“If only Amanda could be more organised, everything would be so much easier for her.” said my form tutor, when I was about twelve. Sometimes I’ve managed it and done it well, yet I must admit my organisation has left something to be desired… The times I have made it remind me that change is possible and as you’ll find, I’m now sorting out my stuff.
The Impact of being disorganised
Over the last year, I’ve realised how big an effect my inconsistent (if we’re being kind) organisation has had on my life. Perhaps it is even the shortcoming that has held me back the most? It has certainly wasted much time and energy.
For me, disorganisation is fed by sentimentality (wanting to keep things, hold on, not hurt myself nor others), denial (about what I need to do as opposed to what I want to do) and a sprinkling of laziness. Disorganisation then produces confusion, disorientation and then procrastination and in extreme cases, paralysis. Remember though, that these behaviours do have a flip side, and linked to this muddle, trouble and lack of preparedness, are flexibility, spontaneity and improvisation, a trio I wish to keep.
Making the breakthrough
So right now I’m working on getting organised, slowly but surely. Changes I’ve made include keeping a paper diary (as opposed to one on my phone which was half-filled in and ineffective) and the writing of a bullet journal style list (the most effective kind I’ve ever done) almost every morning. The latter helps prioritise tasks and tackle daunting ones in a relatively detached and calm way. Tidying plays a big part in this process too. Radical tidying, as described below. This is what I need.
Browsing online, I read about Marie Kondo’s method for tidying up and loved its principal idea, this being that you only keep items that you need or that ‘spark joy’. Her vision of a home as being like a Shinto Shrine appealed. I know little about them, yet the idea of this holy vision for the home gave me calm. The ‘KonMari’ method also took my curiosity as tidying is done methodically and according to item category, rather than geographical location. Dusting and arranging a corner or a bookcase has only ever been temporarily satisfying, like a patch repair on a British road.
You’ve probably realised that I’m referring to clutter too, disorganisation’s twin. Where there’s a tendency to hoard, (and perhaps without knowing it) you’re likely to find sentimentality and procrastination again. Perhaps laziness too, or even purposeful isolation? Marie Kondo touches on this bigger picture in her book ‘The Magic of Tidying Up’.
On the surface, my mess is not extreme, yet I identified it as a contributor to my disorganisation. With regard to the title of Marie Kondo’s book, following a holistic programme for tidying up really is ‘magic’ and life-changing. Tidying doesn’t just affect appearance. It’s about giving head-space, paving the way to productivity, clarity replacing confusion, and the dissipation of stress. Ultimately it brings enjoyment.
Through the categories
I began with clothes, putting them all on my bed and deciding what to keep, recycle or donate. I sold a few items online, but this was time-consuming and for little reward. The ‘Does it ‘spark joy?’ question came into play.
Clothes that were staying went back in the wardrobe in the form of a tick, as advocated by Marie Kondo, longest to shortest, left to right. What is amazing is that I’ve been (happily) putting clothes back in this way since. (Her book contains detailed guidance on how to put away items of all categories.)
Next to deal with were books. As they’re sacred, this would be harder. Yet putting them all together, I knew which did and didn’t belong with me. Those I would look at and those I wouldn’t. Many went to charity and to a second-hand bookshop. Books that relate to my passions (languages, art, mythology, cooking, nature…) have stayed. Also on the shelves are travel writings, poetry and novels that enchant and hold gems (a turn of phrase or a piece of wisdom) and children’s books with wondrous illustrations. There are a few cosy novels left too, that I know I’ll read but might pass on afterwards, and also the odd book that’s a need (i.e. Family Medical Encyclopedia – will just have to watch it doesn’t give me hypochondria!). It felt good to let the others go, instead of hoarding their facts and knowledge without knowing why. Now the books I love are clearly visible, I’m going to them more often, to soak up their wisdom and warmth.
Paperwork followed, and a mountain of it there was… Well, lots of hills… Marie Kondo advocates having all things of a particular category in one place, so we know where to find them. I had a pile of papers in the living room in-tray, a pile of papers in the kitchen cupboard along with the cake mixer and shoe polish, another at the top of the bedroom wardrobe, in the high bathroom cupboard and so on… Now, I’ve just one big see-through folder with items to be kept indefinitely but which don’t need to be referred to often, a slim folder with plastic sleeves for those which need to be looked at more frequently, another with very important documents and then my in-tray which I strive to keep empty. I’m trying to deal with correspondence and other paperwork quickly – it’s better than before. There were some papers that I felt indecisive about, so I scanned them as a compromise.
So far, paperwork has been the hardest category in which to follow the Konmari method. I do have two additional folders of papers relating to two specific matters. I feel I need to keep these, but have kept these folders simple (i.e. no subdivisions). Others are likely to be able to follow her method completely when sorting this category.
Note 1: I separated anything that could be considered as memorabilia or sentimental to the side (I’ll deal with these later, as they belong to the final category).
Note 2: I deal with papers relating to business, i.e. invoices and receipts, separately.
Where will the clutter go?
In the book there’s often mention of bin bags and one online review of it mentioned that there was too much throwing away. Well, I prefer a ‘take what I like and leave the rest’ approach with the advice I receive. After all, the book was not written on waste disposal. It’s on tidying and de-cluttering. In any case, Marie Kondo does advocate up-cycling when it comes to storage (My socks are now nestled in a shoebox!).
When setting your items free, there are many choices. I recently saw a jewellery making course advertised using silver and fragments of broken ceramics. You can give to friends and family (if they want it) or donate to charity shops. Clothing and other gifts could also go to a local homeless shelter (our local Baptist Church gives out these items to those on the streets, perhaps a church near you does this too?). Paper, old cards and toys could go to a local parent and toddler group. Then there’s Freecycle…
Tidying has gone some way to simplify a complex life (as our lives usually are in this weird and complicated age). It’s less overwhelming when you know where your papers are. When you can find that password, that case reference number, the tax credits login, that letter about a school visit with the tear-off slip. One even starts to think ‘Do I need to do all these things?’ Is there a better way?
As my vision is less cluttered I can see what was hidden in the crowd. I can see the books that I want to read right now, whilst those that have gone may be appreciated by others. When I go to my wardrobe I can see the clothes and don’t have to battle with interlocking hangers each time I wish to select a piece of clothing. Bliss!
Now I’m onto the delightfully named category of “komono”, which includes anything from batteries (used or unused) to ornaments. It’s the ‘mot du jour’ in our home. We keep apologising for each others’ “komono”. I’ve made a start and now our rocks and pebbles are happy together above the fireplace. A pleasure each time I glance at them – good memories and ‘deep time’. Aeons have passed and they’re still here.
One last note – deal with your mess first!
Talking about the mess of others as being a barrier to sorting out our own is easy. In fact, how many times do I find myself clearing up a little pile of humbug wrappers (belonging to my husband, who is probably tidier and definitely more organised than me), when my very own ‘komono’ is gathering fast beside my chair? Sorting out your own stuff often inspires others. Even if it doesn’t, your environment will still improve.
What about if you have children? Well, I’ve two, and this is where it gets more problematic… I can hardly allow them to not deal with their mess (a mouldy sandwich under the bed?). Spending time with them to show them how to tidy, fold etc. is all I can do for now. We’re getting there, but I don’t know all the secrets . Please tell me if you do!