Clear out confidential…

So it’s time to embark on ‘Kondoing’ our home but there’s a stumbling block already. We’ve decided that clothes are the Achilles heal of our tidiness problem so following Marie Kondo’s advice to work on one category at a time we’re starting with a whole scale clear out of our clothes.

ugg boots 2

My initial skepticism about the KonMari method overcome I am enthusiastically ditching my clothes by the bin – bag full. The vile lime green and black checked Burberry shirt – does it ‘spark joy’ KonMari asks? Presumably it did around 15 years ago when I paid £215 for it at Birmingham Bullring but I have worn it a handful of times and it has languished in a early – noughties ghetto in my wardrobe for a decade and a half. I feel a small tug at the heartstrings as I pitch it into the bin bag but as soon as it disappears inside the guilty feeling is replaced by a strangely vertiginous rush of euphoria. Turns out that throwing away, donating, disposing, consigning one’s possessions to oblivion is actually quite addictive.

The kids have got in on the act too. Gretchen (who we call G) is sifting through piles of decapitated and limbless barbies, dismembered teddies and broken roller skates. She draws the line at disposing of Mifkin, her 9 year old Steiff bear who, having very little fur left and only one, leering glass eye, is frankly terrifying, . She does, however, consent to have him washed so at least we can rid him of the faint whiff of piss that clings to him. Small steps.

All is going so well until I check on Annie’s progress. She is sat on a vast clothes mountain on our bed, her head only a foot away from the ceiling.

‘How’s it going?’ I ask.

‘Good!’ She is reading a copy of Take a Break magazine. ‘Have you heard about this woman? She didn’t know she had a mouse living in her hair for three months until it fell out one day!’

‘I meant with the clothes. Have you thrown any away yet?’

‘Some. A bikini. A pair of pants with some brown stains on them.’

‘What about these boots?’ I ask.

‘THOSE?!’ She is incredulous. ‘They’re Uggs! They were really expensive. And you bought them for me.’

It’s true, they were, and I did. We got them on our honeymoon in New York. I remember the exact day, the weather, how much fun it was to wander around Manhattan visiting all the shops and how happy we were, high on the euphoria of being newly married and in The Big Apple. If you parachuted me into Central Park tomorrow I could find the exact Ugg shop we purchased those from. Holding them in my hand awakens some of those memories.

But the zip is broken now and in any case, they are pink and Annie hasn’t worn them in the five years she’s owned them because pink doesn’t go with anything she owns.

‘I can get the zip replaced,’ she says, raising her eyebrows in a mock sad expression. I feel like a mean spirited bailiff stripping a penniless woman of her television or something.

‘OK! You can have those,’ she says springing down from the clothes pile, ‘but I am keeping these.’ She clings a vile pair of luminous orange Crocs to her chest as though they were a naked baby.

‘They’re vile Annie.’

‘But they’re mine!’ she says defiantly and flounces out.

Small steps.

 

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Life – changing?

If you’ve been following my posts over the past couple of days (which you absolutely should have been) then you’ll know that I’ve set myself the challenge of transforming my life in six key areas:

  1. To be happy(er)
  2. To not be nearly bankrupt
  3. To not feel disorganised
  4. To have more time with my kids
  5. To have time to be creative
  6. To feel physically healthy

I have decided to go on a self – help binge as a way of exploring whether the $11 billion industry really can improve my life in a sustainable way and I invite you all to follow my progress on this blog – wherever it should take me.

To give you a bit of back story in case you haven’t been following this (if you haven’t then where have you been?): one week ago I came home from work expecting a pizza and Netflix and to fall asleep on the sofa only to find that my wife had been pulled by the Police for driving without insurance. Cue a £300 fine, 6 points on her licence and a massive insurance bill.

By the way, as an aside, the back wheel of her car nearly fell off today but that’s a whole other story.

Clearly my life has some scope for improvement so who better to get the ball rolling than Japan’s self proclaimed ‘expert declutterer and professional cleaner’, not to mention multi – million selling organisation guru Marie Kondo?

The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying arrived through the post today and I felt a genuine thrill of excitement at opening it. ‘The Japanese sensation – 3 million copies sold’ proudly trumpets the cover and I am primed and ready to join the ranks of the converted.

I should confess at this point to coming at this self – imposed challenge with some skepticism. ‘After your course, I quit my job and launched my own business doing something I had dreamed of doing ever since I was a child,’ proclaims a satisfied former client of Kondo’s on page 3. Sounds good though it depends what the dream job is. I dreamed of being a fighter pilot and would be stoked if reading The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying could transform my life to such a degree: ‘I went from teaching Science to disaffected teens to fighter pilot months after reading this book. Despite having none of the physical attributes necessary for the role.’

