Thursday, 5 March 2015

Tidying and decluttering for families - a review of Marie Kondo's 'The life-changing magic of tidying'

Last weekend I gave in, powered up the kindle and downloaded *that* book about tidying and read it in two or three sessions. 

It's an easy read, with lots of nice stories about clients/former clients, and some clear thoughts and advice about how to declutter and tidy your home (and life). I did gobble it up pretty quickly, indicating that I was quite eager to absorb all the life-tidying advice/principles on offer. 

It certainly made me think, and I have been tidying a lot since I finished reading it (but I haven't done it all, and I haven't done it in any particular order - I am a Konmari rebel). I realised that I already *knew* some of the things Kondo recommends. Like the thing about folding and storing things on edge, rather than in piles. I have got one drawer that stays tidy, where you can see the contents in one glance and, don't you know, the contents are folded Kondo style and lined up on their edges.

Anyway, I like some of her ideas, and I have been using them to good effect. Drawers are being reorganised, and clothes refolded in the Kondo way. It's nice to open a drawer and see everything that's inside - rather than see the tops of piles, or - more usually in my house - a random jumble of stuff.

An amazing thing happened when I organised the bean's drawers in the Kondo style. I put most of the clothes away, but hadn't quite finished folding and stashing his shorts. Later, he folded and put them away himself, which was good. But, when I opened the drawer I realised that he had spontaneously folded and placed them in the drawer in the same way as I had. 

Totally brilliant.

I hadn't asked him to do it that way. I hadn't explained how to do it, or shown him how I was folding his things. He just did it. 

So, it's good then? Well, yes, but no. Some of the advice just doesn't work for me. Do it all (declutter and tidy) in one 6 month period - okay. But never again? 


You don't have children do you Marie? 

Children grow and develop, and as part of that process families have to go through a regular cycle of acquiring new things and disposing of old ones. If you have children in a range of sizes/ages then it is patently absurd not to hand some items (clothes/books/toys) from one child to the next. Add to that the constant flow of paper and objects that come into the home with children, and the tidy 'once' rule soon breaks down. 

I am happy to throw things away - the broken toys, the beads dropped on the floor, the dog-eared card/certificate/picture that has been in the bottom of someone's bag for a fortnight. But I can't and don't police all of the trinkets and favourite sticks/stones/shells that my children collect. These are regularly cleaned up, but it can't be a one-time event, it has to be done over and over and over again. Not very Konmari.

For me, there is a lot missing from Marie Kondo's book about living with children, about coping with the daily onslaught of stuff that comes through the door, about making decisions about what to keep/chuck, when it's not actually your stuff, but your children's. Although I would love to declutter and tidy my home in a one-off event, I suspect that I will have to keep a permanent donate pile somewhere around the house, for the grown out of clothes, the grown out of books and toys, and the other stuff which no longer fills me/them/us with joy. 

Maybe I'm wrong, and once I've Kondo'd my own stuff, my children will also embrace the 'focus on joy - tidy once' philosophy? 

I also suspect that despite failing the joy test, I will continue to keep paint-spattered and old clothes for activities that involve spattering paint and digging the garden. Practicality and pragmatism doesn't feature in Kondo's worldview, and her advice doesn't really help much when you need to sort out the garden shed.

I like Marie Kondo's ideas a lot, but can see that they work best for households with grown ups. Maybe her next book will be about tidying for/with kids (or maybe I should write that one?!) 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Stash and burn (FO): the story of a made-up blanket

Hey peeps. 

I'm not on a stash diet this year, I'm blitzing, I'm busting, I'm hoovering up that stash. It will be conquered. After this, everything will be different. 


[Has Marie Kondo written a book about dealing with a stash yet?]

Anyways. I had a bit of a rummage in the yarn stash a couple of weeks ago, just before our bedroom was deconstructed. I pulled out some baby blue/green yarns that I cant find a project for, and got my crochet hook out.  

This is what I ended up with. 

The colours are a bit off here, the olive colour isn't quite so olive in real life - it's just pale green. But the other colours are fairly true (I will resist the temptation to tell you that it's really blue and black).

Not bad huh? It's fairly square, and should work as a baby blanket to keep someone small warm. It consumed a reasonable amount of yarn, with enough left for another blanket too. I dropped it off at the Pregnancy and Parents Centre, so they can sell it to raise money. 

