rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
A few weeks ago I was trying to find a blog post I remembered Tim Harford writing about research into different perceptions of gift-giving depending on whether you are the giver or the recipient.  Along the way I also found that he'd written about Maria Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and rolled my eyes a bit (I have read enough of my friends' reactions to the book to be sure I would personally find it intensely irritating), but was interested to see how he pulled out three principles of economics that Marie Kondo is illustrating:
  • status quo bias (Kondo says throw it out unless it "sparks joy", which Harford sensibly changes to "a compelling reason to keep it")
  • diminishing returns (the tenth pair of jeans is less valuable than the second, which is why you tackle all the things of the same type in one go)
  • opportunity cost (if you can't find a beloved possession under all the other things you have, you can't enjoy it)
So this inspired me a bit to start tackling the chronic mess in the house, a lot of which is down to the fact that things don't have a home, because we haven't got room to put them away, so they don't get tidied away.  I started with the toys in the living room, because they were causing the most friction, and I also thought they were the best case of things that really should "spark joy".  (Clothing rarely does for me, for example, and I doubt the children's school uniform does either.)   It took me a good couple of hours, I did most of the work of division, with the children occasionally challenging my choices in one direction or the other, and at the end of it I had 2 carrier bags for the bin and another 9 for the charity shop.  I reckoned we removed roughly 2/3 of the toys by volume; and what remained is small enough that we can keep similar things together when tidying rather than finding it too overwhelming and shoving everything away anyhow (and making the problem worse).

Nico spontaneously spent ages over the next week playing with some specific wooden jigsaws we literally hadn't seen in months if not years, which rather gloriously illustrated Tim's point about opportunity cost.

I've done several more sessions since, especially in the last few days.  It needs me to have time and energy and inclination to spend several hours at a time sorting through a category of things, because I haven't figured out a way to bitesize it without causing even more disruption to everyone else and/or having my work undone again.  It is tiring to keep making decisions, especially potentially emotionally-fraught decisions.   I found a fourth economic concept coming to my aid: in management accounting I learned the concept of sunk costs, that is, when making decisions it doesn't matter what time and money have already been spent, what matters is the future costs/benefits that will result from the decision. 

The children have learned to trust that I won't take something away if they say they really want it, so at least now let me get on with it until I'm ready for their review, which has sped things up a bit.  And slowly the living room and bedroom spaces are becoming nicer for them.  I've finally removed enough stuff from the children's room that I can actually tidy / reorganise what is left.  This morning I asked Charles if he would rather I took him out to the cinema today, or continued working on their bedroom and he chose the latter.

And for all it seems a bit weird, I've found it sometimes helps me to let go if I say thank you to things as I put them in the discard pile.

Date: 2016-12-30 15:35 (UTC)
hollymath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hollymath
I really need to do this kind of thing. It was already on my mind before but Christmas and new stuff has made it much more urgent. I'm still far too emotionally/mentally exhausted for it but I'm hoping that'll improve quickly. I'm glad it's working so well for you!

Date: 2016-12-30 21:56 (UTC)
hollymath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hollymath
I know people who've gotten along well with Kondo, but I've been personally sort of afraid to look into her system because I'm sure I'll either hate it or love it to a detrimental degree. :)

I'm hampered by the fact that Andrew has most of the possessions -- he can never countenance getting rid of a book under any circumstances -- and he finds even knowing that I am tidying (like, being able to see me) stressful sometimes, never mind me asking a question like "will you put these DVDs back on the shelves then?" (since he has a complicated system I can't hope to understand, and he doesn't like me just shoving them back willy-nilly) or "can we go through which of your clothes you never wear?"...much less those things actually happening...

Like your C, I struggle in a cluttered environment, both psychologically and also just practically. In November, I was in such a bad state that I was tripping over things I wouldn't normally, dropping stuff and then not being able to see it on the floor right in front of me because my brain just was not processing visual data at all... at this point I managed to convey the message that Tidying Up Is An Accessibility Issue for Holly, and Andrew promised he'd help, but neither of us have had much energy or brain-CPU cycles to spare since. I can do things without him, but this would have to be in spite of him and that's not possible or kind.

I don't mind to sound like I'm complaining. I just need an Autistic-Friendly Art of Tidying Up; that really would be life-changing! :)

Date: 2017-01-03 03:53 (UTC)
hollymath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hollymath
Would it help to ask Andrew what he'd write in a book about Autistic-Friendly Tidying Up?

I can try asking! I fear it'll just be another confusing or stressful idea for him, but I won't know if I don't ask.

The trouble is this stuff is hard.

And I think it really helps to acknowledge that. So much of this motivational, change-your-life stuff (I don't know if Kondo is like this, but many are) emphasizes how easy this is, I guess to encourage people to do it. But I find that really unhelpful because having always found it so hard, I feel like I'm already starting from a very different point to these people with their keen, energetic optimism, and it puts me off.

