The On-going Magic of Tidying Up

A fellow KonMari-er requested I turn a recent Facebook post into a proper blog post so here it is Maria..!

A couple of days ago I walked into the craft room and found this:

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Instead of feeling a little shocked to find the bookalanche, I was more disturbed by the volume of stuff that had been spewed forth.

This time last year we completed a year-long KonMari (KM) de-clutter of the whole house so I didn’t think clutter was too much of an issue here at Chez Murphy but it appears I was wrong.  It’s amazing how seeing ones possessions from a different angle (in this case in an unceremonious heap on the floor) can jump-start a fresh engagement with your things. Stuff on shelves has a tendency to become invisible after a while but when it shifts physical position you can see it again (this is why Marie Kondo invites us to gather all items belonging to the same category into a pile; changing location shakes them up a bit). And thus I saw the contents of my shelves with fresh eyes. ALLLLL of it.

This unexpected event prompted a revisit of my books ‘category’ and I let go of quite a stack that I hadn’t been able to bring myself to discard before.

All my old diaries written from age nine and into my mid-twenties had been on the top shelf (the one that seemingly tipped the balance!) and even though I have very mixed feelings about them – so much angsty content and FAR too much detail –  I’m not ready to get rid of them, not yet anyway.  Not least because they could contain more lucrative ideas like this beaut from 1996 which could lead to untold riches:

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One thing I realised is I don’t want them on view, and whilst looking online for some sort of vintage trunk to stash them in, I suddenly remembered my dad’s old boarding school tuck box which I’d had restored earlier in the year. This is part of the KM magic; when you need a solution, the perfect one often presents itself from what you already have, and just to add to the magic, the box is the perfect size to house them all snugly together AND it’s lockable!  The shame will be contained.

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In amongst the strewn items I also found three VHS tapes that’d escaped the KM cull, titled: ‘Village Show 1983’, ‘Village Show 1984’ and ‘Family’.  They’d obviously made it through Round #1 of KM but what struck me upon seeing them again was how dormant and pointless they were in their current state.  I don’t have a VHS player, hell we don’t even have a TV, so today I’ve packaged them up ready to be converted to DVD.  It’s not that expensive and then at least they can be viewed.  I remember at the time feeling I ‘should’ keep them as there are lots of people still living in and around our village who were either in the shows or who helped organise them and I’m pretty sure my dad was the only person who recorded them.  I felt a responsibility not to just toss the tapes as they have irreplaceable content and other people might be interested in them, but without converting them and sharing the footage with ‘local folk’, the tapes had a bit of a negative psychological weight to them just sitting on the shelf, unwatched.

I also came across several strips of black and white negatives from photo’s I’d taken at art college over 10 years ago.  It was just from an experimental roll and I never got round to processing any of the images as soon after taking them my lovely mum died and, well processing negatives was taken to a whole new level. I know why I kept them…partly it felt like an incomplete project but mostly it’s because there is one negative, unintentionally double-exposed,  where one half of the frame is of a tree and the other is the last photo taken of my mum before she died, plaster-of-paris’d arm held aloft.  The same realisation hit me…there was little point in holding on to them without ever processing them.  So to that end I’ve also parcelled them up ready to be scanned.

I already feel lighter for having tackled these dormant items, hopefully breathing some new life into them.

This is why I am an exuberant advocate for the KonMari method, the process continues to provide endless opportunity for insights, it’ll be a life long relationship for us.  It’s been a revelation to me to be conscious and mindful of what we own and what we bring into our home;  to carefully choose those items and to revisit and review from time to time.  And I can’t think of a much better yard stick than to ask ‘does it spark joy’?

 

 

Setting myself up to fail?

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A month or so ago, after reading my Creating Daily Rituals post, a friend asked if I feared I might be ‘setting myself up to fail by creating a list of daily goals?’  ‘Was I creating a situation where I would end up berating myself if I didn’t hit those targets?’

These were great questions and really got me thinking.  My initial response was, no, I didn’t think I felt pressurised by it and I had faith I’d just get back on the bike if I did fall. Little did I know this theory was about to be tested!

Two weeks later (and two weeks ago today) our little family of three set off for a much needed break to see friends in Norfolk.  I did yoga that morning (check) and I confidently wedged my yoga mat into the back of our rammed-packed-jammed car as we set off (check) (insert smug halo smiley face emoji here).

On our first morning I joyfully rolled out my mat and began…only to have to stop for two false-alarm loo trips (not mine) and the flow was gone – ha! no pun intended!! – so I called it a day on the yoga front and we headed off for a beautiful but bone-breakingly bitter jaunt to the seaside. By the next morning the Little Chap had become really unwell; horrid throat infection, swollen glands etc.  We knew he was truly suffering as our usually stoic boy just wanted to sleep and stay ‘home’, so he and I pretty much holed up for the remaining half of our break, and my yoga mat remained forlornly rolled up in the corner.

