I KonMari’ed my apartment

The tale of how I Marie Kondo'ed my whole apartment

You must have heard of Marie Kondo by now. The Japanese organizing consultant and author wrote a book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, and one by one my fellow minimalists/decluttering enthusiasts have devoured it and sung its praises. Me, I was a KonMari skeptic. I had already read a few books on the subject (my favorite being “The Joy of Less” by Francine Jay), so what new could Marie Kondo’s book possibly bring to the table?

Can’t resist the cray

Inevitably, I cracked. It started when I watched her 42 minute long Google Talk a few months ago and realized what differentiates her from the similar authors that I have read: girl is cray. She has had an obsession with organizing and tidying up since she was 5, she wants you to roll your socks instead of balling them in order to give them rest, and she wants you to fold your t-shirts to make them stand up vertically. Fast forward a handful of weeks: it was the end of my summer holiday and I had a day to spare, so I bought the book for my Kindle and read it in one sitting.

Surely I can’t donate any more clothes?

If you have ever read a whole book on decluttering in one sitting then you know the unstoppable urge that follows: you want to throw away everything you own. I armed myself with a printable KonMari checklist, rolled up my sleeves and got started on my closet. This is where I want to remind you that I have several rounds of decluttering under my belt and that I’m not very sentimental. I have donated teddy bears and jewelry and I have recycled very old birthday cards. In short: this was not my first rodeo. I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what I owned, and that the things I own were things that I liked, but boy was I wrong.

In short, Marie Kondo’s schtick is that you collect all your similar items and pile them up in one place so that you get the full overview of everything you own within that category. This means everyday clothes, jammies, socks, jackets, coats, yoga pants, all of it. You then pick up each item one by one, hold it in your hands and ask yourself: does this spark joy? If yes, keep it. If no, out it goes. I decided to veer slightly from the rules and made separate piles for “yes”, “throw away”, “donate” and “undecided”. I worked quickly, and any garment that gave me the slightest feeling of “ehhh…” was banned from the “yes” pile. What I learned was:

  • I had a surprising amount of “ehhh…” garments.
  • Going through the “undecided” pile was easy once I could compare it to everything in my “yes” pile, and I kept very little of it.
  • My “yes” pile contained more than enough clothes once I was finished.

In the end I donated 5 plastic shopping bags full of clothes, and 2 weeks later I can barely remember what was in them.

How many box cutters?

After my closet I tackled our book shelf, then our bottomless drawer of spare cables, then the bathroom and my collection of cosmetics. Out went my samples, everything that had expired, and anything that I didn’t like. I discovered that I have an obsession with things that are travel sized, and marveled at my 4 complete sets of tiny shampoo and conditioner. Lastly I tackled the junk drawer, where I found a large collection of batteries, about 20 pens, and most curious of all: 15 tiny box cutters. Why so many box cutters? Where did they come from? I also found wrapping paper that I didn’t even know we owned and a bag of dog treats, all stuck in junk drawer limbo until I KonMari’ed them out in the open. I probably should have thanked all those box cutters for something before I let them go. You see, thanking things for their service before you throw them out is part of the KonMari code of conduct. Screw it, they’re only box cutters.

The kitchen mysteries

Lastly I was supposed to work my KonMari magic on the kitchen, but it was a mess and I put it off until the weekend. When Saturday came around I had to run some errands, but when I returned home The Boyfriend had already started working some KonMari magic of his own and was nearly finished. The kitchen looked tidy and wonderful and he told me he had thrown out 3 bags worth of stuff, which I still can’t wrap my head around. What the hell was even in those bags? Mystical pointless kitchen stuff, obviously, because I still can’t figure out what is missing. We also decided to donate a very fancy 36-piece set of cutlery that we had been gifted, only to discover that we also owned a different set of fancy cutlery that we had completely forgotten about that we loved.

The discoveries

When the whole process was over I came to several conclusions:

  • I always keep a running list on my phone over things I want to trash or donate. This was immensely helpful because it let me get rid of all of those things before even starting on the more difficult decluttering. This got me started on a positive vibe before I had to make decisions about the more difficult items.
  • I realized how unsentimental I have become regarding books. Now that I own a Kindle I really can’t think of a reason to keep the few hardcover books that I have left, but I still kept them in fear of regretting it later.
  • Say what you want about giving your clothes rest by folding them in weirdly specific ways, but Marie Kondo revolutionized my socks and tights drawers. By rolling them I know exactly how many pairs I own, and I will notice instantly if I lack hold-ins or wool socks or half-socks for the gym. Laugh at me all you want. I’m officially a sock-roller.
  • Once you’ve dealt with your own shit it is incredibly tempting to go declutter other people’s shit. Miss Kondo warns about this, letting us know that doing so would be incredibly disrespectful and that it is probably also a symptom of you knowing deep down that there is still something left of your own shit to declutter? Because if your own shit is in pristine order you will be all zen and no longer want to declutter other people’s shit? Who knows. Just don’t touch other people’s stuff.
  • Not owning a car is a problem when you want to get rid of things. Sure, we could rent a van, but I haven’t driven a car in 5 years and I never ever drove in Bergen, and The Boyfriend doesn’t have a driver’s license. Because of this we are stuck storing larger items until one of us makes a friend who owns a car.
  • I own a ridiculous amount of t-shirts and they all spark joy. Mmm, t-shirts.

