Spring Cleaning with the KonMarie Method

For spring cleaning this year, I have started reading the book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo.   It’s a book about, well, tidying.  For me this time of year is for cleaning, which normally means lots of scrubbing and washing everything I can get my hands on, pulling out the stove and scrubbing under it, climbing on top of things and cleaning the places no one ever sees.  There are a few problems with that method this year. Since my injury, I have some pretty big physical limitations that I didn’t have last time I did spring cleaning, with no husband or roommates there is no one to help and due to of having a more than full-time job I have less time than I normally do.  The other reason I’m doing the KonMarie method instead of my normal method is that she is promising lifelong tidiness.  While my normal method sure does make everything clean for a while, it doesn’t make things more “tidy” long term.  It doesn’t make cleaning for the rest of the year easier.  It doesn’t actually make my house all that much more pleasing.   Also, I love the word “Tidy”, it has always been one of my favorite words.  TIDY, TIDY, TIDY!!!

life-changing-magic-of-tidying-up-2The idea behind this method is that you go through everything you own and get rid of the things that don’t bring you joy.  Then you organize and arrange the remaining things in a reasonable and pleasing way.

This is also the perfect time for me to start on this method because it takes about 6 months and I moved in about 6 months.  The KonMarie method will be a great pre-moving event.  I can pair down my possession and pack up the things I am keeping at the same time.  My friends Issa and Lee got a ton of boxes to me on Imbolc to start packing things.   I started reading the book the evening after the Imbolc ritual.

The first step of the KonMarie process is figuring out why you want to tidy.  “I want a clean house”  or “I want to be able to entertain without feeling too stressed to clean” isn’t enough.  You must ask yourself lots of questions to get to the root of what it is you really want from your space and why.   I have come up with two answers after several days of thinking about it.

  1. I want to live in a home that is classy and fun.  I want my guests to walk into my home and feel ease and joy, but I also want them to think “wow, this place is clean, smells nice and is pleasing, Everything I see is of high quality, and reflects Kitty’s personality.  Kitty must be doing very well for herself financially and emotionally”

Why do I want this?

Well, when I was a kid I was very poor.  When I was little we lived in a shitty single wide trailer without running water in coal country of Pennsylvania.  It was cold and dirty there, broken down cars and a moldy shack littered what might have been a very lovely woodland clearing. Everything was always covered in black coal dust and smoke.  When I was 7 my mother left my father and we moved someplace that I thought was like a palace.   We lived in a brand new double wide!  With a garden tub!  But looking back I know we were still poor.

As a child, I got teased for wearing used and ugly clothes.  I was often brought to tears because the other kids said I smelled bad, which now actually seems petty unlikely, I showered every day and my mother was a bit of a clean freak, but also a smoker so I don’t know, maybe I did smell bad.  I guess I’ll never know.  Once I realized how poor we were I wanted to never be poor again, I felt angry and ashamed that we were poor while so many other people were rich.  This started me having a lot of self-hatred and anger about poverty, but that is another post.  Anyway, I didn’t want to be poor and wanted to change that.  I now know this isn’t something you have a ton of control over, but I have done what I could.

I think I had just about reached “middle class” financially before my husband left me last year.  But I never felt like it while with him.  When we were doing things with his job I felt like I was super rich.  We stayed in nice hotels, we went to cool places, I met important people and ate fancy foods.  All of that was awesome, during those times I felt happy and important like my life was going the right direction, like I could do great things. During those times I got a little overconfident about being someone important myself someday, like a writer. All that opulence made me work hard and being someone great.    But at home we lived in a house that was a mess inside and out, that was full of cheap shit and clutter no matter how hard I tried to fight that.   Living here I have felt like sometimes all I do is clean, working 10 hours a day at cleaning to still wake up to filth.  Yes, I get that there are some emotional issue and compulsive disorder things going to be dealt with there.

My ex-husband had many good qualities, but wanting a clean and classy home was not among them.  He grew up nearly as poor as I, but with a family that was less concerned with cleanliness, quality and what other people thought about them, which my mother was obsessed with.   He is the type of person who doesn’t mind living in a house that needs painting, who doesn’t rush to clean up trash in the yard or tidy the house. And that is ok, not everyone takes joy from the same things.  I, however, take joy in a clean home and yard and in being able to entertain guests.

He is gone now which makes me sometimes feel totally broken with sadness even after so many months, sometimes super angry, but increasingly zen I guess.  He left me, he had his reasons, that sucks.  But it is in the past and I had no control over it happening.  It wasn’t my fault he left,  but picking up the pieces is my responsibility.   I have to deal with that shit and move on.

I am still living in “our” house, but soon for the first time in my life, I will be living in “my” house.  A place that is 100% mine.  A place that will reflect only my personality and values.  I value quality.  I value joy, art, and beauty.  I value cute things, colorful things, and stupidly adorable things!

I’m not wealthy now, I’m not even middle class with just my income (about $25,000 a year if I keep doing well).  But, I would rather have a few nice things than many shitty things. I will be getting rid of all the low-quality and joyless things before or when I leave.  This part of my life, this home is dead and needs to left alone to decay.

My new home will merge the aesthetic of a fancy spa and a candy store. There will be many candles and fresh flowers, cute candy jars for art reasons, pastel furniture, lots of bright white filigree, antique china, stuffed animals and doilies.   It will be glorious,  like Honeyduke’s from Harry Potter if managed by a Jess from “New Girl” and owned by Jackie O.

  1. I want my home to be a place where I can feel free to relax, engage in any activity or work on any project of my choosing when I am alone.

What does this mean?

20180212_141516_Film4To my left as I type this I have my piano keyboard.  It is covered in mail, clothing and dust.  I want to play the piano at least a few times a week, but I can’t because of effort and guilt.  It would take time to clean all the stuff off and put it all away and once I started cleaning I would probably just keep cleaning.  If I did stop and try to play the piano I would feel guilty, because for me playing the piano is something you do in a clean house.  Knitting is something you do in a clean house.  Coloring is something you do when you have done all your chores.  Even reading or being able to relax while watching T.V or taking a bubble bath is for people who are done with tasks for the day.   I can only let go and truly enjoy my inside hobbies when my space is clean, but because I don’t have a great system my space is seldom clean enough for me to relax.   I have tried to take all the things I want to do off the “for a good Kitty only list” but after years of trying I have decided to give up on that, and instead find a way to feel like a good Kitty.

I theorize that If I can get things in order,  only having to tidy for 15 minutes a day then I will have more deserved free time to do the things that matter to me.  I guess we will see if that’s true.

With these two very introspective, complex and personal reasons to tidy my home I feel confident that I can get this done.  I’ve already made a list of 80 categories that I need to evaluate, pare down and organize.

20180211_152203_Film4I have done the method for two categories so far:

  • from 24 to 18 blankets, throws and duvets
  • from 44 to 31 types of tea.

 

I will try to post here as I work on this so you can see my progress.

First Rays

This year’s solstice was amazing! I watched the first sunrise of the new solar year over the ocean!

burn 2017This was something I had been wanting to do for years but it never happened for lots of reasons, like money, other people’s interest level, and my own motivation to make it happen.  This year, however, I wanted it bad enough to declare that I was doing it even if I had to drive up by myself and sleep in my car. Someone who cares about me paid for everything as a Yule gift, because even though I’m working I’m not in a good financial place yet.

I had to work Thursday, December 21st until 7 pm, which was several hours after sunset.  That presented a little bit of a problem, but I was able to take a short break around 5:30 pm (thank the Kitty Goddess for work at home jobs!) to light last year on fire in my ritual area.  I lit a yellow candle with the last of the sparks of 2017.20171221_171710_Film4

As soon as work was done I gathered my things, made the candle as safe as possible in the car and started the 5-hour drive to the coast.

It was a long drive.  We talked as much as we could, we listened to some of Terry Pratchett’s “Hogfather”.  The first few hours were ok, but on the dark, empty country roads around 1 a.m, the night started to feel pretty creepy.  We were definitely in the slasher movie zone.  That neon red smiling “Piggly Wiggly” sign is not a friendly sight on Darkest Night in “I don’t remember where” South Carolina.

Once back on the highway everything took on a real dreamlike feel, good thing I wasn’t the one driving. Thankfully we made it to the hotel around 2 am. As soon as I opened the car door I could hear the ocean, but not see it. The air felt more humid and smelled of the sea. The plan had been to set up most things in the hotel room and only go down to the beach for the sunrise.  Oddly enough, no one was in the lobby, so we couldn’t check into our room. Plans change.

We took ourselves and the magical sun holding candle to waffle house for about an hour.  I ate hash browns covered in cheese and sang pop songs,  maybe this should be a new dark night tradition.  After that we drove around the old fancy parts of Charlson, the only car around, looking at the gaslights, French accents and the tastefully extravagant Christmas decorations on the ridiculously expensive mansions.

Dark beachAround 4 am we went back to the beach, parked in the garage under the hotel we were booked at, the only one on Island of Palms.  I changed into my ritual dress in the parking garage, got all the ritual supplies, mixed rum with a nice wassel from Trader Joe’s and made it to the beach a little before 5 am.  Which was barely on time surprisingly, given that sunrise was at 7:18 am.  The sky was totally dark to the east as I started to set up, but within minutes of getting there, I could see it lightning to grays and pinks.

 

I did most of the same general ritual steps I would use at home, but this was very different from previous years.  My normal Yule crew of the last 7 years or so wasn’t with me for one.  Erik, who normally does a runic divination for us and runs the bloat, which is the  “boast, oath and toast” part had moved to Massachusetts last spring,

So this year I read the tarot cards instead, just for me.  It was a quick reading and I didn’t get much out of it, but maybe I need to take some time to explore the reading further.  Lori wasn’t there because she was celebrating her anniversary of her secret wedding.  The other person who had been there for every Yule for the last 10 years isn’t part of my world anymore.  It didn’t make sense to invite anyone else this year.

It was just me and someone who is new to my life as of about 10 months ago, and who had never done Yule or maybe any pagan ritual.  Mostly he watched and took amazing pictures, but he joined in some.

We did boasts.  I’m proud of myself for how I managed to deal with the extremely bad injury that I suffered in March, damaging 3 tendons in my left leg and breaking two bones.  My friends were there for me and helped where they could, but mostly I did it on my own.  I learned to live alone, sleep alone, do my grocery shopping alone and function as an independent adult while in a wheelchair and on crutches. It was maybe the hardest, most badass thing I have ever done.  I’m down to just a brace now when I go out and I can deal with the pain.

We did oaths.  Going from running three times a week to being unable to even walk without assistance, plus the depression that I have been dealing with has meant I’ve gained almost 20 lbs in 9 months.  That is not good for my recovery, the extra weight is hard on my tendons.  And it’s not good for me emotionally.  I started losing the weight for a bad reason, to deal with an emotional trauma, but by the time I was running it was about me. About being strong, about owning my body, about pushing myself.  I’m probably never going to run again unless I’m being chased by something that wants to eat me, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up being strong, fit and happy in my body.  My oath was to get back down to the weight I was the day I broke my leg, 154 lbs.

We did toasts.  I toasted my companion.  10 months ago we were strangers.  Two weeks after our first date I broke my leg.  He has gotten to know me at probably the lowest point in my life, and yet he had been the most amazing friend I could ask for.  He has seen me at my very worst and chooses to stay.  It’s been an emotionally awakening to be around someone that good.

We drank, at each phase.  And maybe I drank between phases.

As the sky turned pink, I wrote down things I wanted to give up on tissue paper and watched them burn before hitting the sand.   Drank a little for the passing of each of those.

I was silly excited as the sky lightened to almost daylight brightness but the clock said we were still 10 minutes from sunrise.

I was holding my breath, staring at the lighted area when in the time it takes to blink,  the sun was reborn.  Seeing that tiny, beautiful dark orange, burning sliver of life peeking over the water brought tears to my eyes, and not just because I dumb enough to stare at the sun.  That moment felt exactly the way I had imagine it would for all of these years.  The stress of planning it, the mad dash after work, the drive, the cold, the pain of my leg walking up to the beach, it was all worth it.  Maybe everything else was too, everything that finally brought me to this place, on this morning, for this miraculous moment.

I always joke about protecting the spark on the darkest night and bringing it back like to my friends on Facebook, and they said thank you. This year’s was the same in that regard. What was different was a stranger who was staying in the hotel saw what I was doing and came down at the end and told me it made her happy. I have always felt like I’m doing something, connecting to something on Yule night.   I know, of course, I don’t bring back the sun, but pretending I do gives me a nice easy goal to accomplish every year because I know that the sun will rise with or without me, that the earth turns whether I’m alive on it or not.  This last year, there were so many times when I almost wasn’t anymore.  There were so many moments when I didn’t want to feel any more pain when things were just too fucking hard.  There were so many days when I was just too damaged, hurting too much and so very alone.  There were so many days when I thought the darkness was going to last forever, but even the longest night has a dawn.  I’m so glad I got to see this one.

I lit three candles repenting virtues I want to focus on this year.    We did “maybe you never hunger” eating the cookies I made and sacrificing others.  We did “may you never thirst” drinking some more spicy, applish rum drink and pour some out for lots of reasons. I sat in the new light, unfiltered by houses, trees, other people and started my new planner for 2018. I swam in the ocean in late December and worked on my tan.

I felt happy, productive and a little tipsy. I get a lot done before lunchtime some days.  Which was a fabulous place btw, but restaurant reviews are a different post.

 

 

 

I made sure that the sun was reborn this year. A bright, beautiful one. Hopefully a good one.  You’re welcome. Most of these photos were taken by and belong to P. Travis.

Carrot Pot

Carrots are in the top five of my favorite vegetables to eat and my number one favorite to grow. There is something so satisfying about harvesting them, sort of the same feeling as opening a birthday present. I never know the size, flavor or even color of the carrot when I start to pull, so it is always a surprise. I’ve been growing them in garden beds for six years now. The first year they were horrible, only about an inch long, furry and with a strong bitter flavor. Each year they have been getting a little better as the garden’s soil quality has improved, but I will never have smooth, long store bought looking carrots in garden beds at this house, because there is just too much clay.
Here are a few of 2012’s best carrots. carrot

They were a respectable size and the flavor was phenomenal, very sweet and more carroty than you get at the store. Some are a little furry and some were oddly shaped as you can see. Over all these made me happy and I plan to grow more in the garden beds hoping for similar results.

This year I am also going to try growing some in a pot and I figured if I am going to have containers in the garden, they might as well be pretty. It is now rather obvious what should be growing in this one. Carrot and Bunny pot

Painting pots is harder in my opinion than canvas (not that I am an expert on either), the top is bigger than the bottom and the whole thing is round of course, not to mention that the smooth surface of the terra cotta does not want to hold onto the paint. I sealed this pot and did two base coats of white acrylic before I started the painting itself. I started on it yesterday afternoon and it took about 3 hours or so of active work start to finish.

Having a little art in my garden will certainly brighten things up and make it more fun.

Now I have to sift some compost and mix it with peat moss, sand and potash to fill up the and then add the carrot seeds. I have 4 varieties and a mix this year. Since the rabbit is sort of anime I think I will put Asian varieties in the pot, Shin Kuroda and a long thin Japanese Imperial type disappointingly called tendersweet.

I will let you know how the carrots turn out in a few months.

Here is an informative site Carrot Museum if you want to learn everything there is to know about carrots.

Peach Blossoms

I know I said the next one would be happy. Sorry, I lied. This one is not happy, but I think it is sort of fun at least.

I am killing two birds with one stone today.  Who throws stones at birds? Seems like a rather silly way to get dinner. Anyway…The story below was written both for Trifecta and inspired by the peach blossoms that are stubbornly blooming in my garden, even though I begged them not to.  They are so lovely and charming that I can’t help but take joy from them.  But they are also fleeting and delicate.  This weekend there might be a frost, and if there is, all of the flowers will wither and die overnight.  If not, they will stay a short spell longer gracing my garden for few weeks before floating away to make room for summer’s peaches.  I enjoy the fragile blossoms while they last, but I adore peaches. I appreciate that something so striking can be transformed into something delicious and that not everything that is lovely is just for looking at. Beautiful and practical is the best of both worlds.

Peach Flower

Then again, some plants are not very pretty at all and they make great fruits or vegetables.  Beauty is not everything, and when it fades, which it will, I hope that I have plenty of canned peaches to last me through the winter.

Stepmother’s Toast

“A fairy tale is a story, a pretty vintage lie handed down from mother to daughter across the generations.  As we grow up, the lies slough away, washed off our brains by science, reason, and experience.  No 100-foot tall beanstalk could support its own weight. Clouds are puffy water, unsuitable foundation for a giant’s castle.  Horses are noble creatures; we can’t blame them for lacking the whimsy to evolve a single golden horn.   Fairies don’t flutter by on gossamer wings, nor do wicked witches sell produce door-to-door in this age of grocery stores and farmer’s markets. There are no magic lamps with jinn in residence or talking animals, unless you count the brutish groomsmen.

Why do we insist on holding out for Prince Charming, doing our best to freeze our bodies with creams and botox, so when he finally comes to rescue us, our skin is smooth and our cheeks blush prettily at his chaste true love’s kiss.

By the way, you look lovely, my dear, fresh as a peach blossom.

Many cling to fantasy, unwilling or unable to doctor their expectations with a pinch of reality, a dash of practicality.  They try every magic they possess to find and capture, or if all else fails, create their prince.  He is kind, manly, strong, gentle, clean, yet unafraid to get his hands dirty.  He will stand up for you, but never stand up to you.  He loves what you love, is respected by his peers, successful in business, and must make an excellent father, to raise the pretty princesses and handsome princes you spawn.

Then some minor thing goes wrong, an errant sock, less than convincing interest in rose gardening, an unslain spider. You start to question.  Is this really my soulmate?

Each mundane day the magic will erode, slowly turning your prince into a frog.

Anyway, I wish the beautiful couple happiness, of course cursed to be temporary.  Please enjoy the open bar my husband is paying for.”

Moonflower

This is the first year I have ever grown these, in fact I don’t think I have ever seen them in real life before.  They looked so pretty in the gardening catalog. I needed them to be mine.  They bloom every night just around sunset and stay open all night.  On nights with a lot of moon they look romantic and magical.  The smell is soft and delicate, and reminds me a little of suntan lotion and walking on the beach.  They are going to be a regular feature in my garden in the coming years.

Flower Power

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When I first started gardening seriously I was not very nice to flowers.   I was in fact almost offended by them, the way I still am with grass.  If I talked about flowers at all it would have been to say they are a waste of space and that only flowers that are beneficial companion plants are allowed in my garden.   I had marigolds and of course anything that made a flower in order to grow the veggie or fruit, and that was about it.   But over time that changed.   I realized that those strawberry flowers and peach blossoms made me happy.  Not just because they were the harbinger of delicious noms to come, but because they were lovely all on their own.

A few years ago I threw a few handfuls of beneficial insect attracting wildflower seeds into a little unused space in the front yard.  My stated reason would have been to get more good helpful insects to increase the food production, but there was more to it than that.  I wanted flowers.  When they came up and I saw the little buds forming I was so excited.  I had no idea what flowers were in the mix.  Would this new one be pink, blue or purple? Would it be a single flower, or a cluster of little ones?  Would it have a nice smell?

I have never been one to be given or go buy cut flowers.  It always seemed like a waste of money, but I admit I like to stop and look at them in the flower part of the store.  Flower arrangements were a decadent thing that I just could not have in my life.  But that all changed as those wildflowers started to bloom.   It was like a magic trick, this one part of my yard was a joy for the senses; a riot of colors and shapes, a busy buzzing blur of bees and butterflies, and a delicate blend of new smells.

That is when I realized flowers are a perfectly reasonable crop for a hard-working homesteader.  They might not feed my tummy, but they feed another part of me that is just as in need of nourishment.