was in front of his lens. For example, he exposed most of a roll of film at the 1958 NHRA Nationals in Oklahoma City from this perspective, essentially bringing the reader smack dab into the cockpit as the racer waited for the starter’s flag to drop. In this case he’s looking over the shoulder of Dave Sanderson, whose trip from Greenland, New Hampshire, earned him and his Caddypowered B/dragster Rod & magazine’s trophy for Long Distance Contestant. Custom