Sproing Cleaning

No, that is not a typo. Well, it is, but it’s an intentional one. (This time.) The first time I typed it I was aiming for Spring Cleaning, but my right hand decided that Sproing Cleaning was much more accurate, and I must say I agree with it (not least because it is presently spring nowhere on earth).

There’s a sort of a fizz in my blood at the moment, a wild and reckless fizz which suggests the committing of wild and desperate acts of pruning. (Of stuff, not plants. Mostly.)

This is hardly surprising, coming as it does on the heels of the completion of a years-long project. And it’s encouraging. According to Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, “One of the clearest signals that something healthy is afoot is the impulse to weed out, sort through, and discard old clothes, papers, and belongings.”

So here I am, poised on the brink of the Sproing Cleaning, little pebbles falling over the edge at my feet (a game here, a book there…) and wondering – how far do I go?

Caspar David Friedrich - Wanderer above the sea of fog
This question is of course affected by many factors. How much stuff I actually have, how much of it is not ‘mine’ but ‘ours’ and therefore not mine to fling at will, how much energy I have to expend (always bearing in mind that it’s more economical of energy to do the job thoroughly once than fribble away at the edges of it for years).

[Digression: I thought I had invented the word ‘fribble’ but according to the SOD it can mean “to falter, stammer; to totter in walking… to act aimlessly or feebly; to fiddle;” or “to behave frivolously” – said to be the more modern meaning, around since the 1640s. And that’s just the verb…]

But at the heart of it, I think all these questions come down to one factor: regret. Would I regret getting rid of things? Would I regret not getting rid of more? Where, in fact, does the true sproing lie in all of this?According to Marie Kondo, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

How do I want to live my life? What does that entail getting rid of? And even if I do regret the occasional discarded item, is it still worth it for the resulting sproinginess?

I guess the reason I’m asking all these questions in a public forum is because I’m not sure I yet have the cavalier attitude necessary to plunge over the edge at which I stand, and, well, we’ve all heard the story about penguins, haven’t we?

(Penguins don’t actually do this, it turns out, but bear with me; it’s a useful metaphor.) The penguins allegedly jostle together at the edge of the ice until one is shoved right over the edge – thus providing valuable research data on the presence of predators in the waters below.

Adélie penguins in Antarctica, Antarctic Peninsula
Test subject #1 is in the water!
So, has anyone here been over the edge? (Are there sharks? Sea lions? Oceans of tasty krill?) And if no one here has yet taken the plunge, who’s up for a bit of encouraging jostling?

Two Ways to Look at Stuff

I’ve always gone for the traditional method of decluttering: subtract the unwanted. Marie Kondo suggests the opposite approach: subtract everything and only add back what you really want to keep.

Have you ever tried that approach? How much of a difference did it (or would it) make, do you think?

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying

Hear me out: it’s the title of a book by Marie Kondo, a Japanese “expert declutterer and professional cleaner” – a book which I have recently read.

Japanese traditional style SAMURAI house / 稲葉家下屋敷(いなばけ しもやしき)

It’s quite different to the usual run of (Western) decluttering books. For a start, there’s her belief that a seven-tatami-mat room (3m/10ft by 4m/13ft) is ample living & storage space for a single person; her habit of greeting the house and thanking her belongings for their service; her almost religious devotion to folding clothes; and of course, the idea that decluttering your house is best done all in one go.

What? I hear you cry. All in one go? Does she not realize how much stuff I have?

On which note, it turns out that Japanese people are not entirely immune from hoarding, despite the overall population density and corresponding lack of space. Examples given include sixty toothbrushes, eighty rolls of toilet paper, and a hundred boxes of cotton buds – with 200 buds in each.

Toiletpaper stilllife

So rest assured, she doesn’t mean that you should sort out everything you own in one day. (Phew!) Six months is more her estimation, starting with easy things like clothes and working your way up to difficult things like photos and keepsakes.

The idea is to sort everything by type, and not put, say, your clothes away – any of them – until you have sorted out absolutely all of them. This makes sense, when you realize that there’s no point organizing how you’re going to store a certain class of object until you know how big that class is going to be.

And here’s the really surprising bit of her claim: she says that if you go through the process properly, imagining how you want your home to be and delving deep into your motivation before sorting it all out, you will never regress. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime purge. Because once you’ve got it the way you want it, you will have the motivation to keep it that way, one presumes.

That's me right now

The thing I really like about her system is the measure for deciding what to keep: does it bring me joy? If not, out it goes. Except tax papers and the like, which, alas, have to be kept regardless of the feelings they inspire.

What do you think? Could you commit to a season of purging the dross from your life – and never look back? What does your ideal feel like – and how does that look?

For myself, I’d like my living environment to be one of simplicity, spaciousness and peace; where both focus and relaxation are possible without the distraction of unfinished jobs, unnecessary items, and unimportant decisions.
As to whether I am prepared to spend the next six months ruthlessly purging all my belongings (my books!) – well, I know better than to sign up for the long term at short notice. But I am certainly considering it.