The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, Cathy Hirano
Published by Ten Speed Press on October 14th 2014
Genres: House & Home, Cleaning, Self-Help, Inspirational/Motivational
Pages: 204
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four-half-stars

This #1 New York Times best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).  With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

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“The Aurors are part of the Rotfang Conspiracy, I thought everyone knew that. They’re working from within to bring down the Ministry of Magic using a combination of Dark magic and gum disease.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Marie Kondo is the Luna Lovegood of tidying, and I love her for it.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a juggernaut among organization and decluttering books because Marie Kondo is a zealot. There is only one way to live in a tidy home, and that is the KonMarie way. She has a strict folding policy; she demands that you only keep items that spark joy; she anthropomorphizes her socks.

Marie Kondo is also a marketing genius. The treatment she demands for hosiery is the best way to show what works about this book and why it has so many fans.

Treat your socks and stockings with respect

Have you ever had the experience where you thought what you were doing was a good thing but later learned that it had hurt someone? At the time, you were totally unconcerned, oblivious to the other person’s feelings. This is somewhat similar to the way many of us treat our socks.

[…]

Never, ever, tied up your stockings. Never, ever ball up your socks.

from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This is classic Kondo. She leads off with an out-there observation involving inanimate objects, lectures the reader on their deplorable behavior, and then closes with a bright-line rule in bold.

At this point, you are either laughing or offended. I laughed because if nothing else, her imagery and language is excellent.

With the reader’s attention suitably drawn, she explains the reasoning behind the rule.

The socks and stockings stored in your drawer are essentially on holiday. They take a brutal beating in their daily work, trapped between your foot and your shoe, enduring pressure and friction to protect your precious feet. The time they spend in your drawer is their only chance to rest. But if they are folded over, balled up, or tied, they are always in a state of tension, their fabric stretched and their elastic pulled. They roll about and bump into each other every time the drawer is opened and closed. Any socks and stockings unfortunate enough to get pushed to the back of the drawer are often forgotten for so long that their elastic stretches beyond recovery. When the owner finally discovers them and puts them on, it will be too late and they will be relegated to the garbage. What treatment could be worse than this?

from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This is brilliant! I almost love this book more for her strategic and engaging writing style than its content. Again Kondo grabs the reader’s attention by beginning the lesson with wild declarations. In this case, we’re all sadists when it comes to our socks. Then she gives a brief home economics lesson on fabric care but does it in such a disarming way that a dull subject like sock care becomes appealing. When we roll our socks, we keep the fabric pulled and tense which, coupled with the friction caused by haphazard storage, weakens fabric elasticity and shortens the lifespan of your socks.

Same lesson, two different lesson plans.

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Once I figured out Kondo’s teaching style, my appreciation for the book skyrocketed. Kondo made home economics humorous and inspirational. If a quirky Japanese woman who sends her cell phone thank-you notes can do it, I can, too. She makes it sound fun, like there is nothing she’d rather do than fold socks properly. What she says isn’t too far removed from what I learned during two years of The William Morris Project, so I feel confident in what I have done and in what I am going to do.

I’m moving forward with my Thursday WMP posts, but I’m going to employ KonMarie methodology as best as I can. I won’t be 100% true to the book. I knocked off 1/2 star from my review because some aspects seem unrealistic or were vaguely explained. The KonMarie way has you purging all at once, yet she never explains what that means. The whole house? The whole category? She implies it’s the whole house, but I don’t see her clients working around the clock or taking time off work the complete an entire house purge. The size of my American house alone–and I live in a modest-sized home–prevents me from tackling everything in one day. This will be a long-term project lasting at least two months.

Her instructions to get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy” were also vague. I understood the concept–it’s similar to the William Morris quote–but I wanted a sharper definition. Additionally, many of us are in a position where there are items we must keep not because they “spark joy,” but because we can’t afford to replace them. My clothing, for example, and nearly all of the glasses in my kitchen.

This leads me to the final area I found lacking. Marie Kondo asks that we organize in the right order: clothes, books papers, komono, and things with sentimental value. Komono, Japanese for miscellany, is an enormous category that includes the kitchen. Absolutely not, Marie Kondo. Absolutely not! The kitchen is the lifeblood of most American homes and a hotspot for useless items and clutter. Komono sounds like the place enthusiastic organizers go to die. Tighten up that category, woman. It’s a balled up sock rolling around in a drawer and bumping into other categories.

I suppose that’s what the second book is about, you sneaky, brilliant woman.

