Trying & Failing To Marie Kondo My Flat

Photo: @tomglitter
It started the way everything does: with socks. You know the ones — snapped elastic, a little too short, ride down your ankle and round the crook of your foot to eventually bunch up in the end of your shoe like a used condom on a flaccid willy.
It was Wednesday – indeed the worst of the days — and the socks plus the quagmire of political shite meant there was only one thing that could solve the world’s inequalities: a clear-out!
That's right: I cancelled my meetings (read: lunch on my own scrolling through Twitter, trying to think how I can perhaps achieve the Holy Grail of tweets and go viral in one witty quip), took the train home, bought some cigarettes and some heavy-duty bin bags and set to clearing out my life. Cleanliness is next to activism, or something like that.
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But this couldn’t be any old clear-out. It couldn’t be one of those where you simply stuff the stuff you don’t like into your already overstuffed boiler cupboard, only to realise, some months on, that your favourite T-shirt is in there so you have to unearth the whole thing, which now inexplicably smells like dog even though you haven't had a dog since you left your family home a decade ago. No, this had to be a different kind of clear-out: one full of time and space, one which had a concept behind it. One which is partially culturally appropriative but also screams of just how white you really are. That’s right: the Marie Kondo method.
After seeing a few tweets about it from some much cooler people than me, I decided that this was the aspirational kind of cleaning I needed in order to reset myself and, thereafter, the political system. In order to become a Kondominium (?), you basically (I didn’t read the book) have to learn how to fold (I actually read this on Twitter) and bin any shit that (it was only two tweets, not even a thread) doesn’t make you feel joy.
I looked around my room, cigarette in one hand, mid-afternoon gin in the other, and zoomed in on my sock drawer. Those bastards. I tore them all out of there: odd ones, grey-should-be-white ones, holed ones, different socks at different points in the sock life cycle. This was easy: I binned the ones that slid off, twisted round, fell down, gaped at the ankle, before googling "Can you recycle socks?" Only to realise that I now had literally one sock left. Wrote a list: get socks.
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I continued ricocheting through my wardrobe, on a rampage like a Twink at a Nicopanda sample sale, throwing away black T-shirt after black T-shirt with gooey underarms from that sweet equation of sweat + deodorant, marked there over months of wearing the same one. I chucked towels, hoodies, my favourite trousers from two years ago which now have a hole in the crotch because of these thunder thighs rubbing together. At the end I had two T-shirts, some shirts, two pairs of trousers, and a sweater. Weirdly I kept all my jackets because, you know what Marie, I have good taste in jackets and they all make me feel great so stop this madness!
Now on to toiletries: empties out of the window. But wait! What if you desperately need the dregs of that John Frieda Frizz Ease serum you bought in the airport when you were drunk that time you went to Copenhagen with your dad and bumped into Lily Cole (wtf) in Christiania? What if you develop particularly dry skin on your upper arms and back but you threw away the ends of that Aesop body lotion someone got you as a lovely gift but you haven’t used in two years because it makes you, strangely, very hot and then you panic when you’re on the Tube because you feel like you’re encased in grease and your skin can’t breathe and maybe you’ll suffocate? What about those empty perfume bottles you keep because they make you look rich? Looking rich, after growing up poor, makes me feel good — is this the same thing, Marie? Omg should have read the book.
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Anyway, pull yourself together: pile it up and bin it. Was shocked at how much stuff I’d bought from The Ordinary and used exactly once. Kept it all though: going to make the transition to it soon, yes, soon.
Now to the bookshelf. For me, the idea of a bookshelf is linked to a problematic sense of 'progress' in my life. Growing up, we didn’t have a bookshelf in my house because nobody had the time or the inclination to read. Books were a luxury and weren’t valued in the same way the middle classes value them; and by that I mean that the middle classes are obsessed with books, obsessed, like what the fuck? They have book clubs and dinners where people literally just talk about books. (Btw, did I mention I wrote a book which you can pre-order here!) So for me, having three full bookshelves (half of them are my boyfriend’s, the other half are books I bought when I was feeling particularly broke and wanted to spend on what felt like an investment and so bought books but never read them) makes me feel clever, intelligent and middle class. Problematic yes, because I love where I’m from, but I’m flawed like the next person, so just let me have my books and shut up.
Go to throw away any double copies – things like books about gay stuff because we are gay and have gay books – but then, as I singularise our belongings, get to worrying about throwing away double copies and what that would mean if we broke up. Are we breaking up? Where’s our relationship at? Go into existential crisis about Where This Is Going so have a cigarette and decide to bin all my outdated copies of the New Left Review from that time I spent £50 on a subscription and didn’t open one issue. Find old copy of Secret Diary of a Call Girl which, until the age of 18, was the only book I’d ever finished (did I mention I’ve just written one? So ironic). Held it for a while and decided to keep it. Book chuck count: six: five New Left Reviews and one (of three) copies of Eat Pray Love (lol).
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Four hours in, Grey’s Anatomy on in the background, it’s time to go under the bed. It might be just me but I’ve always been convinced I'll be murdered and so naturally under the bed is a site of worry for me. For as long as I can remember, I have filled up the space under my bed in order to leave zero room for a very quiet serial killer to lurk while I drift into sleep and wake up with him licking my hand, pretending to be the dog (you’ve heard that one, right?). Anyway, terrified, I start to pull stuff out: a box of linens – usual; some unused running shoes – a mood; a lost makeup bag full of literal gold – so happy; and boxes and boxes of genuine shit. Like actual faeces, if faeces were old torches that never worked and broken Barbies and a fucking cheese grater, what the fuck Marie? Bin it all. Remember time Mum found used anal beads under my bed as I swipe a box crammed with defunct sex toys and chuck them all, too (google whether they are recyclable, still undecided). But then Grey’s Anatomy becomes more gripping — it’s the season six finale, oh my god, stop what you are doing.
Surrounded by bags of questionably recyclable stuff, I feel neither good, cleansed nor joyful. A week on and these bags are piled high by my door, still not sure what can be recycled and what can’t and feeling like a vile, privileged consumer who is directly contributing to the end of the world in 40 years.
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The Marie Kondo method. An existential crisis. A new pack of socks. No viral tweet in sight. For me, it wasn’t an exercise in joy but in shame. Shame at all the things I have that I never use; all the things I desperately thought I needed but were a waste of both money and resources. I have so many shoes. I only wear one pair.
In her book To Die For, Lucy Siegle talks about changing the way we consume, making it slower, and while I’m not someone who particularly abides by any environmental rules (terrible), exhuming all the unneeded crap from life is an exercise in shaming yourself into not consuming. Look around you — ask not whether these things bring you joy, but whether you really need them anymore. The answer is: If you’re privileged enough to consider whether your possessions bring you joy, then you absolutely don’t.
Anyway, off to scour the internet for cheap Raf Simons.
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