Hello, my name is Sandy.

KonMari: Life-changing magic, one year later

Just over a year ago, I tried the konmari method for sorting out my home and life. For anyone who hasn't encountered this yet, it's a system of cleaning house based on one simple principle: joy. Here's some reading to bring you up to speed:

So, let's be honest here. My house is still a mess. Let me show you.

Be warned, these photos are nowhere near 'social media perfect', which I feel makes them important to share. After a year, I think, taken seriously, konmari will lead to positive changes in your life, but not through magic, and not guaranteeing a magazine aesthetic. But I'll cover that as we go.

messy, dusty bedside table

Here is my bedside table with books I'm reading, a junk box, junk that hasn't yet been put in the junk box, emergency topicals (Vicks, lip balm, moisturiser, tea tree oil), and bits and pieces that don't belong but ended up here by accident.

a messy desk spread

My messy desk.

cluttered kitchen bench

Our kitchen bench is almost always cluttered. There's a caveat here I'll discuss in a moment, but first, let's run through the mess. Everything left out falls into one or more of these categories: Heavily used, recently used, in urgent need of use, or will probably be used in a few hours. Sometimes we put out stuff that we aren't in the habit of using, but want to use more.

Looks awful, doesn't it? I've learned sometimes I need mess to function properly. Partly as a visual thinker, and partly because I like to assess my 'usage trends' in a new environment. This configuration of clutter has changed 4 times since we moved here last April. I'd really like to find a definitive system of organising this space, but nothing's felt right so far. I have more to say on this too in a moment.

messy clothes pile sitting on a clear plastic crate

Now, this is the worst. To me, it's the antithesis of what I imagined a konmari life to be. However, you can see some semblance of order inside that plastic crate. There are pockets of order elsewhere too.

a slightly more ordered craft room

The craft room, for example, which is a work in progress as we save up for the right sort of furniture and decor. We're taking it slow. The last thing I want is to add stuff just to fill a gap, without considering whether it's the right function and style for us.

slightly more ordered kitchen cupboard

Here's the kitchen cupboard, featuring my supply of jars, baking powders, tea, ferments, spreads and sprinkles, oils, special tools and materials, and expired foodstuff used for household purposes (like yeast for trapping garden slugs).

tidy array of books

This is a tidy collection of planning tools and reference material, occupying the better half of my messy desk.

my very organised stationery collection

And the thing that brings me a lot of joy - my very organised stationery collection. Three tiers of hot Swedish R├ůSKOG, filled with tools and supplies for everyday creativity and productivity.

With all this in mind, can I really say the konmari method has changed my life? After all, mess is mess, and there's still so much of it, so it's bunk, right?

WRONG. Since adopting the konmari system, I have:

  • Found a career that's meaningful to me
  • Moved to a nicer house with a bigger garden and more natural light
  • Rekindled my love for books
  • Rekindled my love of writing fiction
  • Met other people like me with a similar hodge-podge of hobbies

None of this is down to magic. Throughout the year, I kept an eye out for disconnected or miraculous events, but found none. Coincidence and luck, sure, but not magic. What changes your life is the perspective you get from tidying up and applying a healthy, self-oriented criteria to your life choices.

When I first started, I'd be km-ing often late into the night. Sometimes I'd go to bed and fidget until relenting to the urge to go through my stuff again. We call this "konsomnia".

konsomnia: the inability to sleep because there's clutter to tidy up. source:

The next morning, I'd wake up sleepy but content that a part of my... life? mind? cognitive capacity? had become unshackled from surplus. I'd leave for work wistful, wanting to just stay home and tidy up some more.

The final stage of konmari has you sifting through sentimental items. This was hard. I threw out heaps of kipple I kept over the years. Some memories really aren't worth keeping.

Then a funny thing happened. I started looking at non-material things through the konmari lens. Friendships, relationships, sentiments, assumptions, prejudices, habits, customs - everything fell under the microscope. Even lifestyle factors like my sports schedule, my career, my hobbies.

