Have you watched the new Netflix series ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’? I have and, like what appears to be the majority of women of a certain age (what is that anyway? I fear to say I might be in the middle??), I am completely hooked.
As a mum of a 14 and 12 year old, as you can imagine my time spent at home is almost entirely solitary. Outside meal times, they only enter the kitchen to grab snacks, which, after declaring they don’t exist, they somehow find and then slope back to their bedrooms to add to the decorative collection of glasses, plates and bowls they stockpile there on every surface to ensure I don’t leave the room empty handed on my next visit. (I think it’s a misdirected attempt to try and keep me busy, so that I’m spending less time thinking about their excessive dedication to American teenagers carrying out ‘challenges’ like shopping for very ugly clothing in Target on Youtube!)
So, what has this got to do with Marie Kondo and a holiday cottage??? Well, it means that, to battle the loneliness, while I’m cooking or ironing I tend to binge watch Netflix. So by the time I had worked my way through the mountain of Christmas ironing, which had reached the point of ‘weakly bonded and largely unstable’, the definition of ‘Very High’ on the avalanche risk scale I understand, the philosophies of my new girl-crush, Marie Kondo, had become the stuff of my rather late New Year’s Resolutions.
Of course I did the obvious thing and started with my spouse’s belongings, because, ‘where else?’ Although much more challenging to decipher what ‘sparks joy’ here, I did find it was a great place to truly get to grips with the skills of ‘discarding’. “Thank you and goodbye strangely faded, luminous green shorts with bleach splashes and actual holes in” Nailed it!
And, it works! I love it. You can open a drawer and see every item in it immediately. You can condense 30 items into a small space effortlessly. And the clincher is, it requires no additional effort to keep it that way. You’re folding t-shirts anyway, yes? So just fold them like this instead. No problem. And when you look at the end result, it just feels good.
But while I was congratulating myself wholeheartedly on a job well done (accompanied by a faint whimper of concern for the first glimmer of sunshine which would herald the searching for the green shorts) it was swiftly coupled with my overwhelm at the thought of how long it would take to Kondo the rest of the house, and how I would get the rest of the family to comply. Let's be real, just persuading the children that the stalks of broccoli are edible too takes a level of fortitude I just don’t have every day.
But then it dawned on me that I already have the perfect Marie Kondo’d space (she’s a verb now, yes?). And it’s The Cottage Belcoo! If you have before now read my social media posts, you’ll have often heard me talk about the feeling of contentment and calm I get when I walk into this cottage. My guests often reference it in their reviews and messages to me too, so I know it translates to others as well.
But now I have the terminology to go with it. It is a Kondo friendly environment!
Here are a few examples of what I mean:
There are six water glasses, 4 champagne flutes, 4 wines glasses (2 for red, 2 for white). They are all matching and they are all lined up in straight rows. The same position every time. If one breaks, it's replaced with one exactly the same. There is one of everything you need, but not more, so everyday tasks are easy and hassle free. No unnecessary choices to be made, and at the same time no annoying absences.
There’s a simple, aesthetically pleasing, shelf and rail in each bedroom, always 8 matching wooden hangers hanging on each. Enough/sufficient for those items which need to be hung on a short stay.
The bedroom décor is deliberately simple, so it's calm and non-distracting. Over a period of 6 months I searched for vintage pieces which would feel at home here. Every item has its’ place, and it isn’t busy or cluttered. There’s always a coaster on each bedside cabinet, anticipating your cup of morning coffee or night time glass of water (you don't want to go looking for that, you just need it to be there; so it is.)
I completely understand the idea of an item ‘sparking joy’. You know when something ‘just fits’. When I look at the kitsch little china cat which sits on the mantelpiece I think of where I found it and it makes me smile. To that end it's worth far more than the £2 I paid for it. The wallpaper in the hallway is of maps because of the travel reference, which I enjoy every time I look at it. The sofa gives me that pleasure you get from knowing you found just the thing you wanted. The blanket sits on its’ side because it’s lovely to pull a blanket over you when you’re snuggling up on an evening. There’s nothing unnecessary to me in the space. It’s there because of its’ shape, or its’ colour, or its’ usefulness, or simply because I can imagine the way in which it will be used and give my guests pleasure .
It’s the definition of simple living to me. A welcoming, aesthetically pleasing living space with the things you need, zero clutter, and a sprinkling of joyful possessions, which bring calm and peace, and which everyone can enjoy. When you walk in, it feels like a home you can make your own.
Marie Kondo writes, ‘As I look around, my glance falls on a painting that I particularly love, purchased overseas, and a vase of fresh flowers in one corner. Although not large, the space I live in is graced only with those things that speak to my heart. My lifestyle brings me joy.’ ‘Speaks to my heart’? Spot on, Marie. The best ideas are simple after all. She’s just voiced what lots of us already sensed, and I love her for it.
Of course, some of this is because it’s a holiday cottage i.e. unlike my home or yours there is no ‘excess baggage’ it needs to hold. And some of it is because it’s my holiday cottage (I decorated it the way I would want it if I were coming on holiday). But the effect is the same, and that’s what makes it somewhere I would want to stay.
Holidays and breaks give you an opportunity to live your best life. This place fulfils a lot of my cottage daydreams. It’s the me I would be if I didn’t have 50 pairs of jeans, 3 dogs, and a husband with approximately 30 hobbies which all apparently need monthly deliveries of ‘safety equipment’ (Who can argue with that?). But when I go away I get to shed all that stuff, bring my two favourite denims (one of which I still won’t even wear) and channel my inner ‘Kondo’. Isn't that what we all want when we go away? We want to shed the 'stuff' which clutters our space and minds, focus on the things which give us genuine pleasure, and spend proper time with our loved one, our friends, or our children.
So if that sounds good to you, come ahead and live your own cottage daydreams at The Cottage Belcoo. Walk the famous Cuilcagh boardwalk, explore the magical Cavan Burren, or get on the lakes, and know the bath salts are waiting in the bathroom for your soak when you get back. Or if that all sounds like too much effort that day, maybe you could just make a start by settling onto the sofa, signing in to your Netflix account on our TV, and having your very own Marie binge. Baby steps, right? It's your break, there's no judgement here. :)