Tag Archives: apartment life

There’s nothing to it really

The kids are waiting and I’m rushing frantically to get us out the door, when I reach my hand into my bag and – keys? Where the heck are my keys? I’m sure I picked them up already, I’ve seen them this morning. Did I put them in my bag already? Not in the usual pocket evidently. I have to stop and sit and rifle through my bag to find them, and as I do so I’m reminded of something I read recently; Marie Kondo, of the KonMari method recommends you empty out your bag everyday.

I want to weep.

Whether from frustration or hilarity I’m not sure. This happens to me often. I live on the fringes of emotion. With certainty though, the one emotion this idea does not fill me with is joy. Joy is the central emotion to KonMari.

Hug an item and ask yourself – does this item spark joy? If not throw it out. If so keep it. Keep less. Keep it organised.

I imagine myself moving through my house asking if items spark joy. But soon I find myself floundering, emotions are too complex for black and white decisions.

Does my toaster bring me joy? My kettle? Hmm – coffee, ok I’ll call that one joy if we have to, but usually I would call it ‘necessity’. What about the toilet brush? I can’t imagine hugging it, let alone joy sparking during the process. But I definitely want to keep it. The thought of going through my sock and underwear draw is too daunting. Yes, I know they have holes, but you know, only small ones. And as for the patented Kon-Mari fold to keep them organised after my clear out, who is going to convince my husband to change his folding method? Folding and putting away laundry is his job, and I’m not filled with joy at the prospect of changing that.

Apparently it is possible to do KonMari with kids. You just have to get the whole family involved! I take it Marie Kondo has never actually asked a pre-schooler to part with a crappy art project. Or a toddler to part with the cigarette butt they picked up in the playground. I wonder how much joy she would find in my son’s enormous stick collection, but at least sticks have to stay outside. And if I were to ask myself how I really feel about their toys, my emotions, once again, are quite mixed. I love the peace and quiet I can get when my son is absorbed in building with duplo. But I do not find joy in the individual pieces scattered across the floor to tidy, or step on. Those corners hurt! Speaking of stepping on, there are those toy cars which always seem to end up in the hallway or next to my daughter’s cot – like a slapstick routine just waiting to happen. But watching A ‘vroom vroom’ them back and forth definitely makes me smile.

See, my feelings are just too complex, my attitude to ambivalent. I can’t be bothered with frantically tidying, but I do feel weighed down by the mess. I know I could just have less toys, or we could just discipline the kids to put everything away after each game. Besides, less toys implies my children are playing with toys, and not just the contents of the kitchen cupboards. That is A’s favourite game. Rifling through the bottom drawers, finding her cups so she can pretend to drink and then throwing containers across the floor. All those ice-cream containers are fun to stack, and useful reused as storage. Do they bring me joy though? They did, temporarily; a sugary consolation for a draining bedtime “routine”. Although now they are more a reminder of why I haven’t lost all the “baby” weight…

Maybe my daughter was born to KonMari and that is what her unpacking is all in aim of. ‘De-clutter’ she cries as she flings lids out of cabinets. ‘This crust does not bring me joy’ she declares as she drops it from her highchair. And so when I imagine having my handbag-box neatly organised on the table, ready to pack my bag again in the morning, I also imagine I would find the box empty. Credit cards tucked under the couch; tissue packets emptied and tissues shredded (joyfully I’m sure); cell-phone locked out, or worse connected to emergency services. Someone with an organised handbag-box is probably a somebody without sticky toddler fingers prying into every nook and cranny of the house.

I’m sure there is a way you can do it. I’m sure many families do make KonMari work for them. I’m sure if I just set my mind to it I could clear out the house, convince the kids to leave my things alone, reduce clutter and live the minimalist life that will make me a superior person.

I imagine the house: toys in their proper place every night; kitchen cupboards organised so well that not only do they shut, but nothing falls out when you open them; a tidy handbag-box, bag emptied of crumbs and receipts and lip balm that never, ever gets worn; clothes stacked with precision and joy in my dresser. Serenity abounds.

The only thing is, the woman who does all these things doesn’t feel like me. I can’t imagine my family living in that house.

So I guess for now I’ll just be me, in the mess, looking for my keys.

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside

Aarhus’s old town in nestled against an industrial harbour. Although some housing is beginning to be built there, it isn’t exactly a ‘seaside’ as I would think of it. Further afield are some lovely beaches. One of which, Risskov, I have visited briefly. A Dane told my parents that she had thought Aarhus was hilly, until she moved to Wellington. I realised after I arrived I had misinterpreted that. Denmark is very flat. Aarhus undulates gently. Not really steep, but steep enough you notice pushing a pram uphill. I’m pleased, after flat, inland Canberra, to find myself living in this topography. My son has not spent enough time in Wellington. Walking through the park he exclaimed ‘big hill’. Not exactly sweetie, but the locals might agree.

We live near the Botanical Gardens; it is a lovely park, but I’m not sure where the garden part kicks in. They are constructing a tropical dome there. From the outside it looks like it will be well worth visiting once it finally opens. One of the lovely things about Aarhus is that there are little parks and playgrounds everywhere. Even the playgrounds at daycare centres are open to the public after-hours. There are also paths between the villages and city centre for both cycles and pedestrian. It is a great way to get into town and to enjoy watching birds, and picking flowers.

The reality is that Aarhus is a surprisingly ugly city. My husband put it best when he said ‘it was pretty ugly for somewhere that wasn’t destroyed in WWII’. Buildings in the old town are mostly brick, and about 5 floors high. Sometimes you get a change from the brick, like around where we live, with concrete instead. Despite the undulating street level, the buildings are tall enough that sea views are rare. If it wasn’t for the sea gulls, and the icy blasts of wind, you wouldn’t know it was there.

I suspect our view is partly our cultural upbringing. After spending so much of my life overseas, I find the arrival into Wellington, with the view of villas perched on hillsides, especially beautiful. Much of the rest of the world has a uniformity in their housing stock that I find vaguely depressing, be it terraced housing in the UK or apartment blocks here. I found the new build suburbs of Canberra creepy, in a dystopic-Stepford-housewife kind of way. Hopefully I’ll get a bit used to it and it won’t bother me so much. Until then, I’ll just have to keep hunting out the bits I do like.