I've no idea what any of the yarns are - but they are all highly synthetic and came from charity shops at one time or another. Two of the yarns are textured, so it's quite forgiving in terms of mistakes, but also slightly harder to work with because the stitch definition is, well, not very defined.  I didn't follow a pattern, I just started with a chain that was about the right length, and just took it from there. Also, don't ask what stitch I used, I have no idea!

Seeing as there was a goodly amount of yarn left over, I almost immediately cast on (do you cast on in crochet?) for another blanket. The stripes will be a bit different, because I used up most of the smooth yarns in the last one. 

In other news, I have been watching the great british sewing bee, and fantasising about having 4 hours, or 6 hours, or even 90 minutes to sew something without having to look after children or make meals or rush out to pick someone up from a party/play date/school. I don't think I've touched my sewing machine since Christmas *sigh*. I am really looking forward to the end of (my) term, and the Easter holidays, and maybe having a wee bit more time to do something apart from work. Grrrr.

Sorry. Did that last bit come out out loud? It's been a bit of a rollercoaster recently, mostly plunging towards an abyss, and hoping that at some point things might get slightly less bad. 

Still, there is always crochet. 

And knitting.

And chocolate.

And urchins like this

to keep me going.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Itty Bitty Hats (FO) (warning: contains images of very small & cute hats)

Yo ho ho me hearties.

As you (both? all?) know I have a healthy stash that I try to keep tamed and somewhat under control. Ahem.

Now and again I get the urge to use up a few scraps of yarn and make some baby hats using my common or garden baby beanie pattern. Sometimes I make the hats for people and babies that I know, and sometimes I make them just for the hell of it. After all, what's not to like about knitting round and round a few times, making an itty bitty stalk and ta-da! a hat appears? 

I kid myself that I'm stash busting when I do this, but really? Each hat probably uses 20g of yarn, so it aint going to make much of a dent. But do I mind?

Not in the slightest.

4 of these dudes have sprung off my needles lately, although I can only find pics of 2 of them. They share a colour palette, and have consumed the last remains of some sock yarn used for other projects, like thesethese and this

I'll be donating these to the folks at the Pregnancy & Parents Centre to help them raise funds. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The easiest cowl in the world (tutorial?)

I promised the other day that I had unvented the easiest cowl in the world, And, here it is. 
It seems completely fraudulent to call this a tutorial, since it is so blinkin' easy. 

Are you ready?

Wait. Before I begin with the tute, I should go back to the beginning of the story. A wee while ago, my dear 8 yr old son asked me for a cowl. He wanted it to wind round his head like a ninja, and asked for one in (navy) blue - that's a school colour since this boy is a model pupil and takes school life pretty seriously. Anyways, I thought: simples - I can knit, so I will knit him a cowl. 

And then Christmas came ... and went ... and there was no cowl. There were not even any beginnings of a cowl. I had yarn, and a pattern (probably), but no time or mojo to fit it into my life.

Fortunately for me, the bean has a birthday every year (who knew?) and this happens to be at the end of January. So, I just let the Christmas cowl thing slide, knowing I had another cowl-gifting opportunity racing towards me. 

I was going to nail this thing. Like a boss.

A day or three before the birthday, there was still no sign of a cowl starting. But, I  had a plan. 

When I was pregnant with little bean, I stole a couple of man sweaters from my husband. He discarded them because they had a weeny hole in one elbow, and he couldn't bring himself to wear them in public (wimp). They were great maternity wear - fine merino wool - long enough to cover the bump, warm and generally very comfy. I carried on wearing them after I stopped being pregnant too - and one of them was just starting to go into holes under the arms. 

A light bulb came on, and I just went with it. (Here's the tute: concentrate)

First, I got the sweater onto the slab table. And I started to cut. I cut along two lines: one under the arms, and one above the bottom ribbing

[sorry about the rubbish iphone pictures - I was half way through before I even thought of taking a photo]

Snip, snip went my scissors. 

I was left with a nice tube of stretchy knitted fabric. My plan was then to sew along the cut edges and somehow fold it over and secure it, making a really cosy double layer cowl.

Can you see what is coming next?  Yep. That's right: I didn't DO anything else. I just left it. The edges seemed to be stable enough without stitching (they have rolled), it was nice and stretchy, and I thought the depth of fabric just made it better for ninja poses. 

