I’m sure you will be familiar with the tidying tome that is creating ripples of almost religious fervour across the UK – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Japanese author and organizing consultant, Marie Kondo.
So popular is it that it has even spawned a new verb – to ‘konmari’.
To save you reading it, the basic premise is that by decluttering you can create not only a gleaming, if somewhat sterile, home but you will achieve levels of mental peace and clarity – not to mention lots of space and less dusting.
To do this, you should consider whether your possessions “spark joy” and, if not, remove, purge, delete from your life.
In fact, it’s not dissimilar from what my mother would frequently yell at me. “You’d feel a god sight happier if you tidied the mess in your bedroom up”. Strangely, I may also have shared this nugget of wisdom with Caitlin and Ieuan.
But I must confess to feeling a little uncomfortable. For example, in the Facebook groups dedicated to Ms Kondo’s spartan lifestyle, there seems to be a certain amount of, shall we say, pressure being put on those who like the idea of a tidy living room but who are unsure of what to do with items which hold memories for them.
I have seen posters being advised to get rid of baby clothes, first Christmas ornaments made by the offspring and gifts from their recently dead mothers.
“Does it spark joy” – these hapless declutters are questioned?
See the thing about us humans is that we are capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions. I don’t know about you but my joy is not sparked very often and, if it were sparked every day I think I’d get a bit bored of it.
Isn’t that one of the reasons we love Christmas so much? All that heightened fervour, bonhomie and goodwill to men, women and pets.
But imagine feeling like that every day. Exhausting.
I just worry that there are many frantic declutterers out there searching for joy by chucking their most precious possessions out because these things do not evoke jubilation.
What about comfort? What about sweet sadness? What about nostalgia?
What about the things that remind us of times where we have grown – even though the time itself was not particularly happy.
What about the things that are a bit of an eyesore but meant so much to someone we loved very much?
What about when our kids ask us in years to come where the heck their baby photos are and we did we never keep anything they made?
Can we take a moment to remember that Ms Kondo has a business to run and books to sell?
I would love to be able to declutter to the extent Ms Kondo advises. And perhaps it is wrong that some of us define ourselves by the things we choose to surround ourselves with.
That is a far different thing to the avaricious accumulation of the latest gadgets and trinkets. I’m talking about those things that are so precious to us that they become symbols of our life and who we have become.
You may get a frisson of excitement chucking it in a bin bag now but will you still feel like that in years to come?
Will a kitchen worktop so clean you could eat your dinner off it really outweigh your memories?
There will always be those who hoard and those who can’t stand being surrounded by stuff.
I’m somewhere in between. Most of us let stuff pile up and then have an occasional purge.
But if things upset us now (for example, something precious from a deceased relative), why not put it in a memory box and put it away safe in the knowledge that it may one day offer great comfort?
Sometimes we need to visit the bad stuff because there are often good memories attached. Why is so much importance put on headstones in graveyards? A bit macabre possibly but you get my point.
I suspect konmari-ing is a trend but for some it’s going to cost them a fortune. Because I’ll guarantee in less than a year, they will regret some of the things they’ve discarded and will be replacing them.
There is some great advice in Marie Kondo’s book but I think we need to keep things in perspective.
Now I’m off for a coffee to see if my kettle sparks a bit of joy.
Actually, you know what, it does! Think I’ll keep it.