This week I’ve been thinking about Marie Kondo, because so has everyone else. From everything I’d ever heard about her, I thought I’d strongly dislike her. The phrase “spark joy” makes me think of a peppy blonde American woman who assumes you can happy your problems away. You know the ones: the people who tell you the power of positive thinking will cure your chronic illness.
I’m a pretty tidy person by nature; whenever I put stuff down on a surface, I automatically put it down precisely aligned. This amuses and occasionally concerns people. And from what I’d heard of Marie Kondo besides the “spark joy” phrase, it sounded like her approach to tidying was just common sense: do you need it? do you like it? If the answer to both of those questions is ‘no’, then throw it away.
The reality is a little more complicated than that. And since I had some Netflixing time this week anyway, I thought I’d check out her show, which I liked.
I think the reason “spark joy” sounds so grating is because it’s an English translation of a Japanese phrase. I don’t speak Japanese, but I imagine something gets a bit lost in the translation.
Speaking of translation, though, let’s just take a moment to appreciate Marie Iida:
Watching Marie Kondo’s show, I was impressed by how respectful she is of the people she’s helping. There’s a furore on social media at the moment because people think she’s told them they’re only allowed to keep thirty books, which would indeed be cause for flaying someone alive. However what she actually said was that she personally has thirty books, because that’s the right number for her. Anyone who’s watched the episode of her Netflix show where she talks to Mario, the guy with the extensive shoe collection, will see how respectful she is of people actually wanting to keep things.
The whole point seems to be not to have stuff lying around that’s just cluttering your life. Stuff you’ve forgotten you even had, that you never use, or stuff that doesn’t have a place in your life moving forward. I like the way she deals with sentimental items: if they’re really meaningful, then rather than being shoved in a box in the back of the garage, people are encouraged to place them in prominent positions and incorporate them into their lives more.
I do think a lot of what she’s saying is common sense, but I realise that many people don’t find tidying easy and end up surrounded by clutter that brings them no happiness or fulfilment at all, and might even be stressing them out. I don’t have that problem, I think because I’ve moved so many times that I’m good at only keeping things I actually want around me.
So, what do I have in my house?
I barely have any clothes. My entire clothes + shoes collection takes up a single shelf in the wardrobe (the other shelves are sheets + towels, toiletries and cleaning products). In the summer my woolly jumpers live in a box under the bed, and then my clothes + shoes only take up half a shelf.
I don’t keep a lot of papers: every Christmas I go through the magazines from that year, cut out the bits I want to keep, and recycle the rest. Bills get filed away for as long as I need to keep them, then disposed of. Important papers live in a specific box.
The thing I have a lot of is books, and I also have all my notebooks from 2001 onwards. I doubt Marie Kondo would tell me to throw those out, though, because I love my notebooks and can honestly say that every one of them sparks joy, although it’s not really a phrase I can see myself actually saying. I do in fact go through my books every week and put the ones I no longer need out on the Book Swap Wall for people to take; a trend which is finally catching on in my neighbourhood.
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I've been meaning to set up a neighbourhood book swap for ages, but in the meantime I've just been leaving books on the little wall outside my house when I'm done with them. When I went out today I discovered someone's got the idea and has left their books on the wall as well. Looks like my book swap scheme has unofficially started!
My book collection sparks so much joy that sometimes as a special treat I spend a couple of hours sitting on my bed, drinking wine or tea and just looking at all my bookshelves. So pretty! So many books! I feel Marie Kondo would approve.
My friends say my house is very hygge, which wasn’t something I had in mind when I arranged all my stuff in it, but I think it’s partly a nice place to be because I specifically only keep things I actually like. I’m also good at telling what I genuinely want when I’m out shopping, and what I just like the look of while it’s in the shop. Often I’ll make myself go away and come back in a week – if I’m still thinking about whatever the item is, I’ll let myself go back and buy it. For very large purchases, like the huge wooden columns that frame my window, and the antique ship’s lamp which was rather expensive, I’ve made myself think about them for a minimum of four months before I went back and bought them. If I’ve completely forgotten about them after that amount of time, then I obviously didn’t care much in the first place. If I’ve spent the whole time imagining what they’d look like in my house and feeling excited, then I probably do want them. So far this technique hasn’t failed me.
So yeah, I like Marie Kondo. I think she talks a lot of sense, and she’s respectful of people’s differences, which is no bad thing. And I don’t doubt that she’d let me keep all my books, so she’d be welcome in my house anytime.
Beyond thinking about Marie Kondo, what else have I been doing this week?
A LOT OF THINGS IT’S BEEN AN EXCITING WEEK, Y’ALL.
I was in the office for most of the day on Monday, having client calls and sorting out stuff for the week. I also had a driving lesson in the afternoon, and I was supposed to be going to a business event in the evening but I had too much work to do so I did that instead.
On Tuesday morning I did some reading for my academic life, and then in the afternoon I worked from West Six Café, aka my second office.
On Wednesday I PASSED MY DRIVING TEST! WATCH OUT LONDON! 😈
Then I looked into the price of buying and keeping a car in London and… well, shit. We’ll see.
I thought the week couldn’t get any more exciting, but then yesterday I sent the first three chapters of a novel to an agent and she liked them and wants more! SO MANY EXCLAMATION MARKS THIS WEEK! I’m sorry but I’m very excited.
I was so excited about the positive novel feedback that I had to take myself for a little walk to calm down, because I could no longer concentrate on anything else. I went and bought some new flowers for Davide, the flower face in Bohemiacademia’s office.
Now, somehow, it is Friday. The week has gone incredibly quickly but Monday feels like it was years ago. When I came into the office this morning and looked at the pile of post, I thought “I haven’t been here for ages!” and then realised I was in fact here yesterday. This week has had so many things in it that it’s felt like it must have been longer than four and a half days so far; but it’s also just flown by.
At the weekend I’ll be hanging out with the BFF while I edit the next couple of chapters of my novel for my agent and she (the BFF, not the agent) tidies her room. I’m also potentially test driving a car to see if I want to buy it. And on Sunday I have a bunch of admin work for one of Bohemiacademia’s clients, which I’m trying to get finished before next week, because from next Saturday onwards I’ll be at uni every weekend.
2019 is a busy year, but so far I’m having a lot of fun. Let’s hope that continues!
If you’re interested, here’s what the Bohemiacademia team got up to this week.
Tell me about your week.