Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo

Title: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up
Author: Marie Kondo, translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano, illustrations copyright 2012, 2015 by Masako Inoue
Publishing Date: 2016.
Publisher: Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC, New York. Originally published 2012 and 2015, by Sunmark Publishing, Inc., Tokyo, Japan.
Pages: 292, including Index and Copyright page
Date Purchased: March 18, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-60774-972-1
Reading Dates: June 10-July 1, 2016

The book is divided into two parts, of three chapters each: Part I encompasses "Master Tips," which is a "how-to" guide on the more subtle points of the KonMari method. Part II is the "Encyclopedia," which covers the more practical aspects of organizing and tidying up following the KonMari method.

The book is not too different from most organizing books I've read, including those written by Peter Walsh. The thing that separates this book from the average organizing book is the added spiritual dimension that KonMari gives her method, which is based on the practice of the Japanese animistic religion of Shinto. In the Shinto spiritual belief system, all things, including what we in the West would consider "inanimate" objects, are considered to be imbued with spirits. Kondo encourages her readers to respect these spirits by thanking and saying good-bye to any items they may be discarding or donating.

This may seem strange to the Western mind, and to practitioners of monotheistic religions, but the way she describes it, Kondo's explanation makes sense. I would suggest that if you don't feel comfortable thanking and saying good-bye to your things, then maybe thanking the deity of your belief system for allowing you to have enough wealth to provide such things might be preferable. Then thank the deity for allowing you to have more things to replace or use in place of the objects you are discarding. We in the developed world tend to forget how lucky we are to have enough and even more than enough than we need, so being grateful for our things would not be out of order.

One of the things that I liked about this book, more so than her previous book, was her humbleness and her willingness to admit when she was wrong and made a mistake and that she would work to rectify it. I think that is one of the qualities that has won Marie Kondo fans around the world.

As a book on organizing, I found it inspiring, though not inspiring enough to plunge into KonMari-ing my apartment. I'm going to think long and hard about that, since I have a roommate and shared spaces to consider. That said, Marie Kondo lays out her method in detail in this book, and many of the questions and contradictions that were raised in her last book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, are answered and clarified.

Whether or not you decide to undertake the KonMari process and apply it to your work or living space, I would recommend discussing your plans ahead of time with anyone with whom you share your space, so they know what's going on, if it affects them. It seems to me that's the polite thing to do. However, don't let their reaction stop you from undertaking the process, as far as it relates to your own things and space.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Taking A Break

I apologize for my long absence from this blog, and my perfunctory posts of late.

There's a family health crisis going on. When such things happen, fashion and pretty much everything else take a back seat. My sister is not doing well. Since she was the one person who talked to me regularly about what I wrote on this blog, plus a lot of other things, I've lost interest in posting. Not that my other readers don't matter, but since very few people comment, it's hard to worry about interacting with an audience that I'm not sure is there, taking an interest in what I write. I'd write anyway; I enjoy writing. But right now I'm focused on what's going on with my family, which is not an appropriate topic for this blog.

So I hope you will understand that I need to take a break from this blog for an undetermined length of time. I will respond to any comments, but I won't be doing any new posts for the time being.

Take care, and be well.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Blue Jeans Go Green! From Cotton Inc.

Here's a great website I just found in an email from Cotton Inc. They collect denim to be recycled into insulation! All kinds of denim, too - jeans, shirts, skirts, jackets and more.  Help keep textiles out of landfills and recycle your denim.

Blue Jeans Go Green

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

Title: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.
Author: Marie Kondo, translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano.
Publishing Date: 2014.
Pages: 213, including index.
Publisher: Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York. 
Originally Published in Japan in 2011, by Sunmark Publishing, Inc., Tokyo.

As fond as I am of this book (and I do like it a great deal), I had some problems with it. The problems that I encountered may or may not have had to do with the translation, or the differences between Japanese and American English. My chief problem was that the book seemed to be full of double messages. I didn't have a problem with what some have termed the "New Age-y" aspects of the book (thank your possessions, greet your home every day when you enter it, for example). I understood that concept once Ms. Kondo framed it in the context of the Shinto religion and philosophy. Shinto is a religion of animism, which holds that everything has a spirit. It has this in common with Native American spiritual philosophy and some neo-Pagan philosophies as well as other religious philosophies.

No, the problem I had was that Ms. Kondo says in some places that discarding your items and cleaning up your space will not take very long. Then in another part of the book she says the entire process takes about six months. Six months is not an insignificant amount of time to spend with your life in the upheaval of sorting, discarding and storing your objects. It seems realistic, however, given the process as it's laid out in "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." She often emphasizes that the process doesn't take long, but considering that she says some of her clients have gotten rid of 200 books, or 50 bags of garbage, not to mention furniture and appliances, it seems like a big investment of time is required.

The other problem I had with this book was that none of Ms. Kondo's claims were backed up by empirical evidence. It was all anecdotal. She comes up with percentages for this or that result, but there's no way of knowing how she came up with that number.

