Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February tea and a book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

When I met with my editor earlier this month, she enthusiastically recommended this book by Marie Kondo (and was nice enough to send me a copy). As a lifelong clutter bug, I was intrigued by Kondo's technique of organizing your possessions by reducing to those that "spark joy."

The method is rather drastic, but just reading about her process felt like a gentle sweep of my mental cobwebs. I don't need so much stuff. I can let the joyless things go. I am NOT genetically fated to be a packrat! (In my family, hoarding was known as "Granny Green-ing," after my great grandmother Clemie Green.)

Kondo's thinking might seem a little "woo woo" to some. She strongly believes that inanimate objects want to be cared for, to be useful, and that they'd rather be donated than remain unwanted in your closet or on your shelves. Kondo has a very spiritual approach to tidying, a particularly Japanese approach, and I (being a wee bit "woo woo" myself) found it very appealing:

To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. To get rid of what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful. Can you truthfully say that you treasure something buried so deeply in a closet or drawer that you have forgotten its existence? If things had feelings, they would certainly not be happy. Free them from the prison to which you have relegated them. [...] Let them go, with gratitude. Not only you, but your things as well, will feel clear and refreshed when you are done tidying. (61)

Kondo insists that we tidy by category rather than room. She recommends starting with clothing, and then moving on to books, papers, miscellany, and finally, sentimental objects. However, since my books seemed more out of control than my clothing, I decided to start there. I thought it would take me half a day, but it actually took about three days because I did follow her process of taking everything off the shelf and touching each item. I confess to keeping a few "joyless" volumes for reference, but it was interesting to track my emotions as I touched each book. Not only did some of them not spark joy -- they actually sparked disgust. INTO THE DISCARD PILE! What a great feeling.

And soon I look forward to tidying up my closet and chest of drawers. According to Marie Kondo, we shouldn't hang so many of our clothes. Folding is better for most items, and she recommends storing items vertically. I vaguely understood what she meant when reading, but this video helps clarify the folding part:

And this is what a drawer with "vertically stored" clothes would look like:

Her method for socks intimidates me. Still, I'm eager to take the next step in this tidying process!

And now for tea . . .

I was terribly excited to use my Japanese teapot -- a gift from my (ex)stepmother, Rosemary -- for this "tea and a book" post. Prior to this I hadn't used it very much because I usually drink black tea. Also, my limited experience with Japanese tea had left me convinced that it all tasted like sour grass clippings. I know now that I was steeping the leaves too long in water that was too hot. I steeped Adagio's kukicha for two minutes in 175 degree water, and the result was delicately grassy/nutty with a sweet finish. I purchased the sesame almond tea cookies from Radiance Tea House when I was in NYC. If you'd like to make your own, here's a recipe from Just One Cookbook. These Almondina biscuits look rather nice, too!

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]


  1. Oh, how you make my little closet-professional organizer heart go pitty-pat! There is a sense of freedom that comes from letting go of the things that no longer work in our lives.

    And it's amazing how what that is changes over time. It's a constant process.

    1. It's a constant process.

      It certainly is!

      There's something so satisfying about getting organized, but I never can seem to STAY that way. Marie Kondo says this method will permanently transform me. Hmmmm.

  2. Even though I don't consider myself a "woo woo" person, I kind of like this idea. I think I could be more decisive with the question "Will this ca-1985 dress with the big white collar be happier someplace besides the back of my clost?" than "Will I ever again wear this ca-1985 collar dress with the big white collar even if I could fit into it?"

  3. Sonia we are traveling on a parallel universe! I started this book and began the process of PERMANENTLY living with less stuff about 2 weeks ago. I will be blogging about it in March. It takes courage, time, and so far is absolutely making a difference for me.

  4. Sounds intriguing. I have been on a mission to pare down for quite some time, but you sure wouldn't know it by looking around my house and still-stuffed closets. I think I need to be less delicate about the process - move from "paring" to "purging!"

  5. Wow, this book is powerful because it's touched the lives of so many people I know! Amazing.
    I just jumped on the bandwagon and am reading with a highlighter. Her words are really resonating.