Wednesday, July 20, 2016

KonMari, Paper - What do you keep, why do you keep it, and when to letgo

Do you keep nice, organized files? Do you have stacks of bills around the house? Do you keep pieces of paper just in case you need them one day? Love notes? 

Are you a grown-ass adult still holding on to their elementary school paperwork?

Oh, no? That's just me than...

I don't think that I will ever have to prove how smart I was as a kid, but I have my Talented and Gifted award from elementary school. I kept this with my Presidential Fitness Award, Safety Patrol Award, and Student Leadership awards. I had every single scholastic test result from primary and secondary school. I had almost every glowing report card till grade 11.

Among these, I also found school newspapers and creative writing magazines. When I was a kid, I was usually included in these publications because I was “advanced” as a creative writer. Yet these staple-bound copy-machine creations were absent of my childhood creativity. Why the hell did I keep them in the first place?

The more important question for me to ask is this:

What do these things represent to me now as a 37-year-old woman with a husband, career, master's degree, two puppies, two kitties, and generally happy life?  

If I am honest, clutter. Who wants to see this stuff but me? Does it matter now that I was "brilliant" when I was a kid? Going over the paperwork, I wasn’t even that special. Sure I had A’s and above average scholastic marks, but none of this matters.

I am still brilliant, funny, and creative. Damn skippy.

None of my personal paperwork matters when I step back and consider what storing and moving all this flammable material means.

All this paperwork reminds me of the potential of that little girl. I’m reminded that I was awkward and not popular. I was kind of a dork who liked dancing school and writing. To be defined by a past captured in standardized testing is not the life I strive for now.


Kondo encourages us to toss all the paper we can: the lecture notes, old bills, manuals, etc.

She says we should take care of bills when we get them and shred them when done. If you need to keep certain files, receipts, proof-of-purchase or warranty, mark with them with the date to dispose of them. 

That TV has a one year warranty? Mark the date of purchase and write on the date it expires. I highlight it. It can go after that date because it is useless.

I had a box-file of user manuals for everything in my house: the fridge, stove, grill, TV, lawn mower, dish washer, computer, laptop, motorcycles, car, washer and dryer (even two I got rid of), mixer, rice maker, juicer, vacuum, remotes, hard drives, and more. I have receipts from all manner of home repair and home ownership. Then there was this:

Filing this was one of those "we may need it" scenarios. “BUT we may need it SOMEDAY.” Hello Crazy, it says DO NOT FILE!

I had 8 copies of my mortgage paperwork, at least. Three say DO NOT FILE because they were freaking copies! Ugh.

Let me tell you the truth: I have never referred to the guide for my coffeepot. I have never used a warranty for anything because almost everything that has one, breaks right after the limited warranty is over. Meanwhile, I put them in a box and save forever. 

Not anymore. How do I apply Kondo-crazy to an American home?
1.     I have listed all the model numbers and information for each item in one list and have tossed the booklets. 
2.     I have created one file box with items to keep about the house that can be given to someone if they were to ever buy my home (fence, roof, stairs, siding, plumbing, survey, etc).
3.     All the appliances I am selling will now have nice little booklets to go along with them! (bad reason to save them forever, but here is where I am at)
I am storing home paperwork in the safe, where they will be safe from fire or flood. Not that we have either planned, but I have worried about this in the back of my mind for a long time. I plan, when the purge is complete, to take inventory and photos of everything else in the home and storing this on a flash drive in the safe too. The model numbers and receipts I have kept are handy for insurance purposes, so I am glad to do this added step for peace of mind. I can imagine this is will add relaxation to my mine because I will not have to scramble in case something ever happens.

That is my adulating in action.

This is all I have left of personal papers:

I used to save all my school notes from college, all my papers, all my handouts - like I was going to one day need them. Let me tell you a secret - I have never looked at old notes and said "Now I totally remember why I saved this". It is more like "My handwriting is terrible" or "My papers are not very good. If I graded this I would have given it a C."

Have you ever run across the blatherings of your High School social life in handwritten notes? Bleck… I'd share the hand-passed notes from friends that say nothing important, but I won't because I tossed them. They are irrelevant in my life now. I did read them all again for nostalgia.

