Bag Lady, be gone!

It’s been a rough two weeks in the Zen With Julia household. We’ve had a further bout of illness, several trips to the doctor, a downturn in the weather and some major disagreements with the dog over what she should and shouldn’t eat (should eat her own food, shouldn’t eat the wall or our son’s toys).

Inevitably, our home started to look a little more ‘lived in’ than usual. It was so frustrating to be unable to keep to the standards we normally would, but we’ve tried to accept it as an exception to the rule and redirect that frustration into building up a healthy immune system again.

One of the things that started to annoy me in my sick state was the entrance area to our apartment. We have a lovely wide hallway and a useful dresser, but it does have a tendency to collect items, e.g. if our son is napping, I’ll place clean laundry there so as not to disturb him.

Another cause of clutter is the number of bags we all seem to have – our son has one for nursery, plus a change bag for ‘free time’. I have my own backpack, and my wife has one too. Sometimes I switch bags if I’m going somewhere nice. Changing between bags has started to take far too much time, and results in too many Komono items being left on the dresser ‘to be put away later’ or to be placed back in the bag being used. Additionally the hallway has started to be used as The Place Where All Bags Are Stored, which neither sparks joy nor looks good.

 

So last week I decided to conduct some cosmetic improvements. I decided that we were lacking a sensible place to store bags and coats. When KonMari-ing our apartment we had identified the wardrobe in the guest room as the best place to hang coats. My handbags were to be stored on the top shelf (still within reach) of my wardrobe space.

Of course, our use of the space has evolved. The guest room is now our son’s room, meaning that any activity that needs a jacket must be carried out between 7am and 6.30pm, but not at nap time. Not handy for dog walking, putting out the rubbish etc.

Storing handbags on the top shelf worked well, but not when I wanted to see which bag was stored in the black shoulder bag, for example. Putting bags away after use involved getting them all down and rearranging, then putting them all back. Again, no joy sparked there. It didn’t feel particularly intuitive or logical for our space. Plus, I’m not the tallest.

 

What needed to change?

The KonMari method is probably most famous for the ‘discard’ philosophy, but the second part of the method, organising, is just as important. Marie Kondo reminds us that when we first organise a category (such as books) after discarding, we may well need to come back at the very end and re-organise, depending on how the number of items in each category has changed. For example, if you go from owning 800 books to owning 40, you certainly won’t need all of the storage you previously used. Some of that can now be earmarked for other possessions, or the storage itself can be discarded. How liberating!

After a quick read of the relevant section of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up I was reassured that having to reconsider my storage spaces for certain items didn’t make me a failure as a consultant-in-training. On the contrary, it actually showed that I was tuning in well to the changing ways that we were using our home.

 

I haven’t completed all steps of our hallway improvement plan yet (still recovering, we’ve had guests and I’ve had several work related engagements), but I’ve outlined what steps were (and will be) taken to reduce the clutter:

  • Take all items that had been ‘left out’ and put them back in their homes – straightforward, especially since I had put all alike items near to each other in most cases. This part of the process saw me walking backwards and forwards repeatedly with handfuls of objects – spare batteries, screwdrivers, cold and flu remedy etc. All had a place and they just needed to be encouraged back to it. This was a fairly rapid and mindless part of the plan. Although I was tidying one location, I still tidied by category to reduce repetition. The space started to look clearer really quickly.
  • Consider how many coats and bags are used every day, or several times per week. To do this I consulted my wife on her needs and wants too – my deciding that she only wears a certain jacket twice per month was unlikely to be accurate. Collaboration was a must. Remember, KonMari advises that it’s ok to organise another person’s items (with their knowledge and heartfelt approval) but never to discard them.
  • Identify a new storage place for them. For us this meant buying a new wall mounted coat rack, and one for our son’s room that we would hang at a child-friendly height. I’m keen to involve him in day-to-day chores around the apartment, and at 15 months he’s getting to the stage of being able to follow very simple instructions e.g. ‘turn on the light’, so perhaps that could merge into ‘hang up your coat’?! I’ll report back on that….

 

This is as far as I got before our guests arrived last week. Today they returned to Spain, so tomorrow I’m looking forward to:

  • Hanging the coat racks and adorning them only with our most regularly used items.
  • Checking through my (and my son’s) coat collection and passing on any that no longer spark joy (I can decide for him as he is not yet able to decide for himself).
  • Reorganising my bag storage in a way that works more smoothly for me.

 

And most importantly (or not, but I’m really looking forward to it):

  • Start to empty my bag when I return home each day.

Marie Kondo strongly recommends this process as a way to ‘settle in’ to the home and keep track of those ‘daily items’ e.g. lip balm, purse, book, pack of tissues. Instead of putting them all in different places, she advises using a tray, box or dish to store these items together.

I’ve seen several trays I quite like – at the moment it’s a toss up between a vintage pub tray from Gigi’s Antiques and Collectables (Too round? Too small?) and a rectangular deep blue tray from Habitat at the Atrium. (I’m really trying to use what I already have. Alas, I genuinely have nothing suitable as my boxes are either too small or being used to store Komono items).

 

Next week’s post will be an update with photos of our ‘transformation’. Hopefully it’ll be a much more usable and joy-sparking space for us all.

 

 

TL;DR?

  • We’ve all been ill and had guests too.
  • This post is therefore 4 days late.
  • Our hallway started annoying me after 3 days of being stuck at home, ill.
  • Clutter was creeping back in – ‘I’ll leave it here and put it away later when I’m not wheezing’ syndrome seemed to be the cause.
  • The way we use our apartment has changed and we now need to store some coats and bags in the hallway.
  • Minor transformation currently underway – photos next week.

 

 

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