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.

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The Bigger Picture

I used to draw and paint a lot growing up. This peetered out with my frustrtion as I sought greater and greater likeness to life. At that time, I considered this the epitome of success as an artist – to draw as though I’d taken a snap-shot .

Someone questioned this, “Where is the art in that? You might as well take a photograph.”

I could see their point. I could also see that some artists, especially photographers might take offence to its implication. But I don’t intend to get into a debate about what art is or isn’t. This is a question of ideals.

I’ve always been at odds with the concept of perfectionism. I own and love art that isn’t photographic yet I expect this of myself. I think it’s enviable when an artist can convey a picture with a few dabs and strokes of the brush.

Like this picture.

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It’s a market find, which is HUGE, I might add. I had to fold the seats down to get it in the car. And in truth, it’s cut-off at either end as I couldn’t fit the whole picture into the camera frame, not just because it’s HUGE but because I’ve hung this picture in a very small room. I’ve essentially broken all the rules.

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The close-up shows so much with simply a few brush strokes. These two ladies, one with a white bow on the back of her dress appear to be an intense conversation

The picture itself is undated but it is probably 1960s or ’70s and it’s signed Federico. These type of pictures were painted quickly and often intended for the tourist market, though, in this case, it would have been a tough one to get home. You  know, speaking from experience.

I love this picture. It’s enviable art, and I must try to art more.

 

Relative Worth

I don’t like to talk about money. Money depresses me.

I look at its flimsy, printed form and wonder at the power it has over our lives despite the fact I could easily set it alight. Or at least, with the Australian notes, melt it into a smouldering, carcinogenic puddle.

My disdain for money though, is a whole other blog post and I need to set that particular rant aside so I can discuss the money aspect of thrift shopping at flea markets.

Worth of the monetary kind is not a static thing. Buy a brand new car and its value instantly depreciates as you drive it out of the yard. Most other things are the same – items are unlikely to hold their value unless they’re exceedingly popular, rare and/or old and/or in exceptional condition and/or of supreme quality. Or you can prove Elvis licked it.

Even then, who knows.

What something is worth simply equates to what someone is willing to pay. The right buyer will pay more. While my husband would pay you to take my stuff away.

When browsing flea markets, I struggle to ask about items when they aren’t priced. Occasionally, you’ll get a seller who’ll look you up and down as they try to ascertain what they think you’ll be willing to pay. Then, of course, there’s The Haggle. I’m not good at haggling.

I like people to say what they mean, and I wish the same applied to pricing. I know from experience that some sellers price things expecting to be haggled down but I struggle to haggle, even on over-priced goods. Also, I don’t think it’s right to haggle with someone when the item is clearly worth what they’re asking – which I’ve observed people do, but then that’s also a matter of opinion. Gah! *sigh* The only time I ask for a better price is when I’m willing to walk away.

I have another strange level of perspective. I buy most things second hand, but one thing I love to buy – and buy new – are beautiful gift cards. In Australia, cards currently range from $5- to $7- and I willingly buy this little piece of art to give to someone. Why does this matter? As a regular market goer, it’s easy to lose perspective – sometimes it’s good to remind yourself you’re buying an oil painting for the price of a card, or a card for a nineteenth century book or a piece of handmade pottery.

If you’re a seller of second hand goods and you wish to sell them at a flea market, you need to let go of what you paid for it five years ago. If it’s old, you need to forget what you saw it for in an antique shop or its going rate on eBay. Although this information can offer perspective for the seller, buyers are still looking for a fair flea-market-price. Regular stall holders at flea markets tend to sell fewer items for more gain but if your aim is to move stuff on, cheaper is better – you’ll also have less to lug back home.

Having said that, it’s okay to stand your ground. When I’ve cleared some clutter and held a stall at a flea market, I’ve had things I’d rather not sell than sell them for a pittance. I find if these items do sell, they’re more likely go to someone who loves it as much as I do.

Any questions?

Happy marketeering, my friends.

Dogue

It seems appropriate, after my last post that D will be for dogs, because I do have a few dogs of the non-living variety.

One day, I hope to own one of the living variety but currently, I work too much and we need fences. My parents have a gorgeous little Jack Russell Terrier mix who brings me joy in the meantime. As do these little ones…

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The dogs I like tend to have a certain look. Top: Bought this one in an op-shop in the UK in 2013 – he’s quality but home-made. The others are market finds, usually a few dollars each, the middle dog is the tallest at 15cm tall (or 6 inches in old money).

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The gruff bulldog on the left is painted plaster, circa 1920. The terrier at the bottom right is a nice quality Sylvac copy.

Also, you may notice, my dogs like living in amongst my books.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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?

Housekeepers’ Guide to Hoarding

How can one keep their house neat and hoard stuff?

It’s a great question and I’m here to help, with Wally’s Home Hoarding Tips.

Firstly, where possible, use the floor indirectly. One should restrict their collections to shelves and shadow boxes, whatnots and tables. This will probably be difficult if you hoard pianos or tractors, and confusing if you hoard doorstops but it’s a great general rule.

Limit your collections to low activity areas. A cluttered kitchen is a great look but if it’s all over your work surfaces things are asking to be broken. Also, it’s difficult to make dinner.

Baskets, old suitcases or retro industrial tubs are your friends. These are endlessly useful for storage and offer the impression of neatness. Storing magazines in an open old suitcase is neater and easier to clean around than simply stacking them beside a chair. Think how awesome your vinyl record collection will look and how easily you can move it to a different room.

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Anyone for chess?

Bowls, bowls and more bowls. Seriously, get some bowls. The wooden variety are the hardiest, but any bowl will do. I don’t know why things in quantity look beautiful together. For those non-hoarders amongst you they are also awesome for life’s clutter. We have a bowl for emptying your pockets of our keys and phones and small change. I have a bowl for mail and receipts that need to be sorted.

Have I mentioned bowls? Bowls, people. When I tackle some sewing, I throw the loose threads in a bowl, when I’m picture framing or crafting my way to something resembling art, I throw the off-cuts and scraps into a bowl.

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Rubbish never looked so good.

[To reassure the non-hoarders, I don’t keep the afore mentioned off-cuts and scraps. I recycle all that I can, and I have a bowl for that too. Rubbish in the bowl does make it to the bin when it’s full but it looks awesome in the meantime. Am I right?]

Anything looks neat and intentional when it’s contained within a receptacle.

*ahem* Sorry. Unintentional rhyme.

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Old watch parts in a bowl

It doesn’t have to be a bowl per se, pick something to suit your decor. It doesn’t have to be expensive either, I’ve found my bowls for a couple of dollars each at our local flea market.

I’m a lazy duster. I dust when I can write my name in it. I call it clean dirt and dusting is only fun if you can see where you’ve been. But. But, if dust is something that bothers you and is something you would obsess about weekly/daily/hourly, I recommend glass fronted cabinets for your collections.

To be clear with some terminology. One thing is one thing, two things are two things and three things (or more) is a collection. Objects display better in odd numbers (generally), so if you if you have two similar things, I recommend finding a third. Unless we’re talking about objects like salt and pepper shakers – pairs of things are counted as one.

You may conclude after this I’m either a bad housekeeper or a bad hoarder.

I know where I’m placing my bets.