An Open Letter to Marie Kondo

Dear Marie,

Thank you so much for making the wonderful programme Tidying Up come on my telly via the magic of Netflix. All the mums in the playground are talking about it and it seems like such a wonderful way for us all to get our collective shit together (before sorting through it and discarding it, right?) However, I’ve had a go and I got a bit stuck so I have a few questions. I’m hoping you could answer to enable me to complete my Tidying Up journey.

Firstly, is joy the only emotion we’re going for here? Did you hold all the other emotions close to your heart first before settling on joy? Did you go through serenity, fulfilment, gratitude, hope and inspiration before discarding each one and deciding joy was the one for us all?

What are we supposed to do about the stuff that doesn’t belong to us but rather inconveniently only brings other people joy? My friend was a bit upset when her husband watched an episode of Tidying Up then got rid of all the stuff that brought her joy to make room for his own. Thankfully he decided to keep her, after giving her a good feel to check for joy.

I am certain that my kids toys do not bring me joy Marie (apart from the fingerlings parent and baby monkey because awww). I would happily scoop them all up in a black bag and leave them out for the bin men, rather than try and unstick one more splodge of slime from a school uniform cardigan, or trip over one more twirly flashy spinny thing on wheels at 1am. But I think my kids might be a bit put out.

I went through my daughter’s changing table full of medical supplies and continence products, and I tried really hard but I couldn’t find a single spark of joy there. What, in your opinion, is the best way to store suppositories in a way that sparks joy Marie? Perhaps a decorative basket? Does it matter that my daughter calls the suppositories bottom sausages and tries to give them to her toys? Do you have any tips for getting shit stains out of rattan Marie?

I know you say we should share the joy of tidying up with our children. I tried to teach them to fold, I really did, but the little one preferred taking all the folded clothes out of the drawer and putting them back in the washing machine. The big one showed more interest, but at the start of the lesson told me she already knew how to do it before screwing her t shirt up in to a ball and hurling it in to the wardrobe.

If we’re being honest honest Marie (or should I call you Miss Marie like all the well behaved and obedient children on your to show?) my kids don’t always bring me joy. Just this evening my daughter cried because we were playing hide and seek and I found her. She later exacted her revenge by quietly putting a soggy pink wafer biscuit in the pocket of my favourite hoodie. What can I do about them Miss Marie? I know I’m not supposed to get rid of them. Should I fold them in to tiny squares and put them in a drawer?

What about my rape alarm Marie? I suppose that falls under the ‘joyless but necessary’ category you describe in your books. I’m supposed to store like items together aren’t I? Do I put it with the other electricals or with the baggy jumpers?

What category do psychiatric discharge papers come under Marie? Paper, health or sentimental? Should I save them to look back on fondly? Or do I follow your advice for other sentimental objects and display them prominently so I can enjoy them daily? I came across them yesterday when sorting my papers and they pulled my trachea down to my navel. Do they spark joy? Let’s see. “Mrs F (apparently you are not allowed to be a Dr when you are mental) exhibits emotional disturbance, experiences and behaviour congruent with a postpartum psychosis triggered by obstetric trauma”. I checked for joy Marie, I didn’t find any. Perhaps I did it wrong because I found myself unable to throw them away.

Am I doing it wrong Marie? Am I supposed to discard all of the messy and joyless parts of me too? All of the unclean and untidy and inconvenient histories that lay buried in a drawer between the mortgage certificate and the warrantee for the dishwasher?

Would you come to the pub with me and my friends Marie? We get drunk and swear and talk about our fannies, which I suppose on second thoughts is a bit messy for you isn’t it? Talking of fannies, mine is certainly not very tidy in recent years what with all the scalpels and forceps and stitches and all, but it does still bring me joy. This is a quandary as I can neither get rid of my vagina nor tidy it up. Any advice Marie?

I did my best and now I have loads of bin bags to ditch. Except everyone has been watching you on the telly and now the charity shop has a sign on the door saying ‘no more kids clothes or toys please’ and the shoe bank slot has got wedged with plastic bags again. What shall I do with them now? I don’t want to send them to landfill. Global warming doesn’t spark joy for me Marie.

What if I finish my tidying marathon, and achieve a kind of bland, blank house where everything is hidden in a drawer and everything is perfectly, neatly folded? Either out of sight or standing up on its own? Will I have done it right? Is that what joy looks like Marie?

Or what if I end up alone in an empty house? What if I hold myself tight and check for joy and I can’t find it? I thought about chucking myself away once Marie and I don’t honestly think I’d do it again.

I’m hoping you can find the time to respond to some of my questions. Let me know about that drink.

Joyfully Yours

Dr Firebird


New Year

Happy New Year!
It was quite a quiet one for us this year, a whispered party at home with the teetotal in-laws whilst FireGirl slept. She didn’t even wake up when all the fireworks went off. Despite the low key celebration, I was really happy; excited about the opportunities and changes this year will hopefully bring.

It wasn’t always this way. That first year, I was 5 months post partum, 4 months put of hospital and sunk well in to postnatal depression. When Jools Holland and co chimed in midnight, I allowed myself a tiny sip of champagne (I was still heavily medicated and not supposed to drink alcohol). I tried to hold it together but as I went round hugging and kissing my family, stinging tears betrayed me, welling up and over.

It wasn’t just the depression. New year is inevitably a time of reflection and review, and I was crushed by the stark comparison between how I’d started the year; excited and full of naive hope, with how I’d ended it; depressed, tranquilized and feeling like I was begrudgingly surviving motherhood rather than embracing it. How did I get here?

The following year was slightly better. I’d come a really long way. I was medication free, back at work (I’d thought my career was over once I’d been hospitalised) and felt like I was fairly content with life. I still had a way to go in trauma therapy though, and was still feeling a lot of shame about my mental health. FireGirl’s first birthday had come and gone, friends were announcing second pregnancies and I just wasn’t there yet, though I so wanted to be.

This time at midnight, the fireworks had woken my girl up and spooked her, so I broke with tradition and gave her my first kiss of the new year instead of my husband. We watched the sky light up out my parents’ spare room window, and as I watched her sleepy face light up, I whispered to her, “I’m really glad I’m here with you”, and I meant it. I love that girl so much.

New years can feel great, a time for new beginnings and a time for celebration. It can also feel awful. This natural time for reflection can leave us feeling like we’re not where we wanted to be and feeling disappointed in the year and ourselves. If, when the clock strikes midnight, you feel like crying instead of cheering, don’t be too hard on yourself. Allow yourself the tears. Hold fast brave mama, better times are right around the corner.