I placed importance on saving little stupid things to immortalize moments in my life that were important to the teen me. The years have given me perspective and the distance has given me understanding - the actual thing is not the memory.  When I am gone from this world, the last thing I want people to read is the banal bullshit my friend Chris and I discussed on notes in high school.

I put all the sentimental papers and photos to the side as Kondo suggests. Don’t get distracted as I did while purging! Put all that memorabilia to the side especially if you have lots of papers to go through.

Of all the papers I found, and I know there is a still a box buried in the garage, I shred 3 bags and tossed 3 kitchen bags full. I probably will have more in the sentimental items, but Kondo says this last section is the most difficult to go through.

Have you the same paper-mountain I do? Do you save and file papers for just-in-case?

Tune in next time when I start tackling my Komodo or miscellaneous items...

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

KonMari - Does this blog make me look preachy?

We have too much stuff.

Here is a general statement - we retain a lot of stuff we don't need. Our capitalistic culture wants us to keep buying more stuff. Our culture wants us to keep up with the Jones, to memorialize moments in sourviers, to buy storage solutions for our things, maybe hold grudges and emotional baggage of guilt associated with gifts and hand-me-downs. We keep to preserve but to also avoid loss.

Last night after reading a really hysterical piece of satire about the influx of the KonMari and minimalism into our culture, I started to feel bad that I was step-by-step processing my belongings in this method and it was a bit...gross.

I had that same reservation when I took my first photo for this segment of the blog - my entire wardrobe on my bed.

Can you imagine I looked at this, at one time thankful for the bounty that allowed me all these clothes, but also horrified at my own horde. "Oh, poor me. I have too much stuff and I can't manage it all like a normal person. Waaaahhh." Boo frickin Hoo.

But that is just it, isn't it. What is normal? I am striving for my normal, who gives a crap about anything more than this. Right now I can tell you that up until this process of discarding the weight, I felt like my home was too much work, too cluttered, and stressful. Inventory has helped me take stock of the emotional value and actual value of keeping everything I purchase.

I want to keep what I love, in Kondo's words, what sparks joy.

I grew up barely middle-class with divorced parents and they taught me not to waste perfectly good things. Somewhere along that path I lost sight of how to manage it all and what "good" really meant. You, dear reader, get to watch me figure it out.

I have followed minimalism websites like The Minimalists, which is about people seeking value from their lives beyond the constant consumerism and rat-race. Sure there are plenty of  people who live with less than 100 belongings total, some with less than 60! These people are wandering mystics to me. I have read these:

Leo Babauta’s Description of Minimalism
Joshua Becker’s Benefits of Minimalism
Colin Wright’s Minimalism Explained
And in all, I respect people who step back from getting caught up in "stuff". I really love to see how people pare down their wardrobes into outfits of good standards and own solid and well-made pieces of classic clothing. It is as if these people have really figured out adulting and only spend money on experiences and things that last. 
That satire had me thinking - do I really come across as the level of gross and crazy in this blog? I argue no, because I am consciously questioning how crazy Kondo seems in the fanaticism with which she purges (talking to and thanking each thing you discard for it's service? Yeah, she is over-the-top). But if I do sound crazy, fuck it. 
You're the one reading this crap. I's trying to be honest in case someone out there feels like they are alone in their secret drawer-and-closet-horde of stuff.
This discarding process provides me structure to do what some people probably already do - keep neat and well-organized spaces. Also, it helps me toss things I hold because "I can maybe use it" (but have never used it). 
Let's take those shoes for example. None of the shoes in this picture is newer than one year old, aside from the graduation shoes I crafted.

Even the shoes in the box were purchased a year ago, as were the red sparkly flats that are too big but were a steal, I only have one set of feet. The oldest pair is probably the brown Vibram Classics, at 10 years old. Then are the brown Frye boots, 8 years old. But here are the whole amount of shoes, I as an American, used to own. 

The number of toe-shoes is where I depart from most people, but for me, the problem is I hold onto things far past their use and style. I'll bet most of my girlfriends have more heels than I do, or more flip-flops....everyone has their thing. The point is when you put it all together, the sum total is more than you need and you can see the flaws in individual pieces that you overlook when things are spread out.

