Marie Kondo the wardrobe of your life: pottering is good for you

☔ Gazing into my wardrobe on a wet Sunday afternoon, I had a sudden urge to Marie Kondo the **** out of that thing! Two hours later I had four neat piles: keep (the things that spark joy), upcycle, charity, and make into dusters. The 'keep' pile, once safely reinstalled on hangers, in drawers and on shelves, looked so appealing that I spent an additional ten minutes simply gazing in wonder at my small achievement. I had 'pottered' and it felt really good! ? ? ?

Image credit: Sarah Brown
Having an avid interest in craft, making, and 'doing' means that the staff at CraftCourses are well aware of the pleasure to be had in trying new things, learning new skills, or finding pleasure in helping others do the same. We like discovering new (and old) crafts, chatting to new (and seasoned) makers, and helping our many students find the perfect course or kit from our 6000+ experiences. We like to make somebody else's day better and we enjoy a good potter through the new courses that we see every day.
Image credit: Zuzana Kacerova
Pottering, at its heart and for the majority of us, is very simply doing small tasks or spending time on an activity without cause to wonder if you should or shouldn't be doing it. You just do it, without agenda, and time passes in pleasant, mindful occupation. When somebody asks you what you're doing at the weekend and you reply, "nothing much, just pottering really", what you are really saying is that you don't want to commit to anything; you might actually just want some time to yourself. 

When you're emotionally tired and running out of steam, that 'alone time' can be crucial in rediscovering your joy in the small but infinite pleasures of life that are tantalisingly out of reach when you're living your life at 100 miles per hour. Metaphorically speaking, instead of the trees rushing past the car window in a blur, every vein in every leaf on every twig and branch of every tree are suddenly brought into sharp focus; you begin to notice them again. Pottering is a way to bring peace and contentment back into your life. 
"Pottering is uncharted territory: spontaneously doing things from which you derive the tiniest bit of pleasure."
 Anna McGovern 
Image credit: Pierre Jeanneret
During Covid times, there has been a renewed focus on finding more mindfulness in our lives. The recognition of seemingly small things that remind us of the simple pleasures right under our noses, often remaining unappreciated. Staring in awe at an amazing view; smelling fresh mown grass; finishing a letter to a dear friend; completing that dressmaking project that has sat waiting for a few months; sitting and reading a favourite book (in the afternoon no less); savouring every mouthful of a delicious meal; gentle conversation; tidying the proverbial sock drawer; the list is endless but so often seen as 'wasted' time. The hectic nature of our lives has us frantically rushing around and we have forgotten how to just 'be in the moment.'
Image credit: Pina Messina
We have lost the ability to potter about at home or in the garden or in nature with no clear purpose and no guilt, but it's high time we rediscovered our mindful selves. Perhaps you may think it a tad cliché, after all the mindfulness message has been well used, but give yourself the permission to experience a little of this previously underrated way of living in the moment with acceptance. A little pottering really does go a long way!
Image credit: Yael Gonzalez
In her book, Pottering: A cure for modern life, Anna McGovern describes how pottering is a much-needed antidote to hectic modern life.
"Entirely simultaneously these two things are true: everyone is an expert potterer and no one is an expert potterer. You can do it frequently but you cannot do it ‘well’. There are no benchmarks for success when you listen to the radio, rearrange books on a shelf or stand on a chair flicking a tea towel at a cobweb on the ceiling."
 "No one can disapprove, inspect or guide you when you (slightly unnecessarily) organise and fold all your shopping bags, and select one as your ‘best’ grab-and-go bag to be left by the front door ready for your weekly shop. Activities like this lack ceremony: you are completely free of judgement and free to do as you please. It’s an escape from perfection and a lifestyle that’s ‘always-on’."
 Anna McGovern
Image credit: Kateryna Hliznitsova
Anna's key principles are a handy way to think about, tap into and benefit from the gentle art of pottering:
  • Don't try too hard - think of pottering as being on a spectrum of thoroughness. It can be momentary (tidying up paint brushes), or lengthy (sorting boxes of old photographs into albums).
  • Use what you've got - pottering is about living simply and making do. 
  • Keep it local - enjoy reconnection with your local community whether that is a chat with the local shop owner or somebody walking their dog.
  • Try not to rush - a sense of freedom and relaxation is achieved by doing things at a slower pace. Taking your time over small tasks can be preparation for more complicated tasks but they are, in their own way, of equal importance to your feelings of calm and wellbeing.
Image credit: Sema Martin
Okay, so the thought of becoming a consummate potterer may be a bit of a stretch for some of you, so how about becoming a potter? That's the beauty of pottering; there are absolutely no rules, you just have to find something, anything that gives you pleasure without feeling the need to quantify it or play by any rules but your own.
Image credit: Earl Wilcox
The art of pottery is often described as therapeutic and relaxing. While throwing, sculpting or moulding clay, your mind and body are in natural synergy, wrapped around your creative ambitions and goals. This thoughtful, creative activity can open up the mind and soothe tired emotions. Potting is recognised as beneficial for health in many ways such as: being a creative outlet; increasing optimistic outlook; improving focus; expressing creativity through exploring and experimentation; reducing stress and stress-associated pain; helping to reduce pain and discomfort from arthritis; encouraging sociability; capturing memories; and improving quality of life.

Whether you're pottering or potting, spending time doing something pleasurable for yourself at a slow, relaxed pace is good for you. Don't deny yourself the chance to take those moments and Marie Kondo the wardrobe of your life.

Some further reading you may enjoy:

WoB - Pottering: A cure for modern life by Anna McGovern
WoB - Practical Pottery by Jon Schmidt
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