The big declutter

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Decluttering is an exhausting but fulfilling process.

I am in the middle of a massive declutter. 

Since I am not currently working, it seemed like a good opportunity. The total so far? I’m not quite sure, but certainly 12-13 100-litre bags of clothes sent to Emmaus, Le Relais, and various friends, plus I don’t know how many boxes of bric a brac and junk.

I’m not quite sure how long ago it was that I decided to get rid of 10 per cent of everything I owned, but the task was accomplished in days. Kinda galling, but now I’m on the hunt to jettison about 50 per cent, or if not 50, as close to it as I can get.  

To help me in my quest for a lighter life, I’ve been reading every decluttering article and book I can find, and so far, the Konmari method has been among the most useful. The author, Marie Kondo, is clearly a bit off her rocker, but also very funny and very right about a lot of things. Not all of your clothing has come to you to be worn threadbare, she says (this is something I am constantly guilty of), and if something doesn’t suit you, it’s already done its job of teaching what not to buy – there is no need to hang onto it just because it’s new – let someone else get the benefit. 

Being Shinto-ist, Kondo is rather animist and believes in touching everything you own to see if you still get a thrill from it – if not, into the bin it goes. Doing this, she claims, her clients discard a good 50 per cent of everything they own fairly painlessly, and only have to do it once.

Well, the latter part remains to be seen – I am notorious for yo-yoing between decluttering and squirrel-Nutkin-ing – but the first part is certainly true. I have indeed found this latest bout of decluttering remarkably painless because the Konmari method means you act on your instinct rather than your rationality, thus answering an emotional need. 

Emotion, after all, is why we buy stuff in the first place. Not simply for its usefulness, more because it answers a call within us. Very few of our purchases are made purely rationally: we buy things because they’re useful, sure, but also because they’re gorgeous, beautiful, pretty, sexy, because we ‘just had to have it’. Using the Konmari method, however, I’ve been able to sort the wheat from the chaff much more easily – discarding the blouse that was too floral, the jeans that were too small and hadn’t been worn in years, the colour that I now find too bright, the clothes that are fine and solid and probably have years of wear but that are so familiar that I’m sick of them.

She suggests that you start your decluttering with clothes because these are personal and therefore easy to make decisions about, and I’ve done just that, keen to whittle down to what will fit in my new gorgeous set of built-in wardrobes, which I swapped for my old car back in the autumn. Kondo’s method of folding is also a revelation, enabling you to pack far more into a small space, so my drawers are now full of beautifully folded cashmere sweaters, tees and knickers, all arranged like sushi in a box. 

The result is, suddenly, space. This is a big house – too big, really – and over the past 18 years we’d stuffed it to the gills with crap. But now there is space on the shelving, space on the hanging rail; drawers full of beautifully co-ordinated items in black, grey, taupe and teal; space to move around in. I’ve been able to bin most of my cashmere knits, acknowledging at last that they have been worn to death, and only retained the best items. And friends as well as strangers have benefited from the offload. 

Overall, I feel much lighter and happier, and in better shape to face the coming year.  

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