I've half this amount now.  Kondo gave me permission to let go of 10 year old shoes that are not in good condition, that I have not worn in 2 years, and those that are never the pair I grab. I am rational. I am emotional. I needed outside perspective.

I am not going to discard everything I own and live in a temple. But, I gotta say that it is far nicer now to live in my bedroom with the right amount of clothing and shoes for me. I like that I can close drawers and doors now. 

I'm not looking to go full-guru here. Hell, I don't mind if anyone reads this or not. This is working to make me less stressed by the things I have held tight to for longer than I should have.

Honestly, I hate that I find it difficult to toss things. If I didn't use something until it broke (and even then I would glue/sew/up-cycle it), I felt I had to keep it. It can be used, so I keep it. It doesn't look that bad, so I keep it. I never use it, but I keep it. It all amounts to padding a life with things that take time to manage. I want to give my time/energy/money/creativity/heart to other pursuits. 

Minimalism at its core can best be summed up by The Minimalists: Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.

I want to share my journey here so that it is concrete (in my mind). So far Kondo has helped me:
  • find clarity
  • discard without guilt
  • focus on my creativity and not constantly finding storage solutions
  • take a real look at the number of similar items I actually have
  • focus on what I love
  • realize the space I live in is totally my making
  • really see what I have disregarded while "too busy"
  • get my adult life together
I am done with the first two categories and must move on to paper tomorrow. If you are reading this, do you think it is wrong to share the process? Do you also find yourself torn between loving your things and feeling burdened by them?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

KonMari - The 'wait' of books weighing me down

It is now Tuesday, and I am finished with my bedroom books, finally! I have pared down from 436 books to about 45 books(!) plus a stack of adult coloring books. Before we get there, I want to walk through the process for me.

In the last blog you saw me in my home-cleaning mode: overwhelmed and dusty.

I dumped the contents of my bookcase, the piles off my dresser, the stack that was in my closet from my thesis research, the scattered books I had stored in the secretary downstairs. I can't believe how many there were.

I had so many other things squeezed in these books: notes, journals, photos, handouts, magazines, manuals, audio book CDs, a few DVDs for teaching, 2 more B&N gift cards, a stock lens for my DSLR, and what can best be described as 'in-case-I-need-it' paperwork. 

I could not organize into the categories Marie Kondo suggests. She thinks one can move general books and text books, reference books and fiction, into piles and work trough them in categories. I could not because I had so much and the space to do this is limited. I specifically moved them onto the bed because I would be forced to go through them all in one go. I would need a spot to sleep afterall. 

In the end, I was able to remove the books that I already read or would never read again. I let go of every single teaching textbook I ever owned. This was easy because I know that things change. It was difficult to say goodbye to my Donald Murray and Peter Elbow books, though in going through this process, I realize I lent my best of these to someone in grad school and I never got them back! I know their names, and I have assimilated their content. I doubt I will need their books in my immediate future, and the library is the best place to find these standard text in the future.

I am less sure of the pile of magazines I have put in the pile. I subscribed to Whiskey Advocate and Imbibe and saved them all. I saved a select number of Wired that I grab when we go away so I have something to read. I have not read them all and that dense pile on the far left is what remains. Kondo writes that the time to read a book or magazine is when it comes to you the first time. The immediacy of the message it holds is within and when you store it for later, it looses its value. I am not sure I buy into this. I will let them all go after an afternoon flipping through them one last time.

My bookshelf can breathe now.  The second from the bottom shelf contains only coloring books and journals and the bottom, self-help Tony Robbins and reference.

The energy within these books is for someone else now. I have gained what info I can from them.Someone else needs them I am almost positive. It is kind of awesome that I have been able to relive my initial contact and remember the content in each book as I let it go. I only saved those that have brought me joy and those that I still turn too. If I didn't read it yet, there must be a reason.

I have the pile of books lent to me that I need to return. People need to install GPS on their books if they want them back apparently!

