I wanted to write something about Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and my own decluttering process.
I’ve had problems with hoarding since I was a little girl. There are a few theories about why people hoard and what the psychology is behind it; bereavement, childhood poverty, trauma, loss, uncertainty.
I find it very difficult to throw anything away, and feel a horrible sense of loss when I do force myself to do it. But due to circumstances, such as moving house, or not having a lot of storage space I’ve had to be quite strict with myself and learn how to declutter. (Nothing like living out of one room to make you confront how much *stuff* you have!!)
This isn’t a holier than thou post because I hate decluttering and I find it really hard. I’ve forced myself to do it out of necessity. I cleared out some books recently and almost threw up on the Oxfam guy who came to collect them. Like some kind of crazy drug addict going through withdrawal. Hoarding is a habit. And it’s also an expensive habit. I think my rock bottom was when I paid some guy £150 to transport my belongings from one rental place to another, only to open the boxes and discover that half of it was *actual rubbish*. I threw it in the trash and absorbed it as a lesson. I was short of money at the time so it was a big wake up call.
I’ve been interested in decluttering for a long time, since before it was a trendy thing. My family were very religious, and I knew of monasteries and nunneries where you weren’t allowed to own anything. A few communal items like crockery, but no personal possessions. I was fascinated and horrified by these people. I couldn’t understand how they coped without their stuff.
I’m currently living in Canterbury UK. It’s a famous historical city, which is very nice, and I enjoy living here. It’s very arty and I have a lovely circle of friends in the town, so overall I am very happy to be here. The only downside is that for some reason it’s as expensive as London, but with fewer job prospects. I’m kind of settled here, and my work is here, so moving somewhere cheaper like “Up North” isn’t really an option for me right now. Housing here is phenomenally expensive. Like I actually physically wince when I look at property listings here, and it’s not an affectation. Renting or buying are both expensive, and local and national government are doing f-all to provide affordable housing or impose any rent caps on landlords. I’m not in the system but from what I’ve seen on Facebook residents’ groups I think there is a shortage of council housing in the area.
I was very fortunate recently because a friend contacted me to let me know about a very cheap non-grotty place to live, which solves a lot of problems for me. The only disadvantage is that it’s in a large shared house with other professionals, so I need to be able to fit all my stuff in one room!!
Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing really hardcore decluttering. I bought the audio-book of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, and listened to it while I was sorting through my *stuff*. I would definitely recommend doing this. A, because buying the physical book is more stuff, and B, because it’s nice to have the encouragement while you are actually tidying.
It’s been a very hard and emotional process, and I’ve had to do it in stages. Be strict with yourself about getting started, but be kind to yourself if you need to take a break. And start with the easy bits, like socks and crockery. Leave the box of old love letters to the end!
I feel very happy about doing this, so I wanted to say something positive about the process as well. De-cluttering has really helped me focus on certain areas of my life (such as work, writing, personal) that I’d been ignoring and trying not to think about. A lot of the clutter was half finished projects, this is especially true of clearing out an office or studio space. Cleaning out forced me to asses each project and be honest with myself about what my priorities and goals are in life. I’m never going to be a world champion knitter. In fact I find knitting pointless and boring. So why do I have a dozen boxes of wool and knitting needles? It’s insane. Looking over what I have left, it’s all things I feel really passionately about. Some clothes and books that I love, and some oil paints (oil is my favourite medium). All the old paperwork is gone, and there’s just a file about two upcoming exhibitions that I’m working on and feeling really excited about.
My head feels clearer than it has done in years. When I first read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, I loved it, but the final section where she talks about how tiding can really change your life felt rather optimistic and phoney. And spiritual. I’m British not Japanese so I’m more into Sarcasm than Zen. But even I have to admit that a lot of stuff started to fall into place for me as I was de-cluttering. Some long term money problems sorted themselves out. I’m a practicing writer and artist, so I have a pretty complicated life juggling creative work and day jobs, but a few things resolved themselves while I was getting rid of my baggage. It was spooky, but I’m not complaining.
Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying is available from Amazon.