The old adage ‘you get out what you put in,’ applies here though so I press on, resisting the urge to cackle with laughter at: ‘Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don’t. So I got a divorce,’ and: ‘Someone I have been wanting to get in touch with recently contacted me.’ Presumably the longed for phone call from Michelle Pfeiffer is only a short read away.

‘I finally succeeded in losing three kilos,’ testifies another adherent but it doesn’t specify if that was in body mass or old nail varnish bottles and Happy Meal toys.

Despite all this, and my natural reticence when it comes to self – examination, I have to admit to feeling unduly excited at the prospect of what is, essentially, doing loads of housework. The clean, minimal design of the book cover and short, tidy sentences seem to hint that a life of order and fulfillment lies 240 short pages ahead of me. And watching Marie cheerfully folding socks and undies, who could doubt it?

Play along at home if you have a copy of the book. Let me know your experiences and thoughts if you’ve already done this. Comment, tweet, add me on Facebook.

 

Typical Friday meltdown part 3…

‘Look after your sister,’ I tell Gretchen and I go to hunt for the insurance documents in a pile of stuff, well, it’s more of a sizable mound of stuff on top of the Welsh dresser.

‘The pile’ (it has a name) has a permanent home on top of the Welsh dresser. The Welsh dresser is neither Welsh, nor a dresser. I don’t know how to describe what the Welsh dresser is in terms of its’ design, or indeed, its’ intended function. It’s kind of a tall, deep, white box that stands on legs. We bought in the sale from Ikea about 18 months ago and having neither drawers nor shelving and being too deep to reach the bottom of without climbing into, it is possibly the most impractical object we own.

It cost and arm and a leg and ironically one of its’ legs is broken so it lists quite heavily to one side, meaning that any object placed on top of it will slide towards the wall where it irrevocably becomes part of  ‘the pile’.

The pile has been with us for as long as the Welsh dresser has. From the moment we brought the Welsh dresser home it began to gather bits of paperwork, odd socks, bits of plastic stuff (the kind of thing that is left over in the box after you’ve assembled a piece of flat pack furniture but doesn’t seem to be indicated in the instructions anywhere), pamphlets, books, magazines, ties, bras, combs, unpaired gloves, pregnancy tests, a variety of chargers and adapters, school reports, recipes clipped from the Sunday lifestyle supplements. As much as the Welsh dresser attracts the kind of items that can only be classified as ‘stuff’, its’ gravitational field seeming to exert a particularly potent effect on the subcategory of stuff labelled ‘crap’, in some way it also acts as a repository for our failed aspirations.

The reason the pile is home to so many clippings from The Times Magazine about pilates, or the benefits of swimming, which are the best colours to paint a hallway with no natural light and how to make a magical tagine to go with sweet potatoes, is because we cut them out and place them on a vast to – do list, which is kind of what ‘the pile’ is. It’s where good intentions go to die. Whenever a piece of correspondence, such as a letter relating to a recently expired car insurance policy, is placed on ‘the pile’, what the person placing it there is saying is, ‘I firmly intend to deal with you, soon.’

‘You got it yet?’ says Annie dashing through the door.

‘I think it’s in here somewhere,’ I say looking at ‘the pile’.

She looks at me uncertainly. ‘Well he’s getting pretty insistent.’

‘Do you want to invite him in for a cuppa whilst I start looking?’

All hope drains from her eyes. ‘I’ll just have to accept the fine then,’ she says, throwing her arms up.

I nod, resigned to this. ‘How much?’

‘Three hundred quid.’

‘Fuck that,’ I say. ‘Go and stall him.’

The pile was quite benign at first but turned malignant, starting to metastasise other rooms in the house. There are offshoots of the pile in the kitchen, the downstairs toilet, several surfaces in the living room have semi – permanent piles of their own and every drawer you open has versions of the pile.

The insurance documents could be anywhere in the main tumor of the pile or in one of its matastases.

Two minutes later and Annie’s back. ‘He gave me the fine,’ she says flatly. Her eyes are ringed with black smudges of mascara. She looks like she’s just come in from an Alice Cooper gig. ‘And six points on my licence.’

‘Shit,’ I say, ‘when do we have to pay the fine by?’

‘I don’t know Ludek. I don’t care either. I’m fed up with this.’ She stomps upstairs.

‘Shall I make you a cup of tea?’

A door slams and is followed by the sound of Annie flinging herself onto the bed. There is a short hysterical scream, and then silence.

‘It’s not my fault,’ I shout, to no response. The kids and I stand at the bottom of the stairs listening for a while.

‘Is mum mad?’ asks Gretchen.

‘I don’t think so, really,’ I say, ‘I think she’s probably just tired.’

‘Is she going to prison?’

‘Only if we’re very lucky.’

Gretchen doesn’t laugh at this. She walks off into the living room and quietly pushes the door to behind her.

Bobby has stopped crying now. She hugs my leg and I pat her on the head to reassure her. She sighs loudly.

‘Done a poo poo in my nappy,’ she says.