I may keep Rick's Douglas Adams because it still is joyful. The Catching Fire audio book needs to be returned to the library (it is about 3 years overdue!). The Mammoth Hunters is book three of a set that needs a read before I return it to Billie. The Help was brilliant, but I have held it for over 2 years from Noreen. The fertility books were informative, but did not help my issues and I have resigned myself to being an awesome dog mom for ever and hoping my 401K will pay for a nice retirement home someday. Finally Beautiful Creatures was lent to me about 3 years ago from Amy, and I never read it. I couldn't get past the first chapter. I never give up on books but I hated it. 

Kondo's advice to recycle or donate is positive, but this is America and capitalism is king. They are going online and will be out for sale at the garage sale. I have too many current and valuable books along with the paperback clutter (though it is my experience that paperback junk sells better than the good stuff).

Can I get emotional for a sec? Moving the weight of these books was physically draining. BUT the 'wait' - wait to read, wait to return, wait to donate, wait to decide -- this burden was greater for me as a book lover. I always wanted a library room in my house. I visualized a happy place full of books and a desk for me to write and chair near a sunny window to read. Then I realized that this is the magazine version of my ideal home. What I discovered in going through the exercises Kondo forces on her clients is a space to write that breathes because I am more creative when there is no clutter and fewer things to distract me.

I kept my journals and coloring books because creative outlets like these are more interesting if I need to talk to the muses. When I get too involved in someone else's fictional worlds, I lose my own. I had to purge some great things I loved like my collection of Grimm's fairy tales, because I've read them and know them, but rereading them may waste time I could be using for writing. 

This blog is only one aspect of writing. Since I got rid of the bulk of the books I own, I outlined a kid's book and contacted an illustrator. He is totally excited about the concept and I plan on bringing it to publishing houses before the end of the year. Talk about opening up the channels of energy!

Tomorrow I want to take a moment to talk about selling online. I am a novice, but it feels better to try to sell them than to toss them in the trash or put them in the Better World Books donate bins. If that company, who takes donated books and sells them for profit and some donation, I can at least wait a year to see what I can well for profit before I donate the rest.

How are you with books? Do you hold fast to loads of them? Do you read a lot? If you don't hold on to books or don't read much, how and why? 

Friday, July 8, 2016

KonMari - Friday night - Wild Book Orgy!

Yeah, that's what I'm calling the HUGE pile of book/magazine drama happening in my bedroom. Sexy, I know. Soooo many books! So many kinds! So much DUST! AhChoooo!

 Enjoy my little vid with yesterday's hair, naked face and my shame...

If I survive,I will write about what I discard and what I keep. If I don't, please take care of Leo and the animals. I love you all.

What would your pile of books look like? Tell me: what do you read? Do you love books like I love books? Can you let them go? How do you store them?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

KonMari - Cooking with Lynette

Kondo and I have the same love of books. She begins by saying that this is one of the harder categories because many people, even those who aren't voracious readers, feel connected to their books. I have had a book problem all my life, especially through college as an English major. Once I was old enough to afford my own books, I bought.

I was never a library person and preferred to own when possible. The reasons flit between the ease of online shopping to hating returning books to the library. When the books are yours, you can do whatever you want with them. I can take months to read some books, and for cookbooks, they are reference material for ever.

The photos are lovely in cookbooks! Some are so vivid that one can almost smell the aroma of the dish pictured and the glossy image draws water to ones mouth. They are so lovey, but there are so many cookbooks out there to love. The internet has only gotten better over the years, so my addiction to these tasty books has wavered; I can find everything online when I know the end product--the world's best meatloaf, check; the world's best lasagna ever, double check; super dark chocolate cake, check check check.

Now, when I am not sure what to cook or I am planning an adventurous week, I go to the books and food-porn myself into a plan. Or I have books on specific styles I needed for a time: juicing, Indian, bartending, entertaining.

Here are the all the cookbooks and food-books from the kitchen and bar. 

The pile on the left is going into the sale pile. They represent good intentions, good diets, and food-memories. I once tried to make all the cookies in Martha Stewart's book, but found I like my nostalgic family recipes more. I tried to make cupcakes when they were the trend, and I found I hate them (they are fussy and too much work). During my 60-day juice fast, I learned tons from my juicing books, but now I know what I like and can make juice on the fly without recipes. 

