Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Since I have interest in decluttering and organizing plus strive to live with only what I really love and actually use, I had heard a lot about the best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. I installed it on my Summer 2015 Reading List and then planned to reread during the fall in order to promote this important work with this in-depth review. Having heard such things it prescribed as greeting your home when you enter, I expected it to be kooky, and it definitely is, but I also found it unexpectedly genius! It is a clear guide to getting your home in order. It may not have as profound impact upon my already decluttered life as it will for others, but I have already stopped reading all the decluttering articles I could get my hands on because I believe that I have discovered my decluttering bible. I can scroll past all those pins that tend to fill my Pinterest feed every morning as I now know the secret.

The author is and always has been dorky, which I love because I can relate. I grew up in a messy household and as a child, my own room was often a mess as well, but it would take me forever to clean my bedroom though because I suddenly had to organize everything. As an adult, I have become fairly minimalist but still love furniture and organizers. Read: containers. Thankfully, I've nearly morphed into a domestic goddess in terms of housekeeping!

Her tone is also completely confident throughout. She speaks with authority. Marie urges this method in order to improve lives. Setting an example herself, she says, "Although not large, the space I live in is graced only with those things that speak to my heart. My lifestyle brings me joy." This result of this process is for you to really enjoy life. In order to change lives and habits, the author urges that readers must change their thoughts. So profound, she claims the result will not make them relapse back to the original condition.

This approach is radical, yes, but also logical and simple. Basically, the KonMari Method consists of two steps. First, you massively discard items in the right order, in categories (rather than places) ordered from easy to hard, by placing all like items on the floor and then putting your hands on each item and asking, "Does this spark joy?" Only keep the ones that do. If it doesn't, express some gratitude for the object's service and let it go. All this is to be done once and quickly. Second, you find a home for each and every keeper, a happy home at that, one that is highly visible, in the organizing step. You should strive to store an item in the best way.

At the beginning, she asks clients to visualize how they want their home or space to look and function. She urges them to be detailed, to seek the reason behind the vision. As an INFJ, I appreciate seeing the big picture first.

I agree with many points in the decluttering section. For example, "Does this spark joy?" is the only question you ask yourself when deciding upon an item. Not a long list of questions such as, "Have you used it in the last 12 months?" and "Does this still represent my style?" All those questions invite more answers. More answers, I fear, lead to talking yourself into keeping more items. I also like the question itself. Life is too short not to be lived to the fullest and when you are trying to revolutionize the space you live in, those decisions should come from deep within you and be concerned with happiness. I love how simple the KonMari Method truly is. One point that I do not completely concur with, however, is being against stockpiling. Even though I am more of an underbuyer than an overbuyer, I still think I should have a small stockpile of goods I regularly use. Since I'm on a budget, it is ideal to buy an extra item when I am able to score it at an amazing price (either combining a coupon or Cartwheel discount with a sale). At the time that this post will publish, I only have two bottles of Suave shampoo on my single overflow/stockpile shelf, so, clearly, I don't go overboard anyway. However, I agree that you cannot store too much well, ridding yourself of the clutter is key.

