Konmari - Category 2 - Books

After the euphoria of going through all of my clothes, getting rid of so many, and finally knowing where everything was, in my head I thought I would move on to the next Konmari category right away.  Just like the Marie Kondo's book says, you have to really dedicate yourself to the process, and do the whole thing all at once.  I was and am dedicated.  I really want to do this!  But reality intruded in the form of a bunch of gigs and weekends away.  I didn't get to the next category - books - until about a month later, in late-February.

As with my clothes, I thought that books wouldn't be too hard.  They are so solid and finite and mostly in one room in my house, right?  Not so.  There were books in just about every room on the 1st and 2nd floors of the house.  Even gathering them all together, and lugging them up stairs to my sorting area took a lot of time and work.  But eventually, they were all there and covered so much of the available space in the room, that it was hard to find a spot for me to first divide them into "stay" and "go" piles, and then to sort them by category for re-shelving.

Books are the second category in Marie Kondo's tidying scheme because, in theory, they are relatively easy to sort and part with.  And while it's true that many books are available electronically, 1) books are wonderful, and not easy to part with, and, 2) art books, and any non-fiction books with pictures are just not the same in electronic format.  Guess what I have a lot of?  In fact - true confessions time - there was one whole category of books I didn't bother to move off of their shelves and into my sorting area because I knew that none of them were going - my tea books.

This photo shows only half of my collection, and doesn't include the additions that were in the big pile in the other room because they hadn't made it to the tea shelves yet.

But over a couple of days, I just attacked one pile of books at a time, and filled at least 10 bags to give away.  And then over a few more days, I sorted all that was left by category and re-shelved everything, discovering that I really did have more room on my shelves than before.

Here are some of my take-aways:
  1. It ain't over 'til it's over.  Kondo says in her book that once you're done with clothes and move on to the other categories, you can't really be finished with the organization process until you do all of the other things.  I now get it.  I had other things on my bookshelves like video tapes, candles, etc.  When I was re-shelving the books and thinking about the space I had available, I hadn't dealt with those other non-book items yet, and so knew that I might have to move the books again once more space became available.  My next post will talk about that a little more.
  2. For me, the definition of "doing everything all at once" is going to end up being one category a month.  I hate the feeling of drawing out this process indefinitely and really want to live in a saner environment right now, but my life is so busy with many weeknights and weekends taken up by travel or other activities I'm not willing to give up.  So my reality is that this process is going to take at least the rest of the year.  I hate even writing that down, but welcome to my life.
  3. Giving things away is hard!  Once I decided to let a book go, it wasn't actually hard to part with it.  What was difficult was figuring out how to dispose of them.  I knew I could take the books to Goodwill, which has a very convenient drop-off near my house, but I thought to give them to the Free Library Book Corner, which could re-sell them and make some money for the Free Library, of which I'm a big fan.  Unfortunately, for what I'm sure they think are good reasons, they make it really hard to donate books to them (and had a rude, impatient person answering the phone, which was decidedly off-putting), so that was out.  Then I found an organization which has book donation boxes scattered throughout the area, but when I loaded all of the bags of books into the car and found the local box, it was stuffed so full, I couldn't add a thing to it.  Luckily, there was a Green Drop truck in the same location that was happy to take my books.
  4. Going through each category will have an emotional component to it.  It's always work to stay away from the the feelings of guilt/regret/self-recrimination for amassing so much of whatever it is, but that's not helpful, and I'm dealing with it right now, so no wallowing allowed.  But the other piece is that if you're a person who likes things, the way I do, facing that crazy pile is a bit overwhelming, and letting go of objects is hard, even if you're committed to the process and know why you're doing it, how to do it, etc.  It's just a lot.  It's worth it, but I have to remember that each time I work on this project will take both physical and emotional energy.
Stay tuned for the next exciting installment:  media...


KonMari - Category 1 - Clothes

It has begun!

This weekend I began my project based on Marie Kondo's book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up.  My goal was to get through at least one category - amassing all of the stuff in one location in the house, going through it item-by-item, touching each thing, keeping everything that "sparked joy," discarding the rest, and finally figuring out how to organize it all, and put it all away.

This past week I worked on a project spreadsheet to keep me organized.  Each tab of my spreadsheet is a category of items containing a list of the things in that category.  My categories are specific to my belongings, but they follow Kondo's order and guidelines of clothes, then books, papers, other stuff, and sentimental items.  This weekend, the task was clothes.