I styled it on a hanger just to see if it worked. 

[Yeah, navy blue is a total badass to photograph]. A total success, no? 

All I can say is this - I cut off the arms and hem of a man's sweater to make a cowl. And THAT WAS IT. 

It has been worn by the bean, more than a few times. He favours the double wrap. It hasn't fallen apart yet, and I haven't been able to steal it #sadface

Just in case you are wondering: this is a regular fine merino knit (machine washable) from Marks and Sparks. I didn't treat it in any way, e.g. by felting. Job done.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

More or less: overcoming stuffocation

A long time ago, when we first moved into our place, we made a mental list of the things we were going to do to turn it into our sort of place. We have done most of them (taken out the green carpets; strip off the textured wall paper; install new bathroom; put french doors into kitchen; install wooden floors, etc, etc). 

This week we got started on the last project of all - our bedroom. It had a giant and very useful built in wardrobe where we hid a LOT of stuff. But, it took up a lot of floor space in the room, was seriously ugly and just wasn't in the right place.

On Monday some fellas came and dismantled the wardrobe (we could have done it ourselves, but I had nightmares about the full height mirror doors breaking and cutting everyone). They also ripped up the floor, insulated underneath and put down a new floor which is level and draft free. We have moved our bed back in (cos the sofa bed is seriously uncomfy - who knew?) and now have to make a plan about decorating. We have some wallpaper lined up, and know our paint colours, so we 'just' need a bit of time to do it. 

This year's spring clean and sort out has been influenced by this project. The new wardrobe, when it is built, will be smaller than the last one. So I have been doing my best to pare back clothes and 'stuff'. There's been quite a few articles about de-cluttering and stuffocation recently, and this - plus Bea Johnson the zero waste advocate - have inspired me to think about enoughness. How many sets of sheets and pillowcases is enough? How many skirts? How many dresses?

For the sheets and pillowcases, the number appears to be 4. I decided that 4 duvet covers and 4 sets of sheets and pillowcases for our bed would be enough. Taking into account the possibility of spills/accidents, I couldn't imagine we'd ever get through 4 lots without being able to wash some. Amazingly, over 10 years of married life we have acquired quite a lot of linen. Some came from my house, some came from DH's flat, some came from his parents - when they were having a clear out - and we have bought one or two things together. Deep in my heart, I wanted to hang onto a lot of this, for future unspecified sewing/quilting projects. But I have already got quite a lot of stuff set aside for future unspecified sewing/quilting projects, so I let it go. I think there were two large bags of linen and towels that went to the charity shop that day. 

Now that the dust has settled on the empty bedroom, we'll be organising some temporary storage for our clothes. I'm planning to use the enoughness test to help me whittle down my wardrobe. I regularly sift out the odd garment here and there, but my plan is to be a bit more systematic this time. I don't think 4 will be the magic number in relation to clothes, but I wonder what is...?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Picture less

There are numerous posts waiting to be blogged. Some crafty things have been happening, and there was a birthday (8, EIGHT!!) but there is a technical sort of thing which is just making it difficult to get the words and pictures to appear together. At the same time.

I tried harrumphing, but to no avail. So, I'll just have to go naked. pictureless.  my syllables bare and unadorned,

In other news: my brother is in china, building a machine that makes batteries. It amuses me that he is      swimming against the tide like that - exporting to china - when most things come from China!  He says: it is cold, and never eat anything on the special menu.

It's cold here too, although we have been mostly without snow.

I have unvented the quickest cowl ever. It's super easy, and it takes about 2 minutes. I will post the instructions when I get the darn blog to work straight.

Friday, 16 January 2015

I'm giving it 24 hours

Here's the thing: yesterday my voice started making its way down towards the bass clef. I fad some phone calls to make, and it was mildly alarming when each 'hello' was deeper and huskier than the last! I coughed a bit, and needed a hanky and soon realised I had a cold.

It's unfortunate because my weekends involve lots of work and preparation for Mondays. It's going to be happening for the next 11 weeks too, so I have already said goodbye to my weekend evenings  for the next while. I need to function over the weekend, so that I can function on Mondays. I'm giving this pesky cold 24 hours to vacate my premises. I will be throwing everything at it: gallons of tea and other hot drinks; drugs; soothing baths  and anything else I can think of.

Some restorative and mindless knitting might also be on the agenda...