Trying to find a system for organising my kitchen is a great representation of the bigger life picture here. I need something that works for the way I work, otherwise it won't stick and I'll be back to a mess. Not that mess itself is bad. Clutter isn't even that bad, in my opinion, as long as it's comprised of stuff that does bring you joy. I don't hate anything in my kitchen now, so I don't mind the mess while I figure out a system I can enjoy.

I think konmari works by helping you develop a habit of eliminating things that don't resonate with you. Rather than holding onto something out of obligation, guilt, or "just in case"-ness, you ditch it so you can focus on what does work, and make room for what might work.

People can argue all day about good reasons for keeping or discarding things, but no one can tell you what does or doesn't bring you joy. Minimalism didn't work for me because it was too pragmatic. Hoarding didn't work for me because it was too sentimental. Konmari has turned out to be the ideal system for an in-between, here-and-there person like me, still figuring out where they stand and where they're going.

I am happy to report that this konmari experiment has been a success. :)

My planning stack

Last year, I joined a planning group for ideas on how to organise my life better. Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like. It's a group for people who are into planners, diaries, notebooks, stationery, art and crafting. Want to see?

Anyway, when you delve deeper into the 'planning' lifestyle, you come across a concept known as 'planner peace'. Even without being ga-ga over this hobby, I instinctively knew what they meant by this. I think anyone with even a mild planning lilt will understand.

It's where you don't wish your planner, diary, notebook or journal was bigger. Or smaller. Or simpler. Or more colourful. The layout, shape, look and feel are perfect for the way you work, and simply flow into your day. You don't spend your time wrestling with your tools - you just use them as tools, with all your energy directed at the stuff you need to do.

So, with planner peace in the back of my mind, I muddled around with stationery, trying to tune into my needs as someone who is more maker than manager, yet only feels comfortable making when things are adequately managed. I think I've finally found a system that suits the way I work.

Planner peace is different for everyone, because we all do things differently, but I wanted to share what's working for me at this point in my life.

Life buckets with Post-It notes

my simplified life bucket system, expressed in post-its

Before adopting this system, I grouped everything by project. I have a habit of taking on too many projects at once, and things got unwieldy. I was constantly overwhelmed. Life buckets isn't a real system, just something I made up to try and cut down the number of categories I was working with. I wrote every major or interesting area of my life on a post-it note - football, martial arts, big projects, little projects - and stuck them on the wall.

Then I grouped them by similarity. Crochet, knitting and sewing, for example, could go together. I'm in the same headspace when I do those things, and tend to talk about them with the same people. My sports could have been grouped together, but they each linked to different activities and were connected to different groups of people, so I kept them apart.

Finally, I replaced each group of post-its with a new post-it bearing a collective name of the group. I ended up with 15 'buckets' - mental containers for stuff I do - a damn sight better than 30 odd projects. My life made more sense now, and I could see roughly where I was distributing my time. The buckets don't stop me from trying new things; they keep me aware of the sorts of things I gravitate toward, and provide a handy reference for ensuring I don't get lazy with stuff that's important to me.

Over the next 6 months, I refined my buckets so I wasn't juggling 15 things. I regrouped, renamed, made conscious lifestyle changes that would reflect the bucket pattern I wanted to see when I looked at my wall. I whittled 15 down to 12, and now I'm at 9.

I see this as applying konmari to an abstract model of my life. It seems to be working. When I feel I'm spending too much time writing, I move onto making or self-care. Or hanging out with my cats.

Week planning with Hobonichi Weeks

Hobonichi Weeks planner next to my old Filofax Metropol Pocket

Morning, afternoon and night. That's how I like to plan my time. In blocks, with respect to the week. Enter Hobonichi Techo Weeks, with days already split up into three portions, enough room to write and doodle, and a page just for notes. The special Tomoe River paper is super light, and bleed resistant. I can use watercolours on it, and the other side is still OK. Ah, combining work admin and art. Love it.

The whole Hobonichi Weeks book is as thick as my finger. Which makes it much easier to carry around than the Filofax Metropol Pocket I used to use.

my thick Filofax

Reference keeping with Filofax

doodles and recipes in my Filofax

I don't blame my Filofax for not planning my week very well. It wasn't what I bought it for. Originally, I wanted it as a reference diary - a place to keep evergreen information. As my penpals started sending me recipes and notes, I needed a place to stash them.

