Neutral cardigan and the absence of joy

I love Marie Kondo’s phrase of ‘does this spark joy?’ when reviewing an item, but sometimes think it’s overstating how I feel.  My raincoat doesn’t exactly spark joy but I wouldn’t be without it.  So, I’ve tended to use The Minimalists’ phrase of ‘does this add value to my life?’.  This suits me better and allows me to make sensible choices when deciding what to keep or what to de-clutter.

But I have found that there are cases when ‘joy’ describes what ‘value’ can’t.  That’s when I understand why Konmari uses the word ‘joy’.

Some time ago, I came across a cardigan in a neutral, stone colour.  I immediately thought, ‘this will be so useful – the neutral colour will go with everything – it will be (that holy grail item) a wardrobe staple’.  I also thought that it was a bit ‘meh’ but I sensibly tamped down this feeling!

I bought it, took it home and hung it in the middle of my capsule wardrobe.  I felt pleased with myself for my sensible decision and was confident that it would add value to my wardrobe.

But here’s the thing – it didn’t spark joy.  It felt worthy and sensible and practical – but I never looked forward to wearing it.  The colour didn’t suit me, I felt I had to shrug my shoulders constantly to make it sit right and it always felt a bit dull – and this coming from someone who wears black A LOT!

I valued the practicality over the joy and, on this occasion, it didn’t work out.

Now, I have a pair of plain, black trousers – I love them, not only the trousers themselves, but because they go with so many items.  They look professional for work, I feel pulled together when I wear them and they’re comfortable.  Others may look at them and think ‘dull’!  But they spark joy for me. 

I think joy and value are unique, individual feelings.  The cardigan has helped me to distinguish between erring too much on the logical side and being comfortable with a gut feeling.

So, I’ve let the cardigan go, with no regrets.  Are you ever torn between practicality and joy?  Which wins?!!  Have a great week 🙂

De-cluttering my books

Emboldened by my success in de-cluttering my clothes, some months ago I started to de-clutter my books.

The wise Ms. Kondo, in her Life-Changing Magic of Tidying advises de-cluttering books, after clothes, and this is good advice.  If I had started with books, I would never have moved past them.  But de-cluttering my wardrobe has enabled me to view my books more dispassionately.

I think we have to build up our de-cluttering muscles over time.

I found going through my books a lot harder and far more personally challenging.  I love my books in a way I could never love my clothes. But when I started to question why I had so many, I found quite a parallel with the reasons I had been hanging onto clothes:

  • Many of my books bring me a lot of joy and certainly add value – but not all of them.
  • I like to re-read many of my books – but not all of them.
  • Some of them were purchased new on impulse but I didn’t reach for them – instead I re-read an old favourite.
  • I was reading 20% of my library 80% of the time.
  • Some books I had for years and years – and I was no longer the same person who once found value in them.
  • If I liked a book that was in a series, then I had to collect the whole series, regardless of whether I liked each individual book or not.
  • My tastes have started to lean more and more to non-fiction, yet most of my books are fiction – they don’t align with who I am as much as they used to.

When I moved from Ireland to the UK some years ago, I paid a lot of money for each and every book I owned to be transported over – a costly and time-consuming exercise.  Then they were stored in boxes for months and, to be honest, I would have had a hard time remembering what I had.  But when I eventually opened the boxes and saw my books again, I was flooded with joy and relief.  Looking back, I can see I tied up a lot of my identity with my beloved books.  Moving to a country where I knew no-one reinforced my books as friends and anchor points.

I have quite a few books on my Kindle also but am always mindful of digital clutter – it can be far more insidious than physical clutter as it’s almost invisible and so harder to spot.

I had three book-cases and now have one.  There are some books I think I could never give away but that’s fine – I know now what brings joy and I’m happy with what I have.  Some favourites include:

  • Edith Holden’s The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady – beautiful drawings, that could never be replaced by a Kindle version.
  • Pamela Brown’s The Swish of the Curtain – a children’s book that started my life-long passion for the theatre
  • Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird – a timeless classic and all-time favourite
  • Somerville & Ross’s The Irish RM and his Experiences – written in 1899 and still hilarious
  • An old, grimy textbook published in 1814, An Easy Introduction to the Arts and Sciences – it’s described on its first page as ‘useful and polite learning’ – how can you not love that description?!
  • And of course Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying – a constant source of inspiration!

