My next category to tidy up was decor, which included both everyday items in our house and seasonal decorations which are packed away.
For everyday decor, I went around the house grabbing everything that seemed to fit the category. This included candles, vases and figurines, magnets on the fridge, clocks, house plants, and pictures on the walls. I balked at removing the pictures from the walls, because most are special to us and I didn’t plan to discard any. However, I did remove them in the end, except for one that belonged to Mike, and the huge one over our fireplace. What I am learning is this: it’s important to gather everything in a single category, because even the items you ‘know’ you’ll keep will help you make good judgments about other things, because they represent a benchmark for what sparks joy. And, occasionally, you may find that some of these items you presume you’ll keep turn out to be only ho-hum when you assess them purposefully.
Even after taking this photo I remembered a few more things to add to the pile – this is a very dispersed category!
I chose to discard a couple of odds and ends, although not a lot. I had a couple of my own drawings which I’d never hung, because they weren’t really my decorating style, but I realised that it was mainly the frames that didn’t resonate with me: they were sleek black metal frames, meant to hang the photos at an exhibition. So I removed the frames and kept the drawings themselves, with my other artwork. The KonMari method, by requiring you to consider each item, is very helpful for discerning these sorts of feelings for objects. I frequently discover that I like the item, but realise it needs to be stored elsewhere, or used differently, or removed from its packaging.
In the end, everything went back to its place in the house, but I collected one box of unused things for which I have some future plans. Mostly they just need hooks or specific arrangements made for hanging.
Next I brought out our seasonal decorations, which are mostly for Christmas. I waffled about this, because I’ll be getting them out anyway in less than two months, and I could go through them then. But no, I decided to stick with the proper order of tidying. I am so glad I did!
So here’s our collection of Christmas decorations, with two 4th of July pieces and a jingle bell red heart – which is for Christmas but which I also hang out at Valentine’s day. (It’s a great all purpose ornament. Also, it wasn’t put back in the box, so you see how lazy I was and for how many months, since it’s now October!) It’s not really a lot, and I did sort through it when I put it away last year. But I wasn’t happy with the big plastic storage bin which held most, but as you can see, not all, of the decorations.
Here’s everything taken out and spread on the floor.
As with almost every category for me, I didn’t discard any impressive amount – yet what I did discard made the whole collection feel better. I was surprised that I got rid of some tree ornaments. We have always had an ‘anything and everything’ tree: beautiful souvenir ornaments mingle with paper handprints and cheap cutout shapes from wrapping paper. There was a time when, not having many ornaments of my own or the means to make or buy much (and being an adult living away from home), I made ornaments from wrapping paper, foil candy wrappers, and from little trinkets used as decorations on gifts. They sat alongside more elegant ornaments like those Mike and I bought at John Lewis, with gift cards, the first Christmas we were married. I always saw this slow accumulation of ornaments as part of the fun of Christmas – a way of marking the passage through each year with its own leanness or plenty. But this time, going through them, I just felt ‘done’ with several of the older, more motley pieces – even ones I specifically saved to mark a memory of ‘that year when these were all I had’. This sensation of calm, ‘I’m done’-ness is one I’ve honed through the KonMari process, and it is a wonderful feeling.
I had a large assortment of little jingle bells. I didn’t buy these; I think they may have been with my grandmother’s sewing supplies. I’m sure someone was planning a craft project with them, but most were still in their packages. I’m excited by the thought of making something with them, but those packages weren’t giving me joy. I ripped them all apart and stored all the bells in a little red velvet drawstring pouch. Now that gives me a thrill.
Since I’ve been working on some zero waste habits, I pay much more attention to packaging now. It is often suited to transportation and easy display of items, rather than to storing them well, and very rarely has any aesthetic pleasure. Marie Kondo says you should always remove items from their packages as a way of making them at home, and I feel it’s often a good way to save space and to appreciate items themselves much more. See all those packages? Yuck. But ooh, that drawstring bag!
By some magic, although I didn’t discard much, I reconfigured all the decorations into different boxes and they suddenly seemed more compact. The three smaller boxes are easier to put away on the high shelf where they belong, and definitely easier to get down without risk of dropping them.
I mentioned that I didn’t like that plastic container. It had its practical inconveniences, because it was unwieldy and didn’t use vertical space well. But, although such plastic containers are ubiquitous in organising, I’ve realised that I don’t really like them. I know they have everything going for them – water protection, durability (most of the time), ease of cleaning, secure lids… But I honestly prefer brown cardboard boxes. I don’t know if it’s nostalgia for my grandparents’ garage or my parents’ attic, or if it’s a result of growing to prefer more natural materials over plastics in general. But that’s how I feel.
As I said, I’m so glad I decided to tidy the Christmas decorations now instead of putting it off. Not only am I now looking forward to pulling it all out again shortly, knowing it will be easy to unpack, but I have a great sense of calm after putting it in order.
This leaves only two categories between me and the kitchen: electronics and gardening.