In Defense of Honesty

In Defense of HonestyThat Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life by Ana Homayoun
Published by Perigee Books on January 5th 2010
Genres: Adolescence, Education, Parenting
Pages: 304
four-stars

At last, the solution for getting disorganized boys back on track. Missed assignments. Lack of focus and enthusiasm. Falling grades. For too many boys and their frustrated parents, these are the facts of life. But they don't have to be. Top academic couselor Ana Homayoun has helped turn even the most disorganized, scattered, and unfocused boys into successful young people who consistently meet their personal and academic challenges. She does this by getting back to basics- -starting with a simple fact: Most boys needs to be taught how to get organized, how to study, and-- most important--how to visualize, embrace and meet their own goals. With an accessible and no-nonsense approach, Homayoun shows how to: ?Identify their son's disorganizational style ?Help him set academic and personal goals he cares about ?Design and establish the right "tools of the trade" ?Complete assignments without pulling all-nighters ?Help him tune out social pressure and fend off anxiety Much more than a study guide, this insightful, user-friendly book provides a roadmap for the success too many boys have trouble finding--in school and in life.

 

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I never imagined Mikey as a sixth grade boy. I imagined him as a sixth grader, of course, which to me meant brilliant, with lots of friends and impeccable behavior displayed while doing many Catholic good deeds. That is not a 6th grade boy. (Turns out it’s not a sixth grader either.)

Mikey is a sixth grade boy, and let me tell you about sixth grade boys. Sixth grade boys forget to bring work home. They forget due dates. They mismanage free time at school. They make assumptions. They don’t ask questions. Sometimes, parents, they forget to turn in a test they have taken in class. How does this happen?

“Because we graded it in class and I got a 100%.”

“…”

“And when we get our tests back we’re supposed to correct the answers we got wrong and then turn them in, and since I didn’t get any wrong, I figured I didn’t have any to turn anything in.”

I was speechless. The Mister was quicker on his feet. “Wow. I…Okay. How did you think your teacher was going to know you didn’t get any wrong on your test if you never turned it in?”

It was like a little lightbulb went off in his head, and said lightbulb shined a big spotlight on the 0% that stood in place of the 100% on his progress note. (Which made me feel horrible.) It also shined a light on something for me: no one talks about how hard middle school is for the students, especially the boys. (Which made me feel angry.)

For the last few months I’ve felt like our family was the only one having these issues. When I tried broaching the subject with other parents, I got the “Little Johnny is doing swell!” line in all its various iterations. The logical part of me knew that couldn’t be right. No child is perfect. We’re raising children, not manufacturing drones.

But logic rarely overpowers doubt and insecurity, so I spent much of October through December feeling like a failure. Maybe I hover too much. Maybe I don’t hover enough. Maybe he’s doing too much. Maybe he’s not doing enough. Then one day, after a fight about I don’t know which forgotten assignment I thought, maybe it’s not just us.

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It’s not just us. And if you’re reading this and are experiencing a similar situation at home, it’s not just you. A teacher confirmed this to me after a discussion about another missed assignment, again done perfectly and on time, but not turned in.

“He’s either acing his classes or forgetting everything. There’s no middle ground with him!”

“That’s sixth grade. It’s an adjustment year with a huge learning curve. Totally normal.”

“But I’ve asked other parents, and their kids don’t miss a single assignment, or forget schoolwork, or..”

“Eh. They’re just not telling you about it.”

We’re all guilty of that. We like to layer our lives with filters that smooth out the edges, but this isn’t an Instagram moment. This is life, and it should be real, and honest, and beautiful, and full of mess-ups. We do a disservice to our kids when we get angry with them at home but pretend life is grand in public. We teach them to lie, to deflect, and, worst of all, to never admit the slightest mistake. We do a disservice to ourselves, too, because if we as parents act as if everything is perfect, then we can’t admit we don’t know what we’re doing, we can’t bounce ideas off each other, and we can’t gain comfort in knowing we aren’t the only ones with a child who just started studying for a math test at 9:00pm the night before the exam. We don’t get the benefit of knowing this is all normal, expected even. And I bet if we did, we wouldn’t be so angry at our kids in the first place. Just a little angry, because, ugh, it’s still sixth grade.

