Wednesday, March 18, 2015

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



This little book has sold over 2 million copies, so I finally caved in and bought it to find out what all the hoopla was.   I think I'm pretty organized ;  I have all kinds of storage systems, no drawers with free-floating junk, and hang my clothes by color.   Silly me!    Ms Kondo takes the tidying up to a whole new level.   I have read books and articles about organizing and storage , but none like hers.   She isn't all about the storage systems; she's about decluttering so you don't have so much to store in the first place.

It's no secret that most of us have too much stuff .  I'm not in hoarder territory, but we live in a large house , there are only two of us, and the place is pretty packed with stuff.   I stick to the rule, "If you buy one, you have to get rid of one",  and still have more than I need.  Clearly it is time to do some purging.   

Ms Kondo's approach is simple - touch everything you own and ask, "Does it bring me joy?"  If the answer is yes, it stays.  If the answer is no, it goes.  Her focus is not on what to get rid of, but what to keep.   The genius part (at least for me), is that she approaches this process by category - shoes, shirts, books, etc.  Choose a category, then go room by room and gather everything in that category.   I usually do the one drawer or one room method, but she says you need to see all the things you have before you start deciding what to keep and what to toss.  Plus, it will put you in the right frame of mind to purge when you see the how much you really have.

I started with jackets.  I used to have a job that required some "big girl" clothes and I love jackets, so I have LOTS of jackets.   I went through all the closets, found all of the jackets, and then started asking as I picked up each one, "Does this bring me joy?".  Turns out that one whole trash bag full did not!   I now have a whole rack cleared out, and some lucky shopper at Goodwill is in for a treat.  The purging wasn't painful since I only tossed things that got the "meh" rating.

Next up - tops.  Good lord - the haul covered the entire bed.  After the question - and - answer period, I looked at what was left and asked "Do I really need six black tank tops?".   Of course not, so I was able to toss a few more, honing in on the amount of joyfulness each one held.  (I'm not sure "joy" really applies to tank tops, but you get the drift).  Another trash bag full of stuff headed to Goodwill.

I have several more categories to do.  Ms Kondo recommends using this approach on all your things in a one-time mondo clear-out, but I can't take it non-stop.   I'm using the short-burst approach instead.  

Once the purging is complete, she does have  ideas for storing all that joyful stuff.  But she isn't a fan of elaborate storage systems,  her favorite being shoe boxes and tops.   When I first read how she stores things in drawers, I thought she had gone over into crazy-town, but then I tried it, and I am a convert.   She says not to stack things on top of each other, but to fold things and stand them on end so you can see each thing you have (and presumably be swept away by the joy of it all).   So you fold your shirts (or unders, or whatever) into rectangles and store them standing on end.  It's pretty simple:

Fold each lengthwise side of the garment towards the center,  Next pick up the short bottom end and fold to the top. Fold again to form a rectangle.  The goal it to have the item folded so it is as tall as the drawer.  For me this was really just making one more final fold than usual, so not big deal.

Amazing - takes up less space AND you can see everything you have.  Behold a couple of drawers I've finished:



The Captain's tee shirt drawer - more room and now he can easily pick the one he wants,


And mime - so serene, so pretty, so much easier!

She also has some thoughts on the "noise of written information".  Too many words - labels, product information, etc.  can add to our stress.   Now I know why my glass jars for grains make me happy - no advertising,  no over-stimulation from too much word "noise".   Probably why I turn all the jars and cans so the  picture is front and center - less written information.  Or maybe I'm just letting my latent OCD fly!  It does make sense that the constant onslaught of useless information is distracting and adds to our stress.

I did find some of Ms Kondo's  suggestions a bit much for me - like the daily emptying out your bag (purse, backpack, whatever you haul your junk in around) .  I am also not likely to thank my socks for their hard work nor my coat for keeping me warm - the anthropomorphizing seems a bit cray-cray to me.  But to each their own.  I'm just happy to have a better way of paring down and storing what I have.

You know something has caught on when the noun becomes a verb.  People are tweeting about "Kondo-izing" their things.   Who knew that a little girl obsessed with storage would grow up to be the organizing guru to the world?

