There is a phrase ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ which explains a lot about me. Not being a god bothering type I’m not entirely clear on the meaning but I suspect that it’s saying that god only likes clean people. Which is understandable really. I always thought that all that communing with lepers and washing beggars feet stuff was a bit overdone. Not even Mother Theresa stooped that low and she was only 4ft tall.
To be honest I don’t think this phrase is even in the bible, unless it’s in the same bit of the bible that says homosexuality is a sin and which has only ever been seen by Baptists.
In my head I am quite a tidy person. Not literally in my head, though it would be interesting if you cut open my brain and instead of it being all curly wurly you found it all neatly stacked like a Benetton. (1980s British reference to a store staffed by snooty obsessive-compulsive Europeans before that became a ‘thing’ in London and whose slogan, the United Colors of Benetton, applied only to their itchy jumpers).
I think my problem is that I can visualize the house being lovely and tidy and organized but because I don’t believe in ‘The Secret’ or any kind of nonsense magical thinking, I cannot actually manifest this. It’s the same with receiving a check in the post for $500,000.
So when my friend Elizabeth mentioned the book ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’* and how she had embraced it, it sounded intriguing. The book is by a Japanese woman called Marie Kondo (not short for Kondominium). Her method is called the KonMari method which she helpfully explains is a combination of her first and last name. I am hoping to find a similar method of doing something that I can patent, though the GallMagg method doesn’t have quite the same visual or auditory appeal.
This is her quite bold assertion: “When you’ve finished putting your house in order, your life will change dramatically. Never again will you revert to clutter. This is what I call the magic of tidying. And the effects are stupendous. Not only will you never be messy again but you’ll also get a new start on life.”
A few years ago this would have sounded excellent. But at 49 I’m not sure that I want my life to change dramatically or indeed to experience stupendous effects. Perhaps there needs to be a middle-aged version where the effects are mildly exhilarating and you’ll feel a bit better about things.
Anyway, the basic principles of Kondo-Mari seem to be:
(1) Tidy up all in one go.
(2) Sort by category not location.
(3) Base decluttering decision on ‘does it spark joy?’.
(4) Have a place for everything and put everything away. Mostly folded.
These are all very sound principles. Especially the ‘spark joy’ one where you hold the item in your hand and determine what kind of feeling you get. This clearly works best with clothes and books and other personal items, less so with householdy stuff like washing powder and spoons.
But then, because Kondo-Mari is a shintoist, we get into the slightly loony anthropomorphic part. “This is the routine I follow every day when I return home from work. First I unlock the door and announce to the house “I’m home!”. Picking up the pair of shoes I wore yesterday and left out in the entranceway, I say, “Thank you very much for your hard work”, and then put them away in the shoe cupboard.”
This strikes me as the kind of thing you do when you’ve been living alone for too long and just before social services pops round and asks if you’d like to take a nice little holiday.
The real sticking point, based on most of the reviews, appears to be her suggestion that at the end of each day you should unpack your handbag because “Being packed all the time, even when not in use, must feel something like going to bed on a full stomach.” I would suggest that a sense of fullness is something to be grateful for when there are starving bags all over the world who would kill for that very feeling. But she is at least not suggesting that your gluttonous, constipated bag sleep in the same bed as you. Instead you should purchase a sleeping bag for your handbag so that it gets a decent night’s kip. “I return to my bedroom, put my empty handbag in a bag, and put it on the top shelf of the closet, saying, “You did well. Have a good rest.”
Of course Kondo-Mari is something of an oddball even by Japanese standards: “At school while other kids were playing dodge ball or skipping, I’d slip away to rearrange the bookshelves in our classroom or check the contents of our mop cupboard.”
Whose school has a mop cupboard? We had the vomit closet where the caretaker kept a metal bucket of sawdust and some smelly old rags that he occasionally rinsed the sick out of in the toilets.
Despite my mild level of sarcasm I have actually followed the ‘spark joy’ concept and donated a large bundle of clothes that mostly sparked a ‘mutton-dressed-as-lamb’ sort of feeling. And she definitely got me on the sock drawer. Because you’re not supposed to ball up your socks. Yes it makes it easier to keep them together and yes the balls make good ammunition when you’re trying to wake up the dog/husband. But Kondo-Mari says think about those poor socks – they’re either on your feet or being spun around in the washing machine, what a horrendous life. Resting together in the sock drawer is their only time to relax. (But the apartheid rules still stand, don’t get lazy and let them integrate).
Bollocks you may say. But you sock ballers just wait till you next open your drawer and imagine them as little furry animals who’ve had their skin turned inside out and then try not to hear their muffled screams. You’re welcome. There is definitely a very dark Pixar revenge movie in this book.
* I was not paid for this review.