Then I remembered a book I bought months prior on recommendation from a reader.

Crumpled Paper

You better believe I dusted that thing off and jumped right in. I read That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized Boys Succeed in School and Life and realized, finally, I don’t suck as a mom and Mikey isn’t secretly plotting to kill me–at least not now, and not over school. Mikey is absolutely, positively normal. He’s behaving exactly as he should at this age and at this point in school.

Many educators and researchers believe there is currently a crisis in boys’ education, and if you’ve picked up this book, you may already be aware of it. Male students are, on average, between six months and a year behind their female counterparts when they start high school, and the girls stay ahead right through their senior year. The problem is clear to the parents who come into my office for the first time, typically at their wits’ end and sometimes near tears. The boy that they know to be smart, witty, thoughtful, and/or brilliant can’t remember to turn in his homework and is failing several classes. The son who was absolutely precious as a young child started slipping as a middle schooler and has now become a headache of a teenager who just this morning forgot his English essay on the printer, has no idea that he has two tests tomorrow, and still needs to return his uniform for a school sport that ended two weeks ago.

Sound familiar?

That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized Boys Succeed in School and Life

I’m recommending the book to everyone not because it was absolutely amazing. If you’re organized and pragmatic, there isn’t much new to read, which is why the book is so heavy on success stories and anecdotes. I’m recommending it because it has the potential to be a huge comfort to parents. I know I felt good knowing Mikey’s “A one day, F the next” wasn’t unusual. There are some great techniques on getting your child organized, tips on how to change your attitude or approach, and practical solutions and strategies for tackling homework, longterm projects, and tests/quizzes. There are also entire chapters devoted to special considerations like learning differences, divorced/single parenting, and illnesses (yours or the child’s).

The most important messages for me were (1) change won’t happen over night and (2) tween minds, especially boys and especially at this age, aren’t developed enough to manage their intellectual and artistic achievements. Just because they can think like an adult, doesn’t mean they can manage like an adult. How I failed to make that connection for all these months amazes me. I tell parents all the time that just because a child can read a book five grade levels ahead doesn’t mean they should. Then, I remember that I’m a new middle school mom. I’m figuring it out as I go, just like Mikey. (That’s right, new moms! You will always be a new mom with your first born! Everything is new and difficult and worth it.) Realizing I’ve been a huge part of the problem this year as we adapt as a family to middle school was a tough pill to swallow, but I did.

Luckily, we are on the upswing. Things are getting better simply because my attitude and approach changed. We’ve already put in a few of the techniques from the book into practice here at home, as well as a few I developed on my own on the fly. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll share what worked and what hasn’t.

p.s. I’m happy to report that in the last couple of weeks the parental confessional floodgates opened. I’ve had some great chats with mothers (oddly, all them have daughters) who have provided me with a wealth of insight and a dose of healthy commiseration.

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

Everybody Rise: A Novel (Giveaway!)

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Everybody Rise: A Novel (Giveaway!)Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford
Published by St. Martin's Press on August 18th 2015
Genres: General, Girls & Women
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon

It's 2006 in the Manhattan of the young and glamorous. Money and class are colliding in a city that is about to go over a financial precipice and take much of the country with it. At 26, bright, funny and socially anxious Evelyn Beegan is determined to carve her own path in life and free herself from the influence of her social-climbing mother, who propelled her through prep school and onto the Upper East Side. Evelyn has long felt like an outsider to her privileged peers, but when she gets a job at a social network aimed at the elite, she's forced to embrace them.Recruiting new members for the site, Evelyn steps into a promised land of Adirondack camps, Newport cottages and Southampton clubs thick with socialites and Wall Streeters. Despite herself, Evelyn finds the lure of belonging intoxicating, and starts trying to pass as old money herself. When her father, a crusading class-action lawyer, is indicted for bribery, Evelyn must contend with her own family's downfall as she keeps up appearances in her new life, grasping with increasing desperation as the ground underneath her begins to give way.Bracing, hilarious and often poignant, Stephanie Clifford's debut offers a thoroughly modern take on classic American themes - money, ambition, family, friendship - and on the universal longing to fit in.

