Thoughts on Decluttering: KonMari

This might be a strange thing for a hoarder to admit, but I like the idea of decluttering.

I can even see the benefits of minimalism. I mean, who doesn’t want to dance around the house without the fear of knocking something over?

So. Why do I collect stuff?

It sparks joy.

Using the KonMari method of decluttering, this means I get to keep everything!

This isn’t a review – I have not read Marie Kondo’s books. I’m certain this is an over-simplified assessment of her philosophy just as I’m a fool to think (even in jest) that everything I have brings me joy.

The ‘does it spark joy?’ mantra doesn’t help me declutter because the question doesn’t address why I hoard.

My hoarding feels misunderstood.

I’m organised. Like really organised. It’s as close as I get to a superpower. I know where everything is. I don’t have a ‘junk’ drawer. I don’t hide things randomly in whatever free space I can find until one day I die under a mound of stuff  while trying to access the spare room. Even the stuff hidden in storage is well sorted. I must admit that sometimes my decision to  keep something is reinforced by the fact I have space for it. I also vertically fold my clothes.  I open a drawer and I can see everything I have. I’ve done this since I’ve had my own home. This is normal, right?

It might be useful. Not just that, but I want it to be useful. I have wrapping paper saved from when I was a child. Fabric off-cuts. Ribbon. I’ve saved white paper scraps for the day I try my hand at paper making. We live in a world where we throw everything away and I don’t want that to be me. I want to be the person who makes good with what they have when possible. I recycle/reuse/repurpose as much as I can, and when I use something I’ve had for ten years, I’m all ‘HA! My hoarding is validated!’ It’s happened like, three times so far. When it happens again, I. Am. So. Ready.

Time. This seems ridiculous, but sometimes rather than hoarding stuff, I hoard the time it took to make and create it. Like university notes and assignments. Those plant specimens I collected with my dad for a university course. Clothes I’ve sewn, A tiny vase I potted in kindergarten. I might have moved on from these moments or things but discarding them feels like throwing away time and calling that time ‘wasted’.

Guilt LOVE. The spirit in which something is given is stronger than the gift itself. Always. Knowing someone put love and thought into a present instantly makes the present precious. I’m hoarding gifts which no-longer spark joy except for the love and thought they contain. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to reconcile that. Love always wins.

Sentiment. Obviously.

Memory. I have a good memory for detail. Sometimes this is a really handy skill but it also makes me emotionally connect with objects. I remember who gave me what and when or I remember that I bought that thing on a really happy day when I was with Mum. You get the gist.

Emotional connections. This sounds a lot like ‘ sentiment’, but that is for things connected to my own family – I actually collect sentiment that isn’t even my own.  I’ve found people’s lives on the inside cover of books. I’ve held things that were loved by people 150 years ago. I bought a tapestry from a woman who cried. Not because she couldn’t keep all of her mother’s tapestries but because I cared her mother had made it and I loved it too. It thrills me the way objects move through time. I feel that whole-heartedly.

 


 

If you have actually read Marie Kondo’s book/s, I would love to hear your insight.

Collecting Collections

I collect things I like.

This exactly.

“But what kinds of things do you collect?”

Things I like.

“Are you being evasive?”

No. Just intentionally vague.

Which is different.

*Awkward silence*

I have an affinity for dog ornaments.

“Okay! So, you collect dog ornaments.”

Only ones I like.

“I’m starting to see your point.”

I happen to have a lot of candlestick holders too.

“Because you like them?”

Exactly.

I have a lot of things I didn’t intend to collect.

 

IMG_20160701_110620

Top centre candlestick holder is one of my favourites due to the counter balance.

IMG_20160701_111552

You don’t realise how many of these things you have until you bring them together…

Hoarding Broken

When I was seven, I stood by a basket of toys for sale.

My grandfather said I could pick one and being the sort of person that loved everything, and despite the fact they were essentially identical, I ran my hands through them for some time as I decided which one I would take home. These days, you’d barely call them toys – they consisted of a pair of googly eyes attached to a strip of dyed sheep’s skin and they ‘crawled’ along when you stroked them.

I took the one with a google missing from its eye. The little black dot that rolls around beneath the plastic dome. I took it because it was different. I took it because I didn’t think anyone else would appreciate it.

Maybe this explains a lot about the kind of things I collect and save now.

Perfection in imperfection

Stories in scars.

Beauty in broken.

