#TheEverydaySpruce Read your way to a happier home

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Read your way to a happier home #TheEverydaySpruce | Growing Spaces

Read your way to a happier home #TheEverydaySpruce | Growing SpacesNever one to resist a bandwagon, I ordered my copy of the best-selling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo once I’d seen a couple of people mention it on Instagram. I bought Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin a few months back (about when Sarah-Lou and I started The Everyday Spruce project), after reading her earlier book The Happiness Project a couple of years ago. And then The Year Of Living Danishly by Helen Russell has been recommended to me by more than one friend, so that went into my shopping basket, too.

As a general rule, I’m not one for self-help books. I do, however, seem to be obsessed with the idea of happiness and what I can do to make myself happier, and one of my biggest loves is pottering around at home, so any book that combines these two things holds a strong attraction.

I began with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. I’ll just come out with it and declare now that I’m a hoarder, just like my mother before me, and her mother before that. Our house is full of stuff because I find it so hard to part with things (I see future uses for almost everything). So the main premise of this book – discarding anything that doesn’t “spark joy” – terrifies and fascinates me in equal measure. Marie’s approach is simple. Systematically work through your possessions, keeping only the things that “spark joy” and discarding everything else. Once you’ve finished discarding, you can decide where to store it all.

‘After all, what is the point in tidying? If it’s not so that our space and the
things in it can bring us happiness, then I think there is no point at all.
Therefore the best criterion for choosing what to keep and what to discard is
whether keeping it will make you happy, whether it will bring you joy.’
Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying

Unfortunately I think that I’m wired differently to Marie Kondo. She seems to have a significant lack of sentimental attachment to her belongings, whereas I steep almost everything I own in a sense of memory and emotion. Marie advises tackling the job of discarding your belongings starting with easier categories like clothes and books, before you’re ready to face dealing with the sentimental objects, but I know that I would have sentimental objects in every single category, including the so-called easy ones.

I also think she must have a much better memory than me, as she believes that the memory itself is enough – you don’t need to keep an object to hold onto a memory. But for me, objects play a strong part in sparking memories. My memories are generally sketchy – like rough outlines – and objects (or music, smell, photographs) are what fill the sketch in – rounding it out and giving it colour and life.

So I have reservations, but – and it’s a big BUT – I know that my clutter does make me unhappy. When I need to focus or I’m feeling anxious I have to sort and clear my immediate surroundings. I get rid of a few things, but mostly I just move stuff around and come up with new storage solutions. I’m intrigued by this book’s challenge to live in the moment, rather than hold onto things that remind me of the past, or belong to some still-to-be-determined moment in the future, and I think that letting go of a lot of ‘stuff’ would ultimately feel very freeing. I’ll need to find a point of compromise between Marie’s rigorous guidelines and my own comfort zone, but the book has definitely got me thinking and I would recommend it.

The Life-Changing Art Of Tidying #TheEverydaySpruce | Growing Spaces 600I had mixed reactions to Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project when I read it – some things struck a chord, sometimes I wanted to hurl the book across the room in frustration, other times I was just left with my WTF face. But it made fascinating reading and so I was interested to see what direction her project focusing on the home would take. Her relationship with her possessions is actually pretty similar to mine (‘I wanted to love my possessions, and yet not be mastered by them’, she says) – and she tries to find a good balance between tackling the clutter and valuing the possessions she has. Both her and Marie share similar pieces of advice when deciding what to keep and what to discard – is it useful or do you love it?

‘I undertook two complementary tasks: first, to identify, arrange, and
spotlight meaningful possessions; second, to get rid of meaningless stuff’
Gretchen Rubin, Happier At Home

Gretchen’s book also looks at many other aspects of home, such as marriage, parenthood, interior design and neighbourhood – tackling a different theme each month to explore the factors that for her matter for sense of home.

Read your way to a happier home #TheEverydaySpruce | Growing SpacesNow I’m only a few chapters into Helen Russell’s The Year Of Living Danishly, but I am absolutely hooked. I challenge anyone to read this book and not want to up sticks and move to Denmark immediately. Just the promise of the amazing pastries and great coffee was enough for me – I was sold halfway through the prologue. When it comes to home, I’ve always loved Danish design and interiors and there’s a common theme with the other books when it comes to clutter – less clutter makes for a calmer, happier space.

‘When we surround ourselves with quality design, it influences our mood. If our
surroundings are nice, we feel cosy and safe. It makes us happier.’
Charlotte Ravnholt, quoted by Helen Russell in The Year Of Living Danishly

Helen’s chapter on home also looks at that classic Danish concept ‘hygge’ – have a look at Sarah-Lou’s post from last week for some inspiration on this.

