Part two: Involuntary simplicity.
(Where I decide If I can’t change my financial circumstance then I must change my attitude)
An apparently demented woman is seen tossing stones indiscriminately off the balcony of her third floor apartment onto the carpark below.
Before she throws each stone (according to the bystanders watching from a safe distance) she holds it up and chants ‘ Does this stone bring me joy?’
The stones (some bystanders have braved the deluge and managed to rush in between throwing spree’s to pick some up) are all smooth and uniform in size. some are hand painted with beautifully intricate designs. One stone barely misses the news reporter who has just arrived on the scene along with a TV crew.
Dodging it, but bravely refusing the bicycle helmet a passing cyclist is proffering him (he is overheard saying that bicycle helmets are useless) he turns breathlessly to face the camera and shouts into his microphone, trying hard to be heard over the noise of splintering glass as the stone hits the windscreen of a nearby parked car.
‘Here behind me’ He shouts ‘you can see the scene of utter devastation. The ‘stoned’ nurse responsible is reported to have ‘lost it’ after studying the japanese art of konmari. We have been told, however, by a reliable source that her apartment is now tidy, organised and stone free, so, hopefully this will be the end to this scene of dreadful carnage’
‘ This is…Paddy Mullallemey reporting to you live from Greystones Co Wicklow’
He gives the thumbs up to the cameraman who pans his camera around the carpark and zooms in on the scattered stones and shattered windscreens.
‘Them cults are dangerous things’ a elderly bystander remarks to his grandson who has been clapping his hands in glee from the depths of his buggy at each sound of splintering glass.
Far away the approaching sounds of sirens can be heard and the crowd disperses, heading home for lunch.
It seems everyone has heard of ‘Konmari’ except me.
‘Oh it’s a distant cousin of feng shui’ a colleague said airily, when I mentioned it at work.
‘Well a distant neighbour, really seeing as feng shui is Chinese, whereas Konmari is Japanese’ said another.
As a matter of fact they are not related at all.
Feng shui, along with the celtic geomantic traditions (Newgrange being a prime example*), Vastu Shastra in India and Dai Ly in Vietnam, is about the orientation/positioning to the natural elements when planning and building and is very ancient.
Probably between 5,000 and 6,000 years of ancientness.
Whereas as far as I can tell Konmari is the japanese art of organising and tidying one’s home or office and as I cannot find the history of it anywhere (correct me if i’m wrong) is not very ancient at all.
But this post is about simplicity and already I am making it complicated.
It was while chatting to a friend the other day about living simply that I first heard the term. She mentioned she was going to start practising it as a means of making her life easier.
‘Kon what?’ I asked confused.
‘Oh it’s the japanese art of getting rid of things you don’t need, organising stuff, tidying. Seemingly you pick up each article and ask it if its sparks joy. If it doesn’t then you throw it out. It’s simple. Google it’ she instructed.
I did and it sounded great until I looked at the dozens upon dozens of stones I had collected from the beach
They were perched on every available surface and some on the floor.
I imagined how long it would take me to pick up each one in turn and ask it if it made me joyful or not. I suppose the answer would depend on whether or not I had managed to avoid stubbing my toe on them that day.
My mother, I have always maintained, was ahead of her time.
She practised konmari before it was even invented.
As children we were all encouraged to draw, paint, cut out, glue together and as there were eight of us and we were very prolific, we who could go through a lot of expensive paper at one sitting so, my mother used to save the cardboard cereal boxes cutting them into useable pieces for drawing on.
Some days while we were busy at our art she would decide she was going to tidy and organise the living room.
(We called it the living room as opposed to the sitting room because we did a lot of living there and it opened onto a dining area with a large table at which we worked).
This open plan meant she could keep an eye on us therefore ensuring we would not take each other’s eyes out with a scissors or sharp pencil and she could still tackle the tidying.
This usually meant going through all our works of art which were kept in a large pile, decide which ones to keep, make a neat pile of those and put them in a corner of the room and throw out the rest.
As the day passed all that really happened was the large pile moved from one corner to another as my mother obviously found joy in each piece and couldn’t bear to throw any away.
Was my mother an enthusiastic but failed Konmariest?.
But back to my conversation with my friend about simplicity.
She had become worried that my financial whinging (See part one) was making me depressed and was making every effort to lift me out of this depression.
‘Why don’t you write 20 goals to be achieved during 2016 that won’t cost you anything or at least very little and I’ll do the same. They must be simple! Then when we have our lists written we can compare notes’.
I felt 20 was a lot but she was so enthusiastic I rallied round and after a while got into the swing of it.
Over the days that followed, as my list grew longer, I realised there were a lot of things I no longer did that were simple and affordable.
My sister joined in.
Put down ‘go to an island’ She ordered. My sister can be bossy at times, ‘Everyone should spend some time on a small island at least once a year’.
So I added ‘ Visit small island’ after number 22 which was ‘Cycle the green way again in the spring, when the hawthorn blossoms are on the hills’
Later picking up some groceries in my local shop, I glanced at the cover of a magazine by the checkout (an item I definitely couldn’t afford) which showed the face of a handsome young man beside the face of a beautiful young woman.
‘I don’t want Cheryl’s money’ read the headline .
‘Do you realise?’ I said to the woman’s photo ‘I can’t even afford the magazine you are featured in let alone imagine what sort of money you have that would make your boyfriend deny wanting to have it in public’.
As I stood there (the queue was long) images of large mansions in the south of france, yachts on the med, rolls royces in the garage, a field of thoroughbreds, floated through my mind.
But for some reason I couldn’t blot out the vision of goal number 22.
Cycling from Achill to Westport along the greenway in late spring when the hawthorn was in bloom on a sunny day, the wind at my back, a picnic in my bicycle basket kept appearing in front of that french Chateau and the field of thoroughbreds kept turning into the small island boreen (goal number 23) which was lined on both sides with fuchsia and creamy meadowsweet, and along which I walked, my swimsuit and towel thrown over my arm on my way to the beach.
I realised the only things of wealth I needed were, my legs, my sight, my health and of course a robust bicycle.
At that moment I had to move aside from the magazine rack and make room for an elderly shuffling couple who were using their trolley as a walking aid.
They stood behind me.
‘Do we need rashers’ The woman asked her husband. They both leant on the trolley for support while they pondered over the trouble and effort of fetching such an item and I was just about to offer to go and get it for them when the husband replied ‘Ah let’s just keep it simple? let’s have scrambled eggs and toast for tea’
With that they both perked up and moved purposefully towards the check out.
And I stood back and let them skip the queue.