Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Never underestimate the power of your words.

In the whirlwind that is life in this day and age our human connections are often reduced to emails, phone tag and text message conversations filled with emojis. Real human interaction can seem like a dying art form and the impact your words can have on the people around you can seem to lose importance. Often we give advice to friends assuming they won’t take it or make a flippant remark believing people don’t listen anymore. But I can tell you, words have power.  

A few months ago I heard that the Vice Principal of my old high school passed away. It’s been 21 years since I left school and when I think back to my time there I think of everything frozen in time, as if the teachers, the school have been put into a time capsule. So I was a shocked when I heard of his passing. I didn’t have a close relationship with him at all, I never even had a class with him. I had one interaction with him, it was in the transition into the senior years at high school when I was questioning my subject choices. I went into his office with my Dad and spoke to him about my ‘buyer’s remorse’ on the subjects I had chosen. I had chosen my subjects based on what my friends were doing, not on what I actually wanted to do, or whether I was actually any good at them. I sat in the first few weeks of Chemistry and Maths A realising that although I was surrounded by friends I felt alone. Completely disconnected to where I was and it dawned on me, I had made the wrong decision

For someone who moved schools quite a lot, choosing to move classes away from my friends was a big decision. I discussed it with the Vice Principal and he was understanding, he gave me words of support telling me that if I felt it was the right decision it would be ok. 

The meeting was probably only 15 minutes long but when I think back to that day I often see it as a sign post in my life, it was the first time I had to make an adult decision. The first time I went with my gut, not what I felt others expected me to do. Making the decision itself filled me with anxiety. But in the first lesson of my new subjects I knew I had made the right decision, the uneasiness was gone and I felt empowered by taking control of my future.

This was, I’m sure, a completely forgettable meeting for him. It certainly wouldn’t have been one he was reflecting on years later. But here I am 23 years on looking back to that day. Fondly thinking how this teacher’s supportive, spoken words had a big impact on me. 

It is easy to doubt your importance in this world, but everyone has had moments like this, moments when the words of a teacher, a parent, a friend or even a stranger have influenced you. On the days where you feel like just a tiny speck in the world, remember you have been that person for others too and your words may have changed the course of someone’s life, without you even knowing.

Vale Mr Roberts. 

Monday, 7 November 2016

The KonMari Method of tidying...with Kids!

I used to think of myself as a hard core anal retentive when it came to tidying and organisation, that was until I had kids. So I would now describe myself as a lapsed anal retentive that is sabotaged at every turn by her two kids and her husband. I had heard of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo a while ago, and although the odd (and what I assumed was a sarcastic) title intrigued me I never got around to reading it. But in my latest bid to get my life into order I downloaded her first book with the eagerness of starting a new diet.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up book cover
I couldn’t put it down, I read each chapter quicker than the last just hoping to get to the point where ‘the magic’ was revealed. Now if you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo (yes the ‘method’ is named after herself) she is a single Japanese woman who is a professional organiser- an anal retentive on crack. Her belief is that once you "tidy" properly you will never have to do it again. As alluring as this statement is, my first reaction to this promise was, this lady obviously doesn’t have kids.

Her method in a nutshell is to gather everything together (each category one at a time- in the order she suggests), sort, discard and then organise. Items should be sorted by categories i.e. books, rather than a particular room at a time. All the items should be placed on the floor so as to see the ‘extent’ of the problem, and then each item should be picked up and handled whilst deciding whether it ‘sparks joy’. Those that do are keepers and those that don’t are discarded. The keepers are then organised and neatly stored in one area in your house.

According to Kondo if you have followed her method the correct way you now have a "place for everything and everything in its place" hence there should be no need to ‘tidy’ ever again. So when this, the real meaning, of her original statement was revealed it was a bit of an anti-climax for me. ‘Tidying’ as I see it would still be required just not continual ‘decluttering’. (Ok it seems obvious that you couldn’t banish ‘tidying’ forever but hey, I was lured in by the promise of ‘magic’!).