My goal for this project is to follow Kondo's methods as closely as possible.  I outlined those in my previous post.  One key thing I did differently was not work on the project alone, but with my husband.  To make this even possible, before we got to work we talked about what was going to happen, why the process is about one person making decisions about his or her belongings, and what his role in would be.
  1. He would not offer opinions, and I would try to not ask for his opinion, but decide for myself if something stayed or went, how to arrange the drawers and closets, etc.  
  2. He was not there to make the process harder by making suggestions of how I should get rid of things, unless I asked him.  No, "oh you should try and give this to so and so."  No.  That just piles more work on me and makes me cranky.  If I give things away, though in a perfect world, I want them to go to just the right person or charity, chiefly, I want that part to be easy and I want the stuff out as fast as possible.   
  3. He was there to support me by doing what I asked.  When he goes through his things, I will do the same for him.  
Except for some lapses on both of our parts, this worked pretty well.  He fetched and carried and gave me hugs and encouragement at regular intervals.
So, clothes.  I thought about the clothes I have, and where they were in the house, and naively assumed that going through them all would take a couple of hours, max.  Then we began pulling all of them out of closets, drawers, shelves and bins and piled them all in the front room.  Just that part of the process daunting and tiring.  I didn't want to stop working, but I was taken aback at the size of my wardrobe.  I know where it all came from.  It's the product of 20 years, with only sporadic weeding.  But seeing it all together like that was a little alarming.  Below are 4 of the 7 closets that held my clothes, and part of my shoe collection (note:  a bunch of those shoes are not mine, but you get the idea...) just to give you a taste of what we were up against.

3rd Floor Side guest room
Ball Gown closet

Office wardrobe
Craft Room closet
Shoes in the entryway

When we piled everything up, here's what it looked like.  It was crazy.

I hardly knew where to begin.  I needed to work on something discrete and manageable. That turned out to be shoes.  I looked at them all.  I touched them all. I didn't even realize that I had so many pairs of shoes.  I mean, I sort of knew, but not really.  In the end, I got rid of 14 pairs and kept 13, including 3 pairs of dance shoes.

Saying goodbye to my beloved bunny slippers...

Next I was ready to tackle socks and underwear.  It turned out that I had 14 pairs of brand new stripey socks in a plastic bin in my craft room!  The perfect place to forget about them!  Staying true to Kondo's method, we took the tags off of them put them in with all of the rest of the items so I can't continue putting off wearing new items just because they are new.  This was also my first opportunity to try out Kondo's folding techniques.  Sure enough, not only did all of the socks and underwear I was keeping, including the new socks, fit into one dresser drawer, so did my bathing suit and the undergarments I have for formal dresses, which were always hiding elsewhere.  Here's a before and after: 

Sock drawer - before...
...and after

Shirts were next.  I did refold all of them, and sort them partly by color and partly by use.  I will try and keep them this way.  I love the amount of space in my re-done drawer.  I breathe better every time I see it.


I went on to do pants, work tops, bottoms and dresses, scarves, formal dresses, dance clothes, hats, jewelry, tights/stockings, sweaters, coats, and bags.  In the end I amassed 8 contractor bags of clothes for charity, 3 bags of clothes and accessories for my dance group to pick through, at least 3 bags of trash, some specific items for specific people, and, many thousands of the item that must grow in my house, hangers!  Because I was getting rid of so much hanging stuff, I took the opportunity to change as many of the hangers as possible to the ones I like and get rid of the rest.  My very patient husband not only helped me with this, but bundled up all of the like hangers in hopes they will be useful to some thrift store.

At the end of the day on Saturday, when I was finished going through all of the clothes, but not some of the other stuff, I didn't have a great sense of calm or relief.  I felt mixed - pleased that I had done so much, unsure if I had gotten rid of enough, and really unsure that I had truly used the "spark joy" methodology in keeping what I did.  Also, although the dresser drawers were in place, the rest of the clothes were all jumbled up in the wrong closets.  All of this was unsettling.

On Sunday the first thing I did was reorganize all of the closets - re-hanger everything, and take another look at all of it.  I am now only occupying 4 closets!  I only have to remember where things ended up!  Here are two closet "after" shots.

By mid-afternoon on Sunday, I had gone through everything in the clothes category, and I felt great about it.  Nothing is hiding in a bag on a closet shelf where I forget about it.  All of my jewelry is in one place that makes sense to me.  My closet choices take into account where the cat likes to hide and shed all over my long dresses.  Everything has a place!  I'm excited!  My mixed feelings from Saturday were gone, which was a relief.

