My last post on the Marie Kondo approach to tidying garnered some strong feelings, and I am not surprised. This is an issue where everyone has a different approach and attitude and I completely respect everyone’s viewpoint.
We are partly what we own – a house, our furniture, clothes, books, pictures, possessions. Our life can to some extent be summed up by how we dress ourselves, the music we have bought, books read. Our possessions And allow us to make our space beautiful and personal. However at some point we may start to experience a sense of unease – feeling perhaps that we have too much (similar to when we eat too much). The we have to move the stuff somewhere else – putting it into suitcases, placing it in the attic or under the stairs, pushing items to the back of the wardrobe or just ignoring them for years on end. To my mind we reach a tipping point and instead of enjoying what we have we find our possessions a burden. For me this feeling is summed up by not knowing where everything is. I have so much that I cannot possibly enjoy it. I know I will be happier with less.
There is some cynicism about the Japanese mysticism – bowing to the house, thanking the socks – associated with the book. Both Jenny and Stephanie, who had read the book, felt this was the oddest part. But for me there is something in this, which I will come to at the end. Let me first elaborate what I did; then I will tell you how it made me feel.
Does this item “spark joy”?
I have made a start. I have emptied out my underwear drawers and tried the Marie Kondo method of tidying.
- If you are having difficulty deciding if something brings you joy (pair of navy tights) you can ask yourself if you would be embarrassed lending them to someone else? Of if you went on a date would you be happy to be seen in the item? Or, the old chestnut, if you were knocked down and a nurse was underdressing you would your knickers or bra pass muster?
- I found having a rough idea of how many of an item was “reasonable” was helpful. I thought maybe with knickers and tights two weeks worth, and with bras I think I have seven.
I am down to a small number – maybe 15 pairs, most of them black. The black ones I have kept as they are nice soft pants, rather plain and well fitting. The coloured ones are retained because I am attracted to colour and will choose to wear them most often. But many of my pants are old, and I rarely invest in them. I generally buy them when they are reduced at M&S. They never spark joy even when brand new.
I am left with very few pairs of socks, but then I usually only wear them with trousers at weekends. I threw out all my white sports socks because they all looked grubby. Like my sales rack knickers I buy cheap socks – usually by the 5 or 10 pack at Primark. They do not last well and they are not the best sports socks for comfort.
I mainly wear thick tights all through the winter, autumn and spring. In summer I wear bare legs or skin coloured “nylons”. My thick tights hardly ever ladder so they last for years; some I threw out were more than 10 years old. I also had seven or eight unopened packs – having picked them up on special offer, or when I went to work without a pair in my bag (I leave the house in gym wear). And, for reasons of “economy” I normally buy a five pack. So I had far too many tights. Maybe 50 pairs. The problem is compounded by having three “neutrals”. As I don’t wear black I use navy, dark brown and dark grey as my “black” tights. So I “need” three times as many as someone relying on black And then I like coloured tights so have a pair or two in every colour. I threw out the ones that were really worn. I threw out the ones that were not a very nice shade of brown or grey. I favoured the brand new ones. I know I still have too many, including some that are not truly loved. I feel I have not done this job properly because I compromised. I may have to revisit this issue with greater resolve when I am stronger.
I don’t like the look of clear tights in the drawer. They do not fill me with joy at all. I am slightly scared of them because when I wear them I often ladder them as I am pretty clumsy. I have whittled them down to just a few pairs. I took them out of the packaging, as proposed by Marie but they feel fragile and shapeless despite careful folding.
I am down to seven good quality (and expensive) bras in white (2), nude (2), navy blue, mid blue and turquoise – all the same brand, size and style.
I got into the folding. The idea is to have the items folded into the right size of rectangle that will stand up vertically in your drawers, so you can see exactly what you have when choosing an outfit. This bit worked well and, as described in the book, will increase the life of my items. One reason my tights have got a bit ratty is because I used to make them into a twisted ball. And the socks got turned inside out to keep the pair together. I also had purchased Lakeland “dividers” in the drawers to put the socks and pants in – but I threw them out this week because they just took up space and didn’t allow me to organise properly.
I have my own version of “spark joy”. I include need, like and love. I also can now distinguish between an item I am proud of (would happily show or give to someone) and that which embarrasses me.
So how did I come to terms with letting go of items that have served their time? Did I “thank them” as advised.
What surprised me was how worn and grubby some things were. I had not really looked carefully at them before. Underwear, tights and socks get tossed in the laundry basket. The are washed and they dry. Unpressed they get shoved in the right drawer, then worn again. These low status items (25p for a pair of socks – it’s pretty disgraceful, isn’t it?), bought in sales and jumbo economy packs, are important in looking nice, and feeling good. But until this week I never really considered buying nice socks or underpants, or looking after the items so that they would last. I had a “buy cheap and chuck it out” mentality which resulted in me having lots of low grade, poor quality, sweatshop constructed underwear. Now I realise this is not me and I will rethink. When I replace my shabby sports socks I will consider their qualities, and once I own them I will look after them better. And I think this is all that is meant by Kondo in terms of treating inanimate objects with respect. Looking after your clothes just makes sense if we want to look good, and get reasonable wear from quality items. And this is a big lesson for me.
You know, the one thing that really irritated me about that book was that when it was translated to english, the editor didn’t bother to correct the endless hyphens throughout the book. It felt sloppy and a huge oversight for someone preaching about being organized. Perhaps they felt it wasn’t necessary but isn’t this all about presentation?
I would rather have fewer with a nicer quality, take extra care of them verses many of a cheap quality that quickly becomes landfill.
Sorry I digress…
This is great, K. I love reading about your process. I think you slightly misinterpreted me on the socks – I meant that I recognized that westerners will be uncomfortable with thanking their socks, and I am unlikely to do this myself, as it feels awkward and new. That said, I absolutely take the point about considering objects more carefully and taking care of them. Gianni has made an impact on me in this regard. He not only buys more carefully than I used to (even socks), but he folds and cares for things exceptionally well. I remember arriving in Paris, exhausted, and he unpacked my suitcase and neatly folded everything for me as one would fold store merchandise, and put the things on shelves. I would have just left them in the suitcase, or hung up a few things and tossed everything else on a shelf! I’m looking forward to reading about your progress through this series as I am keen to do this over the summer.
Thanks as ever for the most thoughtful feedback. I love the image of you and G in a Paris hotel. Nick is similar to Gianni in that he does really care for his clothes and it is inspiring when you notice it. Also I think the “store merchandise” look is very appealing. That is part of why we buy things – so having them folded nicely, and properly displayed at home too makes a lot of sense. I am thrilled you are on the same journey too – I am finding it hard to stick too, so the posts are part of keeping myself on task.
Ahh, this is the peak of the slippery slope that leads to knitting your own socks! 🙂
I do find that now I’m more inclined to make something myself instead of just buying another ‘disposable’ version of whatever it was that needed to be thrown out. I definitely think more about if I want or need something, and whether it will have a place within my wardrobe.
I know! There are bloggers who make their own tights and shoes too! Not me. I buy RTW when it is better, cheaper, nicer than what I could make. But like you I find myself much more reflective now, and I think that is good thing.