Check out Ms Kondo in action:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Newly Discovered Endangered Species - the Mailbox

You may be tired of hearing about the brutal winter we've had here in the frozen tundra that is the Northeast.   We've had several feet of snow, most of it in February, and we are still trying to dig out .  Roofs are leaking or have collapsed,  backing out of the driveway is a death-sport, and roads are at about two-thirds their normal width.

And mailboxes - oh, lord, they have taken a beating.   Behold the sad state of local mailboxes:


Our sad box.  Two weeks ago it was firmly lodged in a snowbank, with only the black box visible and totally inaccessible.  Now the final blow -  a fatal snowplow injury.


Bashed box,  ripped from its base and minus the door,  doing the popular downward facing dog.


The double box is a popular look, first seen this season.  When the top box is out of reach and/or demolished, folks have been digging into the snow bank and cramming in an auxiliary box that maybe the mail delivery person can reach.


Another double-decker sighting.   Note the metal poles around the new box.  These folks are delusional if they think those flimsy poles are any match for the mighty plow .


This one is the new upward facing dog position.



No closure is pretty common, as it the leaning, leaning look.   These people have great faith in that puny stick and the rope lashing.


 At least the post is still standing.


Forget it - we've just given up.


And so have we.

The Post Office and mail carriers have been so patient with this situation.  Mail carriers do the full-body out the window to try and reach mailboxes.  The PO staff has been flooded with mail held because of buried, broken and missing boxes.   Expect to see an unusual spike in mailbox sales within the next month.



But it was 60 degrees today, birds are returning, and it is light until after 6 p.m.   Maybe there is hope, but not for the mailboxes - they are doomed.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

DIY St. Patrick's Day Shirts



Both of our grands have Irish surnames, so shamrock shirts are in order.   I found this idea on Pinterest (how on earth did we ever manage before Pinterest?).   There is a detailed tutorial on Jessica's blog.   The technique is pretty similar to the Sharpie mugs we made at Christmas, except we're using paint, not Sharpies.

The hardest part of the project was finding plain white tees !  Target had all kinds of printed ones, a bazillion Frozen ones, and only these two styles in plain white.   I washed and dried the shirts first so they would do any shrinking or other laundry bad-behavior before I painted them.   Washing also removes the sizing used that makes the shirts look all smooth and perfect - it also can prevent the paint from sticking.



First, the shamrock.  Jessica has a template on her bog, or you could free-hand it.  I used her template and enlarged it to about 120% for the larger shirt.  Trace the template on to freezer paper.  Freezer (or deli) paper is key.  



 Position the template on the shirt , shiny side (plastic) down and lightly iron so it adheres to the fabric.


I used two shades of green paint, plus one with glitter to glam up the one for Montana granddaughter.   Since I used regular acrylic paint, not fabric paint, I added texture medium .  Fabric paint, or acrylic paint with texture medium, helps the paint be absorbed into the fibers and be more permanent.


Now, the fancy tool - a pencil with an eraser.  Pencil erasers make the best dots- you can even use them with a stamping pad.  Be sure to slide a piece of paper - freezer or whatever paper is handy inside the shirt before you start painting so the paint doesn't bleed through to the back of the shirt.


Now the fun begins.  Dip the eraser in paint and start painting dots all around the shamrock.  Paint the dots close together at first, then start spreading them out a bit as you add more rows.  The first couple of rows closer together ensure a crisp outline. 


Here is the little shirt fro Texas grandson with all the painted dots and the paper template still in place.  Once you're happy with the dots, peel off the freezer paper.  The magic of freezer paper is that it will peel off without leaving any residue.   Let the paint dry for twenty-four hours.

 For best results, the paint should be heat-set.   You can either put the shirts in the dryer (on hot) for 30 minutes or iron - set them.   I put a piece of paper over the design and  then use a hot iron (no steam) to set the paint.



This is the larger shirt with some glitter paint dots.  I added some to the neckline to girlie it up .



This is fun, easy and really goof-proof.  It would be a great project to do with the kiddos.  Consider the possibilities - hearts for Valentine's Day,  pastel dots around eggs for Easter,  white dots for snowmen on a dark blue shirt - all kinds of fun shirts.