All are welcome to join me as I delve into the KonMarie method and share their results in the comments. Next Thursday I’ll be posting the first step: visualizing my destination.

four-half-stars
Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.

Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

Bones & All

5/5 Stars

Before the end of the second page you’ll know whether this grotesquely beautiful coming of age story is one you can read.

 

Penny Wilson wanted a baby of her own in the worst way. That’s what I figure, because she was only supposed to watch me for an hour and a half, and obviously she loved me a little too much. She must have hummed a lullaby, fondled each tiny finger and toe, kissed my cheeks and stroked the down on my head, blowing on my hair like she was making a wish on a dandelion gone to seed. I had my teeth but I was too small to swallow the bones, so when my mother came home she found them in a pile on the living room carpet. The last time my mother had looked at Penny Wilson she’d still had a face. I know Mama screamed, because anyone would have. When I was older she told me she thought my babysitter had been the victim of a satanic cult. She’d stumbled upon stranger things in suburbia.

It wasn’t a cult. If it had been, they would have snatched me away and done unspeakable things to me. There I was, asleep on the floor beside the bone pile, tears still drying on my cheeks and blood wet around my mouth. I loathed myself even then. I don’t remember any of this, but I know it.

Even when my mother noticed the gore down the front of my OshKosh overalls, even when she registered the blood on my face, she didn’t see it. When she parted my lips and put her forefinger inside— mothers are the bravest creatures, and mine is the bravest of all— she found something hard between my gums. She pulled it out and peered at it. It was the hammer of Penny Wilson’s eardrum.

 

Maren is a teenager with a problem she can’t control. She is an eater–a cannibal, a ghoul, a monster–and she was born this way. Her hunger is insatiable, but not constant. Maren feeds on love; she will gobble you up if you show her the smallest bit of affection, bones and all.

On the morning after her 16th birthday, she wakes up alone.

I came down the hall and found a note on the kitchen table:

I’m your mother and I love you but I can’t do this anymore.  
                                                                DeAngelis, Camille. Bones & All: A Novel 
She is an eater–a cannibal, a ghoul, a monster–and she is alone. With nothing else to lose, Maren packs her belongings and sets off to find the father she suspects is just like her. Along the way she discovers eaters who feed on power, knowledge, peace, and more. What she doesn’t anticipate finding is self acceptance.
This is philosophical horror done perfectly. As readers we are compelled to explore our conscience and determine whether our actions align with our values. I suspect DeAngelis, a vegan, was making a statement on the political, spiritual, and ethical ramifications of eating animals and their secretions, but other reviewers have called it an exploration of female power and sexuality. The best books allow you to draw into the narrative your personal line in the sand.
Using a deftly crafted mix of horror and profundity, DeAngelis created in Bones & All a book that is macabre, astute, and infinitely readable.
Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Score 5 out of 5 stars
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Genres Young Adult

My disease is as rare as it is famous. It’s a form of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, but basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in fifteen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. But then one day, a moving truck arrives. New next door neighbors. I look out the window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black–black t-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. I want to learn everything about him, and I do. I learn that he is funny and fierce. I learn that his eyes are Atlantic Ocean-blue and that his vice is stealing silverware. I learn that when I talk to him, my whole world opens up, and I feel myself starting to change–starting to want things. To want out of my bubble. To want everything, everything the world has to offer. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.









Yes, I gave a book 5 stars!

There is a face + hand motion + word combination I make when I’m annoyed and feeling superior. It makes one of my best friends laugh whenever she sees it. She claims it’s because she knows exactly what I’m thinking but I know the real reason is because I look a chubby Kermit making a scrunch face. I made Kermit Scrunch Face several times while reading Everything, Everything.  

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon is one of the young adult buzz books for fall 2015. It certainly managed to insert many of the hallmarks of previous young adult buzz books. There’s terminal illness, plot twists, socially awkward yet remarkably well spoken teens, difficult parents, star-crossed lovers, and the intense rush of first love. 

Any of the above is cause to bring on an extreme case of Kermit Scrunch Face. Despite that, it’s a book I would recommend to fans of young adult fiction, especially the 8th grade girls whose parents okay’d The Fault in Our Stars (they have similar levels of sexual content). I wish the book didn’t have that one sex scene (mild, tastefully done) because it’s a book I would love to carry in the library. Diocesan rules are real.

The primary reason Everything, Everything is so worth reading to me is its excellent treatment of diversity. When I read that Madeline, the main character, had brown eyes, I read the sentence twice to make sure I read it correctly.

How sad that a main character with brown eyes took me by surprise.

