If you follow me on Instagram, you may not believe it, but I used to be a messy little bugger. My friends at uni will tell you there were times when I genuinely had to dig a path to my door so I could get out of my room
My mum says that the state of your room is a good reflection of your state of mind, and to an extent I agree with her.
When I was an artist, everything was eclectic and my mind was just as jumbled as my environment. While you could argue that I was probably at my most creative back then, I was also really disorganised, stressed, unhappy and unproductive. The work itself filled me with joy, but because I couldn’t get my shit together, I never achieved as much as I wanted to.
When I became a Designer, for the first time I became aware of space, and how freeing and challenging it was to communicate often complex messages using as little as possible. I grew to love symmetry, order and simplicity, and I discovered that – as crazy as it may sound – when I look at design which is simple and open and well spaced, I physically feel calmer and find it easier to breathe.
I’ve noticed over the last couple of years too, how this has pulled through from my work into my life. My favourite colour now is white because it soothes me. I can’t stand walking into a room and having a million different chaotic colours and patterns screaming at me and clutter does my head in because it makes me feel claustrophobic and suffocated.
I discovered a book called ‘Spark Joy’ by Marie Kondo by accident. It caught my eye on a shelf in the shop and I mainly bought it because I liked the cover. When I started reading it I thought she was off her rocker.
I had been thinking about having a clear-out for a while so decided that aside from the bits that were completely batty (there is no way I’m going to sit down and have a conversation with my socks), I’d follow the more practical advice in the book, give it a bash and see how I got on.From the stuff I threw out, I learned a surprising amount about myself:
- I am more of a hoarder than I realised: I had clothes I have not worn for almost a decade which I thought I’d slim into and never did, and shoes I never wore because they gave me blisters.
- I waste money because I buy on impulse and make bad choices.
- I really need to man up about laundry. Putting off laundry only creates bigger piles of laundry.
- I always felt like a mismatched slob in clothes that never fit properly because I never spent any time curating my wardrobe.
- I hate paper. I hate getting letters, I hate filing. I just needed to get off my bum and buy a scanner and shoot off a few emails requesting paperless comms and it was really quite simple to go paperles.
- I’m less of a sentimentalist than I thought: I had several ‘memory’ boxes of things – photos of old boyfriends, ticket stubs, funeral/wedding service sheets, birthday cards, plane tickets etc. You name it, I held onto it, because I kind of felt that I should. I never looked at something again once it went in the box so really there was absolutely no point keeping it.
- I watch everything online. I don’t have a dvd player, I don’t have a tv, I don’t even have a slot in my computer to watch dvds, yet I had 125 DVDs lining my shelves.
- I don’t collect anything or really have an emotional attachment to my stuff. I don’t spend a ton of money on buying expensive things because I know I get bored of them and won’t keep them around. Looking around my room now, there are only 6 things in it that I am attached to and which are totally irreplaceable to me.
The less stuff I have to choose from, the fewer decisions I have to make, the less laundry I have to deal with and the easier my life is. So while the idea of hefting 70% of your clothes into a charity bin may induce a panic attack in a lot of people, I actually felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off me, I haven’t missed a single thing I binned, and getting ready in the morning has been a breeze ever since.
Marie Kondo preaches that really tidying up properly is a once in a lifetime thing. I disagree with that. I’ve done it twice since January last year and I’m about to do it for a third time; and I don’t feel like I’ve failed by doing so – I personally think it’s an on-going form of self improvement because your values, tastes, standards and priorities evolve and change over time, and it is absolutely fine to revisit it.
After I had read the book, one of the things I was most skeptical about was would this stick? Would this book miraculously turn me into a tidy person and break all the bad habits I’ve got into from 30 years of rebelling against an obsessively tidy mother?
Honestly? No. I’m looking around my room at the moment and I have stuff dumped on my desk, and clothes piled on my chair. I’m still messy – I’m not my mother, and I will never be someone who bashes the cushions when I get off the sofa, sweeps the kitchen floor 4 times a day or remembers to take mugs down.. but the important thing is I’m not as bad as I was. My room is not an assault course. The desk is a mess, but I can still see the surface. I have some stuff on my floor but I can still see 97% of my floor. Instead of taking two days to clear up my clutter I can do it at a leisurely pace in about half an hour.
Despite not having turned into Monica Geller, or Marie Kondo, I have seen a dramatic change elsewhere.
Since having my space completely emptied of all the junk from my past, my mind has become a lot clearer. I can focus on things more easily, I don’t get distracted as much. I’ve become more organised and motivated to get stuff done, and actually wake up early(ish) in the mornings so I can be more productive. Because I get more done, I feel better about myself.
I still hate doing laundry, but folding stuff up and putting it away isn’t as much of a ball-ache as it used to be because there isn’t as much of it; and because I only have clothes I actually like and they all work together and they all fit, I don’t feel like I’m dressed like a slob the entire time and my self-esteem has improved.
While my life may not be pinterest-worthy, I have managed to keep the chaos largely under control.
Marie Kondo says to expect to see changes beyond a tidy room – that often when people properly ‘get their house in order’, it frees their mind to look at other areas of their life that need tidying, and I would say this is true. Over the last year I have totally transformed my lifestyle:
I’m becoming a more conscious consumer, and a more mindful, self-aware person. I am gradually becoming more and more of a minimalist – not because I made the conscious decision ‘I want to be a minimalist’ – yes the aesthetic plays a very small part, but I just feel better when I’m not surrounded by crap that I don’t need, use or care about. I am more aware of my strengths and failings, my values and my limits; and I’m learning how to turn these things to my advantage – to change the things I can, and make peace with the things I can’t. It may seem simplistic but if you don’t have a good idea of what those fundamental things are, your life is much more difficult.
Who would have thought that the seeds of all that could have been planted by tidying up?
Have you tried the Marie Kondo / Kondomari method? How did you find it? What did you learn about yourself and what changes did you see? Comment below and let me know!