Today I’m giving away a copy of Everybody Rise: A Novel, which a large number of my friends on GoodReads put on their TBR pile. I received a copy of the book last week but haven’t yet had the chance to read it. I plan to the week the boys go back to school, despite the cover.

Because let’s be honest, the cover is atrocious. I thought maybe it would look better in person, that my maybe my email attachment was broken, but no. It’s a horrid, bright, ugly thing. It’s also appropriate. The book is set against the backdrop of New York’s wealthy elite. The preppy, happy colors turned acid, the crystal chandelier out of focus that isn’t quite right, and the harsh, black typeface suggest that money doesn’t buy everything and that appearances aren’t what they seem.

I hate giving away a book I haven’t read–I’ve actually never done it before–but I will because of the reviews and movie deal. You can read an excerpt of the novel here.

In a tightly plotted narrative, Clifford shows how Evelyn’s tenuous initiation into this most elite of social networks coincides with an increasingly desperate effort to secure her footing there…Clifford details the manners of the old-money set with a reporter’s well-trained eye. (The New York Times Book Review)

A smart tragicomedy about a young woman attempting to infiltrate the “Primates of Park Avenue” crowd. . . . Ferociously incisive class commentary. . . . a 21st-century fable of one woman’s reconstruction. (The Washington Post)

A compulsive, up-close-and-personal read about the first cracks in the greed-and-bleed U.S. economy that went flying off the rails so spectacularly a short time later. (Library Journal)

A sharp and witty cautionary tale. . . . Clifford’s shrewd look at upper-class dynamics in modern day New York society takes up the torch of Edith Wharton. . . . Filled with scandal and schadenfreude, Everybody Rise will keep readers flipping pages. (Book Page)

A masterful tale of social climbing and entrenched class distinctions . . . Tense, hilarious, and bursting with gorgeous language. Stephanie Clifford is a 21st century Edith Wharton. (J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of The Engagements and Maine)

A superb debut. Everybody Rise is a 21st century version of a grand 19th century novel–a smart, moving tale of class, ambition, and identity. (Malcolm Gladwell)

Full of ambition and grit. Clifford provides sharp-eyed access to a moneyed world and its glamorous inhabitants. (Emma Straub, New York Times bestselling author of The Vacationers)

A boom-time dramedy of manners featuring a bright young cast of haves and desperately want-to-haves, all clinging to a very rickety social ladder. Clifford’s lively and biting debut gets to the quick of ambition at its most corrosive. (Maggie Shipstead, New York Times bestselling author of Seating Arrangements)

Gossip Girl fans, rejoice! Behold the literary version of a Jenny-esque narrated story, had she met Blair and Serena in her mid-20s. Cue lies, affairs and mounting debt. (Marie Claire, Summer-Reads Roundup)

The summer’s most anticipated beach read…a funny, sharply observed debut novel about young one percenters in New York…a buzzy Tom-Wolfe-meets-Edith-Wharton novel of young Manhattan. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Author Stephanie Clifford has been described as a modern-day Edith Wharton. (Elle Magazine, Culture Calendar)

Addictive: think Prep meets The Devil Wears Prada. (Good Housekeeping)

The Edith Wharton comparison has me cautiously optimistic. Also, I want to read the book that garnered a 7-figure deal and movie rights a year before publication.

Edited to add: I’m going in assuming I’ll hate the book. Hah! Sorry, but that’s my technique for overhyped releases. If I go in expecting to read a “masterful tale” worthy of all its 5-stars, I’m going to be disappointed. I have mixed feelings for the authors of books with great hype. While I’m happy for their success, I pity them as well. Too much hype sets up unreasonable expectations and leaves many readers disappointed. Look at that one book I read, Luckiest Girl Alive. What a disaster! I know of no avid reader who enjoyed what was supposed to be the “it” book of the summer. Who knows if they’ll do the movie now.

Ms. Clifford, best of luck to you. Please don’t take too much offense when I say I’m going in expecting to hate your book and that it’s cover is frightful (it is, you know it). I’m only trying to ignore the hype and tip the scales back to center so that I can give your book the unbiased review it deserves when I’m finished.

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The book hits stores yesterday but, if you’re willing to wait a week, I’m giving away a copy of the book along with a $50 BaubleBar card to one winner.