She provides many organizing tips. Some points I agree with, many others I do not. She believes that, "The amount of storage space you have in your room is actually just right." Once you learn to choose your belongings well, you will be left only with the amount that fits perfectly in your current space. Personally, I have enough storage space in my apartment where I live alone. However, if I live with a boyfriend one day, I may want to consider her vertical folding techniques, so I can pack more into a drawer along with the added bonus of being able to see all clothing at a glance. It makes sense. Since I flip the top of one sock over the top of its pair, stretching out the band, the author would consider my socks miserable. She insists you simply lay one on top of the other and fold a time or two instead. Maybe I'll give it a try... She truly wants a person to respect his or her belongings. An item has feelings and needs a permanent home. She also doesn't advocate storing off-season clothing away temporarily, when I think it'd be better not to move a piece out of the way everyday for six to nine months. Her storage strategy embraces simplicity. She urges each disciple to store like items together. I now store my change exclusively in my wallet. She does not recommend having like items all over the place, close to where they're used, which is another idea I do not entirely agree with. Also, a home should not depend upon the item's frequency of use. But why make everyday chores more difficult? I like keeping some things close to where I actually use them. For example, I usually keep a lighter in my end table drawer near a couple of jar candles and another lighter in my linen closet along with a stock of tea lights and candleholders. I don't keep both lighters in one place like Marie would want. Against fancy storage products, she greatly prefers plain old drawers and boxes. An empty shoebox is Marie's perfect storage container. Even its lid can be used like a tray, especially to contain cooking oils and spices inside a kitchen cabinet. She insists that her students already have exactly what they need to store their stuff. Even though I love my six expensive clear plastic bins with a cut-out handle and five clear glass apothecary jars inside my upper kitchen cabinet, I would make her proud as my pantry (which is half of a shelf in my linen closet) is organized by two shoeboxes and two shoebox lids. Another example of an organizing tip I disagree with is that she actually unpacks her handbag completely at home everyday, to ensure its proper rest. Yet another is that all items come out of the bath and shower area after each use and are stored in the cupboard. Also, she actually claims to dry her dishes on an outdoor space. Those last three seem like a lot of extra work and I'm not a lazy person. I suppose I agree with the discarding half far more than the organizing portion of the book.

After my first reading, I did some significant decluttering of my already clutter-free apartment. In fact, I had just decluttered for a seasonal capsule wardrobe shortly before using the KonMari Method. Back during the summer, I wrote down that I tossed five tops, two skirts, my entire stock of spare buttons that I've been collecting for decades, a tote, many books, boxes stuffed full of broken down cardboard boxes collected over years for moving purposes, some bubble wrap for moving as well, so many old papers, and several store shopping bags. The clothing and accessories filled a kitchen trash bag halfway. Sorry, no before and after photos as this wasn't a massive transformation, but, still, this is a lot for me. I don't miss a thing. The closet that held all those flattened boxes looks much more neat. Although, I have slowly started collecting them again since I do hope to move sometime during the next calendar year. Do I need a few years worth though? Not really, no. I actually stopped the discarding process after tackling the papers category. I didn't do very much of the komono (misc.) and none of the sentimental items. It would be difficult to go through both the sentimental items and the supply of scrapbooking materials meant to preserve and organize them.

Marie claims that this process dramatically transforms your life. You are able to discover what you really want to do since it shows you what you love. "One of the magical effects of tidying is confidence in your decision-making capacity." When you declutter and organize, you hone your decision-making skills. These decisions are based upon your personal values. Then, you can use those sharpened skills to confidently take a new direction in life, one you're passionate about. This concept stood out to me following my first reading.

After reading the book a second time in order to take notes for a decent review, I stopped decluttering all the time, stopping regularly looking around, asking myself if I could donate an item from the room I was in. Decluttering all the time keeps focus on the negative. Instead, the author says, "We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of." Always wanting to improve as an INFJ, I am grateful for her words and her reminder to remain positive.

Marie writes that tidying restores balance at home. She believes that the result is the most natural state possible because it is unnatural to possess things that do not bring us joy or that we do not need. Furthermore, this process allows us to cherish what is precious in our lives. For me, so much of what life boils down to is a matter of respect. If you love something, then take good care of it. My home is always straightened and relatively clean because living in my own apartment with a balcony but without roommates is a dream come true. I value it so highly that out of respect, I keep it nice and neat. A home is important to me and I live well in mine. Being surrounded by things that inspire joy can make one happy. She concludes that an individual's real life begins after putting his or her home in order. Without clutter bogging you down, you are free to concentrate on what truly matters. She suggests this be done quickly, so that a person can both get on with life and never look back.

If you want to declutter and organize your home whatsoever, I highly recommend that you buy this book and follow its simple method.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Book Review: Maybe in Another Life

...or at the library.

