If I've been a little quiet of late, it's because I've been somewhat distracted by my sock drawer.
I read this book. I read it because I thought it was time I read some non-fiction again, of the self-help variety, as I hadn't reviewed anything like that for a while. I didn't know this little gem would take my chaotic life of good intentions and shake and twist and blast it into a more coherent form. It's not a perfect re-make but it's a feel-good, de-stressing step in the good intentioned right direction.
Confused? Here's a review of the book which is setting me on the straight and orderly narrow. And I'm enjoying the ride. How about you? Have you had any similarly unexpected revelations?
Start With Your Sock Drawer by Vicky Silverthorn
|Published by Sphere. Paperback and eBook|
I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions. I like wholesale life changes as much as the next person, but September is my time for this. Mid-winter, I prefer to enjoy the hibernation.
That isn't to say that I don't like a good tidy up post January 6th: throwing away the stress of a busy few months with the detritus of this well-wrapped Christmas. And with the New Year also comes the perennial inclination to conquer the to-do list. For this year (and every year) my work load will be better managed, my to-do list more realistic, my working day, my evenings, my weekend less manic.
I know that sorting through the evidence of years now past will also help clear some clutter from my mind, not to mention free up some time no longer spent rummaging for essential items but lacking the time to finish the job, makes me uninclined to start.
If this is a scenario you recognise, let me introduce, 'Start With Your Sock Drawer'. It's a guide to de-cluttering our homes and our minds, one sock at a time.
Author, Vicky Silverthorn, has had an interesting life. Starting out as a nanny, she quickly learnt the virtues of orderly systems. Next, she became PA to professional golfers and then to footballers, travelling with them to exotic places, to manage their array of effects and engagements with immaculate organisation. Latterly, she found herself PA to Lily Allen and toured the world with her, priding herself on knowing where to find items as small as a hair pin at a moment's notice.
Now, in her capacity as 'professional organiser' she sees her job as helping ordinary people to take back control of their lives and headspace – and that is where this book comes in. Sprinkled with quotes such as, '…The clutter around my flat was stopping me from being able to wind down after a day at work…' Silverthorn explains first why a de-cluttered lifestyle is beneficial and then how everyone, even the most time-poor, even those living in the smallest space, can do it.
Depositing the entire contents of your wardrobe into a Mount Vesuvius on the floor to be sorted tomorrow, however, is not what she advises. It may feel like a step in the right direction but as soon as you've allocated something 'more important' to the time-slot and thus pushed the clothes into the corner of the room, you've simply added further clutter to a cluttered life. It's another stress, even though we might not realise it at the time. I know, because before I read this book, I'd done it.
Silverthorn's mantra is not to take the clothes out of the wardrobe, (the toys out of the cupboard the books from the shelves…) until you have the time to sort through, keep only the items you are honestly ever going to wear again and replace the remainder in a much more ordered, appealing, accessible space.
I like order. I think it saves time and time-saving measures are next to godliness in my mind. So I appreciate the sentiment of arranging our socks, crockery and toys like a well-kept library. Jade jumper for work? In the non-black work section. Favourite pink socks for the gym? Right there at the front of the drawer (Silverthorn will tell you that most oft used goes at the front) in between the red and white. Before Start With Your Sock Drawer, however, achieving this Utopia of order was the stuff of dreams. How could I possibly prioritise my socks over my filing, my tax return, and the day job?
Start with your sock drawer, Silverthorn says. And once you've thrown away all the odd socks which will never be reunited with their partner, have holes which won't be darned or orange splashes which you really can't abide, move on to your handbag, your jewellery, your ornaments and so it goes on.
Because it does.
Once you start, even for this sentimental hoarder, it's infectious. Removing the mess in our environment, really does de-clutter our brains. When our house becomes less of a walking to-do list, when we can find what we need with minimal effort, we're less stressed. We have more time and we're nicer to be around.
I didn't agree with every suggestion. We should throw away all our unused chargers and pc connectors, for example, because the chances are, they won't ever be needed again. And that's true. They take up space and add clutter to our lives. Agreed. And if the worst case scenario happens and we need a lead, well we can always pop out and buy a new one for a few pounds, which is well worth it for a de-cluttered mind.
If I'd thrown away something I later needed and not only that, had to spend the time I'd saved through living in a less cluttered world, trawling the internet or driving to a shop (I live in a little village, no shops selling chargers anywhere near me) to spend precious time and money on something I'd thrown away, it would take me days to get over the regret. But I did find the general ethos and many of the initiatives utterly inspiring.
The chapters on 'letting go' were particularly interesting. Why do we hold on to the bequeathed beige corduroy sofa with its threadbare cushions and sunken seats which has never fitted in size or period on that far wall in our mauve painted living room? Do we really need all those chipped mugs, just in case the entire street descends on the house, all demanding tea in the exact same moment? And then there's the pristine exercise bike which embodies all our good intentions, right there, guiltily occupying the corner of the kitchen - when really, the only function it's ever going to perform is to provide something else to wipe down and walk around. Better to give it away to someone who will use it and you feel the rush of endorphins that way, instead.
And if you're panicking that the pursuit of perfection will simply add stress rather than take it away, don't. The emphasis in this book is in removing clutter and mess to achieve a more useable and accessible life style. It's about achieving a beneficial order we can maintain, rather than show home status. Phew. As Silverthorn says, it isn't rocket science. But sometimes we all need somebody to tell us that something is a really good idea.
So, have I de-cluttered my to-do list, freed up some time with more orderly spaces? Do you know, after years of trying, I think I have. Would I recommend, Start With Your Sock Drawer? Absolutely. But once you've finished with the book, you have to give it away, that's the deal.
Meanwhile, I'm back on the Glass Houses trail and have a couple of events coming up. I'd love you to join me if you can.