The default ruler marks the stuff I'm in the midst of using. If I'm in a cooking phase, for example, I'll stick it in there. I use a variety of page markers too for quick opening - washi and paper tabs, a magnetic clasp, and two conspicuously pink flamingo paper clips.

There are sections for penpalling (postage prices, notes), go-to recipes and cooking times, and project notes. Plus a few business cards and ephemera in the front pockets. Nice chunky, tactile storage for chunks of information.

Tracking with Wunderlist and IDoneThis

my wunderlist for today

My Wunderlist is a dumping ground for the tasks of today, tomorrow, next week, next year, whenever, whatever, blah! When I'm in a listy mood, I create a new list just for the day (or weekend, or week) and fill it with new items plus some old items from the dump list (labelled "Waiting list" in the picture).

At the end of the day, I do a little debrief on IDoneThis. Is it superfluous? Maybe. Is it helpful? Yes. It preserves the daily Agile scrum from my dev life, combined with a Done List approach.

Art journaling with Hobonichi Techo

a spread from my art journal

This isn't strictly planning, but sometimes treads into that territory. It helps me organise my thoughts and frame my perspective on things. I use an A5 Hobonichi Cousin Avec for a cross between scrapbooking and art journalling. I note high points, low points, ponder points, thoughts and lessons, and surround them in shape, colour and texture. The end result is visual and kinaesthetic feedback, simple mementos that trigger memories and mood. I guess it triggers a different part of my brain to when I'm just reading words, and I like having those zones lit up.

The d2p (day to a page) limit forces me to focus on what I can fit in a restricted space. I like having a lot of room, but I'm going small next year, downsizing to an A6 Avec.

Standard journalling with Moleskine and a fauxdori

my moleskine journal

Finally, my trusty pretty-much-text-plus-some-doodle journal for freestyle notes and thoughts. I use blank pocket-sized Moleskine Cahier notebooks or homemade hand-bound notebooks, strapped into a leather fauxdori.

A fauxdori is a homemade version of a Midori Traveller's Notebook, for people who want sizes, colours and materials that Midori don't offer. I got mine from Paperflower Design Studio and was delighted to learn they're based in WA. Yay, supporting local craftspeople!

I wish I had known more about leather when I bought it. I'm curious now about the tanning and sourcing process. But live and learn. I shall have to take good care of this fauxdori for a long time out of respect for the animals and people who produced it.

photo of my hobonichi from the side

So that's my planning stack.

I'm sure it sounds epic and redundant to most people, but there's not a lot going on here that requires any effort. Each of these tools fits nicely into the way I go about my day, freeing up my headspace or offering a welcome distraction when I just want a pen in my hand.

And when I don't feel like being facilitated at all, I simply shut down, close the books, make tea, and not think about any of it. I've come to accept that my habits are temporal - I need gridlines sometimes, blank spaces other times. I need structure and logic, and then for all that to get out of the way while I'm in the zone. I do words and pictures, and transition between long-term and short-term thinking. So this mishmash of tools suits me fine. I am enjoying my planner peace... for now.

We must catch up

a heron taking off from the water

It's been hard to sit and write lately, despite wanting to. I'm tired after work, and at other times preoccupied by little adventures. Tonight was set aside for Prison Architect, but instead I think I'll have tea and tell you what's been happening.

pumpkin soup with Gourdon

So, before we left for the farm, we turned baby Gourdon into food. Here he is as a pumpkin soup. Bland pumpkin soup. It turns out Jarrahdale pumpkins are nutty, almost squash- and zucchini-like in flavour. The pumpkin-ness is mild, so they are better suited to curries. Lesson learned. If you're making pumpkin soup, use Butternut or a fecking Kent (also known as Jap).

pumpkin curry with Gourdon

Gourdon also became a curry, the mild flavour working well with spices and chickpeas. I used too much cumin, which gives me a headache if I don't cook it for long enough, so whatever's left in the freezer will need a long, long re-heat time.

