Behind Closed Doors: What Marie Kondo Doesn't Tell You About Decluttering

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

We're embarking on a major decluttering mission in our house. I've done it before, but we've reached Stuff Saturation point again, somehow. To say it's been driving me crazy is an understatement. In fact, if I were going to give advice to a soon-to-be-parent, one of my top tips would be to

Get Rid Of All Your Stuff.

Seriously. It would be up there with 'buy a lot of breast pads' and 'don't rely on Costa to keep you awake in the early days, because extreme tiredness combined with extra caffeine will make you feel like the world is collapsing around you'. Seriously: babies have so much stuff. Even if you determine that you don't need all the stuff, and, in fact, you will be fine with seven babygrows and a drawer to let your child sleep in, the stuff will still accumulate around you somehow.

Plus some of the stuff is really necessary. Like - places to safely put the baby. Bouncy chairs? Play mats? These take up room. (Even when I tuck it into a corner someone stubs their toe on the bouncy chair at least once a day). You will need other stuff, too. Changing mats and nappies and muslins and blankets and clothes, and eventually, toys, and the toys will breed while you sleep and you will end up drowning in them.

Just give up the ghost now. Get rid of all your stuff first. It's the only way.

Multiplication: believe it or not, this pile of toys started as a wooden kitchen and a plastic tin of peas.

I'm exaggerating (slightly) but seriously: having too much stuff lying around is a major headache with more than one child. How do you joggle a baby off to sleep without tripping over? Where is the baby's red book in the mountain of paperwork? Where is the flipping phone charger? And so on. Getting out of the house is a major mission. I used to be able to get a whole room of toddlers to stand in a line and wait patiently to have all their coats, gloves, and shoes put on. Now it is just me, and two children, but the difference is they are my children, and one of them is always hungry just at the times when we need to go out of the door.

You need things to go smoothly. Everything needs to have a place: a box with a lid that closes for toys, hooks for coats, somewhere to put hats and gloves, somewhere to put paperwork that isn't just in a pile upstairs somewhere. When you have too much stuff, you can't find stuff. And you need to be able to find stuff immediately. So this is my mission: everything, from nappies to remote controls to pens, needs to have a home. And it has to reliably live there when I need it to.

Not like this. This is how not to do things.

I've never read the Marie Kondo book, because frankly, I have Pinterest for my obsessive organisational needs, but also because some of it sounds a little bit mad. I have five, perhaps ten minutes at a time to organise my house before one of my kids needs something from me. I am not changing out of my pyjamas into a ball gown to do it. That would eat into a good third of my allocated time. Also, saying 'goodbye' to something sentimental kind of makes sense (just about), but saying 'thank you' to the instruction booklet for a Freeview box that we threw away five years ago feels a bit ridiculous, even to me.

Also, Marie Kondo wrote her book, I feel, for someone who lives on their own in a nice apartment somewhere, where you can happily empty the entire contents of your wardrobe onto the bed without having to worry about someone choking on an earring/tripping over a belt and cracking their head open. For that is one of the golden rules of Kondo-ing: empty everything out first.

I tried that with the cupboard under the stairs and it was a morning of both pure teeth-gritted determination and also, doom. Do you know how much stuff one family can squeeze into a cupboard? The answer is a lot. Do you know how hard it is to sort things out when you're tripping over all the normal living room things as well as piles of coats and odd gloves and the ball pit balls that your child has helpfully emptied all over the floor? It is nearly flipping impossible. I swear after seven years of barely any arguments that one morning nearly destroyed our marriage.*

* hyperbole alert! Before my Mum reads this and freaks out

The other thing that I don't hear mentioned is what you do with the stuff when you have determined that you don't need it. Currently there are twelve binbags in our baby's room waiting to go to the tip, plus multiple bags of random things to give away somehow. They could be sitting in there for a long time to come. So I haven't actually achieved anything really. It should be called the Magic Art of Moving Things From One Place to Another.

So TL;DR - sort all your rubbish out BEFORE you have a baby, not after.

Lesson learnt!

Linking Up With:

Pink Pear Bear


Eleven years ago was five minutes ago: on getting older

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Sometimes I like to Whatsapp my husband with goofy photographs of the three of us. You know, to remind him of the mad people he's about to come home to. (Jellybean has mastered the Silly Photo Face: eyes widened as much as possible, firmly closed mouth, face downwards in order to create the biggest double chin. Genius.) Flicking through my camera roll in an attempt to find the most awkward selfie, I came to a conclusion:

'I'm actually starting to look old.'

