KonMari Life in England

January 30, 2019

 

Recently, I reached out to my readers to find out what topics would be of interest for me to write about. Thank you to everyone who sent me such fantastic ideas! I easily have enough to write for a year, now I just need to make the time. A suggestion that surprised me, was to write how I keep my home tidy and organized. First off, I would like to let you know that tomorrow morning I have a meeting at my son's school, I don't even know what it's for, but it's in my calendar so I will show up. I'm not perfectly organized by a long shot! I do try though, and I am obsessed with keeping my home in order because it is important for my mental health. I've been tidy my whole life, my bedroom as a child was immaculate, and in the years I had to share a room with my sister, it was difficult for me. Little did I know, that I would someday share my space with not one, but FOUR messy boys and miss my sister's barely unkempt ways. I am not a strict mother, except in two areas; kindness... and tidiness. However, boys pee on the floor and write the word poooooop on the wall even when you tell them not to a million times and they are filled with remorse when they do. 

 

I discovered Marie Kondo in 2014. My twins were one and my oldest was four years old. I devoured that book. "The life-changing magic of tidying up," lived up to it's title. It was magic. The idea of simplifying my life to create a more peaceful home environment deeply resonated with me. I jumped right in. I piled all my clothes on my bed. I was appropriately horrified with how much I owned. I did the same for books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and sentimental items. They all horrified and overwhelmed me. I didn't have a show to watch, I followed the book's instruction. I got rid of A LOT of stuff. I filled my mini van and dropped unwanted yet still useful items at Value Village. I threw things away. I didn't spend money on clothing for a year. I changed my mindset. I became more grateful. I spent less time tidying (because there was less to tidy). I discovered the *minimalist lifestyle and embraced it. I never had to overhaul my possessions again, because, if done properly, once is enough. I wrote about the KonMari method for various blogs and for the Window Magazine. 

 

Now that Marie Kondo has become a global sensation, I've received numerous messages from friends who are working through the method on their own, most spurred into action from Kondo's wildly popular and perfectly timed Netflix series. The world is chaotic and having some control over our homes and surroundings feels good. Remember that I keep my home in order for my mental health? Sometimes it feels like the only thing I have control over and as silly as it sounds, an uncluttered space brings me immense calm. 

 

As always, the show doesn't hold a candle to the book. Despite this, I watched every episode and enjoyed it tremendously. The families were real and the issues relatable. Marie Kondo was kind and adorable yet firm. I love that the show lacks the shock value of many other decluttering genre shows. There are no makeover teams or renovations, just real people with their real stuff, making it work. No one is bullied or made to feel ashamed of their possessions.

 

One thing the show did very well, was to illustrate that every person will have a different amount of items that "spark joy." It's a misconception that the KonMari method will empty your home of all possessions- although I suppose this could be the case if you are clinically depressed and nothing sparks joy for you. If you are struggling, please get help and don't worry about Marie Kondo, it's not the right time for you. For those who feel sufficiently strong to continue, know that if owning an extensive collection of Christmas decorations sparks joy for you, then they stay, and you organize them in such a way that they can be useful to you. The same goes for books, or shoes, or anything. If they spark joy, they stay. There is a rumour going around that Marie Kondo says you may only keep thirty books. This is false, nowhere in her literature or on her show does she say this. The idea is to not mindlessly hang on to things. I'm sure we all have books on our shelves that we don't love or will never read, these are the books to to donate. They might spark joy for someone else! 

Something that I felt was missing from the show, was the shift in mindset that is required to properly implement the KonMari method. People featured on the show did have some changes of heart and sweet moments, but it is difficult to illustrate the life long commitment to this new lifestyle required for success. Anyone contemplating the KonMari lifestyle really needs to take a look at their privilege and be grateful. People who need the KonMari method, are living a life of privilege and excess, myself included.  Anyone actually struggling to provide the necessities of life for themselves or their families, would no doubt think us all very spoiled and ridiculous. This shift also comes into play for those who misunderstand the KonMari method and want to throw away their bills or bra. There is a level of gratitude for everything that serves you. I'm not sure how to explain this without being annoying. YES my kitchen utensils and cleaning supplies spark joy. My credit card bill does as well. And my bra. And my partner. They all do fine work and I am appreciative. 

