You don’t get the nick name ‘Trish Trash’ for no reason. I was a hoarder from toddlerhood apparently and Mum recounted many times how when they moved from the bottom house, to the top farm house the amount of magpie collections of pretty buttons and pieces of paper under my bed should have been a pretty clear indicator of things to come. I blame her. It was obviously in my genes.
…but right now I’m getting the declutter bug with the fine spring weather and left right and centre I’m hearing people talk about the Konmari method. Marie Kondo is a tiny Japanese lady who developed this method and googling her and her method will bring up heaps of u-tube videos so you can see for yourself how ‘effective’ this is. I still have my doubts after watching her as she helps Ellen Degeneres sort out her Tee shirts, or another American woman as they gather her clothes from all corners of the house. It amounts to around four double wardrobes full. She espouses how great it is to have downsized to one generously sized wardrobe. It didn’t impress me too much to be honest. They kept more than what I owned in clothes before decluttering. Clearly the woman had way more than anyone should own or could wear!
The method seemed to involve holding items and seeing if they created a ‘spark’. I was a bit intrigued and a bit sceptical. I did say say ‘spark’ in case you’re wondering.
Damen and Amy tell me it helped them declutter. I think Amy would have no trouble decluttering, but Damen is another kettle of fish altogether, much like me…so I’m thinking I might look into this spark thing a bit more.
Tara tells me she is going to use this method to streamline her tiny house and she sends me an e-copy so I can read the books myself. I’m excited. Tara tells me if you do this right, you will never need to declutter again, as you will not ‘gather and hold’ ever again. I’m to make sure I read it all before starting, “no matter how much you want to, she warns me. So powerful is the learning”. She’s going to start reading too.
I go to bed early that night and start reading. The start is about as boring as reading…hell, I can’t actually think of anything more boring. I fall asleep after a chapter or two and wake an hour later with the ipad on my face. I text Tara next day and say, “I couldn’t stay awake. Too boring.” She agrees with me. Next night I’m determined to get a chunk of it read. I’m really excited about decluttering and can’t wait to start. Same thing happens, and again on the third night. I text Tara again. “Tara, I can’t stay awake. The book sure as hell doesn’t spark anything in me. It would be more interesting reading a summary of how to score cricket”….I once fell asleep while actually scoring a kids cricket game. Tara is having the same problem.
The fourth night I fall asleep again, but wake at 3am with a full moon shining in through the slits in the blinds. I lie still for a bit and then think I might just read the ‘spark book’, cause given the last three nights I haven’t been able to stay awake, if nothing else it might put me back to sleep, but it doesn’t. My body feels like its had enough sleep and I read about a third. Same thing happens for the next two nights and by then I have read not one, but both her books. One is on sorting and one is on discarding…I think. They actually seem the same repetitive stuff.
Now something very strange has happened. I’ve been talking about decluttering and downsizing and spring cleaning, but have been careful not to start until I finish the books. Funnily enough, just my misery at having to wait to finish the books and my recounting the drivel I’ve read to the others each day, has got them interested in their own stuff. Simone is busily tidying out the playroom and her spaces, and yesterday I found Gilbert going through all his clothes draws. Everyone else seems to have been sparked but me! Konmari almost managed to put my flame out altogether.
Konmari tells us she started being particular about tidying and cleaning from age five and being so fussy about it, she was constantly tidying the family home and her school classrooms, until she got into trouble for ‘tidying’ and even ‘discarding’ other peoples stuff that drove her mad. Umm…I think there’s a name for this kind of compulsion?
But hey, she’s world wide published and has a multi million dollar business, so who am I to scoff at it. I will say it is very cute and very Japanese and as instructed I begin with my wardrobe. Konmari tells us we should be doing our things in categories, as opposed to rooms, and start with clothes. Dump all the clothes you own on the bed and work through the pile. These should be the easiest and we can hone our skills on these. Cool! All my clothes on the bed I pick up something and hold it close to my heart and see if I feel a ‘spark of joy’. Ummm pardon?