I didn't do everything the KonMari way.  Two things in particular:  I didn't arrange the items in a given closet by color, but instead grouped things by type.  Almost everything is black, purple, or red to begin with, so arranging from light to dark is kind of a non-starter for me.  Also, I didn't automatically assume that "maybe" means it has to go.  There are things that I really do like, and wanted to keep and commit to wearing that I forgot I had.  If I wear them and decide I don't like how they look any more, I'll get rid of them then.

I feel like I now have a better sense of my wardrobe and finite choices about what to wear.  This really just makes my like easier.  And I love that feeling of not discovering a pair of earrings in a drawer that I love and have forgotten about, or dislike, but yet trip over every time I'm looking for something else and find them taking up drawer space.  The key will be to see if I can keep up this organization system, and keep things tidy, not add things unless I'm filling a particular gap, and commit to using new things right away.  Overall, I feel more mindful about my clothes, and not over-burdened by that pile I had at the beginning.  As soon as I can get to the thrift shop and get rid of all of the discards, it will be even better.

I am eager to move on to the next category:  books.  I have part of next weekend to do this, but after that, weekends are a bit scarce, so I envision my tidy-everything-in-the-whole-house-all-at-once will easily expand to fill at least the next 6 months!


Tea party readiness...

Okay, this post has very little to do with tea...

A couple of weekends ago, I hosted my first tea party of the year.  It wasn't really an on-purpose tea party, but a get-together in the guise of a meeting that just happened to occur at teatime.  I needed no more of an excuse to make tea sandwiches and cinnamon chip scones for three.

I love having people over and tea parties and hosting parties in general, and, in fact, any excuse to use all of my tea and entertaining things, of which I seem to have quite a bit.  But other than not having enough time to do it, which is always true, there are a couple of things that make having people over more of a challenge for me:

1)  My house is not in good enough shape.  I know, I know, most people, and friends in particular don't care what your house looks like (except for the ones that do).  But I care.  In my dreams, my house would be neat and clutter-free, which makes cleaning easier in the first place, so that when someone is coming over, it would only require a quick going over to be my standard of ready.  Instead, I either depend on my friends not noticing  (or not saying anything, or not being visibly uncomfortable) or go through a cleaning frenzy which is effective, but exhausting, before I even get to the fun part of making food or setting the table.

2)  I have so many serving pieces, tea pots, sets of china, napkin rings, and on, and on, carefully stored away that I don't remember what I have, where it is, and so don't remember to use it.  Or, I have things I consider to be "good" that go untouched, just as my mother and my grandmother before me never used them ever.

This jumble of thoughts coincided with a book coming to the top of my Hold list at the library that I'd been eager to read for some time:  the best selling book by Japanese author and de-cluttering expert Marie Kondo, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up.  

If you look on the internet you'll find that people have feelings about this book.  Some have found it transformational, some think it's nonsense, and every opinion in-between.  On a first read, I think it provides a good framework for a task I've been wanting to do anyway.  Here are some of the key points (with some of my opinions sprinkled in):

-Be committed to tidying.  Have a reason why you want to have a tidy house and keep it that way, whether you more time in your life to do other things other than de-cluttering all the time, or you need the mental energy for something else.  Whatever it is, know what it is and why you are doing this.
-Tidy the whole house all at once, not piecemeal, not for an hour at a time, but as an on-going, marathon project until you are done.
-De-clutter by category, not by room - you don't know where duplicates are hiding until you see them all together, and if you tidy by room, chances are you are mainly moving things around, instead of truly sorting through them, and then finding a permanent home for the things you are keeping
-Discard first, and then find storage for everything.  Most likely you already have more than enough bookcases, plastic bins, etc.

-Tidy in the right order:  clothes, books, miscellany, and sentimental items.  You can create sub-categories for each of these broad categories, but follow this order which takes you from the easiest to the hardest things to deal with.
-Keep the things that "spark joy."  That phrase is a bit much for me, but my take on it is a non-judgmental one:  Keep the things you love.  Get rid of the rest.  Don't fall prey to the idea that you'll use it or wear it someday.  Likely you won't.  If you need to have multiples of things, fine, but be purposeful about it, not random.  Kondo wants you to actually pile up all of the things in one category in one place, and pick up each item to help you decide whether or not to keep it.
-It's not only beautiful things that can spark joy.  You may choose to keep things that make your life easier, have a high degree of functionality, or are useful everyday.  Be reasonable - household cleaning products are not going to spark joy, but you still need them.
-Tidying and cleaning are different things.  Tidying has to do with objects; cleaning has to do with dirt. 
-Don't keep things because someone else wants you to, because they had sentimental value at one kind, or out of obligation because someone gave it to you.  Instead, appreciate the moment of acquisition, or the sentiment behind the gift, or the generosity of the giver, and let the item go.
-Tidying is an opportunity to assess your current preferences and tastes.  Focus not on getting rid of things, but instead on keeping only things that you love, use, and want near you.
-Don't tidy/discard things that are not yours - that's rude.  Don't let others sway you to keep things you can let go of because they might want them, or for other sentimental reasons.

