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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

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