The quiet joys and foibles of solo living.
Don’t we just love boasting about being an early adopter! I know I do. Anyways, a bunch of time before Japanese declutter guru Marie Kondo seemed to reach the national consciousness, in Australia at least, I found The Life Changing Magic of Tidying on the Hot Picks shelf at the library. I took it home, inhaled it and quickly bought my own copy for continued future reference.
I got to absorb and think about the concept of sparking joy long before people started scoffing at it on their podcasts and radio shows, which means it came to me untainted. I couldn’t wait to put it into practice while doing a big books and clothes clear-out.
According to the KonMari method, one shouldn’t declutter by ‘area of home’ but by category. This means getting ALL your books and putting them in a big pile on the floor, or ALL your clothes etc etc. It’s intense. The good thing about living alone is you can leave a pile on the living room floor for days on end, and no one bitches at you except your conscience.
OK, when it comes to clothes, here’s what sparks joy for me: sparkly, fluffy, crazy colourful, swirling or paisley retro fabrics, amazing vintage/retro finds, designer items that I scored cheaply in op shops, and components of my favourite 60s-minidress-over-clashing-polyester-pants look. What I found was that a lot practicality had to come into play. I’ve heard others critique this as well. I need quite a few work-style garments which will never spark joy. Rather, clothes ended in the discard pile if they sparked ‘annoyance’. The kind of gear that malfunctions, rides up, twists around, has an irritating zipper or unnecessary under-skirt, inspires sweating or makes your bum look big.
With the books, some indeed sparked loving reading memories, a desire to read them again, a fondness for having them in my collection. Because I love books, this was the case for most of them. They got biffed if they sparked ‘indifference’. Because it can often be indifference, rather than dislike, that ends a relationship.
Marie Kondo recommends organising one’s drawers a certain way. Shirts and other folded items should be standing on their side, as you can see in the photos above and below. The idea is that you can see everything that you own, and you don’t need to disrupt a pile with a frantic search, or to reach the shirt at the bottom. THIS WORKS. Wow. It kinda revolutionised my extensive T-shirt collection, and I’m back wearing my Culture Club merch and Balinese tie-dyes that I’d forgotten the existence of.
I also rolled my undies and stored them in an open box inside my undies drawer. You don’t get to see a pic of that, soz. And I ‘unballed’ my favourite socks, allowing them to be stored simply folded in half and standing on end. Marie Kondo devotes 3.5 pages to how we hurt our devoted and hard-working socks by balling them up. They need a chance to rest and breathe a sigh of relief.
I confess, this anthropomorphising of objects really touched my inner child. I felt a tad emotional when Kondo talks about how unwanted objects should be passed on to new owners so they can live again, their energy renewed. Now, when I put them into a bag for the thrift shop, I thank them for their service to me. When I discard something worn out but sentimental into landfill, I wrap it as though in a funeral shroud and say a few words, ending with ‘Namaste’. Oh boy. I need to write a whole post on my anthropomorphism some time…
Unwanted gifts. This further revolutionised my admittedly magic realist thinking. We keep unwanted gifts cluttering up our home, lest the giver should somehow know when we are throwing them out and be offended. Or heaven forbid they should drop around: “where is that vase I gave you??” The KonMari method explains that the energy of a gift is in the actual moment of giving; being unwrapped, delivering the surprise, inspiring the hug and the thanks. After that, the object lies dormant (unless it is genuinely useful), dead even. Re-gifting or moving it to a thrift store reawakens the item and does everyone a favour.
It became clear that, for me, the KonMari method combined the practicality of other declutter practises with a sort of animist spirituality that appealed to something deep and unspoken within me; a gentle and domestic energy which I’ve seldom ever read about, except perhaps in a Murakami novel (I really must go to Japan some time). I doubt it would affect everyone, and that’s why The Life Changing Magic of Tidying has been so universally mocked as well as praised.
It’s now yonks later. I mainly conduct a “spark indifference” practise during seasonal clothing changeover. I’ve gone back to ‘area’ clear-outs rather than categories, which I found too epic.
I still stand my T-shirts on their side. I still thank my items as I pass them on to new homes. I have a greater respect for my hard-working socks.
I totally understand what you mean about the clothes that spark joy not being practical to wear! Maybe that’s where minimalism comes in; that you have your “uniforms” (everyday clothing) but also a few pieces you love, and the rest is taking up valuable drawer- and closet space? So a compromise that in itself sparks its own joy.
A dear friend once said to me, “The more you have, the more you have to take care of.” There’s a freedom in “less”.
There’s something to be said for clean minimalist surfaces, especially when I’m doing the dusting, and having to pick up the numerous little items I have lying around. Way too much to take care of at my place!