So, the project begins this weekend - perfect for the predicted snow accumulation.  As Kondo demands, I'll start with my clothes, including my shoes, which I have scattered in closets, bins, and drawers all over the house (I just remembered that I have two pairs of shoes at the office.  Home they come).

I'll use this space to document my progress.  I expect it to take the better part of the year.  But when it's all done, I hope to have more time and more head space to work on crafts, write tea book reviews, and have you all over for a party...


Checking back in...

Hmmmm...  Last post on April 1st...  As spring turned into summer, then fall, and now, almost winter, time and tea books got away from me.  I actually took several tea books away with me on vacation at the end of May, and wrote notes about 2-1/2 of them.  The notes are still sitting in my notebook, as yet unpublished.  But as of this weekend, it feels as if my major obligations for the year are finished (okay, that's not really true, but it feels true), so here we go again with another attempt...

(Of course, part of the time crunch is my second blog, Joanna Creates, which I'm using to capture my forays into arts and crafts.  I have updated there somewhat in the interim...)

One thing I've done a little of recently, despite telling myself I wouldn't, is buy magazines.  I don't have many - probably half a dozen assorted issues purchased at the bookstore waiting to be read, and another half dozen from a short-loved subscription to Martha Stewart Living.  In the first stack are two issues of Tea Time, which I think used to be called Southern Lady Tea Time after its parent publication.  It says on the cover that it it the winner of the Best Tea Publication.  I could be wrong, but it's certainly the only tea publication I've seen recently on the shelves at Barnes and Noble...  I have this year's September/October issue and November/December issue.  I'll review each separately as a way of easing back into book reviews.

The editor's letter of the September/October 2015 issue of Tea Time promises that that magazine will be full of "autumnal inspirations."  This is borne out in various articles including the tablescape piece and the themed tea parties.  The tablescape article talks about using one china pattern, "Autumn," by Lenox, in different ways for an elegant or more casual look by pairing it with various other china patterns, tablecloths or placemats, crystal, and other decorations.  This article isn't specifically tea-themed, but applicable to tea parties and the vibe of the magazine in general.

Tea Time has three themed teas:  Apple, Grandparent's Day, and Harvest Moon.  Each tea party has recipes and recommended tea pairings.  It's easy to connect apples with autumn and understand how the recipes and the tablescape for the party fit the theme.  Apparently Grandparent's Day happens in September or October, but it seems to be just a good excuse for a party as the recipes and decor have no real connection to the theme.  It might have been nice for this one to have some activities one might do in observance of this made-up holiday involving photos or family trees or something like that.  The last tea in honor of the harvest moon features the table setting from the magazine's cover and does include decor suggestions relating to the theme.  The recipes for this one seem more in harmony with the color scheme and china pattern than with the actual harvest.  One note about the tea pairings:  they all seem to be suggestions based on the magazine's advertisers, and not necessarily the best tea for each course drawn from a large, objective list.

Tea Time always reviews tea rooms.  Often tea rooms in one particular US state are featured.  This issue covers New Jersey, and a tea room outside of London.  The eight NJ tea rooms featured all seem to have opened in the last 10-15 years, or more recently.  I wonder if this is an inadvertent comment about the likelihood of tea room longevity, if there are older, more established tea rooms out there, and if those in the article will still be there by the time I get to visit these tea time destinations in my neighboring state. 

One of my favorite features of Tea Time is its articles about tea tools:  teapots, cups, furniture, etc.  This issue covers the gaiwan cup and the Brown Betty teapot in seperate articles.  I've been hearing more and more about gaiwan cups as I read more books and blogs written by true tea afficianadoes (as opposed to those more focused on tea as an occasion).  I think I understand how to use a gaiwan, but the article was only a glimpse, and not an instruction guide.  I'll call the article a success as it made me want to learn more.  We use a Brown Betty as our daily, go-to teapot, and that article made me want to check the bottom of the pot to see if it's the genuine article...

In general, Tea Time's content is purposefully light.  It caters to the tea party set, which I count myself a part of, not those in the industry and a part of the global, non-white world of tea and tea drinking.  It has articles by three mainstream luminaries:  James Norwood Pratt, Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson.  Its resource lists, which I'm glad exist on general principles, cover china patterns and their prices and recipes, and not bibliographic information.