You can imagine my reaction when I read Madeline was half-Japanese, half-African American. I was thrilled, especially when her heritage was treated as a nonissue. She explained her race (in an online chat) the way one would disclose their favorite book: like it’s just another piece of trivia. Olly, the cute boy next door, wanted to know what the “F” in Madeline F. Whittier stood for.

Olly: i was going to email you back, but saw you were online. your recipe cracked me up. has there ever been a spy in the whole history of spying that’s admitted to being a spy? i think not. i’m olly and it’s nice to meet you. 

Olly: what’s the “f” stand for? 

Madeline: Furukawa. My mom is 3rd generation Japanese American. I’m half Japanese.

Olly: what’s the other half?

Madeline: African American.

Olly: do you have a nickname madeline furukawa whittier or am i expected to call you madeline furukawa whittier?

Madeline: I don’t have a nickname. Everyone calls me Madeline. Sometimes my mom calls me honey or sweetie. Does that count?

Olly: no of course it doesn’t count. no one calls you m or maddy or mad or maddy-mad-mad-mad? i’ll pick one for you.

Olly: we’re gonna be friends

I don’t care if your black, brown, green, or purple. I’m concerned that you don’t have a proper nickname.

Other things I loved:

  • The illustrations by Yoon’s husband. They were a sweet addition to the story.

  • That Madeline was 18 years old. Her maturity, her feelings, and the risks she took were those of a true young adult.

What I didn’t love:

  • Exuberant descriptions
    • “He squeezes my hand and my lips part and we’re tasting each other. He tastes like salted caramel and sunshine. Or what I think salted caramel and sunshine taste like. He tastes like nothing I’ve ever experienced, like hope and possibility and the future.”
      • I guess we should be glad he didn’t taste like Doritos, but salted caramel and sunshine? Reign in your unicorn steed, Oh Mighty Hipster, and stick with descriptions that are a little less twee. 
  • Dialogue between teenagers that occasionally suffered from an extreme case of John Greenitis. 
    • “In my head I know I’ve been in love before, but it doesn’t feel like it. Being in love with you is better than the first time. It feels like the first time and the last time and the only time all at once.” 
      • So weird! That’s exactly what my high school boyfriend said to me after he refused to see Pretty Women because it was too “chick-y.”

Conclusion, because this review has gone on long enough: I would normally give this book 3-3.5 stars. given the previous addressed Kermit Scrunch Face triggers. In fact, originally I did. I changed my mind the more I thought about how rare it is to see a person of color as a main character without race being part of the story. We need diverse books! Also, this picture of Nicola Yoon, her husband, David, and their daughter. It wins the internet and is the only known cure for John Greenitis.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.

The Casualties by Nick Holdstock

Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The Casualties by Nick Holdstock 
Genres: Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic, Biography & Autobiography, Fiction, General, Historical, Literary, Science Fiction 

In Nick Holdstock’s The Casualties, a man recounts the final weeks of his neighborhood before the apocalyptic event that only a few of the eccentric residents will survive.Samuel Clark likes secrets. He wants to know the hidden stories of the bizarre characters on the little streets of Edinburgh, Scotland. He wants to know about a nymphomaniac, a man who lives under a bridge, a girl with a cracked face. He wants to uncover their histories because he has secrets of his own. He believes, as people do, that he is able to change. He believes, as the whole world does, that there is plenty of time to solve his problems. But Samuel Clark and the rest of the world are wrong. Change and tragedy are going to scream into his and everyone’s lives. It will be a great transformation, a radical change; and it just might be worth the cost.Written by a rising literary star whose work has been published in notoriously selective publications such as n+1 and The Southern Review, The Casualties is an ambitious debut novel that explores how we see ourselves, our past and our possible futures. It asks the biggest question: How can we be saved?




The Casualties is the rare post-apocalyptic novel where life is better after then end. The end being August 2, 2017, the day a shower of meteors struck “North America, Europe, and Australia, and nowhere else (excepting the small fragment that struck poor Socotra, ‘The Island of Bliss,’ whose people had never attacked or enslaved anyone, and which had such beautiful trees as anything…).”

The world benefited from the unexpected tabula rasa, and this is why the real story is what happened before on Comely Bank in Edinburgh, Scotland, back when Samuel Clark, murderer, believed if you studied something enough, learned its history enough, attempted to fix it enough, it would get better. It doesn’t. Sometimes you need a fresh start.

What made Comely Bank exceptional was the small pocket of eccentric residents. Samuel was one of them.