Date: 2016-12-30 23:33 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
I don't cope terribly well in cluttered environments and also find tidying stressful, to the point of often not coping well when other people are tidying, so I feel for you both, if that helps.

Something that helps me is only doing 15 minutes at a time, and communicating that beforehand if anyone else is involved. And then I focus on a very small area -- one shelf, maybe, or maybe finding all the laundry in the floordrobe and putting it in the laundry hamper, or maybe putting all paper to be sorted through into a box. And then I take a break, and only come back to it when I feel ready. It isn't fast and I'm not really on top of things, but it's better than not doing anything.

Date: 2017-01-03 03:54 (UTC)
hollymath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hollymath
I do try to suggest little specific steps to my husband, but maybe explicitly saying "all we're doing right now is putting away stuff that's on the table and shouldn't be" would help reassure him that I don't mean to spend all day on this. :)

Date: 2017-01-01 06:10 (UTC)
matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)
From: [personal profile] matgb
he finds even knowing that I am tidying (like, being able to see me) stressful sometimes

I am not allowed to help Jennie sort her stuff. I am not allowed to sort it without her. If I leave it to her it doesn't get done.

I have, very rarely, managed to get away with breaking one of the first two, normally I sort stuff when she's not about, but woe betide me if I dispose of anything of hers or H's without her checking. Which is why we have many boxes that need sorting through before they can be removed from the house hidden in various placed or simply half blocking corridors.

I just need an Autistic-Friendly Art of Tidying Up; that really would be life-changing!
We might need to create this technique then write it up for others.

Date: 2017-01-01 11:18 (UTC)
hollymath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hollymath
We might need to create this technique then write it up for others.

We would be the best people I know to do it. :)

Date: 2016-12-30 15:41 (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
This is inspiring to me, possibly because it doesn't remotely underestimate the difficulties (which most tidying-up inspiration-porn does in profoundly irritating, ableist, and pop-cultural way). Also because your line on saying 'thank you' really nailed how I feel when I am willingly giving away something that *still matters*. I have a deadline now for completely cleaning out my room/closets at my parents' house (worked on it some over winter holidays, will try to finish at spring break visit) and it's difficult in a number of ways, but you've reminded me that it also can feel good to have let go of things. Thank you!!!

Date: 2016-12-30 16:54 (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
>> It was a new thing to me to say thank you to them as they went either to the charity shop or the bin, but it definitely helped. <<

*nods* Good to know.

Date: 2016-12-30 15:43 (UTC)
jae: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jae
Good for you!

I did this when we moved and downsized. We'd been living in the same too-large house for 15+ years, and had accumulated a ridiculous amount of stuff. I was feeling ruthless about decluttering, and so we ended up getting rid of about 3/4 of our belongings. In the 3.5 years since then, I've missed exactly one thing I think I got rid of too hastily.

-J

Date: 2017-01-03 13:06 (UTC)
jae: (bookgecko)
From: [personal profile] jae
Books are of course things that give experiences!

Definitely yes, but I love love love ebooks for the fact that I get the experience without having to worry about finding a place for the original thing. I am a total heathen that way these days!

-J

Date: 2017-01-03 13:12 (UTC)
jae: (bookgecko)
From: [personal profile] jae
I have actually gotten to the point where I want to read *everything* on my ereader, and actually holding a book feels haaaaaard and annoyyyyying. ;)

-J

Date: 2016-12-30 16:13 (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Well done!

Date: 2016-12-30 16:38 (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
"It’s good to have a saucepan but the fifth saucepan will rarely be used."

There speaks someone who hasn't met our house...

Date: 2017-01-01 06:05 (UTC)
matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)
From: [personal profile] matgb
A rough headcount gives my kitchen 7 or 8 saucepans depending on what counts, plus two steamers and two stockpots, and then a chip pan.

All have been used repeatedly in the last week, and I've got my eye on a different sized one of a design I'm getting on with lots as well.

Now, 5 of the same size, shape and coating would be pointless...

Date: 2016-12-31 02:14 (UTC)
megpie71: AC Reno holding bomb, looking away from camera (about that raise)
From: [personal profile] megpie71
I tend to hope Marie Kondo read better in the original Japanese, because everything I've read about her stuff in English tends to come across as a combination of horribly boundary-pushing (her disclosures about cleaning up her siblings' stuff made my shoulders come up around my ears and take ages to come down), incredibly upper-middle-class (the whole idea that "you can just get another one if you need it" depends very much on being able to afford that "another one" at all times), and at times, rather geared toward a completely different lifestyle and environment to the one occupied by most Western families. I will admit she has some good ideas - acknowledging the enjoyment of possessions by thanking them for the joy they supplied is a good one; only keeping things if they give you joy (or in other words, if they're things you still really want, rather than things you're keeping because you feel you're required to), but they're buried in the mass of the wider thing, which has the class and culture-bound problems I mentioned earlier.

