Clutter: why is it so hard to give it up?

In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever, Marie Kondo writes about the benefits of clearing out your sock drawer as a means by which to declutter your mind and gain clarity on thinking. The reasoning is that by having easy access to the choice of socks on offer – without having to rummage through multiple odd socks to find a pair that match – you will save both time and energy, thus starting the day on the right foot (so to speak).



I fully buy into this way of thinking. I’ve wasted countless hours searching the house for lost keys, wallets, coats, bracelets, phones, handbags, travel cards… simply because I live most of my life in state of rush and mild panic, and therefore leave a trail of destruction in my wake. “If you put stuff away after using it, you’d find it much more easily,” reminds the hubby – repeatedly.

I know he’s right, and that there is much truth in “tidy house; tidy mind”, but if it’s a choice between hanging up the washing or spending some extra time on a project so I can meet a rapidly approaching deadline, I know which option I would prefer to take – and usually do. Paid work always takes precedent over domestic chores (any excuse not to clean, eh?)  and so I’ve resigned myself to living in a messy home, much to the hubby’s dismay (although I have suggested that he could do the cleaning himself), even if it does slow me down when I can’t find the dress I want to wear to today’s meeting (clue: bottom of the pile of clothes I haven’t hung up).

I am also a bit of a collector (hubby’s version: “hoarder”) and wannabe crafter/artiste (if only I had the time). Hence, multiple floor-to-ceiling shelves crammed full of books; drawers stuffed with bits of coloured cardboard and paper, gems from broken costume jewellery and glitter (for all those birthday and Christmas cards I am going to lovingly hand make for family and friends – again, when I get the time); and piles upon piles of magazines – although in my defence, they are mainly for work purposes and either serve as research or form part of my portfolio.

Part of my collection of children’s books – these are most definitely coming with us to France

Moving house, therefore, which requires a MAJOR clear out, is proving an almost revolutionary experience, albeit on occasion quite stressful and emotional too. We have just 15 cubic metres of space in the van that is transporting our most prized possessions into storage; and the back of a pick-up truck by which to take the items we will need while renting for three months. Consequently, it has required me to think very carefully about what “stuff” I really need:

  • The antique writing desk donated by my aunt – yes
  • The £5 sideboard from the charity shop – no, even if mum did paint it to look like a piece of modern art
  • The box of memorabilia from the 1990s containing gig tickets, train tickets, valentine’s cards from long lost lovers, and my teenage attempts at poetry and creative writing – an absolute resounding yes
  • My grandma’s china tea set – yes
  • The collection of jam jars I was going to make candles out of – no (reluctantly – they would look great down the garden path at our new house)

…and on it goes. Each item being carefully weighed up in my mind as to exactly what value it brings to my life or whether I’d be better off letting it go.

I feel comforted knowing that I am not alone. One only needs to check out Pinterest or do an internet search for blogs about “clutter” to see how the idea of tidying up our lives appears to be a goal we are all constantly trying to achieve. The concept is even bigger now, thanks to Marie Kondo’s book, which in 2014 quickly found its way to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

I just wish I had found Kondo and her closet-clearing advice back when it was first published. If I had, packing up our house might not have been quite the chore it is.


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