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.

Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow

I just finished reading “Kitchen” by Banana Yoshimoto, which contains two short novellas: “Kitchen” and “Moonlight Shadow”.

There are some emotions that almost everyone experiences, with very few exceptions. Yet the most common, most universal of emotions somehow manage to feel unique to each of us as we experiences them. When we taste the sweetness of love or the bitterness of losing one we love forever, we feel joy or suffering are ours alone. I live in the US. Over the last few years I have realized that when someone announces a death you say “I’m sorry” and you never try to empathize, saying “Yes, I know how you feel,” People don’t want to hear that. On TV or in movies, when a person tries to empathize or relate, it is met with dirty looks or throwing something at the offending party. We want isolation for our pain.

In “Kitchen,” Yoshimoto masterfully deconstructs the pain of losing a loved one, breaking it down into all its varied flavors; overwhelming and subtle. She writes about loneliness, fear, grief, and even anger in a way that feels so intimate, while also feeling normal and every day. So often in books and movies, pain gets the same fade to black treatment that sex scenes used to get. A character learns that they have lost the person they love most, a spouse, child, parent, or friend. For just a brief second we get to see their anguish and then we look away, embarrassed maybe? Only a few things can happen when the lights come back on; the story jumps ahead to years later when the pain has passed, the story becomes one of revenge and retribution. Or in the worst case, it is voyeuristic look at pain, where we roll around in the madness and sorrow of this person. It is this last way of dealing with the pain of loss that is why I seldom read “realism” novels written by and for adult women in my own culture. I take no joy in sharing that sort of pain, nor do I secretly hope for it as I theorize so many do.

A friend suggested I read “Kitchen,” letting me borrow her copy. In the first few pages of “Kitchen” I was a little skeptical, not sure if I could read this book. It opens with loss, with a young woman finding herself all alone, the last living member of her family. But Yoshimoto’s writing was so beautiful that I kept reading and soon I found that I was entranced by the story. I was even reading out passages to my partner and best friend, highlighting the loveliness and texture of the prose.

This is the beginning “Kitchen,” to give you a little taste of her style:
“The place I like best in this world is the kitchen. No matter where it is, no matter what kind, if it’s a kitchen, if it’s a place where they make food, it’s fine with me. Ideally it should be well broken in. Lots of tea towels, dry and immaculate. Where tile catching the light (ting! ting!).
I love even incredible dirty kitchens to distraction – Vegetable droppings all over the floor, so dirty your slippers turn black on the bottom. Strangely, it’s better if this kind of kitchen is large. I lean up against the silver door of a towering giant refrigerator stocked with enough food to get through a winter. When I raise my eyes from the oil-spattered gas burner and the rusty kitchen knife, outside the window stars are glittering, lonely.
Not only the kitchen and I are left. It’s just a little better than being alone”

In “Kitchen,” Yoshimoto was able to express that this woman’s pain was unique, but only in the tiny details, not in the overall experience. This story is very focused on cooking and revolves around the kitchen. So in terms of food I would say that all loss is the same dish, but that each of us makes it and experiences it differently.

Have you ever used saffron? Have you ever watched it bloom, releasing its flavor into a bowl of water that is then used in your cooking? If the moment of loss is the tiny thread of saffron, then these stories are the bloom, the orange color diffusing into the water, getting lighter and lighter the farther away from the thread it drifts. Until eventually all the water has become scented and flavored of saffron, even if you can hardly see it. Once you add it to rice, it might not bring any noticeable color at all, and yet it is there, maybe not even in every bite, but in some you will taste it and you will remember.

Each page is touched with sorrow and loneliness. But it is also just a subtle flavor in a story about everyday life.

“Every day I thrilled with the pleasure at the challenges tomorrow would bring. Memorizing the recipe, I would make carrot cakes that included a bit of my soul. At the supermarket I would stare at the bright red tomato, loving it for dear life. Having known such joy, there was no going back.
No matter what, I wanted to continue living with the awareness that I will die. Without it, I am not alive. That is what makes the life I have now possible.” – Kitchen, page 59

So much of this book is wonderful; I almost want to quote the whole thing. But you know I can’t do that; instead you should buy it or go to the library.

These stories are not fantasy in the traditional sense. No magic, dragons, or wizards. I would not even call them magical realism. They are touched with a hint of fantasy so subtle that it gives the stories a dreamlike quality and beautiful whimsy, like a pinch of salt in hot chocolate. Or, now that I think about it, that saffron rice analogy is just as correct here. A dash of fantasy is in these stories, events that could just as easily be coincidence as magic, infusing the whole story with just slightest flavor of magic.

Like in this passage:
“I saw her face in profile as she watched the river. It shocked me- it was not the of the person I had just talked with. I have never seen such a severe expression on anyone.
She noticed me stand there, smiled brightly again and waved. Flustered, I returned her wave and broke into a run.
In heaven’s name, what kind of person was she? I pondered it for quite some time. More and more , that morning in the sunlight the impression of that mysterious Uraua carved itself with baroque filigree into my sleepy brain” from “Moonlight Shadow” in “Kitchen” page 117

Yoshimoto writes about the most everyday of events or experiences in the same way she writes about the strangest, which I find refreshing. A new juicer holds the same wonder as finding out someone is transsexual; a delicious meal on a cold night holds the same magical serendipity as being able to guess a person’s phone number.

I loved “Kitchen,” and I plan to read more of Yoshimoto’s work soon.

Sacre Bleu Review

Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'ArtSacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art by Christopher Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every book Christopher Moore puts out is better than the last one. This one was great! The characters were interesting, the story unique and compelling. But the thing I want to highlight in this review is the look and the research.

The look- Wow! This is the prettiest fiction book I have ever seen. Full color pictures of the real art that the characters see/paint brings the story to life. I felt the pictures added a whole other level to how much I enjoyed this book. Also the ink is blue! The paper is a perfect feel and weight, the cover is beautiful.

The research- Moore researched this novel for 3 years before he wrote it, and you can tell. His understanding of the artist and the time period is impressive. He even lived in Paris for several months and that first hand experience shines through. As mentioned above the pictures add so much and if you want even more he has created a chapter guide with painting and pictures of locations not in the book, as well has history and real facts about the characters. I recommend you give the chapter guide a look.

View all my reviews