For Tyler's book (which is great), I have loved a lot of recipes, but I do not need most of the book. So, I photographed the ones I really love and can now sell the book. In case you are thinking about something new, here are my personal favorites:

Those scallops use speck, my favorite of the bacon family. I think they can be served alone or with whipped mashed potatoes. 

I have many good memories with these books, but I am a competent cook who rarely uses recipes on the daily. I surely have my share on my "To Make" board on Pinterest 

Tomorrow I am starting the books I keep up in my bedroom. As I have said, I have over 150 books already in my store, and I have linked that in the tabs above on this site in case you want to buy a book! 

My garage sale is set for September 9th and 10th, so we have a strong deadline to finish this purge. I've finished 2 Garage Sale tips audio books in the meantime, and have learned that I need to spend some time before the sale cleaning the goods to try to sell for the best price. It will not be a cheap-stuff sale, because I have tossed the trash and saved only things that can totally live on in someone's home. That home is no longer mine because I have duplicates or more loved items in their place.

Until tomorrow, what is your cookbook collection like? Do you cook? Are you in love with any online recipe that I should be in love with too? (If so, please share the link in the comments!)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

KonMari - Walk a mile in my shoes and here, wear my Pashmina and belt

I hope you all had a relaxing Independence Day weekend. I am back to the grind both at work and in tidying. I did not do a thing in the house all weekend, in fact, I was out of the house Saturday through Monday at events I didn't host! Since our Memorial Day party has amassed 100+ guests a year, I am happy as a clam that I can go to someone else's BBQ and bring a little something.

So Where Are We?

I am finishing off the clothing section today. I have a bunch of things for the garage sale (I also just set the date for Friday September 9th and Saturday September 10th, 8am-3pm). No clothing, that was all donated to organizations that could use them, but I have bags, purses, jewelry, hats, and now shoes, scarves, and belts.

A note on my shoe collection...

I am a proud member of The Society for Barefoot Living (SBL). When I join it about 10 years ago, I was barefoot much of my non-work time. I am not wearing shoes now and rarely wear them at home. I tried early on, to go to the mall and in stores without shoes. That did not last long because I am uncomfortable with confrontation and don't need any more reason for people to stare at me.

Then I progressed to wearing Vibram Five-Finger shoes, or toe-shoes as people refer to them. I wore them instead of regular shoes for comfort. They really are the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned and are still my go-to in nice weather non-work activities.

Now, I take most normal shoes off in the car and drive barefoot most of the time. I am shoe-less in private. I habitually take them off in the office under my desk. I hate them in one breath and love them in another. I love heels, though they hurt; I love boots, though they are suffocating at times; I love crafting fabric over shoes, but this leaves them fragile yet awesome.

I went into every closet, into the attic, and in my car to collect them all (as Kondo requires) and here are every pair of shoes, boots, slippers and thongs I own (save for one pair in the wash):

11 Vibram Five-Fingers (VFF)
4 Sandals or Thongs
6 Sneakers
4 Flats
5 Heels
1 Dressy Sandals
2 Clogs
1 Wedge T's
2 Booties
2 Motorcycle Boots
1 Snow Boots
2 Knee-length Boots
3 Slippers
44 Pairs of Footwear (and one fat cat)

Wow. That's a lot of shoes for a person who barefoots most of the day! So many pairs of black shoes! Now, it is a given that my feet are not easy to size (9.5 WW) so shoes I keep and use are those that fit best (as can be expected). Those here range in size from a 9 to an 11, Medium through WW. Several pairs I have not worn in ages or at all (in the case of the fancy sandals). I am fairly grossed out at the state of some of them. Actually, I am thinking I need to burn my blanket after I store the keepers. 

Is this excessive? For me, I think so, partly because I can only wear one pair at a time and because I am a person who dislikes shoes. Seems I surely have issues.

Right away I think I can pare down by 1/3. Some things need to be trashed, like 2 pairs of slippers and one pair of flats:

These used to be my black work flats. The soles came loose and I needed to trial fabric-covering for my graduation shoes:

They came out amazing and I love them lots. I may not wear them in the near future, but the represent my graduation and thesis and all that work in a crafty way. 