It'll be interesting to read the November/December issue in quick succession with Sept/Oct, and see what's the same, what's different, and how this magazine reflects a certain part of the US tea-drinking world.


Two quick things...

1.  Because I obviously have too much time on my hands, I just started a second blog to talk about craft-related things and projects.  Take a look:  http://joannacreates.blogspot.com/

2.  Reviews of tea and entertaining books will continue in this space.  I may even veer off that fruitful topic every now and again and show you pictures of my garden or something.  But on the topic of tea book reviews, one of the blogs I read featured a weekly review of a tea book a year or so ago.  We have a bunch of books in common, and I'm not reading her reviews of the same book until after mine are done.  Fascinating to read the differences.  Guess who seems to be snarkier and more opinionated??  Check in out:  Tea With Friends


Time for Tea

This week, I read Time for Tea; Tea and Conversation with Thirteen English Women by Michele Rivers, published in 1994.

This is another tea book I bought, sight unseen, and haven't gotten around to reading until now.  I was intrigued by the premise of the book.  It is neither a book about the tea table nor a recipe book, though it does include some recipes.  Rather is is simply a series of conversations with actual people to try and capture why the tea time ritual is important in their lives, if it is at all.  The idea is that tea in England is only rarely the lace cloth and best china kind of event.  Tea as an event, or simply a beverage come in all forms.  This book is a glimpse of some of them.

The women interviewed for the book vary:  a farmer, an artist, bed and breakfast owner, grocery store check-out person, a Lady, a Marchioness, a six-year old, etc.  None live in London; most seem to have children.

Each chapter begins with a description of the interviewee - a bit about her life, history, job, etc.  The heart of each chapter is the interview, which is presented as an essay by the subject.  Each story is different, but you can almost hear the author begin each interview in the same way: "tell me about tea time - what it is, and what it means to you."  The essay begins with tea, or touches on it in some way, but each chapter takes off from that point.  We learn about the features and the challenges of daily life, raising children, dealing with divorce, hectic schedules, animals and guests that need to be fed.  Many of the women have had big transitions in their lives - new careers, second husbands, etc.  For each woman though, it seems that tea plays a similar role in their lives, even if they don't perceive it in that way.  Tea time is a pause in the routine, whether it comes daily, weekly, or only occasionally.  It's not a grab-and-go beverage like coffee, but a moment to stop and reflect or stop and chat for a second, or simply take a brief break from the race.

The final interview with two teenagers sums things up well.  Even if the subjects don't think that tea is a part of their lives, it somehow is.  They all drink more tea than they think they do.

So what role does tea and tea time play in your life?


The Pantry

This week I finally finished re-reading The Pantry:  Its History and Modern Uses, written by Catherine Seiberling Pond in 2007.

The Pantry covers the history of the room in American homes, and is meant to be an inspiration for modern pantries, which are one of most asked for spaces among house hunters.  The book is divided into chapters, each covering pantries of a different era.  The Early American chapter points out that pantries were a necessity because food storage was crucial as people bought (made, grew, etc.) food in quantity to last for long periods of time, especially those who lived outside of urban areas.  By the Victorian era, kitchens were more industrial with cast iron stoves and linoleum floors.  This was the era of home economics where the kitchen was meant to be hygenic and efficient.  Kitchens were work spaces, no longer the center of the home, but moved to the back, or even to the basement in urban homes.  In this era, especially in upper class homes, the butler's pantry became the buffer zone between the kitchen and the dining room.

When I think of a pantry, I have the image of a butler's pantry:  banks of cabinets with glass doors above and long counters, that combination of display and storage away from the grease and dust of the kitchen.  Something like this would do just fine:

I would love a built in butler's pantry taking up the whole wall! think of what you could hide within!!! could also do drawers instead of cabinets below

By the middle of the 20th century, food shortages during the wars and the birth of convenience foods and neighborhood grocery stores meant that there were fewer foods to store.  The space pantries took up was re-purposed for broom closets, breakfast nooks, etc.  The function of the pantry was subsumed into the kitchen.

But now (at least in 2007), the pantry is back.  With the DIY and maker movements, and people into growing and preserving food, they need a place to keep it all.  If you want to create a pantry reminiscent of any era, this book offers design hints at the end of each chapter to demonstrate what made pantries of that era unique. 

Do you have a pantry in your house?  I don't, and I desperately need one - for food and china storage.  To me the very word pantry conjures up the idea of order:  things displayed on shelves where they are easily located and accessed, beautiful things arrayed in the open where you can see them and remember you have them (and use them!) not hidden away and forgotten in a cabinet.  A pantry will definitely be something I look for in my next house!