Our first morning back at ‘home-home’ I woke up feeling like I was now coming down with the Little Chap’s virus (par for the course in parent-land) but I managed to limp my way through Adriene’s ‘Yoga for when you are sick video (man, that girl covers all bases). Hooray I was back on the mat (check).  And then I became too sick to do ‘Yoga for when you are sick’ and took to my bed for the next 4 days.  I had excruciating sinusitis and there was no way I was lowering my head below shoulder level for fear of it exploding. Where is that tank of gas ‘n’ air when you really need it?

So between being away, and round the clock comforting of a sick child, and nursing my own poorly self*, I fell off my ‘bike of virtue’ on every level.  I stopped making entries in my Daily Greatness Journal, I stopped doing yoga, I stopped updating YNAB, (I did listen to quite a lot of meditations on Buddhify to ease my suffering so err…check) but essentially my ‘Daily Rituals’ list crumbled big time.  With this lack of action, my friend’s question ‘have I set myself up to fail’ rolled around in my mind.  And yet despite the evidence seemingly being to the contrary, my resounding answer was ‘No!’.

In the past, the answer would have been a self-flagellating ‘YES’!  Followed by a big dose of ‘I’m clearly not cut out to have a regular yoga practice / keep on top of my finances / keep a journal so I’m giving up the lot’.  But this time feels very different and I’ve been curious to understand why.

I think there are several factors, but for me the key element is around making ‘conscious choices’.  Just as I had previously made a conscious choice to implement various positive actions into my daily life, likewise I made a conscious choice to hit pause on all those good things as circumstances changed.  Less a case of falling off the bike, more a decision to park it up for a bit.

I made a conscious choice that the right thing to do was to watch crap on YouTubeKids with my poorly little chap at 7.30am when I would normally do my yoga / write my journal, and another choice was made to not make up for it later with some bedtime yoga / journal update as he needed me to go to bed with him as we were in a strange (but oh so lovely) house and he couldn’t settle without me close by.  And again, when the lurgy hit me full-force I made a conscious choice to cut myself some slack and rest up, choosing instead to binge-listen to the incredible S-Town podcast and watch ALL the new eps of Grace and Frankie because these things took my mind off the pain (these, and some strong pharmaceuticals). My friend G sent me a message asking if my sinusitis was ‘the burning kind like when you accidentally snort pool water up your nose, or the other kind that feels like knives being stabbed into all your face holes’ – for anyone interested it was the latter, and it was awful, even laughing at her text hurt.

So today is Friday; as of Tuesday late afternoon I tentatively started to feel a bit better, but the bike of virtue remained firmly locked up in the bike rack of failure conscious choice, until yesterday when I truly felt a good 90% better and I knew I was ready to clamber back on (I’m labouring this metaphor and the irony is I can’t actually ride a frickin’ bike in real life but let’s gloss over that).  I wrote my morning journal entry, followed by an early Operation Bloom Skype call (which is always recharging) and I committed that I would get back on the yoga mat that evening and ease myself back in with a gentle bedtime routine. Which brings me to today, the journal is back in full, twice-daily, flow, I was on the yoga mat by 7.30am this morning for a 20 minute sesh’ and I’ve made a date with YNAB this evening (oh Friday nights, how you’ve changed).  This would never have been me a year ago.

As I pay close attention to this falling off / getting back on process, I am sensing there is a critical tipping point (again, no pun intended) between the falling off bit and the getting back on bit, and if too much time passes where we remain down but without genuinely good reason it becomes harder to jump back on. Under the circumstances I felt totally at peace with my decision to park the bike, because I very much knew it was a temporary state of affairs, and as soon as I started to feel better my thoughts turned to me jumping back on. Amazingly there was no doubt I’d get going again, but even so, when the time came to resume action I noticed, running alongside my steely resolve (!), there was a low-level resistance, a physical apathy.  Had I chosen to ‘string out’ the effects of being ill and told myself (lied to myself) that I should wait until after the weekend, ya know to get fully, fully, fully better, and then get back to the Daily Rituals list I think it would have been a hundred times harder to get motivated, because the truth for me was I was ready on Thursday.  Really listening to myself and taking action right at that perfect sweet spot in my recovery where resolve was high and illness was bidding a hasty retreat has made getting back to it relatively easy (albeit I’m only on day 2 y’all but I’m celebrating the act of getting back on, always the hardest part for me).

It seems to me that over time there are natural ebbs and flows to our activity and motivation levels, sometimes we simply need to hit pause, to park the bike for a bit, but intuiting how to respond most usefully to this waxing and the waning leads us back to our dear old friend authenticity.  Namely us being authentic with ourselves.  To make a personal commitment to choose not to delude ourselves but to really tune in, notice when we really are too sick to do ‘all the things’ and give ourselves unreserved permission to press pause (and boy does that feel good), but in turn create a counter-balance by being honest about when we feel able to return to those good actions; acknowledging the reticence but refusing to let it have the louder voice.