Discard any that don’t spark as we don’t truly love them. OOOkaay…
I kind’ve get this. I think. Some things I love and some things I don’t.
I think that was a spark. I love it so it probably was. I have thirty five scarves and they all sparked except five. To be honest I was surprised to find I had thirty-five but I wear scarves almost every day, in fact some days I wear two, so all but a few are really well worn. I’m comfortable with keeping thirty.
This is what thirty scarves look like. Rolled like this they are easy to remove with out the stack all falling out. Honest. I tried it!
She is very particular about ‘HOW’ we store stuff. When you are repacking into your wardrobe, everything has to be folded a certain way, a bit like folding origami with utmost attention to detail. Some of this is cool, but some of the reasoning is a bit, umm crazy? Socks for example must never be folded one into another. ‘How can they rest like that? Its suffocating for the socks and to have one stretched over the other is so uncomfortable!’ Did I just say my socks might be uncomfortable in the drawer? She says its calming if we have stuff from the longest to the shortest, from left to right and colour coded from the darkest to the lightest. Like I said there’s a name for people who do this kind’ve thing.
With this method though we are working on what we love and discarding the rest, as opposed to a normal method of discard what doesn’t fit or we don’t wear. So a positive action rather than a negative. As you discard, thank the item for being there for whatever time it was in your wardrobe. “thank you for keeping me warm all these years”…. and then chuck it in the rubbish bag. Yep that’s pretty much what she says…or ‘thank-you for making me beautiful all these years’ as you throw out old makeup. Funny if it answered back! “Tried my hardest, you were haphazard at the best of times and frankly when you eat and drink the rubbish you do it was a long shot any make up was gunna make a difference!”
I can’t drawer my bras like she suggests. Mine are massive beside her tiny foam padded beauties that stand up singly in her diagram. What kind of wardrobe does she think the average person has? I origami a couple of drawers but the rest are shelves so it won’t work. I lie tops one on top of the other and hope the bottom few aren’t too uncomfortable. ‘Sorry about that’, I say as I put another one on top.
‘Thanks for supporting me’, I murmur to my bras and hope the kids don’t come in and ask who I’m talking to. It’s going to be hard to explain.
She suggests if its hard to discard something, like maybe a soft toy that had eyes, and the eyes seem to be looking at you, ‘then pop a piece of fabric or paper over its face so you’re not looking at each other. It then becomes an object instead of a beloved pet, even though its not really a pet… but maybe when you were five you thought of it as a pet.’ Ummm, Yeah….I give this piece of advice to Simone who is going to do Nanny’s library. Simone looks up at me. “Mum, she says, you’re gunna make me mad if you keep telling me stuff from this stupid book…” Haha! I’ve just realised that Simone at eight months pregnant has gone into nesting mode. She’s working round the rooms like she’s on fire like she usually does. “I love this stage of pregnancy”, Gilbert tells me as we see another box being fired out the door.
Another thing Konmari recommends is to remove all the labels off stuff, like laundry detergent or cleaners which have ‘bright and noisy’ labels. She takes the labels off all these as they are all shouting at her. I just wonder if I do this whether I might forget what’s what. Like the time I put my spices into nameless cute glass jars. I was so sure I’d know the different smells. It wasn’t funny a month later as I sniffed and sniffed and do you think I could remember? Everything tasted weird for a few years.
She hates paper and can’t see why anyone would keep books or papers of any sort. I read this again. Can she be SERIOUS? Being a book lover myself I can’t believe I have just read this. But now I’m up to books. I’m to take all of the books off the shelf and hold each one, waiting for a spark. I dutifully hold each book. Lovingly turn it over. I close my eyes with it close to my heart and I can tell you, we nearly had a fire in there. I love all my books. I dusted each one and returned it to the shelf, being careful to put some in different spaces so they could rub up against a new buddy. Have some different conversations. Yep that’s the books done. All present and accounted for. Nah honestly I did get rid of a few…just a few.
She talks about appreciating your belongings as if they’re alive and treating them with respect because the message will travel to say, other houses if you don’t treat the current one well, and other houses might not want to have you. Yep she said that too.