 

In closing I will leave you with this fantastic one-star-review from Amazon.

This guy is not a fan of Marie Kondo

Photos from New York 2015

 

I know I’m late posting these, but finally I managed to write a post about my summer trip to NYC. We stayed for 10 days and had a ridiculously great time. Our temporary home was the Archer Hotel in Midtown and we absolutely loved it. The rooms are on the smaller side but super nice, the staff were nothing but wonderful, and they brought little treats up to our room every evening. What’s not to love?That’s me in our hotel bed, watching real American morning TV with my English Breakfast tea and Greek yoghurt.

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

What did we do on our trip? Walk. A lot. We took the subway when necessary, but we walked as much as we could because how else are you going to get to know a city? We have been watching a lot of Million Dollar Listing (guilty pleasure), so I couldn’t help but study all the beautiful buildings and imagine what it would be like to live in them. Hashtag swoon, hashtag like-that-will-ever-happen.

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

You can imagine Kanutten peeping her little head out of that window, right?

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

When we got tired of walking we took the day off and spent it reading in Central Park. We brought food and our Kindles and just sat there for hours. I bought the new Kindle Paperwhite while I was there, and oh my do I love it. I read three books in a week. Super-fluffy holiday reading, but still! I also bought a Fitbit Flex to track all that walking, so if there are any fellow Fitbit users out there, give me a shout so I can add you to my friends list.

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

Is it silly to geek out over people playing baseball? I have never seen people play baseball in real life before!

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

I also had to photograph bubble guy over here, because come on, he makes amazing bubbles and the people on the benches just don’t give a shit. His amazing bubble talents are wasted on that crowd.

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

Had to photograph the horses outside Central Park as well. Note sure how I feel about horse-drawn carriages in the blistering heat, though.

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

The Boyfriend insisted on taking me to Dylan’s Candy Bar, where I found this awesome staircase. That’s real candy inside the steps, people. That’s pretty much every child’s dream.

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

I also finally got to walk the High Line, something I have wanted to do since we ran out of time on our last NYC trip two years ago. If you don’t already know, the High Line is a 2.33 km New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line. Such a cool place, and really beautiful as well. Truly a must-see.

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

There was also some great graffiti to spot up there!

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

I kind of love this shot from the subway.

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

Cookie shopping in Chelsea Market. I really regret not buying these dog-shaped cookies, because that poodle is all kinds of amazing.

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

Speaking of dogs: I photographed other people’s dogs. Several times. No shame.

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

During my trip I had coffee with Kallie of Happy, Honey & Lark (she was so sweet!) and she made me promise to visit The Met before I returned home. I am so happy I did, because I spent hours in there fangirling over Archaic Greek art, Roman sculpture and impressionist paintings (okay, we ran out of time so I skipped ahead a few centuries). I could have spent whole days in there, and I am definitely going back there the next time I’m in town. I have a bachelor’s degree in art history, and for a few hours it felt like those three years weren’t a complete waste of time.

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

Seriously, how amazing is that building?

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

My poor degree. It is years between every time it comes in useful.

 

On one of our last days there we visited Levain Bakery, which is one of those places where people happily wait in line for 30 minutes just to buy one of their famous cookies. It was The Boyfriend who insisted on visiting – me, I was a cookie skeptic. What cookie could possibly be worth a 30 minute wait, right? That damn cookie, that’s what. Oh my god. I sincerely regret not going back and buying a half dozen to bring back to Norway. The first thing I did when I returned home was to look up copycat recipes! I’m telling you, if you ever have the chance to buy cookies from this place, do it. Don’t even question it.

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

On our last evening there I discovered, completely by accident, that it was the day of Manhattanhenge. Manhattanhenge is an event during which the setting sun is aligned with the east–west streets of the main street grid of Manhattan, as you can see in the photo on the above right. Clueless tourist that I am I just thought it was a pretty sunset, but the trending hashtags on Instagram informed me of what was going on. Instagram: educating clueless tourists since.. 2015, I guess?

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

Speaking of Instagram, here is a small selection of what I posed during my trip. If you want to check out the rest you can find them on my Instagram account, and you can find a whole bunch of other photos on my Flickr. This is of course only a fraction of what we did on our trip, but I hope it was an interesting little taste nonetheless.