It’s also fine to start off gently, ease ourselves back in to the saddle.  The crucial thing is to get back on, it needn’t be to do the London to Brighton first time out, it could just be a spin round the block in the sunshine.  As my lovely husband says, ‘it’s not how many times we fall off, it’s how many times we get back on again that counts’.

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*Vince and the Little Chap were very sweet at looking after me and keeping the ship running smoothly, I can’t fault them, they picked me flowers!

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Header Image: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_dasha11′>dasha11 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Simplify: Part I – KonMari

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Oh how I love this word.  It has been my ‘mantra’ for the last two years and whenever I say it to myself I can feel my heart rate drop to that of a contented sloth dangling from a shady tree.

Last year, one of the ways we brought simplification to our lives was by following the KonMari decluttering method.  It took us exactly a year to complete, a toddler is not the ideal co-pilot for such a mission, so we had to grab windows of time when we could.  We held every single item in our house and asked ourselves whether it sparked joy.  If it did, it stayed, and if it didn’t, it exited the building*.

I’m embarrassed to think about just HOW MUCH STUFF got carted away; many, many, many car loads.  Many car loads. So many car loads. And here’s the crazy thing…we’ve. not. missed. a. single. thing.  Oh tell a lie, I ditched a pack of wooden clothes pegs I’d stored for circa 15 years and never used.  The following week I decided I wanted to set up a gallery space for the Little Chap’s paintings and could’ve done with those pegs to hang his art up with.  THAT is the only thing I have missed. Truly. How weird is that? And what does it say about our attachment to ‘stuff’? In particular stuff we didn’t use, didn’t love and, it turns out, weren’t going to miss?

The first picture below is utterly shocking to me (and Vince, I’ve just shown him and his response was ‘what the fucking hell…?’) Knowing there was a room like that in our house, I now realise took a heavy psychological toll on us (for those that don’t know us, I promise the rest of the house looked nothing like that!).  I felt utterly overwhelmed by it prior to discovering KonMari; we were happytired with a fairly wakeful toddler and would chuck in the next load of outgrown baby stuff and lock the door.  Out of sight out of mind, right?  Wrong. It felt like an oppressive pulsating mass in the bowels of our house (I may be slightly over-egging things), but it was full of our crap, my late parent’s things including a mountain of their paperwork, a trazillion photographs and slides from three generations, plus the evidence that our tiny newborn son was growing up at the speed of light.  But the KM methodology gave us a framework that felt manageable to gradually tackle it a bit at time, and slowly the mists cleared the awful navy carpet emerged.

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Basement ‘Room of Doom’ November 2015
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Basement ‘Room of Bloom’ March 2017

The central aim of KonMari is to surround yourself only with ‘joy-sparking’ items, and looking at all our possessions in this way has fundamentally changed how we live.  No longer do we buy things saying ‘ah, this’ll do’.  What we buy / bring into our home has to spark joy for at least one of us, otherwise we don’t get it.  We’re also much more inclined to buy less and choose better quality.

“But what about loo brushes?”, I hear you cry, “how can a loo-brush spark joy?” Of course on first glance there is little obvious joy to be found in the humble loo-brush BUT there is joy to be had in a clean loo, courtesy of a well functioning loo brush, one where the brush doesn’t regularly unscrew and drop into the pan requiring deep-sea operations of retrieval. (I never imagined I’d have cause to write a paragraph with FIVE mentions of the word(s?) ‘loo-brush’ in it (Roget’s Thesaurus was of no help to me here, so loo-brush it was…SIX…gah).

KM (that’s KonMari Graduate lingo right there) has finely tuned our ‘joydars’ and it’s value has rippled out to other aspects of our lives beyond decluttering; deciding what we want to eat, how we want to spend our time, which relationships to prioritise when limited for time, what type of holiday we want, which direction to follow with creative projects. It’s given us a new lens through which we can identify the joy (or not) in how we’re living.

And most of all it has brought an intuitive simplicity to day-to-day life.  We have order; places for everything so things get put away without the tiresome mental effort of deciding where to ‘shove’ it. No more hunting for the top I need, I can see everything I own at a glance. And, no exaggeration, I get a little hit of joy every time I open a drawer and unfold a perfectly folded knicker…

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Perfectly folded knickers ^^^^

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If you have any questions or want to share your own ‘life hacks’ that bring simplicity to your life, please do leave a note in the comments – I’d love to hear about your go-to simplifications as I’m always on the look-out for the next good ‘un…

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*Caveat, as we didn’t / don’t have vast amounts of money stashed in offshore accounts (actually none) there were non-joy-sparking things we kept temporarily as they served a purpose.  Those things were earmarked (in a Wunderlist list), and as and when we found joy-sparking alternatives and budget allowed they’ve been replaced – a list like that makes for wonderfully mindful shopping.