Several of my friends and a healthy majority of other newspaper columnists are enamored, in this chilly season of self-improvement and cabin fever, with the famous organizing specialist Marie Kondo and her peculiarly respectful method of mucking out the typical overloaded household. Unlike the real journalists, I resist using the word “clutter” in this context, unless the belongings in question actually are clutter. Clutter, in my opinion, does not include most books, despite Kondo’s odd admonition to minimize one’s library to something like what you can carry lashed up with a belt like a 1930s schoolboy. Likewise, clutter does not include tools, or art supplies, or the necessities of one’s trade, or heavy-weather gear even if you’ve only worn those Johnson woolen overalls three or four times in your entire adult life. Souvenir teacups bearing an image of the St. Louis arch are clutter. Old plastic water bottles with chewed-up sippy-lids are clutter even if they do remind you of one hell of a rugby season back in 2012. Ugly clothing is clutter. Not so, any sort of wrench.

We had a bit of a struggle around here last week concerning whether or not an architect’s rule counted as clutter. For one thing, it wasn’t an architect’s rule, it was two of them, at minimum (there may yet be another one around here somewhere). To back up a bit, I have been chipping away at our daughter’s bedroom, she having grown up and moved out some time ago. It makes for a good diversion when the computer starts to make my eyes cross. This January, whenever I needed a break, I went into her room and tested out another few hundred magic markers, judiciously separating those that worked from those that didn’t. She has enough office-slash-school supplies in that room to outfit a large civil service in the provinces, because each year she was completely outfitted with a new everything by a very generous relative. Thus, eight years of high school and college resulted in eight staplers, if I do the figuring correctly, and you can extrapolate the rest.

After I had two bags for the trash, three boxes for the thrift shop, and two boxes for herself in Portland painstakingly sorted, she dropped me the following message: “Do I still have an architect’s rule somewhere? David needs one for a class.” “Yes! At least one!” I knew, by then, exactly what she owned for such equipment, down to the last Sharpie. Of course, I couldn’t find either of them. I looked through the boxes for the thrift store but they didn’t turn up. They weren’t with the office supplies I’d kept for use here, and I know I wouldn’t have tossed them in the trash. Never.

I disagree mightily with the popular admonition to “throw away” the things we find less than needful, because the expression “throw away” suggests hucking perfectly good stuff into a landfill or a garbage truck with the rotten Brussels sprouts and the blown-out gym socks and the used Kleenexes. As someone who spends perhaps too much time studying the realities of solid waste on this planet, I cannot make myself do that. Also, having grown up with fewer useful items than I’d have liked, to “throw away” lightly used, undamaged property seems not only wasteful but callous and snobbish. (Do not write to me, by the way, with a stern lecture about rotten vegetables. My household does maintain a composting system. You know perfectly well what I’m talking about.)

This business is also harshly subjective. I might suggest that a box of assorted wiring from electronic devices long dead counts as “clutter,” but my husband might disagree. He’ll be proven right at some point.

I found treasures, I found junk, and I found $22 in cash, which was enough to buy us each — the owner and the cleaning lady — a beer or two at Great Lost Bear. Since then I have unearthed another $16.50 from out of my daughter’s goods and chattels and have in mind the same disposition.

We are keeping her eight rolls of electrical tape — every color they make, I suspect — and one drawer full of assorted office supplies and her can of WD-40. Because she and I are about the same size, I scammed some perfectly good clothing, including a pair of junior varsity ice hockey team sweatpants. That is called “flying under false colors” and is a serious offense.

I still haven’t found an architect’s rule. She’ll likely just buy a new one for David, who is taking the electrician’s course, but it irks me to have that expense be necessary. It may be that I should never have meddled. We all might have been better off had I quit digging once I had the beer money and the WD-40.