Chris raised his eyebrows at me, later that night, as we sat in the bed feeding the baby and anticipating another terrible nights' sleep (It's the perfect time of day for an existential crisis, you should try it.)

'I mean it! I've got, like, wrinkles. Round my eyes. And my mouth. I don't look the way I used to.'

This is new territory for me. I don't mean this as a boast, because I hate it: I've always looked younger than I am. When I fell pregnant with Jellybean it was a legitimate concern of mine that people would look at me and think I was a teenage mother. (It turned out I was right to be worried. I had a few raised eyebrows when I started waddling around with my massive bump.) It's always been a touchy problem for me - people tended not to take me seriously, which immensely frustrated me. I always got ID'd for drinks. Once I even got asked for ID whilst trying to buy spray glue. I was twenty-three and had been married for two years at the time.

Notice how all that was in past tense? It suddenly dawned on me the other day that I couldn't remember the last time I got ID'd for anything. At all.

I've got lines around my eyes and my mouth.

I'm getting ... older.

I don't know how to feel about this. Happy? Worried? But in the spirit of honesty, I'll tell you I had a half an hour moment of overwhelming doom about it.

Chris, very gently, told me that yes, I do look older than when we first met, but given that we first met a long time ago, that's not an unexpected thing. He also, in a tactic that all husbands should use, suggested that I look better as I get older. (Good job Chris). And, in turn, that brought me round from thinking 'Oh no, my life is flying by and I can't stop it' to 'Hey, I get to grow older with this one person, which is great'.

'It feels like five minutes ago that we were, I don't know, driving around aimlessly in your car talking and listening to Sia and Presidents and Aqualung.' Sia before she was cool. Obviously. (Imagine a sunglasses emoji here: that's how I feel about my liking someone before they went mainstream.)

'Really? That feels like ages ago to me.' Chris paused.

'In fact, it was nearly eleven years ago.'


But you know what? That's okay.

It's actually kind of good.

Read More:

Seven Quick Takes: Birthday Edition

All My Unwise Ways

Linking up with:

Brilliant blog posts on


Diary of an imperfect mum

Unputdownables 2016!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Another year has gone by! Of course, I can't see it through without writing this post. Here are my favourite reads from the past year:

Southern Reach Trilogy - Jeff VanderMeer

I'll admit something: this series took me almost a year to finish, despite finishing the first volume in a couple of days.

The Southern Reach are an organisation in charge of investigating the mysterious Area X, a dangerous and strange wilderness off-limits to the public. The first volume follows The Biologist, part of a four-woman team sent on the twelfth expedition into Area X to discover its secrets. As the series unfolds, you start to discover why the previous expeditions ended badly.

VanderMeer has a chilling writing style, particularly in the first book, which feels tense throughout. The second book - focusing on Control, newly instated at the Southern Reach - dragged a little at times, but the scary moments (when they happened) arrived like a punch in the gut.

What's great about this series is the world that VanderMeer has extensively built. The detail is incredible. He also manages to invent creatures and landmarks that are so unreal and out of this world that they feel genuinely creepy in their other-ness.

I've never read anything quite like it.

I'm not really a sci-fi girl but this series has convinced me there's more to the genre than spaceships and intergalactic politics!

Hold Your Own - Kate Tempest

One day last year, despite having a stack of books waiting to be read, I checked a load out of the library when I took Jellybean there. Why? Because they looked nice. I'm weak willed.

They had loads of copies of Hold Your Own, and having banged on for ages about wanting to get into poetry (having been put off by the way it was taught at school), I decided to check it out. What I found in this book totally changed my mind.

The collection kicks off with the story of Tiresias, a blind prophet of Apollo who is famous for being transformed into a woman after separating a pair of mating snakes by smacking them with a stick (yes, that is the actual story. Tempest's telling of the story is really good so I won't ruin the ending for you. You'll have to read it yourself). Then the collection is split into sections, following Tiresias's journey from child, to man, to woman, to blind prophet. What results is a deep, personal collection of poems that I kept re-reading in the vain hope I might be able to memorise bits of it. Tempest covers social issues, youth culture, and consumerism amongst other topics, in a slim but packed book, and deals with each subject with compassion and raw honesty.