Whilst most of its people were wholly of their time—in that they did not believe in God, had small families, took holidays to faraway places, enjoyed electrical consumer goods, believed in things like equality, democracy, and the worth of the individual—there were a few who stood out. This was partly due to the way they looked) their size, their face, the way they walked), but mostly because their ideas went against the grain. They worshipped God, wished for death, or were chaste. They refused to own property.

The nymphomaniac, the man who lived under a bridge, the girl with a cracked face, and many others were worth remembering. People you remember after the world ends deserve to be called exceptional.

The novel is in two parts. In the first part, we meet Samuel and the exceptional people of Comely Bank. Samuel runs a used bookstore/charity shop. He thumbs through the pages of discarded books, looking for history and meaning. Slowly, over years, he finds snippets of history belonging to some of Comely Bank’s most eccentric residents. He collects everything he finds in a chest–a pandora’s box of history. He uses what he finds to change the future. 

In the second part, we learn the role Samuel plays in his neighbors’ death or survival–and it doesn’t happen quite like you think it will. 

The Casualties is a book that can’t be categorized. The narrative is nonlinear. It’s a book about the weeks before the end of the world–a world that is better for having lost nearly everything and everyone. The book’s uniqueness is what made it so enjoyable. My only problem with the book was the ending, oddly enough. The writing throughout was tight and precise, but the last chapter became increasingly stream-of-conscious as the past and the present narratives collided. The intent, I imagine, was to finish the book on a crescendo as all the pieces rapidly slid into place. Instead, I was left feeling like one of the casualties, knocked about from page to page and waiting for the end to come.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.

Discussion! All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

4 Stars

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE 
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

I remember the feeling of disappointment when I first heard of Milgram’s psychological experiment on obedience and conscience. Most of my classmates were horrified and felt confident they wouldn’t be in the 82.5 percent of the study participants who continued to administer painful electric shocks to people outside the room, despite hearing their cries of pain.

I knew. I knew I would fall in the 82.5 percent. I was young, eager to please, and scared to do something wrong. I knew I would keep pushing the button. I was no Jutta or Frederick. I was, and perhaps still am, Werner.

I’d like to think that as a woman in my 40s, I’m more confident than I was 20 years ago. I’d like to think I’m more Jutta, less Werner. I’m not sure. I’m lucky not to find myself in a position where I’m forced to find out.

     When his turn arrives, Werner throws the water like all the others and the splash hits the prisoner in the chest and a perfunctory cheer rises. He joins the cadets waiting to be relieased. Wet boots, wet cuffs; his hands have become so numb, they do not seem his own.
     Five boys later, it is Frederick’s turn. Frederick, who clearly cannot see well without his glasses. Who has not been cheering when each bucketful of water finds its mark. Who is frowning at the prisoner as though he recognizes something there.
     And Werner knows what Frederick is going to do.
     Frederick has to be nudged forward by the boy behind him. THe upperclassman hands him a bucket and Frederick pours it out on the ground.
Bastian steps forward. His face flares scarlet in the cold. “Give him another.”
     Again Frederick sloshes it onto the ice at his feet. He says in a small voice, “He is already finished, sir.”
     The upperclassman hands over a third pail. “Throw it,” commands Bastian. The night steams, the stars burn, the prisoner sways, the boys watch, the commandant tilts his head. Frederick pours the water onto the ground. “I will not.”

The book, for those who haven’t yet read it, starts off very, very slow. It’s written in reverse chronological order with portions of the climax interspersed throughout. It was stressful to read a book this way, but it mimicked the life of the characters nicely: an overall feeling of false calm while everyone waited for the other shoe to drop.

Many people told me to hold on, that the book gets better and moves faster. It does, but for me that didn’t happen until page 302. Still, I’m glad to have read it. The imagery in the book is something of the most beautiful I’ve ever read.

     Doors soar away from their frames. Bricks transmute into powder. Great distending clouds of chalk and earth and granite spout into the sky. All twelve bombers have already turned and climbed and realigned high above the Channel before roof slates blown into the air finish falling into the streets.
     Flames scamper up walls. Parked automobiles catch fire, as do curtains and lampshades and sodas and mattresses and most of the twenty thousand volumes in the public library. The fires pool and strut; they flow up the sides of the ramparts like tides; they splash into alleys, over rooftops, through a carpark. Smoke chases dust; ash chases smoke. A newsstand floats, burning.

There isn’t much I can say without giving away spoilers, which as a rule I do only in the comment section. I’m eager to hear what you all thought about the book. If I can say anything here, it’s…

Oh, Werner.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.