Back from an embarrassingly long hiatus with the news that I finally caught up with the tidying bug that swept the world a few years ago – Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying. Kondo’s method, called the KonMari method, focusses on only keeping items that bring you joy, jettisoning the unessential to create a cleaner, tidier living space. The method combines techniques most people have heard before – clean as you go, a place for everything and everything in its place, etc., as I’m sure most people know since I’m the last person to read the book.
The book naturally made me start thinking about materialism. Kondo hits the nail on the head when she lists two categories of items that most people have the biggest issue tossing: gifts and those ‘might come in handy’ items. I had always felt only marginally guilty about throwing away or donating gifts and items that may AT SOME POINT be useful. My partner, however, feels massively guilty. It was nice to be able to give him Kondo’s main point – that the gifts had been gratefully received and, in doing so, the purpose of the gift had largely been served.
I was raised by a mother who moved frequently as a child, which meant that she regularly threw away the inessential to save space (and money) during a move. She adapted this process with my sister and I – after Christmas we’d sort through toys, books, and other items to determine what had to be thrown away and what could be donated. Similarly, while pulling our spring or fall wardrobe out of their storage bins, we’d take stock of each item. If it was too worn to wear ourselves or donate, it was tossed; if we had never really worn it and wouldn’t, it was donated. A good method of keeping clutter at a minimum, but one that flew out the window once I was on my own.
I moved to London with two suitcases and a yoga mat. But that was four years ago, and a frying pan, stock pot, single plate, bowl, and set of cutlery has expanded to masses of kitchen gear and dishware. As I combed through what I had always thought of as a reasonably small collection of clothing, I was reasonably surprised at the items I felt free to toss. Books, less so, but still a few titles that I realised we’d never read. We haven’t done papers or personal items yet, but we’re heading there this week. It’s amazing to think that, in four years, I’ve managed to accumulate so many things. I’ve seen other challenges and tasks geared towards addressing the vast amounts of stuff we gather around us–blog posts about everything you bought that month to hold yourself accountable, throwing one thing away when you buy something new . . . but I never thought I bought that much because I always lived by such a small budget. Shows what I know.
All this being said, I can’t say that I’m a KonMari acolyte. I’m not a massive fan of this folding thing (is it really so much better/space economising than folding things flat? Is it?) and I don’t think that this will stop the clutter from, someday, mounting up again. Clutter happens, because life happens. I think it’s great to practice mindful consumption and I think we all should do it as best we can. I think it’s good to take stock of what you have, what you need, what you use, and adjust the contents of your house accordingly, like my Mom taught me. But it increasingly seems like we, as a society, are holding each other to an impossibly high standard. Don’t just read the KonMari method, LOVE it, live your LIFE by it – be mindful, be present, be everything. Well, I’m sitting on the couch, surrounded by the books I’m trading in to Amazon (£10-worth, woot!). I’m looking forward to the rest of the clean out, but . . . I’m prepared for the next mess.