Also, a lot of her method seems to be vague, and the "komono" or miscellaneous category seems too broad to me to really be useful. I found it helpful that she outlines her method in Chapter 2, "Finish Discarding First" and Chapter 3, "Tidying by Category Works Like Magic." She does an overview in Chapter 2, and goes into more detail in Chapter 3. This is useful. 

The other thing I found lacking was that she doesn't spend much time discussing maintenance. She just says that if you have a place for every item, you will return it to its rightful place when you're finished using it. That's great, but what about processing papers that come into the home, either in the form of mail, or instructions from your healthcare providers? My move would be to file them until they're no longer needed, or you have the information somewhere else. The other option would be to scan everything, but then you have to make sure you back up your computer. This problem wasn't covered in the book. I understand she has another book coming out in 2016, "Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class in the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up." I hope she'll go into more detail and outline her methods more clearly in that book.

Those were the problems I had with the book. However, I enjoyed some things about it: her way of telling a story is engaging and funny, and it also makes you think. I enjoyed reading the stories about her five years as a maid in a Shinto shrine, and her discussions of Japanese culture, traditions and customs. I also liked the stories she told about her youth, beginning with her fascination with home magazines when she was five, and her obsession with tidying when she was a teenager, and how her family home was her first laboratory for her tidying experiments. 

She lost me when she was relating anecdotes about her clients, though, since she made pronouncements that weren't backed up by facts, but more anecdotal evidence.

To sum up, if you want to get some ideas about organizing your home and getting rid of clutter, this book offers good tips, such as sorting, discarding and organizing by category. Whether or not you buy into the whole concept of "the life-changing magic of tidying up," is for you to decide.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Presentation and Awards Dinner

Presentation and Awards Dinner
Top Row, left to right: Lane Bryant sand jacket, J. Jill elbow sleeve V-neck tee, Woman Within gathered V-neck tee, Lane Bryant knit jacket, Woman Within parka (worn without lining). Middle Row, left to right: Coach hobo bag, black belt, J. Jill slim ankle jeans, amber bead necklace. Bottom Row, left to right: Black Wigwam ankle socks, Aersoles loafers, Dr. Martens Chelsea boots, black Wigwam crew socks.

The presentation was November 11th, and the NAMI Awards Dinner was on November 12th, 2015, but I haven't gotten around to completing this post because I've been doing NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month. Every year in November people all over the world participate, and I decided to join them this year. I've attempted to do it twice before, but didn't get very far. I've gotten further this time than ever before, but I don't think I'm going to meet the 50,000 word count required to win. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel by November 30th. I'm pretty behind at this point, but like I said, I've gotten further this time than any other time I've participated. It's been a learning process, but a worthwhile one.  

On to the events: Wednesday, November 11th, we had the author Felicia Johnson speak at one of our information meetings. She gave an excellent presentation on her book, "Her," which is about a young woman with borderline personality disorder. She also showed clips from the upcoming film based on the book. She discussed child abuse and trauma, and how they can impact people for the rest of their lives. Her presentation was moving and emotional, and I'm sure everyone in the audience could relate to the things she was discussing. I know I learned a great deal that night, and I'm sure many others in the audience did, as well.  I received positive feedback from many of the audience members, so I know her presentation not only struck a chord of recognition with people, but they derived some benefit from it, too.  

Everyone I worked with did their best to make the evening a success, so I'm glad it went well.  During the time I've been Program Coordinator for NAMI NYC Staten Island, I've never had an absolute disaster occur during one of the presentations or information meetings, but I always worry! Fortunately, everyone always works very hard at making sure things go right, so my worries are unfounded.  Our speakers are always seasoned, professional people, and they handle themselves well when there are glitches either before or during their presentations. From the audience, you never know there's been an issue.

The next night, Thursday, November 12th, was the NAMI NYC Staten Island Awards Dinner. There were three honorees: Digna Quinones, who is the Recipient Advocacy Specialist for the New York State Office of Mental Health, NYC Regional Office; Mary Ann Sisto-Clark, who is the Director of Customer Service for South Beach Psychiatric Center; and Larry Hochwald, who is the Chair of the Staten Island Mental Health Council. Congratulations to all the honorees!  They all gave excellent acceptance speeches.

On to the fashion:  I wore the tan jacket, black J. Jill tee and jeans with the Aerosoles loafers Wednesday night. 

I wore the black Lane Bryant knit jacket, black Woman Within tee and jeans with the Doc Martens Chelsea boots and amber beaded necklace on Thursday night.  Thursday night was cold and threatened rain, so I wore the outer layer of my parka. My friend David, who drove me to the event and back home again, wore only a short sleeved polo shirt and chinos, and he was cold.

I carried my black pebbled leather turn-lock Coach hobo bag both nights. It's not the bag pictured. My hobo bag is from 2007. It still looks good! Every season I clean it and condition the leather. 

I wore the same style of jeans to both events, but different pairs each night. The dinner is an evening event, and most people wear some form of business casual or dressy attire. It's a long evening, so I think most people want to be comfortable. No one wears formal evening attire, because it's not that kind of event. Everyone looks nice, though, and the atmosphere is friendly and congenial. The food is always delicious at The Staaten, where the event takes place, and the surroundings are lovely. A good time was had by all!