Review: Marie and Me, The KonMari method

Every week I try a different self – help guide’s life advice. Here’s how I got on with Marie Kondo.

Here’s the thing with me and Marie: at first everything was great between us. There was the initial excitement of a new relationship, the butterflies in the stomach every time I opened ‘The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying,’ counting down the seconds until I could get home from work to be with her. Then there was the physical stuff: tearing our clothes off the shelves, arranging our cups in the cup drawer, folding our socks – all the usual ‘new relationship stuff’. After that though, things fizzled out a bit between us.

Don’t get me wrong, Marie’s a great girl. She’s upbeat (relentlessly), she’s organised (goes with the territory really), I mean – she’d never forget to remind you it was your mum’s birthday. And she’s got a great sense of humour too, I think. When she’s in the mood she can say some pretty funny things, possibly unintentionally, but nevertheless – she’s entertaining company. And she smiles – a lot.

But that’s kind of the thing really. You could never take Marie down the pub to meet your mates. You’d always be a bit concerned she might say something odd. Robbo’s pulled a muscle playing footie for instance. Marie’s advice is along the lines of: ‘a firm but gentle massage by human hands does more to loosen knotted muscles that being pummelled by a massage machine.’

Fair play you think. Nothing too controversial in that. ‘The energy that flows from the person’s hands into our skin seems to heal both body and soul,’ she continues. She’s had a fair bit to drink  by this point: ‘The same is true for our clothes.’

Sorry? What was that Marie? ‘When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly, we are, I believe, transmitting energy…’ and on she goes.

And then there’s the jealously to deal with. My wife Annie was well and truly sick of Marie by the end of the week. ‘Marie says this, Marie says that… why don’t you just go and bloody well live with bloody Marie bloody Kondo? I mean, where have all my hair grips gone?’

Oh sure though – credit where credit’s due. If Marie’s taught me one thing I’ll take away from this it’s that focusing on what you want to keep and the joy that those items bring you is more important than the tidiness aspect of it all. Just don’t let the lads here me saying that.

With less stuff to sift through I spend less time worrying about what to wear, which shoes go with which shirt, whether the lime green cords really go with anything. I’ve kept a few shirts and jeans that just go with each other and to hell with it.

We ‘Kondoed’ the kitchen and the bedrooms and the house feels fresher. We threw away enough paper work to build and igloo out of and about a dumper truck full of crappy plastic toys. That bit felt liberating. Now that we’re liberated and the house is very spartan it could, ironically, pass for the interior of an East Berlin condominium circa 1978. It feels a bit cold without all our old stuff.

On the plus side. Now that we’ve got nothing left we’ll need to go shopping. Just for some essentials. And I love a good shopping spree.

Next week my self – help binge continues with Paul Arden’s ‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.’

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.

 

Das Boot

I recently re – watched Das Boot in it’s entirety. For a bit of light relief. Worryingly, I identified quite strongly with the U – Boat captain. Especially during the scene when they are stricken on the bottom of the sea waiting to be torpedoed.

DasBoot-Still1
Worryingly, I identified quite strongly with the U – Boat Captain.

‘Know how you feel mate,’ I said to him, even though he couldn’t hear me – he being stuck on the bottom of the sea in the straights of Gibraltar and me being at home in Hull. And what with him being fictional and all…

But the point is, I feel like lately things have been building up on me. Not fathoms of sea water but small everyday things. My wife is not speaking to me now because of the £300 fine she got for not insuring her car (that’s correct…). All of the lights in the kitchen don’t work. Today I had to wear one blue sock and one black sock to go to work because I couldn’t find a matching pair. I imagine that Capt.-Lt. Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock knows exactly how I feel.

Fair play to him, he probably had more on his mind than mismatching underwear but that’s not the point. He was in what one might, without fear of understating the case, call a tight spot. And I feel like, over the years, I have let things tighten around me without really noticing it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing my plight with that of a stricken submarine crew (well, I am a bit) and I’m not unhappy, or at least, I don’t think I am. I mean, I don’t really think about it at all, I just plow through the days in the same way that everyone around me seems to.

What started as mild procrastination has got out of hand. Now I am faced with something that I can’t get a handle on. When I think about what needs to be sorted out I can’t see a way in. I can’t think how to get started. And if I do get started, what will I uncover? I haven’t checked my bank account for months. I daren’t log in to Experian to check my credit rating and I stopped opening mail about a year ago.