….so I shake my head and decide I will write the Jotri declutter method. I think us Kiwis need a method that’s less, well, Japanese. I’m serious. I paid a lady to help me once. I felt I needed someone unbiased as I love most everything I own and now I feel a bit more of an expert.
The spark method doesn’t really work for me because I feel love whenever I hold my things. They all feel precious. Everything has a story and a way of coming to me. However a few years ago I felt abit like I was drowning and needed some guidance. Jen was awesome. After she left I worked away tirelessly over weeks. Through every draw and cupboard. Trailer loads went. I sent her photos before and after and thanked her profusely for getting me started. She changed my life. After that people came to me. Said they had phoned her and she had referred them to me. What! The kids thought that would be hilarious. A confirmed hoarder teaching other people how to declutter?
So I guess you’re wondering if it was so life changing, and I was so good at it, why was I reading the Konmari method in the first place? Well, life is busy and an annual spring clean is a good time to reassess as you work. Things you kept three years ago may not be needed anymore. With Simone’s family of five, soon to be six now moved in permanently, its time to reassess.
Ren’s living in Vancouver so stuff packed up in easy to view lidded bins in case I want to borrow a dress for that party I’m going to…just kidding Ren.
In my method its kind of a combination of the two and really straight forward. Jen showed me everything should EARN their spot. As all spaces are like valuable Real Estate.
You have just two categories. First, do you use it? Its a no brainer really.
Second- do you love it? Whether you love it for its beauty or for sentimental reasons it doesn’t matter. If you love it, or it sparks like Konmari says, then you should keep it but if you keep it, it should be on display and loved not shoved in a box under the bed.
I found I liked to keep things ‘in case’ I needed it. Realistically if you haven’t used something in two years, you probably won’t need it and as Ren said. ‘It’s not going to waste, it’s going to be used or loved by another family that needs or wants it and providing much needed funds for a charity.’ Something that helped me was to fill boxes with stuff that was going. ‘The Outbox’, then put that box into the shed while I kept working. I was much more ruthless knowing I could go back to that box and rescue something. After a few weeks of working through, I didn’t have the same attachment and very rarely reclaimed something.
So start with clothing-Do you wear it? If the answer is no-get rid of it. It’s taking up valuable space. If you can, try each thing on and there will be a reason. I had clothes that I thought I loved. They sparked, but when I tried it on, it didn’t sit right or fit right or the colour was wrong. Some things are way out of date or needing repair. The important thing is to be honest with yourself. You will know the things you are holding but never wearing. I put aside about a third of my clothes then worked through the pile a couple of months later with Amy who confirmed. Outbox!
Next is Linen cupboard-Same thing applies-Are you using it? Sometimes we keep bedding that might come in handy if we have extras sleep over but the reality is we only need a small amount. Figure out how much you want to keep. 2 duvets and 2 pillows or 4 or 6? Whatever it is, top shelf the best and chuck the rest. In my original declutter I donated about ten duvets to the Sallys. I know!
Bathroom Cupboard-first chuck all ‘out of date stuff’. Put all those freebie sample packs or hotel shampoos or gorgeous gift boxed soaps in a bowl on the bench and use. After a month if you’re not using them, Outbox! Any good stuff that were maybe gifts and you know you won’t use? Outbox!
In my first declutter, I chucked out heaps of reference books that I hadn’t looked at in years. I figured I can look up internet so easily. I did however keep most of my gardening and sewing books. I get fireworks with these ones, tho this time I did take out what I deemed to be double ups. With magazines you are subscribed to allow yourself a maximum of twelve months if you must keep them. I had years and years taking up shelf space and almost never looked at after the first read. I had boxes and boxes to go. After my toe operation I went through them and was amazed at how out of date they were. I had boxes stacked up my wall! I can hardly believe it now.
With kitchen cupboards-same thing, Do you use it. No? Outbox! Plastic containers without lids are mostly useless. Outbox! I loved Amy’s advice of storing containers with lids on. When you reach in you’re not rummaging for a matching pair. Saves time and agro. A million attachments for the kitchen wizz I never use. Outbox! Little tiny stupid molds for making Xmas chocolates? Outbox! Simone actually rescued some of these…Couple of pots went along with extra pans I don’t use.