IMG_20160627_165815

Chipped all over and glued back together in three places, this plaster girl with a distant gaze and great eyebrows asked me to take her home.

IMG_20160627_173838[1]

On the left, the dome-girl with no hand. Top right, a mouldy watercolour to be cleaned and reframed. Bottom right, a print (circa 1910) in a damaged frame.

I don’t necessarily restore the pieces I save. Broken is more honest.

Sometimes, broken is better.

Ancestry Obsession

Sometimes, I toy with the notion that I would have been a great detective. You know, had the opportunity knocked. Had Sherlock Holmes needed a Wally instead of a Watson. Had Poirot been the sort to hire a sidekick. Had both those characters been real outside of my mind.

I love a mystery. I love a story. I love the stories of objects.

This bring me to the Bible of Jesse Wallis. I’ve mentioned before that I have a collection of old Bibles and prayer books. Not because I’m especially religious but because they are so tactile and so treasured. I think of the hands they have touched as they were passed through the generations.

Of course, I bought it at a market and although it’s not in the best condition, it’s dated 1847. Pleasingly, when I got it home I found it was full treasures – two receipts from a saddlers dating 1895, a bookmark and a love token probably dating from around 1915.

 

IMG_20160514_111619IMG_20160514_111311 IMG_20160514_111943 IMG_20160514_112027

The inscription on the inside cover tells me it was gifted to Jesse by a clergyman. The back of the book lists the date of his marriage and the births of his children.

How can I not ask more questions? How do I contain my curiosity when I possess enough information to know more?

[Insert timelapse of my computer-based research frenzy]

Like many colonial Australians, Jesse was a convict. More unusually, he could read and write. His records say he was 5’3” and was born in Berkshire. At the age of fifteen he was found guilty of arson and received fifteen years transportation. His convict record was exemplary – his report card is blank – instead Jesse states he’s innocent of his crime. He received his ticket of leave within five years (like parole) and was pardoned in ten.

Curiosity feeds curiosity.

What of his family? What happened to them after he was transported? The detail of his records allowed me to trace his family back to England and the 1841 UK Census. A search on his father revealed he too was convicted with his son and received transportation for life! I traced his mother to the 1851 Census and she listed herself as a pauper and a widower. I could not trace his brother.

The receipts contained with the Bible pertain to Jesse’s daughter, so the Bible remained within the direct family for at least two generations.

This is what happens. Whenever I have an object that peeks into another life – I must explore it. What happened? How long did they live? Often I struggle to stop.

Once, such research allowed me to reunite a photo album with its family. I once found a book belonging to a friend’s great grandfather. I observe the movement of objects. I recognise the history objects contain and I protect them until there’s (hopefully) another person who values that too.

This is weird, right?

Same Same But Different

While on honeymoon, we bought a large antique print by Leonard Campbell Taylor in a beautiful frame. It was around a hundred dollars but as newlyweds with a mortgage, it seemed like an extravagant purchase. I guess it was, a bit like our post-wedding holiday. In one we bought beauty, in the other we bought experience and in both we bought memories.

As with most weddings (even small ones) and family and life, so much was going on at that time, the picture somehow helps me to remember. As if it anchors down fragments of a dream I had. It was one of the first things we bought together for our house, the first thing that wasn’t a hand-me-down. I do love the hand-me-down stuff we were gifted to help establish our home, but this picture was our choice. It reminds me how it felt travelling together, saying my married name for the first time and the thrill of the journey.

Quite possibly, it also foreshadowed moments of our future – my love of marketeering, my husband’s tolerance for my love of marketeering and a house full of pictures.

It’s been pride-of-place above the mantelpiece ever since.

Until now.

At market recently, I made another purchase. A painting by a local artist which featured a scene of autumn trees and leaves. I loved it. I loved it like the picture we bought during our honeymoon, even though they were so very different. When I got it home, I swapped the two pictures around. You must understand, it was the only wall space in our house large enough to take it and the other picture needed cleaning anyhow and when I cleaned it, would totally swap them back.

I didn’t though. In truth, I knew where I wanted to hang it, I knew it would be right and I knew it would usurp our honeymoon purchase but the denial began before I’d even carried the picture to the car. And now it’s on the wall and I feel guilty, like I’m retiring an old memory to employ a much younger, fresher one.

As someone with a huge respect for objects and their stories, I know I’m over-thinking this. My husband, for instance, isn’t fretting about the old picture’s welfare or its sudden demotion to the upstairs attic room.

It is life. It evolves, we change, things change – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, sometimes it’s the same but different.

