Wednesday 30 March 2016

The Art of tidying and sticking with it

I have never been a minimalist, and chances are I will never become one. I am one of those people who sees an empty surface as a challenge. Ok, that is not quite true, it is more like empty surfaces do not last in my home, a bit like plants, they just can’t survive here. As an outsider you might think that the reason is lack of space, far too many possessions for a tiny London flat. The reality is somewhat more complex, it doesn’t seem to matter how much space I have, it seems eventually I overfill it. If I had two closets instead of one you can count on it both being full.
The problem of course is that it is practically impossible to keep any sort of order this way. Every tidying session turns to a mammoth task and the effects never seem to last more than a few days. For the most part it used to be annoying and mildly inconvenient, but never bothered me to the point of wanting to drastically change my ways.

Of course it all changed as soon as I made a decision to start freelancing and effectively work from home. All the things that I used be able to push off until the weekend were staring me right in the face all the time! Clothes that haven’t been folded, dishes that have not been put away, piles of books, and let’s not forget an insane amount of beauty products. I could not concentrate on anything, it was very clear that working from home was not going to happen until the whole apartment was put to rights.

It was pretty obvious that I needed to get rid of things, and it was no trouble filling up a couple of bags for the charity shop. Yet it was like a drop in the ocean, flat was still a mess. I was getting desperate, the only solution seemed to be getting a bigger place. Then on Periscope a blogger mentioned a book: “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying” by Marie Kondo. Within minutes it was on my Kindle.

The book is translated from Japanese, and it was not written for a western audience. Certain things may come across odd when taken out of context of a very different culture, but for me I found that you really just need to forget about it and simply follow the instructions. It won’t take long to figure out what is and isn’t for you, but just try it first.
At its core you are following a few simple steps:
1. You sort things out by category like clothes, books, beauty not by location.
2. Bring everything out from the category you are concentrating on into one place.
3. Decide what you are keeping.
4. Only once you have decided on everything that you are keeping, only then find a place for it.
5. Repeat with the next category.
The idea is that you keep only the items that make you truly happy (obviously there is a different set of rules for important documents, but it seems most of us tend to hold on to some outdated papers). Once you have gone through everything, each of your possessions has a dedicated place. So instead of constantly trying to find space for things, all that needs to be done is putting them back, and that takes very little time.
For me the biggest problem was clothes. While I rarely buy more than 2-3 items per season, I do get clothes as presents and had quite a collection accumulated over the years since my shape and size has not changed much. I used to put my out of season clothes into storage, and taking into account that spring, summer and autumn in London all sort of merge into one at times it was not a great system to have. With Konmari method of folding the only things I have in storage are my bathing suits and beach towels. The idea is that you fold your clothes in such a manner that they are standing up, and when you open your draw you can see everything at a glance. Surprisingly I was able to fit more clothing into my draws this way, and packing for a trip away now takes a few minutes.

The reason why Konmari method of tidying actually works is because by following the method you are still choosing things that are important to you. It is not about getting rid of things that you haven’t used for a year, but about only keeping things that make you happy. You might have a sweater or a scarf that holds sentimental value but it isn’t something that you would wear. Essentially what this book does is teaches how to distinguish between what is and isn’t valuable to you and how to take care of the things that you love so they keep for longer.

When I got “The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying” I kept thinking that I was becoming Bridget Jones with her shelves full of self-help books. The truth is learning to distinguish between what is and isn’t important to you is a powerful tool that goes beyond things that you own, it really does rub off on other areas of your life. It is so easy to get lost in the world of latest must haves, and lose track of what brings you joy. The true magic of this experience was that it put me back in touch with myself.

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