Some rules, to make things easier:

  • Giveaway open to US addresses only by leaving a comment on this post.
  • Must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Prizing and samples provided by St. Martin’s Press.
  • Giveaway ends August 25, 2015.
  • Winner announced on this post on or shortly after August 26, 2015. 

The winner is Christie. Congratulations!

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

Happy, Happy

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Years ago I made a commitment to read only from my Unread Library. I think I took the above picture around the same time. 2010, people. Five years ago!

My progress was rather lousy and I ended up giving away many of those unread books. You have to know when to say when.

I still have an obscene number of unread books. Everyone calls ereaders the perfect way to store thousands of books. And they’re right! You can store thousands of books in a footprint the size of a piece of paper. But you know what? You can store thousands of books in a footprint the size of a piece of paper.

This is no good for someone like me. Handing me an ereader is like handing me the keys to an ice cream and tortilla chip factory (so awesome) and saying, “We’ll be back to check on you in a week. Feel free to take only what you need.”

Only what I need? You fool! You didn’t define “need.”

I’m handing over the keys to the ice cream and tortilla chip factory. I have sad-face, but it must be done. I have too much to read for school, for RCIA, and for my own edification. I knew something had to be done when not one, not two, not three, but four people recently recommended to me Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.

Each day we face a barrage of images and messages from society and the media telling us who, what, and how we should be. We are led to believe that if we could only look perfect and lead perfect lives, we’d no longer feel inadequate. So most of us perform, please, and perfect, all the while thinking, “What if I can’t keep all of these balls in the air? Why isn’t everyone else working harder and living up to my expectations? What will people think if I fail or give up? When can I stop proving myself?”

Brené Brown The Gifts of Imperfection

I’m asked about this book at least 6 times per year, but this year is looking like a record breaker. The last person to mention the book was the Mister. My own husband! He saw it on our dresser (I pulled it out the third time someone mentioned it to me) and he became all wild, like he does when he has information to share. He asks me how I came across this book? Did I know who Brené Brown is? Did I know he’s sent videos and excerpts of her work to his reps? And that she did a TedTalk? Am I going to read this book? Because he thought I might enjoy it.

Hellooooo? I’m a blogger. We practically invented Brené Brown, mmmkay?

Also, I have her latest book, which is why I took out her old book. I have to read the old book before I read the new book because DUH. (Ignoring the fact we read her middle book for bookclub two years ago.)

Finally, what is going on? Why is everyone telling me to read this book? I’m beginning to feel like Ducky in Pretty in Pink. Do I offend?

“So are you going to read the book?” the Mister asked.

Yes.

Edited to Add:

Haha! The first sentence of the preface (of all things):

Once you see a pattern, you can’t un-see it. Trust me, I’ve tried. But when the same truth keeps repeating itself, it’s hard to pretend that it’s just a coincidence.

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

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

Fuzzy Mud by Louis SacharFuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
Published by Random House Children's Books on August 4th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Social Issues, Bullying, Nature & the Natural World, Environment
Pages: 192
Goodreads

From the author of the acclaimed bestseller Holes, winner of the Newbery Award and the National Book Award, comes a new middle-grade novel with universal appeal. Combining horror-movie suspense with the issues of friendship, bullying, and the possibility of ecological disaster, this novel will intrigue, surprise, and inspire readers and compel them to think twice about how they treat others as well as their environment. Be careful. Your next step may be your last.Fifth grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and seventh grader Marshall Walsh have been walking to and from Woodridge Academy together since elementary school. But their routine is disrupted when bully Chad Hilligas challenges Marshall to a fight. To avoid the conflict, Marshall takes a shortcut home through the off-limits woods. Tamaya, unaware of the reason for the detour, reluctantly follows. They soon get lost. And then they find trouble. Bigger trouble than anyone could ever have imagined. In the days and weeks that follow, the authorities and the U.S. Senate become involved, and what they uncover might affect the future of the world.From the Hardcover edition.

