One night a few years ago, I was out for dinner with a group of mums from the school (this bunch – I still miss them). One woman who is particularly wise and funny and interesting to talk to was telling us about a book she’d just read. A book about the life changing magic of tidying up by someone called Marie Kondo. She looked at our sceptical faces, and agreed that it sounded a bit mad – how could tidying up and decluttering change your life? But she was finding it an interesting read, and had a feeling it would be popular.
Indeed it was – a few months later, there were articles in every newspaper and magazine about the Marie Kondo method, and although I didn’t get around to buying the book, there was enough information online to figure out the basics.
Not that I followed it very well. If something didn’t spark joy, I was very good at removing it from my wardrobe/ shelf/ kitchen cupboard, but not so good at removing it from my life – instead, everything went to the attic. And as we cleared the attic recently in preparation for closing the sale of our house, I was abruptly reminded of this shortsighted approach.
Boxes and boxes of clothes – old kids’ clothes we forgot to pass down, old work clothes I superstitiously couldn’t ditch in case self-employment didn’t work out. Handbags. So many handbags, gathering dust. So many shoes.
And boots. Eleven pairs of knee-high boots. Each pair slightly different from the last, all in different bags and boxes, as though they bore no relation to one another. As though their owner kept buying, searching for the perfect pair, with no recollection of the ten pairs already discarded.
We found four kitchen chairs – we scratched our heads, looking at each other, trying to remember why they were up there. There was the wedding box – the magazines I’d kept (for my second marriage??), the sample invitations, the random pieces of ribbon.
The broken toys we couldn’t throw away, and the teddies with sentimental value – except there were dozens of them and actually they all looked the same. The blankets. The spare duvets we could never find when we needed them, replaced twice over. The extra bed linen, in boxes, just in case. So much just in case. I still haven’t read her book, but I can’t help feeling Marie Kondo isn’t into keeping every single thing you own forever just in case.
So we cleared out and packed up and threw away – we were RUTHLESS. Only the attic contents we’d really, truly need again – like our suitcases – were kept. And letters and photos of course, the boxes of memories that slowed our work, in a good way. But everything else went to charity or bin, including eleven pairs of knee-high boots. Never. Again.
And as I packed my capsule wardrobe for our temporary move to my dad’s house, I was again RUTHLESS. One jacket, one coat. Sweatshirts and jeans for weekdays, a few nice dresses for nights out. Five pairs of socks. Just five. RUTHLESS.
Never again would I fill a house – or an attic – with stuff. I’d buy less, keep less. Minimalist. Frugal. Less clutter, more space. More room to breathe and to live well. It would be a turning point – the life changing magic of tidying up, indeed.
Three days after we moved into my dad’s, when I was down to my last two pairs of socks, I realised he doesn’t have a working tumble drier. So I went shopping. I bought socks. And a little frying pan for scrambled eggs. And an apron to keep cooking smells off my clothes, because I packed all my aprons into storage. And Sellotape. And a hockey ball. And nail varnish remover. And a book. And then to be on the safe side, more socks. You know, just in case.