I’ve enjoyed all three of these books, and they’ve all given me that spark you need to make some changes around the home. And all of the writers agree that sorting out your home-life will have a positive impact on the rest of your life, too. I definitely feel that tackling some of the clutter in our home will free up space in my mind to make me feel more in control of my life, and to allow me to focus on what I want to do going forwards.

Have you read any of these books and if so, what are your thoughts? Do you have any other reading recommendations to share – I’d love to hear them!

Read your way to a happier home #TheEverydaySpruce | Growing Spaces

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Comments

  1. February 24, 2015 / 5:45 pm

    I really liked The Happiness Project; some of it seemed a little odd and then other bits were like lightbulb moments for me! I love the idea of Helen Russell’s book – thanks for recommending it. This is a little different, but I’m really enjoying Will Taylor’s ‘Bright Bazaar’ book; we’ll be moving us today and I really want our space to reflect who we are – colours are the starting point for me. 🙂 Leanne x

    • Heather Young February 25, 2015 / 9:12 am

      Totally with you on The Happiness Project. I’ve got the Bright Bazaar book but I have only flicked through – I haven’t actually read any of it. Good luck with the move!

  2. February 24, 2015 / 8:03 pm

    a year of living Danishly is at the top of my list…I think I embrace the old Morris saying ‘have nothing in your home you do not believe to be beautiful or know to be useful” when I’m sorting, but like you, things have strong memories too. I’ve found it easier to be more ruthless by counting the other factors alongside the memories & whether it’s actually bringing me joy currently, or if it’s something that brings memories when I have to clean it!
    Really enjoyed your reviews, particularly envisioning the WTF face :0D xxx

    • Heather Young February 25, 2015 / 9:14 am

      I definitely think that counting in the other factors is the way to go – I’ve been able to part with quite a lot this month because we’ve been selling stuff on ebay and I need the money more than I need the things. My WTF face is gorgeous. Obviously.

  3. February 24, 2015 / 10:29 pm

    Loved the discussion on living Danishly on Women’s Hour, I’ve been fascinated by this book. I seen the whole of Scandinavia as some kind of utopia, the place where they got it right, while we binge drink and buy crap in Tesco….

    I am increasingly keen on tidying, I do find it calming. Mostly, I shove things in drawers. Out of sight.
    There seems to be a growing trend towards de-cluttering, we are continually being told it is the right thing to do. It probably is, I am a hoarder, I hate getting rid of things that might be useful, your words resonated! However, I love the liberating feeling of de-cluttering. I’ve been forced to de-clutter by house moves and a non-hoarding partner. I’m not entirely sure it brings lasting happiness. I still regret giving things to the charity shop, years after I did. Silly things, I wouldn’t even use… but clearly there is an attachment.
    I like the idea of reading your way to a happier home. I think my reading might be in luscious interiors books full of homes that will never be mind….. there is a happiness in reading.

    • Heather Young February 25, 2015 / 9:15 am

      Ooh do you remember when they were discussing it? I’d love to find it on iplayer and listen back. That’s what I worry about – the whole regret thing if I get rid of something that I suddenly find that I want/need in the future. Often she says in the book that if you really need something it’s easier to just buy another one, but I’m not sure I’m onboard with that idea really.

  4. February 25, 2015 / 8:25 am

    Ooh I loved the Magic of Tidying Up. I haven’t had a chance to get through all the tidying stage but have found it already makes me calmer when I look in my clothes cupboard. Life-changing. I also kind of used the folding technique for a recent trip and it was brilliant.

    I definitely think it does require a bit of ‘westernisation’ for those of us with a bit more of the attitude that things make a cosy home. For instance I will not be tearing pages out of books and throwing them away. I would suggest that perhaps you start with the ‘komono” things. How many charger cords do you need. That set of keys you have no idea where it belongs to etc. Then maybe clothes. I don’t think there is anything wrong with keeping things that have a deep sentimental value. I am also thinking how we can use those things in new ways. I am keen to sort through photo albums and redo them for example my husband has photos from when he went travelling at 21 and there are a lot of just (not very good) landscape images which have no sentimental value and he can’t even remember where they are. And instead of keeping programmes from events maybe creating scrapbooks of little sentimental bits of paper. etc. I’d love to know how you incorporate the principles into your happily hoarding ways.

