More on decluttering: the KonMari method

with my "daughter". Photographer: Peter Kindersley. Corbis shoot

I began my decluttering project a few weeks ago, following a bout of cleaning - I wrote about it in an earlier post. I got frustrated with the fact I could never find anything and began with my kitchen's cupboards, chucking away things that were no longer needed - broken teapots, saucepans I never use and which looked quite battered etc. This means that I will soon be doing some shopping!
After doing all this tidying on my own a bit at random, I realised I needed a method and  began reading about  decluttering. This way I discovered the book by Marie Kondo  The life changing magic of tidying up and her system, which she calls the KonMari method, after her nickname. Marie Kondo's book is now a best seller and it has been reviewed and discussed aplenty.
I have really enjoyed reading it, it gives tidying a completely new dimension. Putting one's house in order, as Kondo calls it,  becomes a mirror, a reflection, of examining one's thoughts and feelings. Getting rid of unwanted stuff makes you more aware of what else should go from your life,  relationships you have outgrown, habits that no longer suit you  but primarily the fear of not being able to do without something (or someone). In that sense it is liberating.

Photographer: Martin Robinson. Model: me

I cannot and do not wish to follow the KonMari method to the letter, I do not always agree with her,  but the principles of it are very sound, very Zen, thus I am applying my own version of the method, making it my own. The two main criteria applied by Marie Kondo are:
 1) one should keep only what gives one pleasure and chuck everything else out (recycle, throw into the dustbin, give away etc) and
 2)  it should be done all in one go rather than little by little. The 'all in one go' for me has some elasticity - I have set myself a deadline and aim to complete my tidying within a relatively short time but there are days when I need to have a break  and I cannot do it.  It's not that I live in a mansion, but my books and papers are most difficult to sort. Even by applying the KonMari method by which books should be removed from shelves and held one by one in one's hands while asking oneself whether the book, read or unread, gives one pleasure, in my case I have to be sure that when doing it I do not have to rush out soon after for a shoot or a casting because many of my books are dusty due to my, er, lack of cleaning the book shelves. So handling them means I need to go for a shower after I complete the selection as I am covered in dust from top to bottom.

Photographer: Michael Culhane

And also, as someone who used to be engaged in academic research for many years, I have a bit of an archivist mindset, valuing books for their historical content and being acutely aware of the importance of rare publications in particular fields. I have for example a collection of xeroxes from books only available in specialist libraries. I know I no longer read them, certainly not for pleasure, but deciding whether to part with them needs some soul searching.
And with papers one has to be careful.  The other day I got carried away and threw a file containing my original divorce certificate only to go and rescue it half an hour later realising that to get a duplicate would be a pain. It did not give me any pleasure to hold it in my hands, just as holding my passport made me feel for some reason a bit irritable but, hey, these papers have to be kept.

I would live here! Florence, one of my favourite cities. Own photo taken on recent trip

What I like about this "putting one's house in order"  is precisely that inner dialogue and introspection it engenders. The thrill of finding things I had forgotten about, the thrill of finding old photos and then the constant questioning - do I still want it? does it give me pleasure to keep it? why do I cherish it ? And every time having to confront the irrational fear that by throwing away the tools that gave me knowledge - books and papers - I would lose that knowledge. Or the discomfort of  throwing away photos and letters from people I deeply loved,  that love still being part of me, as if  the physical manifestation of it as contained in the letter or photo were the magical tool that keeps it alive. But we all know it is not, so the mementos can go.
I came across journals I wrote at times of great distress. I glanced at them and threw them away gladly, I don't want to be reminded of that unpleasantness. It  was probably a mistake, because I love writing stories and those journals could have given me material for one,  I know that many writers keep journals to help them with their writing.
But I followed KonMari. Holding those notebooks made me shudder, so they had to go.
Today I plan to tackle my sewing kit(s) - I have a sewing machine and I occasionally use it. I bought some cute little plastic containers and can't wait to rearrange my threads and needles.
Then I shall stop tidying and head with a friend to the British Museum, where there is an amazing exhibition about Indigenous Australia, which I really want to catch.
Tidying up can be emotionally taxing.


  1. What a charming picture of you and your daughter. Your smile is dazzling but seldom seen. Would like to see it more often in your art nude work.

    Yeppers, decluttering can be a strenuous, sobering and soulful process. I used to do it every-time I moved but as I age I don't move as much and the clutter is creeping up on me.

  2. Lovely to hear from you Winston! No she is not my daughter, she is a model acting as my daughter for the shoot! But she could be. Yes, most people declutter when they move, but it's good to do it periodically even if no move is entailed


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