And that old picture may yet find a new wall space.

Hoarding Melancholy

Some people are keen golfers. They spend hours on the golf course perfecting their swing, they follow tournaments, buy books on the subject, fill their sheds, cupboards and spare-room with golfing related stuff and top up their club collection with latest and greatest technology. That’s their thing and they’re passionate about it.

Some people are into shoes. They can’t walk past a shoe shop without entering or at least using all their will-power to not enter knowing it would likely result in a new purchase. They’re known for their shoes, they buy outfits to match their shoes. Shoes fill any available space in their home. That’s their thing and they’re passionate about it.

Some people it’s books, others it is quilting, others it’s computers or gaming or electronics…

P5170625

Circa 1900. Girl in a dome. I was not detered by her missing hand. Measures 9cm tall.

Me? I’m a keen collector and saver of objects. Some of my favourite purchases usually only cost me a couple of dollars. I spend hours trawling through flea market stalls and antique shops with the excitement of not knowing what I’m going to find. I fill my shelves with the things I like and I get excited about where I’m going to put the next new-old item. That’s my thing and I’m passionate about it.

None of these examples are really any different from each other. So why does my thing feel somewhat frivolous? Not so frivolous that I’m able to resist a rummage at a flea market, but I am conscious of its redundancy. Collecting objects allows you to observe how they move between people – someone is selling their collection of frogs because they no longer collect frogs, someone is cleaning out their mother’s house to put her in a nursing home, someone is saving for a trip around the world. These stories are in the objects I buy. In forty or fifty years I’ll undoubtedly find myself downsizing my own collections and they’ll find their way back onto a market stall, recycled back into the hands of others who like the things I like.

Collecting has a heartbeat and being a marketeer makes me happy.

Collecting Memories

004 Aus music book

The Australian Music Books series. Circa 1900

Sounds like the name of a novel doesn’t it? No wait – I should have gone with The Memory Collector. That’s the name of a novel. And if it isn’t, I might copyright it or something – right now – STOP! It’s my title, you can’t have it.

But this post isn’t about books I haven’t written.

Christmas has faded into a happy memory. Over the holidays I was gifted ‘Stardust (by Neil Gaiman) but as soon as I read the blurb I realised I already owned the DVD adaptation. I already loved this book.

But this post isn’t about how slowly I make connections, either.

001 Music stackWith Christmas comes the clean up. Not from Christmas festivities (although, that too) but from the year-long accumulation of stuff in my loft. I always intended to convert the loft into a studio for my writing and arty-crafty faffing about and while I am inhibited by the climate up there – sauna in summer and freezer in winter – it forever remains a depot for random stuff I can’t give up but have nowhere else to place.  Cards, letters, old school memorabilia, old craft projects and school projects can all be found here. I’ve saved boxes for wrapping presents in. I’ve got artwork I can’t find a place to hang. Also up there are a significant amount of  flea market finds I struggle to slot into my home.

This is a difficult thing to explain to the anti-hoarder/my husband.

006 Etude Music mag 1913

Also amongst the sheet music, ‘The Etude’ music magazine. Now 101 years old.

From a market a few years ago I bought a whole box of piano sheet music. I broke my arms getting the collection back to my car but it was wholly compensated by the buzz of joy deep in my chest. The lady who sold it to me asked if I would play it. She’d grinned at my enthusiasm and said, “I’m glad it’s going to a good home”.

I sat on the floor and sorted through it.  While I knew it was a box of music, it was such a delight regrouping the sets, removing the lonely pages and discovering the old music coverpages. I planned to reuse the incomplete music as unconventional wrapping paper. I managed that once – it took me so long to decide which piece to sacrifice I haven’t tried since. I’ve attempted to play some of it, of course, but mostly it’s remained upstairs with its makeshift dividing markers.

Montage of sheet music

Some of the more interesting coverpages. All published in 1926/7.

The owner had written her name on some of the music in fine calligraphy. I surmise she’d inherited the older music which dates from the 1900s but she’d added her own musical tastes to the pile all the way up to the 1960s and undoubtedly played it. It was well thumbed and dog-eared and yellowing. They were all out of order because she probably kept them long after she stopped playing . She probably kept them even when piano-less. A lifetime of music.

I love things relating to pianos, and cover-art of this era. On this basis you could argue I collect music. Maybe I do, maybe I have. But this isn’t just a box of music, it’s also a box of memories – is it so strange that they’re not my own?