I for sure can get rid of 2 pairs of sneakers, and a pair of booties. The worst will be getting rid of my VFFs. None are newer than 3 years old, and most are at least 5 years old. The brown ones are almost 10 years old! It is just that they were expensive and I still really like them. I like the versatility of color options, though I see 3 in the photo that I haven't worn in years, so they are going. 

My Pashmina and belt collection is not as expansive. I cam getting rid of half of the scarves because I rarely wear them. The belts are being culled in half for the same reason. I am only keeping those that go with the dresses I kept and 2 for pants. 

How about you? How many pairs of shoes do you own? Scarves? Belts? Do you have some that spark more joy than others? Do you also have odd-size feet and hold on to shoes way past their good-looking days?

Tomorrow I am going to start the hard stuff - the books. With 2 degrees in English, and having taught 4 different college courses in writing/English, I have over 200 books, maybe 400. This is going to take some time, but I have already begun and have listed 150 on (my store in the link). I have sold 10 more in the past 40 days. I know it is not a great average right now, but school is out for summer and I haven't listed the best stuff yet. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

KonMari - all that glitters, piles up over the years

Jewelry tends to collect. I have nice pieces, mainly gifts from my husband, given over 18 years of holidays. I have some pieces from when I was a child, many from my aunt who loved QVC. My grandmother handed me down amber antiques and pearl earrings, and I love all of my good jewelry because they remind me of places and people who are no longer with me

Then there is all the other crap. I have junky jewelry and trinkets collected over 30 years. I guess we all have this mix of cheap things and real things. Before you think about robbing my home, none of my good things are there. You'd have to hit up the safety deposit box for anything worth more than $80, including my engagement and wedding rings because neither fit like my tattooed ring does.
My standing cabinet
Here is the state of disorganization of the crap.

My boxes of assorted necklaces and bobbles
I spread the lot onto the bed and spent well over 3 hours sorting through what I have, what I love and the stuff I am not sure about. It is amazing how much I have collected over the years! As part of this process, I realize that I am not wearing things I claimed to love when I aquired them. I have all sorts of things I have only worn one, and some that I know I never wore,

Take for example my pins.

I have many from my mother-in-law, grandmother, mom, and antique hunting trips.Some are Leo's, from his father. I never wear them but for 3x a year when I wear a specific sweater or blazer. I love how they look; I think sometimes "I'm gonna be a woman who wears sassy pins" and I never do.

They spark joy, but not in the same way that other things do. I think I will get rid of them at some point, but for now, I have kept them along with a lot of clip-on antique costume jewelry. Kondo would not approve.

She is nuts when it comes to some items. She breathes minimalism, for sure, and how she descries her living space is the stuff of monastery living. Sparse and bare, she finds little joy in things with a history. The positive part of the process is that I don't have to love like that. For know I can identify that I have joy in these items but can revisit them in time and see if I am ready to part with them or not. For now the clip ons and pins represent nostalgic fantasy.

As much as Kondo is nuts, I found a lot more to discard than I ever thought possible. I must have found over 50 items. Some, like the fake rhinestones I wore to my prom, or the fake Claire's specials I bought in middle school, are long past due to discard. Other items, like the necklace I bought two vacations ago, are beautifully current but somehow joyless for me. They are great, but for someone else.

I wanted to share this last picture because it represents the depths of ridiculous items I own, and one I have kept in my jewelry box for well over a decade. It is an ancient yoyo. I think I bought it at a museum long ago. It doubles as a pet rock. It is a rock wrapped in leather and attached to a elastic band. It is much that it is on the to-go pile. I don't have that image, but I am having a garage sale mid July and you can see some of the really great items that I am ready to let go of today. There are a few nice real gold or silver pieces in the mix that I never wear anymore.

Next time, after the holiday weekend, I will go through my shoes. I never got to them this round. I thought I would be done with all the clothing category by the 4th, but I have a super packed weekend. I hope you do as well.

Till next you have a horde of cheap jewelry? Have you kept all the things you have ever gotten? 

Career: Be a tree - grow in place

In an age when research says millennials change jobs 4 times before age 32 an d job sites advise switching companies to advance in your ...