Saturday, 16 April 2016

Spark Joy

Spring has arrived (if temporarily) in London.

People are ditching their coats, smiling more, and the ice cream vans have started prowling the streets.

This is the traditional time for the SoberMummy wardrobe assault.

I only have one (largeish) wardrobe. Not enough space to store four seasons worth of clothes. So, twice a year I store away winter garments and bring out summer ones, or same thing in reverse.

This is always a fabulous opportunity for decluttering, and decluttering is a brilliant activity for sober people.

Why? Well, for a start it keeps you, and your hands, busy. Also, it's great mindfulness training. You have to totally focus on the job in hand.

Plus there's a beautiful symmetry about it - you turn chaos into order externally, mirroring what's going on inside your head.

And, after years of drinking too much, you're bound to have created quite a lot of chaos, right?

This year, I decided to take some expert advice, so I looked up Marie Kondo, enthusiast of the Japanese art of 'KonMari', and author of 'The Life Changing Magic of Tidying.'

Life Changing Magic! What's not to like?

Marie's method applies to your whole home, but she says to take one category at a time - in my case clothes.

What you do is lay out everything you own. All your clothes, dug up from every recess. It's frightening.

Then, quite simply, you pick up each piece and ask yourself does it spark joy? If it does, you keep it, if not you give it away.

Try it! It's extraordinarily liberating.

So many of our clothes are laden with emotion: guilt (it cost me a fortune, but I never wear it), sadness (I loved it once, but it's too young for me now), nostalgia (I looked amazing at that wedding, back in the day).

(I got positively weepy over a pair of bright orange Versace jeans (UK size 10) from my clubbing days).

But much of that emotion is negative. Plus, we only wear a tiny proportion of what's in our wardrobes.

So, when we open the closet, we're confronted by chaos. We can't see the clothes we could wear, because they're hidden by all the clothes we're never going to wear again. It's a Pandora's box of confusion, guilt, shame and regret.

So, Marie says be ruthless. Keep only those clothes that 'spark joy.'

(What I love about this is that it does allow you to keep the nostalgia dress you'll never wear again but has such happy memories. Or the shoes that cripple your feet but are so beautiful that you love them anyway. It's about emotion, not boring practicality).

Once you're done, you rearrange your wardrobe and drawers so that everything is easily visible and simple to locate. (She has special folding methods for drawers which you can check out on YouTube).

And you know what? It really works!

Now, when I open a drawer I can look at everything with fondness, with enthusiasm, with anticipation. I know I love it all, for one reason or another.

Plus, I can see it all! Some gorgeous, forgotten items have resurfaced after the purge. No need to go shopping for ages, Mr SM ;-)

And what you're left with, after all of that, is a feeling of peace. Of joy in a life made more simple.

And we all need a bit of that, don't we?

Now for the children's wardrobes.... *flexes fingers and cracks knuckles.*

So, go spark some joy, my friends.

SM x


  1. I'm self employed and actually took a day off work for a good clear out a couple of weeks ago! There are few things less satisfying I find.
    I am running out of things to do/jobs at home and in the garden.
    These activities have brought me joy but are primarily practical activities to distract me in these early days. After a lovely holiday I do now feel ready to move on to the next phase which involves finding activities I want to do and which I will enjoy for the long haul xx

  2. Day 15 for me. I can not believe it! This blog has made living AF a reality for me. Thank you, SM, for the strategies to cope, the lighthearted stories and for providing a forum for commiseration.
    I have "found" an extra 4-5 hours in my day. I used to come home from work, pour that first glass, make dinner and make my way to the couch where I would drink wine and zone out ( and eventually " fall asleep"). Those were wasted hours. I'm still struggling with the exhaustion. I went to bed at 8:00 pm last night. The thought of tackling a decluttering project seems overwhelming! When does the motivation portion of this process kick in?
    Congratulations to all of you 100 day achievers. Your work inspires me to keep going.

    1. Hi, I'm at 111 days and as per my post above it's only now I feel ready to properly start "doing" independently of stuff to keep me busy/avoiding alcohol x

    2. Thanks for your reply. I was feeling discouraged that I wasn't feeling all zip pity do da ready to go! I trust that the energy will come. For now, I face the obstacle course!

    3. Hi Kburke! You're doing so brilliantly! I remember that bone deep tiredness really well. It's your body healing - it's a good thing. Don't worry about doing anything except not drinking. That's enough. The rest will follow xxx

    4. Congratulations Kburke! I'm at day 36 and have some days where I feel quite lively and some when I feel totally fatigued. I'm pretty sure at 15 days I felt totally exhausted and really low. But I realised it was part of the process and I couldn't give in. Well done SM! My house needs a good spring clean. Maybe next week....

  3. I read the book and just last weekend used it to clean out my closet which I hadn't done in many years! The thing that helped me was that she says that it is okay to not keep something that once gave you joy. Thank the garment for the joy it gave you and then you will feel ok to part with it. Maybe the same as the wine? Thanks for the analogies! Great post! And I loved the book!

  4. This post got me all excited! Love to declutter! Every weekend I spend 15 minutes clearing out something in the house. Cleaning out just one drawer somewhere feels very productive and does a lot for happiness. Have a great Saturday!

  5. I love this book! I started to read it but only got about a third of the way into it. I love the concept of it and I can't wait to start decluttering my house. Just have to find the motivation to do it first! But I WILL do it some time soon. I am determined to!! I want to live in a house without clutter and with things that bring me joy. A x

  6. Oh Great SM - now Mrs. Eeyore will have more leverage to get me to clean up and tidy from my rather slobbish and hoarding of past things Eeyoreish ways.

  7. I did this with the smallest child's clothes and am desperate for the time to do mine (3 pregnancies and clothes in 4 different sizes make choices a little limited)