Monday, February 16, 2015

The Winter of My Discontent


{ image from Garden Rant blog}

There are some words I do not want to hear again - snowmageddon, blizzard, ice jams, gale, ice rake, and hurricane force gusty winds.    You may have heard that the Northeastern seacoast has been hammered with record-breaking snowfall.   What you may not have heard is that the natives are going N.U.T.S.  Or at least, this native is .  I am not a fan of a normal winter and  this craziness is off the charts.    The snow on our front yard is at least 4 feet deep, with drifts  over 6 feet.   I am beginning to understand why pioneers went bat-shit crazy during the winter.






The beginning of this mess - snowstorm Juno that deposited about 3 feet of snow.   No coffee on the deck for some time.  Although even I have to admit the deck table looks like a cake stand, topped by a fluffy white cake.    And I hate it.  


The same deck this week - table no longer visible.  Using Vivian Swift's champagne-o-meter method of measuring snow, you can begin to appreciate just how much of the *&**&% white stuff we have.





Our summer lobster roll spot is buried.


Icicles are the latest in outdoor home decoration.  And I am obsessed with them - Googling why they form and driving around to do icicle-spotting.  



The downside to all that ice and snowy roofs ?   One of our sky lights is leaking!  It could always be worse, of course - at least our roof hasn't caved in like some have.


Like most of our neighbors, we have an access tunnel into the house.  


Our driveway is about 2/3 of its usual width and we're now using the top as snow storage.


Next project is digging out the mailbox.  Thought The Captain's Valentine's Day gift got lost, but we found it once we were finally able to open the mailbox!


View from the front door - "view" being the gigantic snow pile.


Ditto the back deck.


And the front door.    


I'm trying to convince myself that this won't last forever, hence this planner page, although I do feel like the line from one of the Dr. Seuss books,  "I said those words; I said them, but I lied them."



There is a bright spot- we leave for Montana later this week, where there is no snow and the temps have reached 50 degrees.  How crazy is that?    And in March, a getaway to New Orleans, assuming we can get out of the driveway.      


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Paris Trip Book - Finally



I can't believe our Paris trip was five years ago.   Or that making a book of that trip would take five years!     In going though my stash of journals and notebooks, I came across a notebook with pages, tags and embellishments that would work with my Paris pictures.

I needed more pages , so I raided my stash and found paper and stamps that worked with the pages in the notebook.  I already had a candelabra  and a harlequin stamp,  lots of vintage- looking and French-inspired papers.

My goal was to get this book put together with stuff I already have - no new supplies.   I've been following a group on Facebook called Shop Your Stash - it's all about using all the stuff we have instead of buying more.   Lots of FB groups are full of enablers - always enticing us that we need, NEED every new supply out there.   I don't need more stuff - I hardly have room for what I have.  It was fun to challenge myself to do this project with what I have.  In fact, it's a bit frightening that I can put together a book - covers, pages, embellishments just by rummaging around in my own "shop"!



I actually started this book while we were in Paris, so I have some small pages from that book, too.  I toyed with the idea of re-writing the journalling on to bigger pages, but left that crazy idea behind.  This is the first book I've made with different sized pages and I love the mixed-up look of it.   I had this flour de lis paper and stamp and repeated it throughout the book .   Talented Boston Daughter made the card announcing my birthday gift - tickets to Paris!




Another look at all those mis-matched pages.    It goes without saying that I'm not a scrap-booker.  While I love the perfectly planned and coordinated pages I've seen others do, it's just not my style.









The notebook pages also included several tags.   I attached this one with some washi tape so it can be flipped to read both sides.








I added some scrapbook paper to the edges of some of the small pages to avoid having to punch holes through the journalling I did in Paris.  Again, I repeated pieces of the same paper throughout the book to tie it all together.





I glued the envelope that came with the kit to the inside of the back cover to hold extra photos.




I used the covers from an old book to make covers for the new one..   First I cut the pages out , making a cut along the spine and then cut the covers off the spine.






Then drilled holes for the rings.    Turns out the covers were too thick to actually set the grommets, so I banged the little points flat and glued the grommets (front and back) to finish off the drill holes.  Thanks to DC son for the new craft knife- much nicer than my old cheap-o one and to Boston Daughter for some of the French-inspired ephemera.




   Next up,  Scotland!

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