I've just 'Kondoed' my closet and it is an Insta-worthy thing of beauty. Let me explain: a year ago, we were about to leave England for America and in the run-up to the move, I discovered a little turquoise-coloured book called 'The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up' by Marie Kondo - a pocket-sized Japanese Mary Poppins: practically perfect at all things to do with decluttering and organising. As I began reading, I was pretty skeptical, but the principles contained within those pages really did help us to sort through the stuff that represented our lives: clothes, books, papers, sentimental items and what Marie calls 'kimono' or miscellaneous items - like the ten thousand Tupperware boxes without lids that tumble out of the cupboard every time you reach for a cup. As a result, we avoided sending years of useless crap across the Atlantic. Fast-forward a year, and re-inspired by Little Miss Kondo's Netflix series, I'm once again seeing which of my possessions still 'spark joy' and which I must thank for their service and let go of.
Now that we've lived in this house for some time, and got to know its spaces, I finally feel ready to embrace it as my home, rather than just a house that I live in. Until recently, I held our Chicago house at arm's length, after all, it's not mine; we just rent it. But perhaps it was also because I was unsure of our long-term plans, or maybe I just needed to focus on the day-to-day life of an expat rather than scatter cushions and rugs. All year I've resisted the temptation to mark any kind of holiday with decorations - no wreaths on the door, no outdoor lights, not even a plant pot on the porch to put our personal stamp on the place, but recently I've had a change of heart. I've begun to invest, both financially and emotionally in our home, so I marked this change in mindset with a bit of reorganisation and de-cluttering and to be honest, it's amazing what sorting and folding your knickers does for your sense of well-being!
And it's a good thing that my home is now sparking some joy because the year hasn't got off to the best start. I've spent the last week unable to smile or eat solid food following a gum graft (part of my dental reinvention and to save a tooth!). All the plans I had to throw myself into new experiences have had to go on hold as I sip tepid soup and drink vanilla flavoured meal replacement drinks whilst floating on a cloud of codine. To entertain myself, I like to follow my Roomba (a new household investment) around the house and marvel at its brilliance. For those who don't know, a Roomba is a type of vacuum cleaner that you can operate with an app. I can hoover my floor with my phone - it even links to my Alexa! Believe me, nothing sparks joy more than watching my little floor robot twirling around from room to room sucking up the dust bunnies - especially when she (yes, I genderised her!) has to do a quick turn to escape from the amorous advances of Leonard the terrier.
When Son#1 came for a post Christmas visit, he was less than impressed by my beautifully folded clothes and linens - his comment was: this is what happens when an exceptional educator goes back to being housewife. He was joking, I laughed. But then I realised that his words stung a little and that's because it's easy not to see the value in being a homemaker - our society does it all the time (I'm a trailing spouse for goodness sake!) and I've struggled with my apparent demotion all year. But why shouldn't we find joy and value in making home a place where everyone wants to be - a place where everyone can relax, feel loved and safe, be creative, have fun, work, eat, play and sleep? Surely that has to be pretty vital in today's high-pressure world.
So having Kondoed everything from closet to cook-ware, perhaps it might be time for me to get out more - which is easier said than done when it's twenty below outside and you've got a mouth full of stitches! I may not have started the year with the exciting new experiences I had planned, but instead I started it by falling in love with my home and nurturing it a bit. I folded and sorted and dusted, I bought cushions and flowers and a floor robot.
I may not be an exceptional educator right now, but I'm a pretty exceptional homemaker, and that's sparking quite a bit of joy so there's really only one more thing left to say: