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!

Monday, October 26, 2015

NAMI Awards Dinner & Information Meeting

NAMI Awards Dinner & Information Meeting
Top, left to right: Lane Bryant jacket, J. Jill V-neck elbow sleeve t-shirt, silver bead necklace, rose quartz pendant, J. Jill dark rinse ankle jeans, J. Jill V-neck elbow-sleeve t-shirt, Lane Bryant jacket.  Bottom, left to right: Black satchel handbag, Aerosoles black croco loafers, Coach signature medium tote in pink.  Right column, from top: L'Occitane Jasmine & Bergamote Eau de Parfum, Shower Gel and Body Milk. 


 It's that time of year again, time for the NAMI Awards Dinner.  This will be the 25th Annual Awards Dinner.  We have three honorees who have worked hard during their careers for the mental health community on Staten Island.  The Awards Dinner is Thursday, November 12th, 2015.  

The night before, our guest speaker for the information meeting will be Ms. Felicia Johnson, author of the novel, "Her," which is about a young woman with Borderline Personality Disorder.  I've been reading the book and it's good!  

That weekend will be the NAMI New York State Educational Convention, which I won't be attending this year.  They have a lot of good speakers this year doing the presentations and workshops.  

I haven't decided which outfits to wear to the two events.   Jeans might be appropriate for the information meeting, but may be too casual for the dinner, so I think I might wear dress pants.  As usual, I will probably be in a state of confusion up until the minute I get dressed for each event, and then I'll spend the evening second-guessing myself.  Ah well, such is my fate!  I never feel comfortable when I'm dressed up.  I've never learned the art of being comfortable in anything remotely formal.  

I bet there are a lot more of you out there that are like me.  Nevertheless, we have to get dressed every day.  Might as well look good!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Closet Storage Solutions

Closet Storage Solutions
Drop-Front Shoe Boxes, Clear Watertight Totes, Command Adhesive Brushed Nickel Hook.  All from The Container Store. 

Last week, I finished the Apartment Therapy 10-Step Closet Cure.  My closet still needs some work, as I need to get out my fall/winter clothes and get them laundered.  It was still too warm when I was finished with the Closet Cure to wear fall clothes.  Now, however, NYC is getting cooler weather.  It's 57* outside today.  Last week, the night-time temps dipped down into the low 40's.  I had to turn on the heat.  

I still need to clean the walls, floors and storage bins in my closet.  Not looking forward to that!

I didn't take pictures of the big bag of donations I had for the Department of Sanitation's pilot curbside donation pickup program.  I was just so happy to get that bag out of the house!  My roommate took our donations out to the recycling/trash area.  She didn't see anyone else had donation bags, so it's possible we were the only people to get them.   

The tenth, and final step of the Closet Cure was to figure out what kind of storage solutions your closet needs.  I determined that I need shoe and boot storage, and a few heavy-duty hooks so I can hang my totes, backpack and everyday handbag on the inside of my closet door.  When I'm not using my tote bags, I store them in the backpack, so I just need two heavy-duty Command hooks.  I thought the containers and hook above from The Container Store would be the best solutions.  However, I don't think these purchases are going to be happening anytime soon.  It will take me a minute to save up the funds.  Especially since The Container Store has ridiculous shipping charges, last I checked.  

One thing I was able to do was to purchase black velvet flocked hangers for my closet.  I don't buy into the "all your hangers have to be the same to achieve a uniform look" business.  I have a mix of wooden hangers and flocked hangers.  The flocked hangers work better for light-weight garments like fleece sweaters, sports jackets, and shirts.  The wooden hangers are better for heavier garments, like jeans, pants, skirts and suit jackets.  I bought the wooden hangers a long time ago from The Container Store.  I recently bought some cedar skirt hangers from Bed Bath & Beyond, and the black velvet flocked suit hangers from Staples.com.  I don't mix the wooden hangers with the flocked hangers, so it looks pretty uniform.  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Treat Yourself!

Treat Yourself!
Left to right: Woman Within V-Neck Tee; J. Jill Slim Pants; Blue Goo Cracked Heel; L'Occitane Jasmine et Bergamote Body Milk; Flexitol Heel Balm. 

That's not me stepping out of the shower, by the way.  Please, I wish my shower looked like that!  We have a little fiberglass tub with a tension rod in place of an actual shower curtain rod.  

I did some pampering yesterday, in that I took a shower, washed my hair, and moisturized tip to toe!  Then I changed into some comfy clothes and my roommate and I ordered dinner from the local diner.  

I have diabetes, and skincare is very important.  Skin provides a barrier to infections getting in the body, and infections, if you have diabetes, can be fatal.  So it's important to treat any cuts, wounds, or irritations of the skin as soon as possible.  I neglected my skin all summer long, mostly because I didn't go out, so I thought it wasn't necessary, but!  I was wrong.  My skin was getting really itchy and had some irritation.  My feet have callouses.  This is not a good situation.  So I've started taking care of my skin again, moisturizing my feet and my body after showering.  Yesterday I decided to make it a little special, by using the "good" moisturizer from L'Occitane.  I moisturized my feet with the Flexitol Heel Balm (stuff works wonders!) and my elbows with the Blue Goo.  I need to do this more often, because my skin really needs the help. 

After applying the moisturizers, I lay down on my bed and let them soak into my skin.  It's a nice way to relax, especially if you're in a hurry to get ready for an event.  It helps to just take 15 minutes to regroup and recharge.  

Afterwards, I felt like a new person!  So relaxed and mellow ... hmm, nice! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Review of Peter Walsh's "Enough Already! Clearing the Mental Clutter to Become the Best You"

I read a few reviews, and some people complained that this book didn't go into as much detail as they would have liked, but to be fair, Walsh mentions in this book that he wrote about organization and decluttering and body issues in his previous books, It's All Too Much!, The It's All Too Much Workbook and Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?  I haven't read the last one, but after reading this book, I might add it to the TBR pile.  You might want to read those three books first, if you aren't familiar with Walsh's work. 

The book follows a basic format, focusing on six aspects of life, covered in six chapters of the book: relationships, work, family, money, health and well-being.  Walsh talks about how all six aspects of life are impacted by clutter: environmental clutter, mental clutter, financial clutter, relationship clutter, physical clutter in the form of obesity and poor health, and spiritual cluttter.  Then he goes on to address the issues posed by these different aspects of life and the clutter associated with them.  After that, he breaks down each segment or chapter into "Imagine the (aspect of life) you want," "clear the clutter of unreal expectations," "watch out for obstacles," and "declutter your (fill in aspect of life here), ending with "And then there's the stuff."  There were some chapters that were hard for me to relate to, including the "Family" chapter, because it focused mostly on the nuclear family, with parents and children.  I'm in my 50's, single and my parents are no longer living and I don't have that much physical interaction with my siblings, since we don't live near each other.  I have a roommate, but we get along very well and communicate well with each other, so thankfully, no problems there.  Also I couldn't relate to work, because it focused mostly on people with careers.  I'm retired on disability, and while I do volunteer work, my life is relatively low-stress.  I couldn't relate to the relationship segment at all, since it seemed to focus mostly on couples living together, which I've never done.  So, as you can see, the book mostly addresses the needs of couples with children or parents, neither of which I have.  That said, I found the chapters on money, health and well-being to be very helpful.  On the other hand, now I'm worried about what's going to happen when I turn 65.  The chapter on health gave me a lot to think about, because I have some health problems.  The chapter on well-being was inspiring for me, because as it turns out, that's one aspect of my life where I'm generally content and satisfied.

In summary, if you're looking to take a deeper look into Peter Walsh's methods, I would suggest reading the first three books mentioned above before reading this one.  Also, be prepared to do the exercises included to get the full impact of the Peter Walsh decluttering experience.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fall Is Here and the Time is Right for ... Cleaning!

Fall is here, school is in session and the fall and winter holidays are bearing down upon us.  Chances are, you'll be having company at your house, and/or you are clearing out your closets and storage areas in preparation for storing spring and summer clothing and household items (such as sports equipment and items for the beach, pool and garden), and bringing the fall and winter clothing and household items into rotation (such as winter bedding and quilts, outerwear and seasonal decorations).  

It's a good time of year to give all those nooks and crannies, closets, the pantry, the cupboards and cabinets a good going-over to get rid of all the old and expired products, such as expired medications and hygiene and beauty products, old electronics, old textiles and clothing that doesn't fit or is worn out (or just doesn't work in your wardrobe), medical supplies and other household items that you no longer use that you need to discard or that can be donated or recycled.  Some aren't safe to put in the regular trash, and I'll give you resources to deal with those.  

This information will be mostly for the New York City area, but you can check with your municipality's general information hot-line or local government websites about where to dispose of these items. 

Makeup, Skincare and Beauty Products

Good Housekeeping has a pretty thorough article on when to toss makeup, skincare and beauty products.  


SAFE Events in New York City

The Department of Sanitation has SAFE events throughout the five boroughs.  SAFE is an acronym that stands for Solvents, Automotive, Flammable and Electronics.  You can dispose of these types of household items at SAFE events. 

You can find out about SAFE disposal events in your borough here.  This includes medical waste and medications.  

Disposal of Household Waste in New York City

You can learn how to dispose of residential household waste in NYC here.

New York City's Department of Sanitation has begun a pilot curbside textile collection and recycling program.  You can read about it here and see if a pickup day is happening in your borough. 


GrowNYC  has a wealth of information about neighborhood recycling, composting, Stop & Swap and donation events throughout the five boroughs of New York City.  

GrowNYC also has clothing donation events around the five boroughs.  Check if there's one near you. 


DEA National Prescription Drug Takeback Day

You can also participate in the Drug Enforcement Administration's National Prescription Drug Takeback Day, which is Saturday, September 26, 2015, 10 AM to 2 PM.  In Delaware and Pennsylvania ONLY, the date is Saturday, September 12, 2015.  You can find a drop-off location in your area here.  Prescription drug abuse is a huge problem, so you'd be doing the world a big favor by getting rid these drugs if you don't use them anymore.  If you can't participate in Drug Takeback Day, check with your area's local government about regulations regarding disposal of prescription medications.  Please don't pollute the water supply by dumping them down the sink or toilet.  The fishes and wildlife will thank you.  So will the campers.  


Goodwill Industries

If you're looking to donate your clothing, household items and textiles to a worthy organization, try Goodwill Industries.  They sell the items and use the funds to help people in the community with job training, skill building and employment, so they can lead better lives.  

Veterans' Organizations That Accept Donations

There's also Vietnam Veterans of America, an organization which helps not only Vietnam Veterans, but veterans of all wars.  You can read about what they do on their About VVA page.  

Another veterans' organization I just found out about is United War Veterans Council.  They called me up one day and asked if we had any donations.  My roommate happened to have donations that needed to go out, so I scheduled a pickup.  They came when they said they would and picked up the donations.  

Military Money Matters is a good resource for finding out whether the veterans' organization to which you would like to make a donation is a worthy one.  

That's the run-down!  You probably have resources in your area, and I encourage you to use them.  If you know of any that you think I should have mentioned, please let me know in the comments.  

Apartment Therapy's 10-Step Closet Cure, and the Results of a Recent Clean-Out

Good luck with your fall cleaning and decluttering!  I'm going to be attempting Apartment Therapy's 10-Step Closet Cure.  I invite you to try it.  I'll try to update regularly.  

I recently let go of a bunch of donations from when I cleaned out my closet and decluttered my apartment in spring:  

This is the result.  Five containers of clothes, ceramics and glassware, handbags, household items, CD's, hats and shoes.  It all went to this place called Bay Street Thrift, on Staten Island in NYC.  My roommate was nice enough to take a cab and run some errands for me since I haven't been able to get out, and she dropped it off.  I hope to be getting rid of some more stuff during this Closet Cure.  

Take care and be well!


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Look! It's a Book Review! Rebecca Moses, Author and Illustrator: "A Life of Style"

Title: A Life of Style
Author and Illustrator: Rebecca Moses
Publishing Date: 2010
208 Pages
Publisher: The Monacelli Press, a Division of Random House

Rebecca Moses is a designer who has worked in the fashion industry since the early 1980's.  She has her own design label, and she designs the Rebecca Moses Heart Soul Style fashion and home collections.  

I had to rate this book with three stars, because after reading it ... I still came away feeling like I did not understand the intangible quality called "style."

I read this book in one sitting (last night, as a matter of fact).  It was an easy read, since the book has plenty of illustrations and large print.  Rebecca Moses, the author, was also the illustrator, and her illustrations were lush, detailed, colorful and whimsical.  Her prose was engaging.  

What I didn't like about this book was that, while the author said you don't need to have a lot of money or look a certain way to have great style, her illustrations left the opposite impression.  Almost all the women in her drawings (and there were only women, this is not a book for men to read if they want to know about style!) were white.  They were all thin, with no curves in sight.  In short, they all resembled the author.  I would've preferred more diversity.  The other thing I didn't like was that the drawings were packed with stuff.  Jewelry, accessories, shoes, furnishings, clothes, chandeliers (she really likes chandeliers), makeup ... just everything.  If you don't need a lot of money to have great style, do you really need so much stuff?  So it's not a style book for the minimalist. 

The author talks about the qualities that define your personal style: your manners (or lack thereof), speech, the way you carry yourself, the colors you choose, the objects you choose for your home, the company you keep ... all those details that define you as a unique individual.  This extends from your personal code of dressing, to the way you decorate your home, to how you entertain.  Moses has some nice ideas about home decorating and entertaining, but it's nothing earth-shattering.  Personally I'm still working on getting rid of the clutter in my home.  To me, having a place for everything and everything in its place is the pinnacle of style. 

I came away feeling slightly defeated.  As Moses says in the first few pages of her book, some people are born with innate style.  The rest of us just have to work at it, if we choose, and that's why books like this sell.  In summary, it was a short and enjoyable read, but it left me underwhelmed. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Laid Up Inside and Unable to Go Out" Ensemble

"Laid Up Inside and Unable to Go Out" Ensemble

I've been laid up inside for about two months now, which isn't how I planned on spending my summer, but I had no choice.  I had an attack of diverticulitis back in July (thanks to overdosing on nuts and seeds), and when I was getting into the ambulance to go to the hospital emergency room, I injured my right knee.  I did further damage to it getting out of the ambulance.  Once I was being treated in the ER, I was so distracted by the pain in my belly from the diverticulitis, that I neglected to mention that I hurt my knee, so I never got treated for it, unfortunately.  

I was doing fine recuperating until a few days later when I almost fell down trying to get over the threshold to my apartment, which has a step.  Since then, I haven't been able to get out of the apartment.  Hence the lack of "going out" outfit posts.  Instead, this has pretty much been my uniform: pajamas, because lots of sleep and keeping my legs up seems to help with the injured knee, and stretchy knit pants and men's t-shirts are nice and comfortable.  

I have an appointment with an orthopedist this month to take care of the knee.  We'll see how it goes!  Hopefully I can get down the steps by then.