We meant to make pumpkin pie too, but what was left didn't last til we got back from holiday. I think we would have ended up with similar results to the soup. The next pumpkin adventure will need to be a sweeter breed.

electronics button panel

I finished my Arduino course, the projects book that came with the starter kit. This is what an electronics button panel looks like without the actual buttons on top. The little interlocked E shapes are non-touching ends of a circuit. When you press the button, it mashes a conductive material across the two E's, which closes the circuit and transmits the button-press.

That alone was mindblowing after a lifetime-thus-far of a) not knowing, and b) never even thinking to wonder. Imagine the exhilaration to then hack the buttons to make the device think someone pressed a button when really it was my computer sending a false signal. I felt briefly boss-like with a hint of cyberpunk.

Raspberry Pi 2, unboxed

So, now I am an expert n00b. I'm scared to fall into the trap of just reading a bunch of stuff and thinking it's as good as actually doing it, so my next project will be to set up an LED display board for some kind of computer machine. I'm excited to learn about power ampy volty chargey stuff, cos electricity never made sense to me til now. But bless my gentle, patient physics teacher for trying.

#listersgottalist fav. expressions

In April, I joined the #listersgottalist challenge, but stopped halfway because I wasn't enjoying it. There's nothing inherently wrong with the challenge, but some days - many days - I didn't find it interesting to answer questions.

I felt obliged at first to see it through, but then remembered it's important to be as good at quitting as you are at continuing. My newfound konmari habit kicked in, and I chose to focus all my art energy on #100daysofteacup, which I am really enjoying even though it's hard work.

It's awkward to convey what a difference the konmari approach has made in my life. Whenever anyone asks, I feel like that person you worry about for maybe having joined a cult. Everything making me happy nowadays can be attributed at least in part to this "life-changing magic of tidying up". The joy aspect is what hit home for me, but for a good summary of the practical tidy-up stuff, I quite liked Chisa's blog post on konmari. Go read it. :)

beans and rice at the markets

I've been batch cooking food in advance, and calculating the cost per meal given the total expense. The first batch turned out great. We got 14 meals at about $6.50 each. I'm on my second batch now, which has so far averaged at $7 a meal, with another week's worth of food left to go. This will be my part-time finance's saving grace.

The one downside is eating the same thing over and over. Even with takeaway and ad-hoc meals in between, it's... OK, it's not actually that bad except I made 3 bean-based dishes this time around, and things are not so elegant in the stomach area. Learn from my mistakes.

homemade meal

I was so very happy about this, though - this picture is of a totally homemade meal. Homemade baked beans, homemade (handmade) bread, and homemade ginger beer. And I ate it on a little wooden table Niaal made for me. :D

One day, I hope for this to be a totally homegrown meal too. I want to grow the beans and tomatoes, the flour and the avocado, the ginger and the honey. Maybe even make the plates and bowls they get served in. It's my dream to - not necessarily be totally self-sufficient and live off the grid like a mega-hippie - but to understand how stuff works and be able to provide when I choose to. Even tiny progress like this makes that feel attainable.

fantastically smooth bars of soap

And I did end up making some soap. I took a lot of photos, which I cbf editing now, so I will tell you about that another day. It was heaps fun, and not as scary as I thought, and I'm game to try making some from scratch once we're in a bigger kitchen.

All right, my teacup is empty. Time for a refill. Good night, friends. :)

Life should be a quiet weekend away

cats are good at helping you pack

We went away for the weekend. Spent 3 days away. Lucky I have a useful cat who helps me pack. Cats are good at helping you pack.

daybed at the Bay Village Resort, Dunsborough

I love Dunsborough. We stayed at the Bay Village Resort, a quaint, clean collection of apartments, cottages, chalets and villas. It backs onto The Pour House, the pub we seem to visit every night when we're there. Upstairs from the pub is a food place. Last few times we went, it was a burger joint. Now it's a bar-restaurant called Meat People.

Meat People bar and menu

beef brisket at Meat People

We ate there a lot. I decided to be good and not take pictures of every meal. But I did take this one meal. The beef brisket, served with slaw. In fact, there's slaw all up in this place. And the salad garnishes for some of their other dishes are bloody awesome. One salad was a mix of rocket, dill, mint, coriander, and pickles. So good.