School is right around the corner, so right now I’m planning my read alouds for the year. I loved reading the Mercy Watson series to the 1st grade. It was a great way for me to introduce to the little ones the idea of award winning books (Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride was a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book in 2007 ) and promote quality children’s literature. The party was loads of fun, too! I don’t know how much read aloud time I’ll be allotted during the school day this year, but my hope is that each class has their own book and party.

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar is my read aloud pick for the 6th grade. I’m calling it a humorous eco-thriller.

SunRay Farm is the producer of Biolene, a clean energy alternative to gasoline made of slime mold.

We began with simple slime mold, but Fitzy altered its DNA to create something new: a single-celled living creature that is totally unnatural to this planet. SunRay Farm is now growing these man-made microorganisms–these tiny Frankensteins–so that they can burn them alive inside automobile engines.

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

The story has alternating 1st person perspectives (Tamaya and Marshall) interspersed with senate hearing transcripts once SunRay Farm’s questionable ecological practices come to light. SunRay Farm is dumping Biolene in the forest behind a private school. The tiny Frankensteins, “ergonyms,” begin to multiply.

The following is more of Jonathan Fitzman’s testimony from the secret Senate hearings:

Senator March: Excuse me, Mr. Fitzman, but I’m having a hard time getting my head wrapped around this. You said there are more than a trillion of your ergonyms in every gallon of Biolene.

Jonathan Fitzman: A lot more.

Senator March: These are man-made organisms, right? So how could you possibly make that many?

Jonathan Fitzman: [Laughs.] You’re right. That would be impossible. I had to make only one.

Senator March: I don’t understand.

Jonathan Fitzman: One ergonym, capable of reproduction. That was the hardest part. That’s what took me so long. The first few ergies I made were unable to survive the cell division process. The poor little fellows kept exploding.

Senator March: What do you mean, exploding?

Jonathan Fitzman: Kaboom! [Laughs.] In the lab, we can watch the images from the electron microscope projected onto a giant computer screen. It’s quite cool. Every time one of my ergies got to the cell division stage—kaboom!—it looked like the Fourth of July.

Senator Wright: But eventually, I take it, you were able to create an ergonym that didn’t explode?

Jonathan Fitzman: The perfect ergonym. It took two and a half years and five hundred million dollars, but we did it. One little ergie. And thirty-six minutes later, we had two. The second one was an exact copy of the first. And thirty-six minutes after that, four. Then eight. Then sixteen. Every thirty-six minutes, the population just keeps on doubling.

Senator March: Even so, to get the trillions of ergies you need for just one gallon of Biolene, it would take years.

Jonathan Fitzman: Not at all. Do the math. In twelve hours we had more than a million of the little guys, and by the next afternoon, more than a trillion. [Sings.] One little, two little, three little ergonyms. Four little, five little, six little ergonyms.

Tamaya, Marshall, and Craig come in contact with the fuzzy mud made of ergonyms and develop a blistery rash that bleeds and oozes puss. It sounds terrifying, but it’s done in a quasi-humorous way that is more gross than scary. Ultimately, there’s a happy ending.

I’m excited about the multiple talking points this book affords me. In less than 200 pages we get to explore social issues, economic issues, civics/politics, and the environment. The last one I’m especially excited to touch upon with the kids as it allows me to share with them Pope Francis’s latest encyclical on the environment called Laudato Si’. I may first have to explain to them what an encyclical is!

A papal document treating of matters related to the general welfare of the Church, sent by the Pope to the bishops. Used especially in modern times to express the mind of the Pope to the people. Although of themselves not infallible documents, encyclicals may (and generally do) contain pronouncements on faith and morals that are de facto infallible because they express the ordinary teaching of the Church. In any case, the faithful are to give the papal encyclicals their interior assent and external respect as statements of the Vicar of Christ. (Etym. Latin encyclicus; Greek enkyklios, circular, general.) [source]

Laudato Si’ is entirely about the environment and our role in climate change. You can read it for free online on the Vatican website or as a .PDF. You can also buy a copy of it formatted for ereaders and print. Pope Francis ruffled feathers from the 1st paragraph.

1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.[1]

2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

Nothing in this world is indifferent to us

I love Pope Francis.

I love Fuzzy Mud, too. I’m hoping the kids like it just as much because I’m already brimming with party ideas.

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

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
Buy on AmazonBuy on Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
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.