We disagree on “stuff”, myself and the Husband. If our house burned down tomorrow, I would be stuck in the inferno trying to rescue all the loveliness. Not so Mr Mutton. He would be fanning the flames. Generally the Mutton Household equation for domestic happiness (and minimising complaints from Mr Mutton) is simple:
But this delicate domestic equilibrium is currently well out of whack. Clutter is the devil’s doing. Time to tackle it before I end up on Extreme Hoarders.
A couple of years ago, while in a quirky bookshop in NY (they still have quirky book shops there), this caught my eye: The Japanese Art of Decluttering by Marie Kondo. This woman is now a phenomenon. But even back then I could see she was something special – a natural born neat freak who has been practising the fine art of chucking things away since she was knee high to a recycling bin. This woman used to tidy for fun…as a child! How very far from my own dear childhood.
But once I’d read that book, I was in deadly earnest. To start on the right foot, no clutter was involved in its purchase. I bought it on Kindle (*polishes minimalist halo, probably taupe). With my Kindle (other e-readers ARE available) in hand I opened the swollen doors of my wardrobe, let the landslide subside and began.
Marie Kondo’s basic theory is that most of us approach this decluttering lark in all the wrong way. We look at what we want to get rid of, usually filling up with guilt and self-loathing as we do so, whereas we should be choosing what we want to keep.
Tip one is choose a category to start on, not a room to clear (easy enough in my case, clothes). Tip 2: start with the off season clothes first because you’re less likely to have worn them for a while and so can look at them with more detachment (makes sense). Tip 3 is to get everything into one place, tops, shoes, coats, bags everything – preferably on the floor (No can do without hiring Wembley Stadium). Then, and this is where she had me, Tip 4 is you go through everything by picking it up, feeling it, thinking about it and asking yourself, “Does this spark joy?”. That’s my ambition – a wardrobe full of things I really enjoy wearing, with the added bonus that I might actually be able to find them. Then the book goes further.
I have always rather patted myself on the back for recycling clothes by giving them to other people (Miss Lamb) or downgrading them. As they fall from favour, my clothes tumble down the hierarchy from work to weekend wear, slipping into lounge wear and making a final public appearance in the gym (not suits and coats, naturally)
No, no, no. All wrong. Firstly, by passing things onto other people it’s just redistributing the clutter (which is true) and saving things to wear around the house well that’s just selling ourselves short. Ms Kondo believes the clothes we wear at home are more important for our well-being and self-esteem than the ones we wear outside. Smarten up when you’re slobbing around and you’ll enjoy it more. So turns out I was right to blow that money on the cashmere sweat pants…because I’m worth it.
There’s a lot of Zen in this book as you might expect. For example, one of her tips which I can’t quite believe will work but hey, I’m pretty much on my second magnum of Koolaid at this point, is about the art of folding. Sticking things on top of each other doesn’t work outside shop displays, she suggests.
Instead fold your things into rectangles the height of the drawer and stand them on end. Even socks. (The author has extremely strong opinions on socks. Rolling them into balls as the Mutton clan have done since Les Fitz-Moutons landed with William the Conqueror, apparently, not a good idea. Not only is it bad for the socks because they bag around the top, but it is bad for them spiritually as they need to rest relaxed between wears, not all bunched up and tense. Hmmm.)
The folding bit has dampened my enthusiasm for this approach, I must say. I have never been able to fold anything without it looking like it’s been fashioned out of wet newspaper. The Japanese approach seems to rely on a level of precision for which my fine motor skills and stumpy Anglo Saxon fingers are simply not equipped – like Origami.
Nevertheless I have made a start. Usually when I’m sorting out my clothes I come over all thin-lipped, disapproving and Mrs Danvers. Now using the “joy” division technique, I’m keeping things and bidding a fond farewell to the boring “it’ll come in handy” endless black skirts and trousers (with thanks for their service, I told you this was Zen).
There’s a chunky pile of stuff to be off loaded to the local clothes resale shop; there’s a few bags of old nonsense waiting to go to the tip and I can actually see the floor in the spare room for the first time in months.
But…there is a problem here…waiting to go isn’t the same as gone, out of the house, rehoused and reloved. Now that I’m working on. I wonder, is there a book to help with it?
Edited from blog first published on cabformrsmutton.blogspot.co.uk, September, 2015, “Declutter or die surrounded by bin bags”