Legolas with bigger arms and more beard

A round of archery ensued. Niaal spent the lead-up getting pro tips from an ex-competitive archer friend, while I had to make do with what I remembered from the ever-so-safe Lars Andersen video (no, don't copy him, you'll get kicked out of the park). Out of the two of us, I came second, which I think is a decent effort.

possum napping in a tree

And we saw a possum napping in a tree! This was at the Busselton Archery Family Fun Park, which is pretty foresty. They have a cute mini-golf course too, and a go-kart zippy track for kids. Nice way to spend an hour or two in the morning.

sampler at Eagle Bay Brewery

Then came the beer paddle. I'd love it if more non-brewery pubs did this in Perth. Maybe a themed palette, or a tour of craft beers, or something like that. As much as I love a good pint, I can't put away so many now, so I get two beers at most out of an afternoon session. And if you're having a whole pint, you gamble when you switch away from something you like.

tasting notes at Eagle Bay Brewery

Anyway, of course I got the Eagle Bay paddle. Kolsch and Mild were my favourites. :D

daybed and table at Evviva Cafe

I like the breakfast at Evviva Café. I don't know why they need 3 v's in their name, but it doesn't make their food any less tasty. The decor is nice, bit hippy and hipster-ish, and mostly outdoors with a grassy area.

avo and poached eggs at Evviva Cafe

I loved my savoury breakfast, but Niaal's sweet pancakes were for the birds. Literally.

little honey eater eating honey


a periwinkle, Austrolittorina unifasciata

We did a lot of beaching, and looking at things on the beach. Here is a banded periwinkle (Austrolittorina unifasciata), a type of sea snail.

weird green thing we found on the beach

This is a sea booger.

noodle-shaped seaweed

Some sea noodles.

lumpy seaweed

A sea tree of sea peas.

walking on water or sandbar?

And walking seaman.

Duckstein beer samples

And then more beer. This time at Duckstein.

the road home

It's nice to be home now, and back into the swing of things. I admit, I did spend a bit of time thinking about what to do when we got home.

One big thing is planting jasmine in the front garden. People have told us it's their only plant going crazy in the heatwave, and I'd like a hardy summer plant to create a microclimate and keep other plants alive. But more about that later. We're definitely not in a heatwave at the moment (week of thunderstorm).

Another big thing is making stuff from stuff I've grown. But not cooking. We don't eat or cook enough to keep our crops in check. Without a steady purpose for herbs, it's hard to be motivated about maintaining them. So maybe if I start making nice lasting things, like infused oils or soaps, it'll be easier to stay diligent about the cultivation. I'd like to explore this more.

And I want to try making lace. And paper. I want to clean my typewriter. I want to get cracking on my EP goal for this year. I want, I want, I want...

But I feel a psychological wall between me and all these things. A wall that's probably always been there, which I'm only seeing properly since starting to get my house in order. Cleaning has surfaced much that I initially procrastinated on, then tucked away. I'm only a couple months into the 6-month konmari campaign, but with just a bit of clutter gone so far, I can actually see the stuff I'd set aside "for later". And I have now done a few of those "later" tasks.

So, I suppose the most important big thing now that we're home will be to persevere with cleaning.

Woop dee doo!

Doing less

my poor warm cat

I have not been eating or sleeping well for the past week. It's been warm, and all I can think about is how I wish I were one of those hairless cats, so I could sleep all day but not have a fur coat.

It is most definitely summer.

Doing less has been odd and pleasant so far. I've not picked up new projects, but made an effort to plod along, approach my activities with restraint, and savour moments of mildly agitated boredom. I feel relaxed and daydreamy. I feel again some desires for things I had lost the taste for.

Today, I am excited about these things:

joey pouches - cut, hemmed, and pinned, ready for sewing

Finishing my joey pouches for Project Pouch. I'm only making handful, but I expect they'll get lots of contributions.

