Posts Tagged ‘Marie Kondo’

It’s been a tumultuous couple of weeks around here, with more to come. I ended one job and will be starting a new one in a couple of weeks (more to come on that, over at Nocturnal Librarian). This week, the man formally known as Teen the Elder graduates from college. Teen the Younger is a senior too, with the semester wrapping up, a senior trip to NYC, prom, finals, and more.

Also, the Computer Scientist and I decided to completely update our living room. An epic trip to IKEA ensued (our multiple carts and carriages attracted attention; one woman in the next line actually came around to see what the damage was when we paid — I kid you not). But before that, I decided to weed our books. And that felt so good I weeded the entire rest of the house. I sort of applied the Marie Kondo method, with a few of my own twists (see my review of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up here). Instead of thanking my stuff I mostly railed “Why have I been dragging this around for years?” At any rate we are feeling lighter and more organized. And the books — well, now we have room for more!

Which brings me to today’s actual topic: I took my mom to Asheville for a few days, and that involved a) selecting vacation reading and b) visiting four bookstores and the Pack Memorial Library’s “Frugal Friday” sale, where all the books were $.25. I enjoyed all the stores we visited. I didn’t get any $.25 bargains, nor did I find anything at the Friends of the Library shop, inside the library. At The Captain’s Bookshelf I bought Calvin Trillin‘s Travels With Alice. More on that in a moment. At Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, I bought Educating Our Daughters by Lynn White, Jr., published in 1950, partly because I had just visited the aSHEville Museum‘s “100 Years of Sexism in Advertising” and was primed for this book and partly because I want to read bits aloud to Teen the Younger and watch her alternately snort and be indignant. I also partook of a literary cocktail, the “Fahrenheit 451” — sparkling wine with cayenne, spicy chocolate, and a cherry. At Malaprops, it took three tries but I finally got a “Blind Date With a Bookseller” book I hadn’t read.

Blind Date Book

Revealed blind date











I could not resist reading Travels With Alice while traveling. I finished that book and loved it — I think Calvin Trillin is a wonderful writer, funny and observant, and this book is charming. I wonder if I can convince the Computer Scientist to refer to me as “the principessa” if we ever visit Italy together?

Trillin’s delight in the world around him and his wry wit make this book fun, but his affection for his friends, family, even the strangers he meets in his travels, make it a soulful read. His family’s preferred method of travel — hanging around, he calls it — sounds just right. “In the subtle negotiations that occur when time is up for grabs rather than strictly allotted, Alice had got her share of scenic drives and the girls had got their share of swims and I had got my share of fish soup.” Well before the concept of “being present” was trendy, Trillin practiced it. Travels With Alice is just the thing for reading in tumultuous times. Or while traveling.

On the way down on the plane I read Ignorance by Milan Kundera, which is decidedly not just the thing for a tumultuous time, but worked well as an airplane read because I could give it my full attention and read it in one sitting. It’s the story of Irena, a Czech emigre living in France who returns to Prague for the first time after her partner opens an office there. She’s not happy about returning, but on the way she meets Josef, a man she had a brief flirtation with before she left for France. The novel is framed around their re-encounter, as well as Irena’s and Josef’s seeing other Czech friends and relatives during their visits.

The narrator not only tells us their stories, but also lectures us on the lessons of exile and return in The Odyssey. Don’t get me wrong, this analysis of Homer’s themes is relevant to Kundera’s story. The narrator focuses on the irony of Odysseus’s constant longing for home culminating in a return that was confusing, jealousy inducing, and violent. Irena and Josef don’t have to fight anyone, but their returns cause them psychological struggle. I think that would have been clear without the lengthy discourse. Kundera’s narrator also muses on Czech poet Jan Skácel and Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg; interesting but I’m more of a fan of the narrative.

Ignorance is otherwise efficiently told, but it’s a book that stays with you. Passages like this one require some mulling over: “All predictions are wrong, that’s one of few certainties granted to mankind. But though predictions may be wrong, they are right about the people who voice them, not about their future but about their experience of the present moment.”  Hmm. It’s a novel ripe for discussion if your book club likes literary fiction.

Stay tuned for more on the other books I bought!




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I’d been waiting for a couple of months for Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, so when it came in for me at the library on Friday, I resolved to read it this weekend and return it, because it’s in high demand.

It’s a very eye-opening read, and when I poked around a bit online I found some videos of Kondo speaking and consulting in someone’s home, folding socks and underwear, and — this one strikes fear in my heart — organizing a book collection. There are also many fan videos done by people applying the KonMari method of tidying.

Kondo’s KonMari tidying requires going through all of your belongings, systematically and deliberately, choosing what to keep, and designating a place for everything. This small book is packed with detailed examples to help you get started. What do I make of this phenomenon? When I finished the book I wanted very much to tidy. Kondo notes, “In essence tidying ought to be the act of restoring the balance among people, their possessions, and the house they live in.” The Computer Scientist and I have been striving for that for years.

In our early 30’s we read Your Money or Your Life, and decided to be more conscious of how we wanted to spend our life energy. Eventually that meant selling everything that didn’t fit in a 26 foot U-Haul and choosing meaningful work that also allowed for more family time. Today our lives are a little busier, and we’re not always as focused as we’d like on where our life energy goes, but we live in a smaller house than we have previously. Still like everyone else, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by stuff accumulating, and end up going through the garage, or a closet, or some cabinets, just about annually. We always wonder how that happens.

Kondo says that if you apply the KonMari method thoroughly, you’ll change the way you relate to things altogether, and will learn to “see quite clearly what you need in life, and what you don’t. . . .” First of all she says you shouldn’t just do a closet or even a room at a time. Also, she suggests tidying things most of us would never think of getting rid of — documents, for example, and mementos, which she says most people never look at.

She describes how freeing it is to have only what’s important to you, all kept in its place. For example, living this way means never getting stressed out looking for the thing you need — which happened to us a couple of years ago, when we were trying to track down some financial information dating back a number of years among boxes of “important” paperwork. And she notes that her clients find, “Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something.”

Which sounds like a “first world problem,” and it is. But she’s hit a real nerve, as the popularity of her book (which is a bestseller in several countries) and her YouTube videos can attest. A mind-shift like Kondo describes is very appealing, “If we acknowledge our attachment to the past and our fears for the future by honestly looking at our possessions, we will be able to see what is really important to us.” That’s a kind of “mindfulness of stuff,” that seems very healthy. The Computer Scientist and I are intrigued to say the least, although her “ikki ni” or “in one go” house-wide approach sounds like it would require us to take vacation time to manage it.



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