Life

The secret of true spring cleaning is the Marie Kondo question: Does this spark joy?

You lift all your clothes, sock by sock and grey bra by bra and you ask: 'Does this spark joy?' and if it doesn't then you thank it for being in your life. 'You supported me through a very difficult hour,' you might tell the bra, 'But now it's time to let go'

Japanese 'organizing consultant' and author Marie Kondo

IT'S really about sparkle, I told my old friend. We were discussing the questionable joys of decluttering.

Once the sun shows up the dust on my windows, my internal gearstick zooms up to five, I'm cruising down the highway of life with Abba up far too loud and I suddenly want to re-right the world or at least work out what's the name of the game.

This may mean putting the duvet covers on for the two-and-a-half-hour cotton wash – oh, you little non-eco-friendly rascal – or it may mean dusting off the piano keyboard that has sulked in the corner of the bedroom in its own little overcoat of dust for the long winter.

“Come on, let's crack on with the old Frere Jacques,” I tell the piano keyboard, as this is the year when all my hopes and ambitions will come true. Ha, I wish.

But at least I still have the dreams and it's important to tread softly on them.

The sparkle thing is straight out of that Japanese woman who has cleared and spring cleaned a million lives, if her books sales are anything to go by.

I sent my best friend a copy. Mind you, in my heart, I thought she did not need it. I always envied her style.

When we were 17 back in the late 1970s, we once took a trip to Belfast and even walked the length of the Dublin Road to source a particularly beautiful duvet cover. Strewth, we really should have been necking cider and boys down the park.

Suffice to say, she has a beautiful house full of well-chosen and well-loved things – and that's not including her husband and children.

But I instructed her on the Marie Kondo, KonMari, method during a recent meeting.

You see, it's not enough to change your living space drawer by drawer or book shelf by book shelf. That's the old way and it doesn't work.

I used to set the cooker alarm for half an hour and attack a certain space for that amount of time, promising myself a cup of Yorkshire tea and a jammy dodger at the end.

Inevitably, half an hour of dithering and moving half-full jars of magic face cream about like a demented chess master did nothing. It always ended up in deep self-loathing and an empty packet of jammy dodgers.

No, the secret of bringing true spring cleaning into the house is the Kondo million-dollar question: Does this spark joy?

So you run around your house and gather up every piece of clothing you own and lay it all out on the bed. All those cheap-as-chips sale items: a bargain even if you never wore it – and I never did.

Then you lift it, sock by sock and grey bra by bra and you ask: “Does this spark joy?” and if it doesn't then you thank it for being in your life. “You supported me through a very difficult hour,” you might tell the bra, “But now it's time to let go.”

Face it, the elastic let go years earlier.

See, it's as simple as that. Believe me, I'm a convert.

Clothes, it seems, are the easy bit. Amazing what you can get rid of although you should never give it to your mother to keep. This, it seems, is not fair on maternal love.

You move from clothes to books – why do we keep them? What do they say about us?

Who cares that I once read,big bruisers of boring tomes like Tom Jones and Robinson Crusoe? Does John Donne look good on my shelf? Is this an ego trip? After that, you move to photographs.

Ah, there's the rub. My old friend found that a tricky one. I had to encourage her to keep the ones she loved and not to worry about tearing up the out-of-focus ones. You can keep the love without the photograph.

Just remember, someone will pull those pictures out of that shoebox in 50 years' time and wonder who exactly all the people were and, by the by, what exactly is a shoebox?

I'm letting go of the stuff that does not sparkle.

Or I'm trying to. My friend texts – she's getting into the idea of sparking joy and redding out too.

But in the middle of all the ripping and burning, I'm swept back to a childhood world where I'm sitting at my mother's knee and she's reading us Wind in the Willows.

There we find Mole who has the spring cleaning bug too – he's whitewashing his little burrow.

But there's a nip of spring in the air. Down below ground he can feel roots stir and buds bud and the whispering wind calls to him and her siren song is just too strong to ignore.

And before he knows it, he's up and out and down by the river messing about on boats with Ratty.

Ah, that's the way to go. His sparkle is sunlight on the river and so's mine. I sit among the piles of odd socks and old pictures and I ask myself the spark joy question and I wait.

Oh Ratty... come quick and take me away from all this.

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