Have you had any similar experiences?  Have a great week 🙂

KonMari Folding Fun

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how much I was influenced by Marie Kondo and her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  It is a truly wonderful book and well deserving of the hype that surrounds it.   When I first read it, I was inspired to remove my out-of-season clothes from my wardrobe, where they had been residing on hangers, and fold them instead.  I had been using two wardrobes for all of my clothes and now just use one, for this season’s clothes, with the remainder folded in a chest of drawers.  The sense of extra light and space that this brought is so calming and freeing.

However, I don’t think I gave this step as much reflection as it deserved, until a reader and fellow blogger, J. Mordars, commented on my blog that ‘Just the folding techniques alone are life changing’.   This made me stop and think about something I had taken for granted.   The folding tips in the KonMari method are so sensible and practical that they are very easy to put into place, although at first, it took me a while to figure them out.  To be honest, that is more about me than the method and I won’t pretend that my results would stand up to Ms. Kondo’s scrutiny!  But when I got there, it was so satisfying and liberating.  True, it took me a good couple of hours and while I know this may be too much of an overhead for some, I found it almost therapeutic.  Some dedicated work with a tangible result at the end can be almost a novelty on some days!

So the clothes that I reach for daily are hanging in my wardrobe.  My out-of-season clothes are folded away, washed, clean and neatly stored, ready for a future season.  I’ve also applied this to lounge-wear, workout wear, underwear, scarves …..  It’s like a lot of things, once you believe in the principle, you want to apply it wherever possible.

So, thanks to Ms. Kondo and her aptly-titled book and to J. Mordars, for helping me stop and reflect, about something so simple and helpful.  Has the folding bug bitten you at all?  Do you find value in it?  Have a good week 🙂


De-cluttering by season

white-shirtThe Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is one of my favourite books and is invaluable in my ongoing journey to simplicity.  When I first read it, I did a wardrobe de-clutter and it was so satisfying.  I re-phrased ‘does it spark joy?’ to ‘does it add value?’ as it worked better for me.  My raincoat doesn’t exactly spark joy but as I live in England, it adds immeasurable value.

However, looking back, I fell into a silly and obvious trap.  If, for example, I de-cluttered three worn, ill-fitting or unflattering white shirts, I then bought a single white shirt in their place, that fit my new criteria, or so I thought.  I even felt a warm, self-satisfied glow, thinking I had replaced three items with one.  If that wasn’t minimalism, what was?!!  What I didn’t do, was ask the most basic question of ‘do I actually need a white shirt?’.  Having three shirts or one was not the problem.  Having one of any item that I don’t wear or have a need for, is not helping the simplicity journey!

While I am so pleased that I carried out the initial overall wardrobe de-clutter, I now carry out a seasonal, smaller de-clutter that works better for me.  When I transition my clothes from one season to another, I review what I loved wearing and why and what I didn’t reach for and why.   The majority of pieces are either carried forward for a future capsule or I let them go, in the hope that someone else will find a use for and a pleasure in them, which had eluded me.

I then try on every piece that I had put aside for the forthcoming season and subject them to the same scrutiny.  I find the overlapping review of seasons – past and future – is a better indicator, especially now, when I have been losing some weight over the past year.  Although a season is only three months, weight loss can make a difference – and far more so with bottoms, than tops, I’ve noticed.

I still read Marie Kondo’s helpful book and dip in and out of it quite often.  She does frame her method as being a one-off tidying exercise and, if done properly, it never has to be done again.  However, I see my seasonal weeding out as an ongoing review of what suits me and my lifestyle, rather than a significant de-cluttering task.  It feels like a mindful and intentional way of reviewing and appreciating the clothes I am so lucky to have.