    • Heather Young February 25, 2015 / 9:21 am

      You’ve used the fabled folding technique! I’ve got a day scheduled in tomorrow for tackling my clothes and I’m itching to try out the folding – I’ll let you know how I get on.

      I’m slightly dreading the komono category – mainly because these kind of objects are literally scattered everywhere across our house so gathering everything together seems like a nightmare of a task. I think that will have to be something that I tackle over a full weekend, rather than a day when the kids are at school.

      I love the idea of finding ways to use sentimental objects in new ways. I actually already have some projects planned (story of my life – lots of planning, not a lot of doing) for ways to repurpose/display my sentimental things.

  5. February 25, 2015 / 10:34 am

    I feel your pain/joy re. hoarding – I’m the girl who went to a jumble sale to buy back my toy panda (my mum had donated it without telling me) and complained when they only charged me 5p for it. Could they not see the worth of the little one-eared wonder? 40 years later I still have him.

    I own two online vintage shops (one for jewellery, one for homewares) which just makes matters worse. I’m constantly buying things “for my shops” which I then can’t bear to part with.

    I also have an emotional attachment to loads of things which have been stuck out of sight in a cupboard for years and which, in truth, I’ve completely forgotten about.

    I haven’t read any of the books you mention but I’m currently Kindling my way through “Banish Clutter Forever: How the Toothbrush Principle Will Change Your Life” by Sheila Chandra. Her idea is that, if you can organise your life enough to keep your toothbrush and toothpaste in the right place, you can do the same with the rest of your possessions. She also tackles the emotional issues of parting with stuff.

    I’ve still got a lot of the book to read but I have taken some of her suggestions on board and have already seen some great improvements in being able to keep my home tidy.

    • Heather Young March 2, 2015 / 4:05 pm

      Oh I love your panda story – that is something I would definitely do, too.

      Thanks for the book suggestion – I’ll definitely check it out.

  6. February 25, 2015 / 2:31 pm

    Such an interesting post! My husband bought Marie Kondo’s book, and after scoffing initially, I read it from cover to cover. I agree with her underlying sentiments, whilst finding bits of it adorably bonkers. I agree with the previous comment that it requires ‘westernising’. Also I think it takes little account of living with children.
    But the fundamental idea that many of our possessions are inherently depressing, that getting rid of them can be liberating, and also her raising of the William Morris bar from ‘useful or beautiful’ to ‘sparking joy’ is I think a fascinating one.
    I have got rid of many things since reading it that I previously would have kept hold of. And I have done so with a genuine feeling of lightness and happiness!
    I should add that being naturally a hoarder means my house is still stuffed full of things. I think if you’re a crafter / maker then you will always have more things than MK suggests, as well. You need to have materials!
    I am v interested in the other books, they sound great…
    Oh, did I see you on the front of a magazine?! I was flicking through interiors mags and suddenly thought, “I think I know that kitchen….?”

    • Heather Young March 2, 2015 / 4:10 pm

      Adorably bonkers is bang on Rachel! The way she talks to her belongings gives them human characteristics is definitely on the odd side! I think there’s a definite cultural difference, plus I suspect some things also get lost a bit in translation.

      And I completely agree about having more things around if you’re creative/a crafter/maker. You need materials and I think I’ve always got upcycling ideas in the back of my mind that stop me from getting rid of things. But I think I could probably have regular clear-out sessions and bin stuff I was keeping for a project that I’ve not got around to yet, and probably never will!

      Magazine cover star. Hmm yes that was me!

  7. February 27, 2015 / 8:25 am

    I rather loved The Happiness Project (“You don’t need more storage, you need less stuff” pops into my head every time I’m tempted to head to Ikea for more boxes.) but I found Happier at Home a little mmeh, to be honest.
    I find it impossible to declutter though, due to all the above reasons (sentimental, creative, hoarder, etc) but I know I really need to find some clarity and space, physically and mentally.
    I think you need to feel fairly safe and content to risk getting rid of ‘precious stuff’, though, otherwise it is too emotionally difficult. I always start ruthless, and end up shoving everything back in piles and wanting to cry! Hopeless!

    • Heather Young March 2, 2015 / 4:12 pm

      Yes, I’ve been wondering about the emotional fall-out that my ruthless decluttering might elicit. I’ve already made a really good start (clothes, toiletries, books), but the fact that the bags for the charity shop are still sitting in the spare room makes it very tempting to go back through them and dig things out. I think I just need to take them and be done with it. Then I can move on, even if I find it difficult to deal with…

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