 

I have read many articles about how the KonMari method is bad for the environment. I would have to disagree. If you have read the book and are actually committing to live differently, you will be having a positive effect on the environment. You will be buying less. You will be choosing quality over quantity. You will be making more mindful decisions. Initially you will throw away and get rid of a lot of things (hopefully more donations than trash), but the idea is that you don't let that back into your life. Space you have made due to purging and tidying your life is not meant to be refilled with more stuff! This is where the trap lies. Change your mindset. Be thankful for what you have, switch off your consumerist mentality, and your ecological footprint will be lessened. You will have more money, you will have more time, and you will be better able to help others. 

 

So how do I keep my home tidy? I don't buy a lot. This year I am on another spending freeze, it's something that really works for me. It's so much easier if you don't bring anything that doesn't spark joy into your house in the first place! You do have to be vigilant with children, they tend to accumulate a lot of what my partner and I refer to as "garbage toys," toys that will not last and will definitely end up in the trash. Try to avoid these where you can, I know it's not always possible. Keep your eye out and make them disappear when they inevitably break. Talk about this with your children, it's good for them to learn about quality and gratitude from an early age. Make your children tidy up after themselves, no exceptions. Have them put their clothes in the laundry hamper when they are dirty and away in their closet if clean. I will admit that my boys are rubbish at folding, but if they have put their clothes away in their drawers, I let it go. If they play with lego, they clean it up, if they have toys in the bath they pick them up. Make toy bins easy and accessible. Have a place for everything. We don't even have a junk drawer because every item has a home. 

 

Something to remember, is that you can only use Kondo's methods on your own possessions. Obviously, children need additional help and guidance, but as they get older, they are responsible for their own possessions. In the same vein, it's not acceptable to throw out things belonging to your spouse or any other adult living with you. I have made this mistake once in the past, and I am still in  trouble because my partner holds grudges and likes to tease me. Don't throw away a "Baby's First Christmas" ornament that does not belong to you just because it doesn't match your decor. Even if you are foolish and naive and only twenty years old. I'm lucky our marriage survived this day. Sometimes your tidy ways will rub off on others, sometimes they won't. Of course, it is so much easier if everyone in the home is willing to tackle the KonMari method together.

 

In England we receive charity bags through our mail slot. I find them very helpful and I do a little cleanup and see what we are not using or what the boys have grown out of every couple of  weeks as a bag arrives. I try to fill the bag when possible. We then leave the bag outside on our appointed day and it gets collected. Charity shops in England are small and each for a specific charity. The one problem with the bag method is that you have to read the instructions on the bag and only put in the items requested. The items are always different, although clothes are the most common item required. Once again, England is far more complicated than Canada, where we drop piles of things whenever we want at the nearest Value Village or Good Will. Furniture and everything. In Ottawa we once left a broken couch in front of our house on garbage day, and the garbage collectors took it! I feel like we might get thrown out of England, or at the very least fined, if we did this here. For this reason, I believe that starting the KonMari method in Canada is MUCH easier than in England. Once you've purged your unwanted items in England, it's a bit more work to sort out where to send them all. 

 

However, I believe that LIVING the KonMari method in England is easier in the long run. The English live in a more sustainable way naturally. The houses are much smaller with far less storage space. When I first moved here, I thought that our house was the perfect size (it is actually embarrassingly large for a house in the UK, but I had no idea), although I wished it had a basement (no one has a basement here). Within six months, I realized that we didn't need the extra space of a basement and I am not sure why I thought that we did. I've noticed that people here shop in smaller amounts and more often. The Costco mentality of stocking up does not seem to exist, although now with Brexit looming that may change. People walk more, buy less, and enjoy simple pleasures whilst sorting our their complicated charity donations. I know that homes in Japan are small as well, and that no doubt has influenced Marie Kondo's sensibilities. 

 

My wish is that we can all learn from each other and support each other in finding our best lives. For some, that may be picking up, "the life-changing method of tidying up" and starting the KonMari method, for others that may be simplifying or organizing your life in some other way. There is no right or wrong process, only improvement. If you don't like to be tidy, that is also fine. The KonMari method is not about shame, it's about gratitude. I'm grateful for anyone reading this and I wish you the best in your tidy/messy/beautiful life. Now if you will please excuse me, I have some cleaning to do. 

 

*My favourite definition of minimalism by Colin Wright, "What Minimalism is really all about is reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff — the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities — that don’t bring value to your life."

 

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