The other thing Jen said that I think was one of the most enlightening things for me was to think about space as graded. ‘A’ grade space is table or drawer tops, kitchen or bathroom benches and desks. Almost everything should have a place to live, and that’s not on top. The top should be clear, ready for work. I thought I was being super organised with everything at my finger tips but in actual fact with a clear bench its much easier to be productive. I would enter my sewing room and feel exhausted looking at the piles of stuff as the tops all became a dumping ground, it was too hard to clean up a space before I could work and I always felt burdened with ‘jobs to do’. Now I feel energised. So A is table/bench tops, B would be open shelves or drawers- easy to get to, C would be closed cupboards, D would be more difficult to get to, under benches etc. Idea is the more you use something the more accessible it should be. My ironing pile goes into C, don’t access very often. My preserving stuff into E space- couple of times a decade access.
Sorry kids. No dinner tonight. This is far too clean to mess up. Takeaways perhaps?
The hardest things were the momentos, especially those come to me from Nana or Mum. I love old things so I had to try and look at this stuff more objectively. Often these are not useful or we choose not to use it. Did I really love it, or was I just holding it because I had it. Konmari says to do these kinds of things at the end and shes right. You become less attached to items as you work through and when you pick it up and really evaluate, you can let it go. If you simply can’t then it’s mean’t to stay. I have the corset Nana wore to her wedding from around 1920, Mum’s from around 1951, Mine from 1977. Just need a daughters now and I will have 4 generations. These are pretty cool and show clearly the fashions of the times. These were all stashed in different spots. Jen said I should frame and showcase. I just need to think of a way to do that. Couldn’t let these go!
I was amazed at how many double ups of things I had or how I had things stuffed in different draws or boxes under the bed. So by gathering ‘like’ things together and deciding where things should live, you can see when you have say three staplers in different draws and staples somewhere else, and I couldn’t find one when I needed it. By designating a place for stationary and evaluating the pile, I could get rid of at least half of what I had.
Jen also explained to me I was a starter but not necessarily a finisher. I grabbed an idea and ran with it, but very often didn’t complete it. She suggested I set up my project room with more structure. Shelves now line one wall. I have my gardening and sewing books and also I have twelve project boxes. I’m not allowed to start a new project until I have an empty box. This has been great advice which has worked well for me. It made me get stuck in and sort what was worth finishing or just get rid of. I had for example a nighty and dressing gown I started for Simone twenty-six odd years ago when she was two. I finished them. Needed about an hours work. My motivation was to get an empty box. Its an awesome feeling to complete something and this works well for me.
Now you can’t do all this in a day and it took me weeks the first time and will this time too. Best advice I got for continuing was to look at jobs in small blocks. EG: Pencil in 15 minutes to sort a kitchen cupboard. Work hard, don’t be distracted. Put things away. Have a space, corner or shed where outboxes can go so you’re seeing immediate results. Don’t say ‘I’m going to spend today doing X’. Put a block of time aside so you don’t get waffly and side tracked and actually not achieve much.
What to do with the outboxes?
Trade Me – if you can be bothered. I made a tidy sum at my big declutter though it’s definitely not as good nowadays.
Steel recycling – for kitchen pans or pots that are no good to donate.
Charity – Find a local charity for good quality clothing and nice toiletries for women restarting out in the workforce after having children, or offer to refuge centres.
Refugee centres – Furniture, appliances, bedding and kitchen goods that are in good condition.
Almost anything else in good reusable condition -Salvation Army or Hospice shops. Even old clothes that are only good for rags get bagged up and sold to mechanics or similar.
Very little needs to go to the dump.
A big part of declutter is storage systems that work and best advice is to use your wall space where ever possible. Shelves, hanging setups, dividers in drawers. There are many ways to make better use of the space you have once you have decluttered…but that’s another story altogether!
talk soon, Tricia