Rainbow bookshelves – a Marie Kondo inspired declutter

by | 15 March 2016

rainbow bookshelves

By the end of last year I was totally worn out, both physically and mentally. I had turned 50. I was exhausted. I felt like my body was beginning to wear out, and every day there were aches and pains and I was struggling to get going in the morning. I felt totally overwhelmed – at work, at home, emotionally and physically. I was starting to burst into tears for no reason.

The good thing is that I could recognize this for what it was. I also knew there were things I could do about it. After all, I have been working one day a week on a wellbeing program called the Optimal Health Program – so surely some of it had to rub off on me!

And then I got an amazing gift – five weeks’ annual leave. It was a deal changer.

Í finally had time to do something. To get started. To make a change. No more excuses.

But I didn’t know what change I could make. It all looked too much.

I started by just having a few days of doing nothing. I decided I would not check my work emails while on holiday (which had become an addiction). I went to the seaside with my husband and my daughter, and we just bludged. We walked on the beach, caught the ferry to Sorrento, ate out, painted, went geocaching and binge watched the tv series “Bones”. It was fantastic. It nudged me just that little bit towards feeling better. Not much, but a bit. It made me feel like something was possible.

Swan Bay geocaching Helen Wilding

Then I went to the doctor only to find that iron was draining out of my body faster than I could build it back up. It explained so much. No wonder I was exhausted and felt so flat! The good news was that this was something that could easily be fixed. Within a week I was starting to feel human again. Three months later I feel like a completely different person, and I can’t imagine why I took so long to get myself to a doctor!

Sorrento sailing boats

But still, I would wander around the house not knowing what to do next. Knowing that I had a thousand jobs to do, websites to work on, family to support, queries to answer, tax receipts to sort, a big trip to organize, artwork I wanted to start – but I felt like the house was closing in on me. There were piles on piles on piles of STUFF around. Not so that I (quite) looked like a hoarder, but I was getting there. After years of our home gradually shifting in response to changes in our lives we had no structure left. My art studio wasn’t really my art studio – it was my son’s old room which I was temporarily using. I hadn’t really made it mine. My husband’s ‘man cave’ was a similar hotch potch of filing cabinets, miscellaneous art materials (of mine), computer games, things we were keeping “just in case” and bits and pieces that had no reason to be there. The house wasn’t dirty. It was just becoming increasingly cluttered and disorganized. And no fun. I just felt ‘blah” looking at it.

And then – one of my friends mentioned this amazing book which was inspiring her to go home and tidy. I couldn’t see how that could possibly be – because I HATE HOUSEWORK – to the point of capital letters for emphasis! But I thought I’d have a quick look, and I downloaded it on to my ipad.

Well – that was it. Marie Kondo’s book – “The life changing magic of tidying” blew me away.  I would never have thought anyone or anything could possibly make me want to tidy, but she did. Why? Because she made it fun and passionate. Because she put the emphasis on decluttering so that you only have things you love (or really, really need) – rather than looking at the boring stuff. Because she gave me permission to give things away or pass them on without guilt. To be able to look at something and recognize that it had given me pleasure in receiving it and in using it, but now it was time to pass it on, was a wonderful release.

It was, simply, amazing. I started with my books – my wonderful collection of art books, many of which were just gathering dust.

book pile

I pulled them together from all over the house – the bedside table pile, the bookshelf in my studio, the pile under the sketchbooks, the bags hanging off the door handle. Once I pulled them together I realized just how many I had – literally hundreds. Following Marie’s advice I picked each one up and decided (very quickly) whether it gave me joy. A simple question. I easily filled an old suitcase with discards. Then another.

What was left was the cream of the crop. The really special books. The ones I can run my fingers over and hug. Well, I’m a librarian – what can I say?

pile of white books

But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to make my books into something really special, that gave me joy even if I didn’t open the pages. So I sorted the stacks of books by colour. And I made my rainbow shelves.

Well – from there I haven’t looked back. During the last four weeks of my leave I literally got rid of half of the contents of our house. Over and over friends would arrive with their enormous ute and take away bags and boxes and furniture and frames and all types of miscellaneous bits and pieces collected over a lifetime – and my parents’ lifetime too. They all went to a good home, and It was a wonderful feeling. They were happy and so were we.

loungeroom with rainbow shelves

I moved my art studio and painted it orange (another story). The house is lighter. It is happier. It is filled with joy and hope again. And so am I.

Marie Kondo – you are AMAZING. Thank you!

PS: Marie has written a follow up called ‘Spark Joy’. It is illustrated so I thought it would be even better for an artist. But to be quite honest, it is “The life changing magic of tidying” that spoke to me, and that is the one I would recommend, at least to start with. It might surprise you. And it might just change your life. Enjoy 🙂