She has made me discover poetry with fresh eyes - and the power of being able to express so much in few words. It really is an art form. This year I'm going to buy my own copy and highlight the absolute heck out of it.

Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith - Sarah Bessey

Two Sarah Bessey books have made their way onto my list this year. I've said it before but I'll repeat it here - what I love about Bessey is her ability to be totally grace-giving, even to people that have hurt her. She manages to balance gentleness with challenging words, having both respect for other people and the conviction of her own beliefs.

Out of Sorts sounds like it could be an attack on certain denominations or beliefs within the church. It isn't. Instead, it is a deeply personal and moving account of a changing and evolving faith. It wades into the deep waters of theological differences between Christians without fear - and explores it with both sensitivity and honesty.

Bessey writes about the process of maturing in your faith, and how difficult it can be. Having been through this process myself in the past few years, this book helped me to understand it. Bessey's own account of her journey in faith is tender, and beautifully honest. It helped me to realise the importance - the necessity - of 'working out my own faith with fear and trembling', and that to consider theology isn't just the job of pastors and preachers, but for everybody to consider and invest time into.

Expecting Better - Emily Oster

If I was going to recommend any book for an expectant mother, I'd recommend this one. Emily Oster, economics professor from the University of Chicago, fell pregnant, and rather than concentrating on sleeping and trying not to be sick (as I do whilst pregnant), she went into research mode. Focusing on the studies about pregnancy and alcohol, caffeine, eating rare meat, etc, the book breaks down each study and analyzes their findings. Oster comes to her own conclusions - and allows pregnant women to make their own conclusions, too. Very level headed and informative, and it made me feel better about drinking coffee in the mornings!

Hurrah for Gin - Katie Kirby

This sneaks onto the list as the last book I finished in 2016. I love the Hurrah for Gin blog and was so excited to get the book for Christmas. Katie Kirby's book of stick man cartoons and thoughts about parenthood manages to be both hilarious and touching. The last chapter made me cry a little bit. The rest made me laugh out loud.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter - Peggy Orenstein

Ever wondered why toys and books and games are so rigidly gendered blue for boys, pink for girls? So did the writer of this book. Orenstein found herself lost in a world of pink and glitter when her daughter, Daisy, was born. She goes on to investigate the impact this gender stereotyping has on girls - and how to avoid falling for it. I've wanted this book for a long time, and it's my favourite kind of non-fiction: interesting, impactful and very readable.

So You've Been Publicly Shamed - Jon Ronson

I went on a Jon Ronson reading spree this year, starting with the brilliant So You've Been Publicly Shamed. Ronson explores what happens to those who make mistakes on social media and have their lives turned upside down for it. It made me think twice about joining in with online witch hunts - and still makes me think before I post.

Funny and down to earth and kind of horrifying at the same time - this should be required reading for anyone who uses social media.

S. - Doug Dorst and J.J Abrams

I finally finished the rich, layered masterpiece that is S. This year. Written by Doug Dorst and conceptualised by J.J Abrams, S is a story within a story. Not so much a book, more of an experience. Check out my review here.

House of Leaves - Mark Z Danielewski

Speaking of ... Chris managed to find me not one, but two books with more than just one story this year. House of Leaves is the story of a man who discovers, in the apartment of a recently deceased blind man, an elaborate manuscript - an in depth analysis of a documentary about a family living in a mysterious house. The only thing is, the documentary itself doesn't exist.

House of Leaves tells the story of the mysterious Navidson house, the story of the old man who wrote it, and the story of the man who is trying to unravel it all ... and is starting to become dangerously obsessed with it all.

House of Leaves genuinely creeped me out (I had to stop reading it at night. The last book that did that to me was The Shining). When I finished it, I discovered a whole world of secrets and theories and puzzles waiting to be unlocked, mostly through the community on the author's official forum. This book could take over your life!

I just - I can't explain it. You have to read it to really get it. I found myself looking at the forum and then grabbing my copy of the book, rifling through it, and gasping in revelation. Either that or furrowing my brow and dropping everything else to try and work it out.

Jesus Feminist - Sarah Bessey

Bessey again, and I read this one with tears in my eyes. I'm planning on reading it again this year. Bessey explores scripture and discusses women's roles, and ponders how certain verses of the Bible have been used to silence and oppress women for thousands of years. She gets to the root of what I believe is God's heart for women - and uncovers how damaging and limiting the Christian obsession with gender can be. All with her patient, grace filled, but passionate manner. Highly recommended if you're a Christian (not just a Christian woman!)