Once I’d put the kids to bed on Friday I sat at the kitchen table and decided to make a list of the top 10 things that I would change about my life, in priority order:

  1. To be happy
  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

And I couldn’t think of any more…

Staring at me from the page the list didn’t seem unmanageable. ‘This is a start,’ I told myself, feeling almost proud. ‘And making a start is the hardest thing to do,’ I said, looking at the short list.

And then I thought, what now?

Typical Friday meltdown part 1…

So I am on the last minute picking Bobbie up from nursery again. ‘Don’t be the last one there, please don’t be the last one there… again,’ I repeat to myself as I hop up and down on the door step.

The door swings open to Jenny, Bobbie’s key – worker giving me that ‘tut – tut, it’s one minute past six,’ look that I’ve come to recognize so well.

‘Sorry,’ I begin, instinctively, ‘got held up at…’ but Jenny couldn’t give a Castlemaine XXXX if I’d been held up at work or at gun point. She wants to go home. Bobbie is overwhelmed with gladness to see me. ‘Daddy, daddy, daddy,’ she shrieks down my ear – hole, accidentally headbutting me as I pick her up to give her a kiss.

‘She’s had two poos,’ says Jenny.

‘Great.’

She looks at me like I’m a moron.

‘One of them got stuck.’ She wrinkles her nose up in distaste, ‘it was massive.’

‘Sorry ’bout that,’ I say, unsure quite why I’m apologising. After all it’s not like I took a shit. Jenny is probably 19 years old and has an NVQ in childcare. I am 35. I have two degrees, I am an assistant head of a large science department in a secondary school. I am married, have two kids, a mortgage, two cars, a dog.

I am terrified of Jenny.

Anyway, I tell myself, trudging down the path with Bobbie squirming under one arm and the car seat under the other, Jenny’s shift doesn’t finish until 6.30, don’t know what she’s got to be so huffy about.

Let’s be clear: Jenny hasn’t actually said anything judgmental, or even huffed. What she actually said was, ‘Bye – bye Bobbie. Have a great weekend!’ But she said it in a way that meant, ‘fuck off and don’t be late again next week.’

We push through the front door of our house, literally pushing it against a pile of junk mail, shoes, parts of a pram, an umbrella stand. Our front room looks bomb damaged. I sweep some stuff off the sofa so we can sit down.

Bobbie’s favourite episode of Peppa Pig is teed up and ready to go. I prepare to do the Friday night slump. Bobbie loves this little ritual of ours. ‘Daddy fall over, Daddy fall over,’ she shrieks with glee.

I stand about three feet from the sofa with my back to it. Check behind for clearance. Bobbie claps her hands excitedly, ‘go on Daddy, go on.’ I let all 6 foot three inches of my sixteen and a half stone frame fall backwards. One of these days this thing is going to collapse is the last thought that flashes through my head as my body impacts with the decaying leather sofa. A loud crack and a partial collapse of the sofa indicates that today is that day.

Bobbie launches herself onto my lap causing the sofa to subside a little more. ‘Mummy is going to be so pissed at you,’ I tell her. Bobbie gives me a sweet smile and giggles.

‘Pig?’ she says, pointing at the telly. I have found a compilation on YouTube that has about 4 and a half hours of Peppa Pig episodes strung together. Who uploads this stuff? And why? I mean, what’s in it for them?

Who cares. It will keep Bobbie quiet for approximately six minutes of those 4 and a half hours. The theme tune kicks in but my eyes have already started to close. I hear Daddy Pig’s mellifluous baritone drifting through my dream: ‘It can’t rain for ever,’ he says.

I want to scold him for his hubris. Oh you silly, rotund porcine. Don’t you know not to tempt fate like that?

And suddenly I am dragged from slumber like a drowning man pulled from a warm pool of mud and thrown into a freezing shower.

‘Ludek – wake up!’

It is Annie, my wife. My senses are instantly tuned and on red alert. Something is up. I detect a certain wildness about Annie. Her eyes seem to be saying, ‘Fucking get up. Quick!’

The front door is still open. Gretchen, my step daughter is almost certainly dawdling, gazing up at the stars or writing rude words in the dirt on my car. It is freezing. ‘Close that bloody door…’ I am about to shout when I become aware that the living room is pulsating with a feverish blue light.

Bobbie’s little face is a picture of confusion. She looks at me. ‘It’s the Police,’ Annie says, bottom lip wobbling, ‘they’re here. They want to talk to you about something.’