Blog post and photos from Maja's NYC trip, July 2015.

My NYC post from 2013 can be found here.

 

The 10 month shopping fast: what did I learn?

Maja summarizes her 10 month attempt to buy less for a whole year, also known as her shopping fast.

The beginning

It has been nearly a year since I decided to start my 10 month shopping fast. It was September 2014 and I was psyched, I wanted to give myself a challenge, and I felt very motivated indeed. I had previously done shorter fasts with varying degrees of success, but this time I wanted to do it properly. My three main reasons for starting a fast were:

  • I couldn’t physically fit more clothes into my closet.
  • I wanted to save money.
  • I felt slightly out of control.

I had more than enough clothes, I wanted to give my savings account a proper boost, and I wanted to enjoy the things that I already owned instead of always striving for the next new thing. I allowed myself to replace things like socks and underwear and wardrobe basics like everyday t-shirts, and I also allowed some leeway for a wool sweater, a winter coat, digital books and replacements for everyday makeup products. Just no more frivolous shopping. All in all that doesn’t sound too difficult, right?

The non-shopping

The first 7 months of the project went very well indeed. I still bought things, but they were generally few and thought-out things like plane tickets and a graphics tablet, or replacements for things that ran out or wore out or shrank in the wash. When I did stray from my rules I bought things that I am still very happy about, like trips to visit friends or concert tickets. I feel like it is almost always OK to spend money on experiences as long as you don’t overdo it. I also ended up giving a lot of both clothing and home items to charity. I recycled 7 years worth of glossy magazines, and kept only my small collection of biannual runway magazines plus 3 or 4 special issues.

The slip-ups

However, around April this year things started to veer seriously off course. My year had been shitty from the very beginning, and the general shittiness of it all was starting to take its toll. Why am I telling you this? Because when you have to spend the little remaining energy that you have on basic things like going to work and keeping the apartment looking OK-ish and maybe cooking something semi-healthy then

  1. You don’t necessarily have the best self-control when you pass something pretty on your way home from work, and
  2. You try to cheer yourself up.

It started when I bought myself a second hand Balenciaga bag to reward myself for jumping a major life hurdle. I don’t regret buying it, but I don’t think there are many people in the world who have less need for a bag than I do. When spring officially came around I convinced myself I needed a lot of new spring/summer things, and I bought a handful of tees and tanks plus some skirts and two pairs of shorts. On a work trip I did some shopping in Zara, because there’s no Zara where I live and you almost have to take the opportunity when it presents itself, right? I then traveled to visit my in-laws and there was some kind of crazy summer sale going on, so I bought three pairs of boots. And rain coat. And some makeup. Somehow, emoji stickers arrived the mail. All (okay, most) of these are excellent things that I love and that are in my daily rotation, but did I need them? Not even a little bit.

The silver lining

By now you probably think that I have deemed my shopping fast a complete failure, but that is not the case. Sure, I didn’t completely nail it, but the last 3 months felt more like the temporary slip-up of a good habit than a return to a bad one. What I mean is that the first 7 months gave me enough of a boost to make me want to keep going. I have everything I need, probably 2 or 3 times over. The goal was never to buy better things, I want to buy and own less.

9 Things I learned

  • When I return home from buying something I don’t need I get really annoyed with myself. Which probably means that my inner minimalist is functioning, albeit sometimes too exhausted to pay attention.
  • I also get annoyed when The Boyfriend buys something we don’t need, but since this is a relationship and not a dictatorship I have to let it go. Sometimes.
  • We still don’t have room for more stuff. Not because we have replaced things we got rid of, but because my tolerance for knick-knacks has drastically decreased.
  • You never run out of things to throw out or donate to charity. Ever.
  • It is really impractical to de-clutter when you don’t own a car, so it is better to just not buy the crap in the first place.
  • Trying to sell your crap online is really boring. Again, it is better to just not buy the crap in the first place.
  • I have come to the point where even donating things make me feel bad, because what kind of life am I living if I can give away bags upon bags of perfectly usable stuff every single year? Cue rant about the unending cycle of consumption/the earth’s resources/ever-growing landfills.
  • Unsubscribing from newsletters is always a good idea.
  • My weak spots: travel shopping, bargain shopping and comfort shopping.

Let’s do it again

What I’m left with after completing my experiment is an urge to do it all again.The bottom line is that I don’t want this to be a fast at all, but a permanent change of my habits. The goal is not to become a cheapskate living in a über-Scandinavian all-white apartment with only 100 possessions to my name, but I would really like to reach a much healthier balance between my “need to haves” and my “want to haves”. In fact, over the last year I seem to have developed a kind of shopping mantra: What would Grandma do? I can’t tell for sure of course, mainly because my Grandma is no longer around, but she sure as hell wouldn’t spend her hard-earned money on frivolous shit she didn’t need. Here’s to living life Grandma style.