I am working at full pelt at the moment. I need to write up my South Africa project, invoice everybody, do another tax return, do a quick turnaround project for another commercial client that’s due next week and prepare my work for the upcoming autumn season at my horrible day job. In between all this I am making time for urgent dentist visits. My teeth look like shit again and they need attention. In between that I’m dealing with incoming conference speaking invitations, sending stuff to new clients for new business and having meetings that keep my existing clients happy. As you can see, I have a lot on as usual and this is why I am at my desk at 10pm because where else would I be.
So – this weird thing happened yesterday while I was working. I’m doing a quick business research project that concerns how people manage their housekeeping. Always an interesting topic, but I’d failed to notice that I could actually use this insight myself, because I was so immersed in it as a work thing. Solely for work reasons, I very quickly read Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She was named one of the 100 most influential people by Time magazine in 2015. She is Japanese. She is pristine. She has some interesting ideas about de-cluttering and storage. She tells you to fold your socks, knickers and tights and you will feel more serene. Like, come on. Seriously. Folding knickers and tights.
After a while, though, like any good researcher, and also because I started to need a break from sitting at my desk, I went to the bedroom and sat on the bed. There is a chest of drawers that is overflowing with millions of balled-up socks and knickers because I am always buying multi-packs when I go travelling, and there’s a whole shelf that is a giant messy tangle of tights where you don’t know which ones have got ladders. On the one hand, I thought, who the hell is really going to fold things like that, I haven’t got time for that shit. How much difference does it make if you fold your socks or ball them up? On the other hand, I thought, I am tired and I don’t want to look at my screen. I just want to sit here for five minutes. I will attempt to fold a pair of socks like Marie Kondo says, just to have the experience.
Here’s what you do:
I totally ganked that off Pinterest and there are various iterations of it around the web. So, I did one pair of socks, like you see here, and ended up with this flat, smooth little envelope made of sock fabric. It was tiny and precious and the socks looked brand new!
Something came over me and I folded four more pairs of socks and stacked them together, just as you see above. They were even more flat, tensile and neatly folded than that picture. I opened my sock drawer and pulled out all the contents and put the five little sock-envelopes in. They took up almost no space. In a wave of compulsion, I swiftly folded ALL the socks I could find in the entire house and stashed them in the drawer, a drawer that formerly I could not close and that needed overspill carrier bags. I looked at the results. The drawer was less than half full. I had reduced the mass of my sock collection by 50-67% without even throwing anything out.
At this point, I lost control. Apparently it is quite common for this to happen to people who think they are innocently dabbling with Kondo. The thing is, when you look at what she is doing, it isn’t the product of an entirely sane mind. The little row of wafer-thin sock-envelopes that stands up on its own – as I looked at what I had made, I saw the tangible product of another person’s madness operating through my mind and fingers. And I went a bit nuts, such that after I’d done all the socks I folded probably 60 pairs of knickers into even tinier fabric envelopes, then I folded tights and made them disappear to almost nothing and then I started folding t-shirts. And I as I folded and looked around crazily for more things to fold, the available space in my flat grew. By the time I’d exhausted myself, about eight cubic feet of space had appeared in my spare room and I was able to physically retrieve the ironing board and put it in the hall. It might be two or three years since I last wanted the ironing board (and I literally just typed ‘ironic board’, best typo ever).
Here’s some more Pinterest content that shows what happens when you do this to your socks (I can get my socks way smaller and flatter than that), t-shirts and knickers (good job on the knickers, whoever that was, mine look just like that). The size of your house literally expands as you make things almost-disappear, it is incredible. I still find it incredible. I am on a mission now to fold everything in the house that can be folded. I am going to do fitted sheets and everything, the works. It’s like having a special shrinking ray-gun. Whole drawers and cupboards suddenly become vacant and you realise how much storage space you actually have.
OK, so as you can see, the house is suddenly getting tidier. Not because I have successfully engaged with the hated mission of Cleaning the House but because I’ve discovered this new superpower of making everything 50-67% smaller, with the result that the house is tidying itself(!!)
Then I had to stop and go back to my desk because deadlines, although I now regard folding tights as a pleasant thing to do during a break. I continued to work on my project. I talked to some of my friends about what they do with their time at home, assuming their house is reasonably tidy already. Know what they do? They do things like ‘make a pot of tea, bake cookies, knit and watch TV’. Suddenly I was overcome with longing. It is not that I know jack shit about baking cookies, but being British I know everything about how to make a pot of tea, cookies and cake can come from anywhere, and there are films I haven’t seen. And I used to knit. I used to knit quite avidly, about a dozen items a year.
The fact is, I cannot have this type of relaxing evening because my house is usually thoroughly messy unless I am expecting guests the next day and I have too much work on all of the time. So when I get a break, my living room is not a relaxing environment, I can’t find or remember what I was knitting, I don’t watch films and the best option is escape into World of Warcraft for a couple of hours.
I now see that this can change. Kondo promises this sense of serenity; it is a sense of something, that’s for sure. I returned to my sock and knicker drawer several times and it looks like the work of aliens. It looked like someone had broken into my flat and starting tidying it, using remote, foreign techniques that I’m not used to.
This blog is about the life you want. Building the life you want. Much of the time and especially for the last 3 years, it has been about some big, heavy life issues, career changes, and god knows what. We are still not out of the woods. However, this experience of the last couple of days has caused me to realise that if I Kondo my entire life then an evening will come, quite soon, where the living room is clean, papers are filed and I am making a pot of tea and knitting a sweater while watching a movie. Which would be great, wouldn’t it. I would love that. Here are some visual notes to help me remember. I am making this promise to myself. I am going to have this evening quite soon, no matter how much I work I have on.
NOTES TO SELF:
This is just some of my yarn that I keep because I think I am going to knit with it. This particular shot is the yarn I brought back from Greece when I was with Klaus.
This tea pot is not mine, it is the Golden Carp tea pot in the shop at the British Museum, but it is still nice.
Lemon cup cakes from Costa Coffee.
I still haven’t seen this.
And here is today’s South Africa photo, in case you thought I forgot. It is a photo of a photo, spotted at William Kentridge’s studio and art school in Johannesburg. Imagine my joy. About Kentridge, not so much the hornless cow. It is funny but I don’t know if it something one should rejoice in.