• Claire Sutcliffe

What Marie Kondo Taught Me

Updated: Mar 28

I am not a centipede, but I have thirty-eight pairs of shoes. Why do I have so many I wonder?

Marie Kondo, the tidying expert is famous for telling people, “Keep only those things that speak to the heart and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.” As I consider the value of each pair and decide whether to keep or throw them, I feel like I am looking through an old photo album. I realize each pair tells a story of my life and offers wisdom.

The brightly-coloured, plastic flip flops from Primark were bought on impulse one day in Kingston. The lairy, shocking-pink and orange Aztec design caught my eye. Then I noticed them in teal, yellow and white so I bought two pairs as I thought they would be handy for a hoped-for beach holiday. At ninety-pence each they were cheaper than a coffee. But they are flimsy. A quick walk from the nail salon to the car park is all they are good for. Any further and they start to hurt. I don’t know why I am so disappointed. You don’t buy a cat and expect it to fetch balls. I am reminded to curtail my impulsivity.

The flip flops with the contoured sole from TK Maxx weren’t available in size five, so I bought a six. Then they stretched even more and became more flap than flip. I didn't want to throw them away so I kept them by the back door, like a forlorn Cinderella, and used them to take out the bins. I realize that I'm a sucker for a bargain even when it's false economy.

I have twelve pairs of ballet flats in various colours and I realise that they are nearly all purchases from stores that I pass on-the-way to somewhere else. I especially like the soft, pink leather shoes with the black taffeta ribbon from Accessorize. The leather is as soft as a chamois and I'm reminded that sometimes on the way to somewhere, you take a detour and get lucky.

At the back of the rack, I re-discover the gold pumps I bought from Sainsbury’s on my way to the checkout. I always intend to stick to my list, but temptation is everywhere and it intensfies the longer I spend gathering boring food and household goods neatly wrapped in cellophane, plastic, tin, and cardboard. As I head to the till, I must run the gauntlet. Perfume, sparkly jewellery, lace underwear, and a firework display of flowers; red hot roses, pyrotechnic gerberas, and explosive lilies, all jump out at me. Sometimes a little treat reminds you to value yourself while serving others.

Casting my eyes along the bottom rail, I notice eight pairs of black ankle boots with various shaped toes; pointed, almond and round. I like the round the best. The pointed ones make my feet look big unless I am wearing boot-cut trousers, in which case the demure tips, coyly peek out from their snug hiding place to let people know that I am not barefoot. They look good for their age, and I congratulate myself for treating them with the Nubuck spray that the lady in Clarks sold me after an outstanding before and after demo; the water trickled off effortlessly, like rain on quality oilskin.

My favourite pixie boots with a mock leather fringe although cared for, have seen better days. I’ve worn them so much that the heel has been ground down at an angle to reveal a white plastic interior, which makes a clicking noise when I walk. Like a comfortable old friend, they still accompany me on day trips. Last time I visited the National Gallery, I had to tip-toe out. Despite their appearance, I keep them because I love them with the kind of love that the Greeks would describe as Pragma; old, married love characterised by a deep-knowing and respect. Should they rip tomorrow, I would be happy for the good times and let them go freely, but not before death does us part.

I bought a replacement pair just in case - a brand called Foot-glove. The seductive name oozed warmth and comfort and I hoped that the sensible, sturdy rubber wedge would last longer. When I tried them on, two elderly ladies admired the diamante studded, dove-grey cowboy boots I was wearing. “Oooh Margaret, look at them,” announced the woman with bright pink lipstick. “Gooorgeous!” exclaimed, who I suppose was Margaret, trying on a pair of loafers. “I love anything that sparkles don’t I Carol?” she confessed. I smiled and thought of the shocking-pink satin, Betsy Johnston heels in my wardrobe peppered with pink diamonds, which I am sure Margaret would love too because it appears we are both suckers for glitz and glamour in a world that has become informal.

A week later, another old lady admired my Foot-gloves. “They’re nice,” she announced with a friendly smile, “a bit like mine.” And I followed her gaze to her outstretched ankle and elongated toes. “Mine are from M&S,” I offered. “Yes, mine too,” she giggled, and we bonded like school girls at the start of term, showing off our shiny newness. Clearly, the Law of Attraction - like attracts like - applies to shoes too and draws like-minded people.

I wonder who I'd meet if I popped out in my wicked, velvet, evening shoes with three-inch heels and floppy satin bows from Hobbes. I bought them when my appearance mattered, but now they remind me that sometimes you should recognise when to let things go, including the young woman you once were.

As I look at the bagful of shoes destined for the charity shop and my organised closet with a selection of shoes that are all practical, useful and comfortable, I feel a sense of joy. Some of the remaining shoes have witnessed major and minor events in my life, while others are like new friends who are just embarking on the journey.

I also realise that that the selection I have left, could probably last me for the rest of my lifetime; it’s a sobering thought and makes me reflect on my hopes for the time I have left.

Some helpful advice for clearing out stuff

  1. Ask yourself: Do I love this and does it love me back? Is it beautiful, does it spark joy, is it useful, helpful or comforting? If so, keep it.

  2. If you love an item but will never use it or wear it, consider taking a photo as a keepsake. Then release the item back into circulation so someone else can benefit from it.

  3. Stop buying impulsively, to spare yourself from feeling bored or lonely. Accept that some tasks like supermarket shopping are a boring part of life and try to minimise your trips by getting more organised. Or reduce boredom by finding a positive benefit. For example, you might remind yourself that you are caring for your family, which is important. If that doesn't work, find something else to stimulate your mind; a podcast, Audible book, or another interest that you can do while you shop.

  4. Remember that mindless shopping like mindless eating, doesn't really serve you or the planet.


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