Monday musing: is KonMari for creatives?

The world of creatives is super glamorous – slick white studios floored with polished concrete; inspirational images pinned so artistically to mood boards that they could be mistaken for finished works; pale pine timber shelves hanging from ropes and lined with succulents in pretty pastel plant pots; and any work materials neatly piled/hung/stored out of sight or skilfully incorporated to appear an integral component of the overall decoration scheme. Every element carefully and artistically considered as part of the whole. Just like my craft room.


It may appear that this orange desk stacked on top of another desk is a mere space-saving device, but in reality it resembles the oppression of the artisan by mass market forces. The plastic crates crammed with fabric are a symbol of the overflowing exuberance the creative experiences when inspiration strikes and the white vintage supermarket bag sitting on top of the crate stack at right is not there to keep the dust off, but rather to remind the artist of the pervading plastic presence in society which should be actively combated through craft. Note the subtle juxtaposition between the mass produced, machine made plastic bag and the hand crafted basket and black lacquer box at left. These were not placed there simply because there was no room anywhere else in the house, but rather to recall the uneasy dichotomy between the contemporary and past traditions.


This whimsical assortment of items forms a large part of the artist’s arsenal. Note the prominence of red which creates unity in the composition. There is a sense of playfulness in the choice of storage containers, with tea canisters and a handcrafted wooden tea crate selected to gently poke fun at the stereotypical association between females in the craft industry and their beverage of choice. The casual, crammed placement of objects is intentional – any correlation between lack of space and the random assortment of items lies entirely in the viewer’s imagination. That said, this collection of items is rarely on public display as it is concealed in the drawer of a sofa.


Lining the bare wooden seat section of the sofa in the second image is a collection of shoes which are skilfully arrayed under another sofa. Again, to the untrained eye this technique of stacking two unused sofas and cramming them with footwear appears to be a haphazard approach to conserving space, but in this instance it is an artistic rendering of the real estate trend for apartment living which is spreading out from the city and into the urban fringe, not only in Melbourne but in many parts of the world. To the right, plastic crates and shoeboxes which are difficult to access without moving the footwear collection are slightly visible – another “tongue-in-cheek” play on the property market where residences the size of shoeboxes are fetching huge sums of money but are not accessible to the average creative.

OK, so perhaps I don’t quite fit the mould of creatives who showcase their pristine work space on inspirational websites and in coffee-table tomes, but I’m not the only maker who is constantly surrounded by mess (or perhaps “curated chaos” is a better term?). And although every second web article I read seems to be about the lifechanging KonMari method of decluttering, I’m extremely hesitant to get on the bandwagon myself.

Yes, I’d love to not have to pick my way around piles of material or spend half an hour moving random objects just to find my sewing machine, but from what I can gather* there are two main points to Marie Kondo’s method: keeping only things that “spark joy”, and getting rid of things by category rather than cleaning from room to room. Neither of these resonate with me, either as a crafter or even really as just a normal person, and here’s why:

As a crafter: I make things from crap! Or to use “trendy” jargon, “I upcycle waste into usable items”. If I hold the core of a roll of dog poo bags in my hand, for instance, it does not “spark joy” at the time necessarily – but I can see that it has potential to be used for a future project. And if I don’t love it, I can usually dismantle it and make something else. So the “does it spark joy?” question which is meant to determine whether or not you keep something really doesn’t work for me. And the “cleaning by category” thing is slightly tricky too because of the randomness of items in my stash. Currajong pods, beads, string, leather scraps, kimono fabric, other fabric, sequins, clip on earrings, cores from reels of thread etc etc… they all fit in the “stash” category and then into smaller categories but however I look at it, I own a lot of items that defy pigeonholing!

As a normal person (well, fairly normal): The several long-sleeved T-shirts in various shades of grey that I wear under jumpers certainly do not send me into ecstasies. Nor does my collection of underwear. But I have kind of become accustomed to wearing things under my clothes (call me crazy!) and living in Melbourne where the weather changes every five minutes, clothing that can be layered is invaluable. And if I were to categorise things – put all my socks, for example, in a pile to see just how many I have which should prompt me to get rid of some, I could certainly throw out a lot of socks… but if keeping them now (and darning them when they get holes) saves me money down the track, why would I get rid of them?

Don’t get me wrong, I have actually spent a large part of the summer getting stuck into unwanted stuff in the house AND the garage (who wants to go away on holiday when you could clean out the garage instead?!) and hauling boxes to opshops, but as much as I envy people who can, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to operate on the minimalist principles of KonMari.

How about you? Is your craft room something Marie Kondo herself would be proud of or do you operate more on “creative chaos” principles?

PS Another Melbourne crafty lady who is a lot more famous than myself is also having trouble cleaning up…


*I have not actually read her book myself. I prefer to save my eyes for words that “spark joy”.

….And on another note, it amuses me that clutter is so universal that even villagers in remote Ethiopia have to deal with it. In The Tribe, one of the ladies laments the amount of junk in her hut’s attic. Definitely worth a watch for a chuckle at that and other (probably quite edited) “they’re just like us” moments – but also for the beautiful beads and hairstyles which had me glued to the TV for the duration of the show.