I know I’m several years late to the Marie Kondo party. Her 2014 book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has not just “sparked joy” for her thousands of devoted followers but also a media empire. Most notably a Netflix series that has racked up millions of views and several best-selling follow-on publications.
Her main thesis is The Konmari Method. Firstly, break down your possessions into categories clothes, books and paper. Then into sub-categories (e.g socks, old Laois jerseys etc).
Only keep things that “spark joy” in you, while saying thank you to the items you discard. Then organise all the things you want to keep so that they are visible to you and most importantly you have to do this all in one go.
For the last few years, myself and my wife have shared a common saying “we’re just moving the mess around”. Toys, books and random plastic crap bestows our living space like a heavily fortified World War Two naval minefield.
As singletons, we didn’t have to do tiding up. Now it’s a constant fight. Us versus them. I’ve noticed like thousands of other families with small kids we discovered our own Kondo thesis: The TSA method. Throws, stairs and attic.
The next time when you walk into a house that harbours small children count the amount of throws and rugs they have. They aren’t trying to accentuate a bohemian decor. Whatever mess your kids make, it can magically disappear.
Just fling what I like to call a “throw of shame” over it. Word of warning — if you sit on one of these “throws of shame” in my house your posterior is probably resting on a yogurt-based atrocity.
The stairs is another speakeasy for clutter. Once prior to friends visiting we jam-packed it with so much crap that we had to cordon off the area with police tape in case of spontaneous explosion.
However, it’s our attic where clutter reigns supreme.
When I told my wife I was reading Marie Kondo and planning to implement her strategy to tackle the mess she erupted: “Are you f##king serious ? I keep everything I have neat and the kids’ stuff is only in one room of the house. It’s you, Bernard. You’re the problem. Look around. Your massive exercise bike, your guitars, your clothes, and your shoes are EVERYWHERE. Sort your mess out and we’ll sort out the mess in this house.”
The “massive exercise bike” is actually an air bike. It was a lockdown buy last March. My thinking was I would do a high-intensity cardio workout every day to get fit and lose weight. It hasn’t gone to plan and it’s currently being used as an ad-hoc clothes horse.
As for the guitars, they were an essential part of my work … about 20 years ago. Now I have them hung on the walls like old moose heads and leaning in various corners of rooms like elusive Russian spies.
I always leave my shoes downstairs, which wrecks my wife’s head. It’s a throwback to when I’d have to get up early in the mornings and dress downstairs so as not wake everybody.
“Why can’t you leave them in your wardrobe like normal people,” she says. I could but then we would never have hilarious videos of all our children trying to walk in my size nines.
But it’s clothes hoarding where I’m the biggest offender. I have boxer shorts dating back to the late 90s and a pair of socks I bought in Germany in 2001 with “Bernhard” written on them. Like age rings on a mighty oak, most of my shirts and trousers are reflective of good and bad years of my weight loss and moreover my weight gains.
When I lose weight I bring the bigger clothes to the recycle bin. When I inevitably put the weight back on, I’ve to buy more.
Thus those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it. Or in my case re-buy it. So for the last few years I’ve kept everything just in case magically overnight I wake up 12 and a half stone.
As Marie suggested I put everything I owned guitars, clothes, shoes, electronics into a big pile on the bedroom floor.
As I went through my personal junk behemoth very few items “sparked joy”. All it sparked was a reminder how fragile my bank balance can become in pursuit of happiness.
In my mind, I made three of my own Kondo-like sub-categories. Things I thought would make me look slimmer. Things I thought would make me more talented and things I bought in delusion.
Then it dawned on me. I have multiple pairs of shoes because regardless of my weight shoes will always fit you.
Instead of feeling a sense of renewal after my possession purging all I was left with was a big pile of failure plonked on my bedroom floor.
Refusing to wallow in self-pity (although this would be one of favourite hobbies a good wallow is worth two cries in a bush) I decided to move all my unwanted crap to my personal vault of crushed ambitions that only I have the key to.
As for the massive air bike? I plan on watching all eight episodes of Marie Kondo’s show which last on average 40 minutes while working out on it as a reminder to everyone (my wife) that I’m not a hoarder.
I’m just an extremely ambitious person who finds it difficult to throw anything out.
Why force yourself to live in denial when you can put it in the garden shed?