The return of the Kondo hero

Thanks to Marie Kondo, known for her decluttering tips, my quest to clear up my home is bearing fruit

One day, the heavy glass lid of a slow cooker nearly landed on my head.

I nearly died at the hands of an appliance because it was stored on a high shelf in the kitchen cabinet instead of on the lower tiers, where big and heavy items belong.

Common sense is not my strong suit, obviously.

But there was another reason the slow cooker was stored that high up - because there was no more space on the lower shelves, which were stuffed to the brim with: ••never-used crockery lugged back from Bangkok ("Wah, so nice and not expensive. Must buy."); •plastic takeaway containers ("I might need them one day");• mugs, water tumblers and sandwich boxes (freebies from buying groceries);• recipe books (my book shelves are full as well);• and enough plastic bags to form the biggest ball of plastic carriers in the world.

The kitchen counter is also full of things I struggle to name.

So is the dining table, which led my husband to complain that there was not a single empty surface in the house for him to write a cheque on.

Telling him "I'm sorry to hear that" did not help his mood.

Organisation experts say clutter not only looks, well, messy, but it also leads to stress and anxiety.

Don't I know it.

The struggle is real when the cab I called is already downstairs and I cannot find my house keys to let myself out.

Attempts at decluttering in the past were a bit of a Groundhog Day in that the same nightmare is repeated over and over again: I would move everything out of the various areas of storage, then run out of time or energy to deal with them, so I shove everything back in, but arranged differently.

I picked up The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, mistress of the universe of decluttering, to see if I could turn my life around.

"Be brutal and throw your things away" is my takeaway from her book.

Stuff must be discarded before you start to even think about organising and storing the remaining things, she says.

This is because if you put things away without throwing anything out, it just makes you think your clutter problem has been solved.

But when your storage space fills up, back comes the clutter, multiplying like Gremlins.

Which led me to have an epiphany.

My problem is not just one of organising, but one of having too many things.

Too many books, too many frying pans, too many bottles of body lotion and too many rolls of toilet paper (we bought them on offer because, for a while, we worried about a shortage on the toilet paper front).

So if I hope to regain control of my life, things have to go.

Kondo says the criteria for deciding what to keep or discard is whether you love the item and whether it sparks joy for you.

Using my love as a gauge, it was easy to break up with the VCD player, my collection of wedding magazines from 15 years ago and miscellaneous ornaments that doubled as repositories of dust.

It's not you, it's me. I just don't feel that way anymore.

But what about things whose relationship with me is, like they say on Facebook, complicated?

These include books I didn't enjoy, but which I paid good money for.

Or scented candles I received as gifts, but which I can't light up because they would probably burn down my house, given the amount of clutter.

Clinging onto these things is like hanging onto a bad relationship. You keep hoping the problem will sort itself out, but it rarely does.

Kondo has the answer to this as well.

Even clothes that have not been worn or books that have not been read have a purpose, she says. Perhaps they sparked joy when I bought them or that they are teaching me a life lesson and helping me realise what really suits me.

So thank them for serving their purpose and let them go, she adds.

So far, I have done a few rounds of culling in my house.

I'm also trying to cut down on things sneaking their way in, such as freebies from goodie bags, junk mail and impulse buys.

We have definitely stopped stocking up on toilet paper.

Tidying and organising the house can be a Sisyphean task and I still have some way to go before I become a Marie Kondo success story.

But now my husband has a place to sign his cheques, my bookshelves are emptier and my risk of death by falling slow cooker has, hopefully, been reduced to a negligible one.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 22, 2017, with the headline 'The return of the Kondo hero'. Print Edition | Subscribe