The Fringe Hours - Jessica N. Turner

Another Christian book, but with such practical application that I think it would be good reading for anyone with a busy life. The Fringe Hours presents a way of finding the margins of your life - the small gaps and empty spaces - and suggests filling them with things that you are passionate about. A brilliant read for a creative-but-exhausted person.

Becoming Unbecoming - Una

So last year I said I'd read more graphic novels. I only got round to reading one in the end. Maybe this year?!

Becoming Unbecoming is the beautiful (true) story of Una, an artist going through her teenage years in Yorkshire at the same time that the Yorkshire Ripper was active. Una explores her own experiences with sexual abuse and slut-shaming, and the damage that we do to girls by sweeping it under the carpet. Very powerful, and at times painful, it's not a light read, but a beautiful and important one. The art style is stunning and conveyed her message in a way that impacted me long after I finished it.


That's it for my best reads of 2016 ... now to work on 2017! What were your favourite books from the past year? Let me know!

Linking up with:

Baby (grow) fever

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

I've been away for a bit. I had it in my head that after a few weeks I'd be back to normal blogging wise.

Oh, my hilarious, naive past self.

My son is now eight weeks old and I'm just about getting used to life with two kids. You know, the usual stuff - showering, eating, and so on. All about ten times more difficult with two kids, when one kid happens to be a tiny baby. It's amazing how much chaos one small person can bring.

Lovely chaos, obviously. I'm very grateful. (Admittedly I don't feel very grateful when I'm trying to get them both dressed and ready in the mornings. Getting ready is an epic disaster every single time. Right from not being able to find clothes that fit me down to attempting to manoeuvre the pushchair through a carpet of My Little Ponies and Duplo blocks. All to the beautiful sound of my son screaming at me in protest about being in the pram).


Eight weeks - how, how can it be eight weeks already since I was in a birthing pool sucking down gas and air like a drowning woman? - have passed. And it's still all a bit crazy here. The problem is, if you let enough time pass between babies your brain blocks out how much hard work they are. You start thinking of babies as small, cute bundles that you can just carry about with you wherever you go with no problems. LOL.

Anyway, I go to bed thinking 'I'll write a blog post tomorrow' and then I wake up at five to feed him, in a dark and cold house, feeling so dazed and exhausted that everything seems a bit surreal (mind you, the Trump stuff doesn't help with that 'is this actually real life' feeling).

So this is the best I can muster because I'm not so great at deep thinking right now (or indeed, any thinking): every day I have a small moment of indecision about what to dress my baby in.

We've been given tons of clothes, thanks to the happy timing of my sister in law having a baby boy a couple of months before us, as well as having close friends who are a bit further down the having-a-boy path than us. Our baby has more clothes than anyone else in the house. He's possibly got more clothes than me and Chris put together. He has lots of lovely little tops and soft comfy jogging bottoms and dungarees and teeny tiny little socks.

He also has a lot of babygrows.

I LOVE babies in babygrows. Love them. Something about a baby in a tiny onesie makes me melt a little inside. There's something so primal-mother-ish in pacing, shhing, and patting a babygrow-clad bottom in perfect rhythm. The day that Jellybean discovered that she could unpopper her babygrows and undress herself was a very very sad day for me, and I vowed I would make the most of babygrows this time round.

And so each morning I think 'this outfit is cute. I should dress him in that.' and then I think '... but I think I'll put him in a babygrow.'

There is literally no other point in this blog post other than a little update on what life is like here. Time flies like nothing else when you have small people around that insist on growing all the time. Watching them grow is amazing and slightly painful all at once. The only thing you can do, right in the midst of the sleepless nights and the mess and the chaos, is to allow yourself to drown in it. To be absorbed fully with it. And to grab onto the tiny perfect moments - first smiles, bonding moments between the kids - and file them away for mulling over later when you're less deliriously exhausted.

So I'm here, mostly at home. Learning all the words to the songs from Blaze and the Monster Machines ('maaagnets pick up some kinds of metal ...'). I've been smiling a lot. Sighing a lot. Swearing in my head sometimes when I get frustrated. And enjoying a tiny, snuggly babygrow-clad boy as much as I can before time slips through my fingers again.

Linking up with:


Pink Pear Bear
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