Although the ideas and passion Kondo brings to the topic really does have you believing that this type of ‘tidying’ is life changing, it’s a bit hard to believe that this kind of tidying is really achievable in a family household (Kondo is single and lives in a small Japanese home.) Kondo also says you shouldn’t ‘tidy’ other people’s things. However as the main household tidier/organiser I know there is no point hoping my 5 year old or even my husband would decide to cull their favourite toys/gym wear unless I did it for them.

Determined to give it a go I started with the kids toys. Now she actually says you should leave sentimental things to last so you have time to build up your ‘decluttering’ muscle before having to make emotional decisions but we were getting overrun with toys so I started with the most immediate threat to our organised household.

I had read somewhere that when getting rid of soft toys or the like you should ask the kids to pick 3 or 4 of their favourites. Surprisingly I used this tactic with the kids and it worked! In the end I was the one who struggled to let go of a few sentimental ones and snuck them back into their bedrooms. 

With the rest of their toys it was a little harder. I did majority of the culling when they were around and as anyone with kids knows this the number one obstacle to getting rid of toys. The kids found ‘favourite’ toys that they hadn’t played with in ages and were begging to keep them. I did relent and let them keep a few toys that I would have gotten rid of but all in all they did pretty well. I also found that telling the kids that they could give them to kids we knew softened the blow (well for 5 year old Miss M anyway, Master Q was a bit harder to convince and so most of his toys were given away under the cover of darkness).

After discarding I did consider, as Kondo suggests, putting all the toys in one room but this just wouldn’t work in our household. We have toys in the play room and also in each of the kid’s rooms. I did categorise them and went a little cray-cray with the labeling machine labeling each drawer with what went inside. Since neither of my children can read this was really for my happiness but I am hoping one day it will help them keep order in their room too.
Label obsession! 
I also found that only keeping the toys that ‘spark joy’ didn’t really apply here, because honestly none of their toys bring ME joy! But my basic method for deciding what to keep and what to get rid of was anything that was too young for them was gone, any duplicates-gone, anything they hadn’t played with in ages was also given the boot. In the end we had about 5 garbage sized bags that were either sold, or given away and probably only one that went straight to the bin.

How would I rate my success? I would say 7 out of 10. This method is hard to apply to things that a) aren’t yours and b) they will grow out of. Will this be the end of ‘tidying’ the kids’ toys? NO WAY. It just doesn’t work that way with kids, they grow out of things and are also given new toys all the time. (GRRRR!). But I did feel we have relieved ourselves of a bit of the burden that was starting to overtake us.
Here is the playroom end result!

So to recap, my top tips on ‘KonMari-ing’ kids toys:

  1. Do what Kondo suggests and don’t start with the toys, ease you way into decluttering and do the easier categories first like clothes or books.
  2. Do put all the toys on the floor in one pile so you can see them all. I had toys in boxes in the garage waiting for a ‘rotation’ that never happened. It’s amazing how many you have when you look at them altogether.
  3. Get the kids to make as many of the decisions as you can. Give them a limit as to how many they can keep and you’ll be surprised how well they respond to having a say in what stays and what goes.
  4.  Get rid of any broken toys, or ones that have missing parts, also give away anything that you have more than one of and things that aren’t age appropriate for your children.
  5. Get the ‘discarded’ toys out of the house ASAP. I put the ones that were in great condition on a Facebook Buy, Swap and Sell site and sold heaps in few first few days. I gave myself a time limit of a week and anything not sold was given to charity or to friends. If you leave them hanging around they are in danger of ending back with the other toys. It also gives you immediate gratification to see less clutter and spurs you on to more!
  6. Organise toys into categories and label (if so desired- I would have put picture labels on the drawers if I had them). We have the Ikea Trofast storage and find these great in keeping things stored away.
  7.  Accept that the ‘tidy once’ goal that Kondo spruiks isn’t going to happen with kids but it may happen less often if you are to follow her guidelines as much as possible.
  8. Don’t be too tough on yourself or the kids when you are left with more toys than you had hoped. In reality although we would all love one drawer of toys for each child this isn’t really achievable for most families.

Hope this helps the other aspiring anal-retentive mums out there!

Happy KonMari-ing!

Watch this space for my post on KonMari-ing the kids clothes – now this does give you the decluttering thrill Kondo promises!! ;)