Maybe in Another Life: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid is such a good book. A quick read, I read it over just a few days, having finished it the same day as my last post which also focused on this book. The author shows two parallel lives a young woman who decides to start her life over could lead following a single decision. Each scenario plays out in alternating chapters. Big things happen on each path. At times, the reader finds out about something in one of the lives and anticipates when that secret will surface in the other. It's fun to see how similar and different each turns out, especially regarding her love interest. I appreciate how introspective the main character is. It is a light read as I mentioned before, but it can also go deep, especially in terms of fate and happiness. I also adore the amazing friendship between main character and her best friend she is temporarily staying with and receives support from. The character development is wonderful. The main character relishes cinnamon rolls and now I want one! (This is not even something I usually eat or crave!) I highly recommend this book. Sure, it would be a fabulous summer read, but why wait? Since the protagonist is experiencing a fresh start, it would be ideal reading for New Year's Day. Read it while savoring a cinnamon roll topped with a lot of icing that morning!

This book was on my Winter 2015-2016 Reading List. Since I'm adding other books and eBooks, it's the only one that I've checked off this particular list so far. Many more book reviews to come!

I know that in my last post over two weeks ago, I stated that I planned on catching up before year end. Don't worry; this is still the plan! I'm usually a woman of my word, but I still put a lot of pressure on myself to do more and better. I am sorry that I haven't posted lately; I was busy with the holiday season. In particular, I did a lot of baking which took up time right before the holiday. Adding things to do during the days leading up to Christmas just wasn't the smartest idea. I've definitely learned my lesson. Please know that blogging is really on my mind and I hope to post a few times before the new year. I am committed to writing. Grazie for your patience. A few of my fellow bloggers out there are currently taking a blogging break, so enjoy some new content on italiagal.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Staying Up Late Reading a Book. Plus, a Blog Announcement

Even though it's not officially winter yet and I'm still not finished with my Fall 2015 Reading List, I am reading a book from my Winter List called Maybe in Another Life: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I was waiting in a long queue at the library for many weeks. Now checked out from my local branch, it's due to be returned on December 26th, so I just had to jump ahead.

I'm really enjoying this novel so far. It's so good. The story follows a young woman who is starting over after moving back to her hometown and the two possible lives she could have had based upon a single decision. Each outcome plays out in alternating chapters. I can hardly wait to find out what happens next in each narrative! I found out about this book through theSkimm daily e-mail newsletter. Their last book recommendation was The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah which you know I loved. Whatever they recommend is probably fantastic.

I'm a bit over halfway through now, having read a lot of it last night. One of my favorite places and times to read is in bed before I go to sleep. It's comfy there and a decent way to unwind before bedtime. A nice end to my day. Since it wasn't a school night for me, I stayed up late, reading another chapter and then another. I still rose at the same time this morning as planned though. Oh well. It was worth it.

I am behind in writing and publishing all the posts that I want to, so I plan to spend the next three weeks catching up. As a result, I will not be publishing a Simple Pleasure Sunday or Signature Sunday post for the next couple of Sundays. They will return after the new year on Sunday, January 3, 2016. The plan is to post whenever I can until then. I need to focus on other topics. My regular series can certainly wait. I feel so bogged down with the posts on my ever-growing To Blog list that I don't have the freedom to spontaneously write about something. (I really like to be on top of things.) I need to get them done, check them off the list already. Expect several posts including: a New Recipe from months ago, a few comments on my summer and fall capsule wardrobes, a few photos of my holiday decor, a book review of Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin along with either a long post or a mini series of posts on how her brilliant strategies helped me to develop new good habits, and a book review of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, at least! I know that it is the holiday season, but I still want to make this catch-up sprint a priority, just until about year end. Here's to a productive three weeks!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Sipping My First Hot Chocolate of the Season

Last Friday afternoon, I picked up my first cup of hot chocolate of the season from the in-store Starbucks at Target. I enjoyed it at home and it was delicious! It was a nice treat towards the end of my week. Not to mention an occasional indulgence during winter. I love it every year!

Topped with whipped cream.