I've been doing a fair amount of de-cluttering myself, since we moved to this latest place - mostly in the form of going through all the cardboard boxes of books which were packed up about two moves ago, and deciding which ones I can keep on the main shelves, which ones I'm going to keep for a "farewell" re-read (and lately I'm looking at that pile and saying "nope, actually a lot of you can just go") and which ones can go into what I call the "bye-bye bag" for donation to charity (we have a lot of charities to choose from in my area: Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, Save the Children, Good Samaritan Industries - there's a lot of op shops in this area. Mostly because it's serious yuppie territory). This also involves throwing out those cardboard boxes which have become decrepit after the last two or three moves, and also going through my clothes on a regular basis and essentially saying to myself "when was the last time I wore this item?" and "am I likely to wear it again any time soon?" I'm passing on a trio of winter dresses (very "gothy" in aesthetic) which have been sitting around the back of my wardrobe for years as a result of this process - I love them to look at, but the last time I wore them was back in Canbrrra, and I really don't get much use out of them. Someone else might.

At present the whole process is stymied because the "bye bye bag" is full. Might be time to let it breed a sibling.

Date: 2016-12-31 04:39 (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
I've found it sometimes helps me to let go if I say thank you to things as I put them in the discard pile

Aww.

I have mainly....books. I'm pretty indifferent to clothes (especially since it's damn hard to find ones that fit, as I am tall AND fat). I still have CDs! altho they're in CD towers. But the books....piled everywhere. Oh dear.

Date: 2016-12-31 11:28 (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
*hugs* Yay for you tidying.

Ironically, your description made me a lot more sympathetic to that book. I'm sure I would hate it, I almost do hate it from second hand descriptions, but the bits you described as the underlying idea did sound useful.

And yay for successfully working with the children.

I'm remembering that I used to be bad at this -- I didn't acquire stuff much, but I didn't get rid of this either.

Rachel helped a lot with books. She helped me sort the books into "favourites I definitely want to show off to people" (destined for living room), "books I'd quite like to still have" (destined for spare room) and "books I can't see any reason I'm likely to read again or have an attachment to". And the plan was, box up the third category and if I didn't want it in 6 months, give it away. But in fact, it was so obvious that I didn't want it, I gave it away immediately. If I'd needed to give away books I really wanted, it would have been a lot harder, but in fact, I didn't.

But the "sort, separately to throwing away" did seem useful if you're not sure what you can get rid of. Having a box of "if we NEED to make space, this is what we throw out, without needing to sort it again for important stuff" helped.

Date: 2017-01-03 10:31 (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
the tenth pair of jeans is less valuable than the second

If I want clean clothes daily and go on two week holidays without laundry facilities then the 10th Tshirt is certainly as useful as the second. Jeans maybe last more than a day though.

I have a lot of clothes, mostly because I strongly believe that I need multiple copies of *every* type of thing in order to be able to clean them. And that includes 16th, 17th and 19th century replica stuff...

I should figure out how to get rid of books though, I never re-read anything really.

Date: 2016-12-30 14:25 (UTC)
ext_550458: (Snape writing)
From: [identity profile] strange-complex.livejournal.com
I've found it sometimes helps me to let go if I say thank you to things as I put them in the discard pile.

I do this as I throw things away! I particularly like to thank biros for their service. After all, I value them highly, guard them carefully and consistently use them until they run out, so it seems only fair to express gratitude when they have spent their entire working lives with me.

I'm glad to hear you have a similar practice, and that it works for you. Many congratulations on getting the kids on-board with your decluttering too!

Date: 2016-12-30 16:43 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pennski.livejournal.com
Oh how lovely. I'm glad this is working well for you and hope you continue to have the energy you need when you do it.

Date: 2016-12-31 21:38 (UTC)
jinty: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jinty
The Marie Kondo book is not as annoying on reading as it 'should' be (or at least that's what I thought, YMMV of course) - it has mimsy-pimsy ways of putting things, like talking about things 'sparking joy', but it's actually also quite funny in places and has some good anecdote. Nevertheless the main thing is that it has good sound principles, and the principles are *surprisingly* good - not surprising in a 'ha ha this is a silly woman, oh wait she actually has a brain' kinda way (tho I'm sure some people take it this way) but in a 'good lord, something actually makes tidying and getting rid of stuff actually work, how can that even be if you are not a natural-born minimalist!'.

Right now I feel very much as you presumably did a few weeks ago. Haven't yet mustered the energy tho, because I know that it's hard - and boy does it take time.

Date: 2017-01-16 20:09 (UTC)
owlfish: (Default)
From: [personal profile] owlfish
I've been meaning to come to this post to thank you for passing on opportunity cost as a relevant concept to "can I find it when I need it around the house". It's a useful way to think about things.

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Rachel Coleman

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