I feel good about being able to participate. It's been disappointing over the last few years to never have time or energy to get involved in community things. The number of times I've looked at the volunteering info for Cat Haven and Dogs' Home, daydreamed a little, then closed my browser knowing it would be impossible without wearing out completely... Boo. :(

So, being in a position to even consider making something for baby roos makes me quite happy. Even better is getting to make them from scrap fabric that survived the KonMari of my craft room. :) Yay, recycling!

my hideous, stinking, red futsal shoes

Football. Social Sundays and mixed Mondays are back on. I expect to be rubbish, after all the over-eating I did throughout Christmas and New Year. We've hardly cooked, so I'm feeling mighty unhealthy and full of junk food.

Very soon, I will unleash KonMari on my kitchen, so doing stuff in there doesn't feel like such a headache. I meant to yesterday - really! - but had a nap and went for a swim instead. Lalala~

I have been losing all the Fitbit challenges with my friends. Today, I will do my best to make 10k steps by the end of our 90min game.

a finished fence, two tired gents

Putting up a fence (last week). Yes, I'm still excited. I felt useful, active, and healthy. I felt the people we did it for were geuninely happy with it, and would love the finished product for at least 20 years.

And once we were done, I felt sad it was over. So many cool things and hilarious mistakes happened along the way. It got me thinking about life choices, and what might happen one day if we end up having our own mini-farm. I admire Georgina for learning as she goes, and doing it all by herself. I'm nowhere near as brave, but by playing with fences and chainsaws, I hope one day to be slightly closer to it.

I am looking forward to the next manual arts project, though I don't know what that will be. Of course, I must keep my promise about not getting manic, so I don't ruin it with exhaustion, so I am happy for the idea to be 'over there' for a while, until it pops up by itself.

Happy new year!

cheerful donkey on a hill

One day, I'd like to be on such a long, enjoyable holiday where there'd be no need to measure time. But for now, out of the habit of adhering to calendars within a normal society, I consider the distinction between this year and last.

For all its difficult patches, rumination over life choices, visits from the black dog, insomnia, and weird allergies, 2014 was pretty OK. I'm feeling a bit accomplished; I managed to hit three of my four goals for 2014:

a native violet

Earned my Cert II in Horticulture and never want to study again. Though, I also said this after finishing my Writing diploma. Maybe study is a 4-yearly thing? Maybe by next World Cup, I will have a new reason to pay school to stress me out and eat all my time.

my crocheted gloves

Sold crocheted items in a shop, and I'm ever so grateful to Lucy In Disguise for helping me get exposure for my work. I also approached an overseas online store I admired for a very long time, but despite getting serious interest, I couldn't find it in me to follow through. Maybe timing wasn't right, or having been in love with them for so long made me overlook what was right for me now. In any case, I spent much time pondering what I love about craft and makery. I can't articulate it yet, but for the present, I really like small scale and local.

a homemade 1920s style dress

Crafted something significant, kind of. When I set this goal, I meant taking up woodwork and making furniture. Instead, I made a dress and wore it to a cocktail party. It's given me the confidence to consider making clothes instead of buying, though being in the midst of applying KonMari to my home makes me not want new clothes right now.

But I didn't forget about woodwork. Using leftovers from Niaal's various projects, I made a box. :)

my wooden box

my wooden box, upright

my wooden box, a poorly crafted corner

Over the last couple of years, I've been experimenting with goal setting. In 2013, I did one thing a month. I felt stagnant and ignorant, and found that many short-term projects in succession was ideal for expanding horizons quickly - no time to falter and doubt, just ship ship ship!

But I was fucking drained at the end of it. Setting fewer goals, last year, gave me more time to reflect on the journey and the broader life decisions connected to each.

I realise now I have particularly manic phases, where I get too excited about working towards a goal. I throw everything at it, then burn out. It invades every area of my life, turning recreation into work, and fun into slog. While a powerful fire for getting stuff done, it does a lot of damage if left untempered.

This year, I want to try and do less. In aiming for fewer things, I still felt like I did a lot, but having more unplanned stuff made life feel interesting and more free. So, fewer plans for 2015, and just one goal this time.

The only thing I didn't manage last year was doing something musical. I wanted to put together an EP, but never made the time. This seems like a nice almost-SMART target to aim for.

Just one thing should be easy, right? We shall see.

Happy new year, everyone. :) I hope good things come to you.