Posts tagged books
Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? Not for me.

Okay. So Jared heard this really sweet Japanese lady on NPR a couple months ago, talking about her book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," and he thought (not with any side-eye at me, I double-checked) this sounds really cool, kinda like mindfully decluttering, yah? Honing down your stuff to the stuff that really matters so your mind can be clearer. Cool philosophy, yah? So he ordered it. I got my hands on it first, because that's what always happens when books come in to my house.  

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 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.

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 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.

The rest of this review/outrage is without actually referencing the book, because I kinda never want to see it again. So this is the gist, coupled with probably a whole lot of my own insecurity and need to hold on to stuff.

So just like most organization books (like everyone, I own several), she lays things out in the steps you're supposed to follow. I've seen them start in the kitchen, in the master closet, in any closet, so this approach was interesting:

Step 1: Start with everything.

Get out all the clothes in your house. ALL of them. Now put them in a pile, like the living room. Now start throwing stuff out. If you missed anything during the initial gathering phase, that automatically gets dontated or trashed. You should end up with (some miniscule number, I forget, of) clothes and shoes. SHOES! (See my entire Pinterest board about shoes)

Step Whatever: Now put that stuff back nice, you hear?

(I actually lost consciousness for a little while there, while contemplating the enormity of step 1, and how with my 10-second attention span and my inability to put away more than EVEN ONE LOAD OF LAUNDRY, this would be a complete disaster and everyone at my house would be naked.)

Now there ARE some interesting ideas in here. You must handle each piece of clothing, do the inner check of whether this sparks joy in you. That's cool. And then when you put away, you should treat your clothing with kindness. I am ALL for the little details of feeling good (she recommends putting your bras upright with the cups tucked together so you can see all the pretty when you open your drawer in the morning. LOVE THAT. But still groggy from the whole let's throw everything else away mmkay? All in one big shot? Ok.

Step Whatever + 1: Now throw away most of your books

And now you know why it has been a couple of months since I read this book. I'm actually just waking up from the coma. 

Gotta say here, that right after grownup-girl school supplies (ahem: scrapbook and crafting supplies) and shoes in my Constellation of Things I Love, comes books. Possibly those are even interchangeable. 

So when Mama Bear (albeit sweetly) says "take out all your books and pile them around (also see above for the despair this already caused me). Then touch each one, ask if it sparks joy, and give it away if it doesn't."

Honestly, I like that idea. Keep the books you like and/or that make you happy. What I don't like is what comes next.

Limit yourself to 30 books. Because how many times are you going to read a book after you've already read it once? So come on now, heave ho!

Uh. What?

Exhibit A: My Main Bookshelves

My books on the right. Fiction in the middle. Reference books below.

My books on the right. Fiction in the middle. Reference books below.

Yup. They could use a little tidying. As long as if by tidying you DON'T mean GETTING RID OF ALL OF THEM. Because I like books. I like being around them. I like owning the books I like. 

First off, how can ANYONE say you can never own more than x number of books? They don't know me, mang. My undergraduate degree is in English, and the English department at BYU sure as hell cared that I owned more than 30 books. Why would I part with those after living in them for so long? Those (see down the middle shelves there, as well as the two bookcases up in the living room) are part of me. They remind me of me

Honestly, I stopped reading after this point.

Because next she is going to tell me that I should erase my external hard drive and enjoy the fresh air that 2 Terabytes of blank space will give me. 

Let's Look at the Introduction

And ya know, this might be a quibble, but surely we should be more selective of the reviews we include in the book's introduction? This one:

"Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don't. So I got a divorce. Now I am much happier."

Welp. Looks like that woman needed a whole other kind of tidying. But seriously? Throwing away all your books and clothes will help you see that you've been gasping for air in your marriage and burying your real feelings among your excess of tin foil (okay confession: I read the part about throwing away all your extra food/family storage. Not eeeeeven gonna go there)? Maybe. But is that something to brag about in the introduction to your book? Let's toss out the dead weight. Even if he is the father of your children. Maybe therapy first? But those three sentences are so awful I can hardly believe they were written to her, let alone something she'd be so proud of that it's included in the introduction to her book. 

Wow. So are you almost tempted to buy this book? Because based on almost 9000 reviews on Amazon, it has really struck a chord with a lot of people who feel like they are drowning in their own stuff. With people who believe only a radical change will really save them from themselves. A Facebook group, too.

And I totally get that most of the reason this book struck such a negative chord with me, is my own insecurity and wrong-headedness. I actually wrote a whole journal entry about it, and got to take a look at myself SELF in relationship to my belongings. If for no other reason, I'm glad I read this book (the first 2 chapters anyway, ha!)

The Opposite Side of the "Tidy" Coin

On the other hand, this whole thing (I seriously griped about the "Life-Changing" book for 3 days, but that was weeks ago) was brought back again by a picture Jared showed me, and which I then looked up on Amazon:

 

The anti-clutter movement is having a moment. You may have heard about a book―an entire book―written on the topic of tidiness and how “magical” and “life-changing” it is to neaten up and THROW AWAY YOUR BELONGINGS. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s time to fight that ridiculousness and start buying even more stuff and leaving it any place you want. Guess what, neatniks? Science shows that messy people are more creative.*

I laughed my face off at the description. I have no idea whether that's just parody, or whether it's validation for the author, offered to all the cluttery Americans out there. Who just own too much stuff, dammit. Too much! But I intend to take a look. Maybe it'll spark the same kind of conversation with myself as the Tidying-Up book did. :)

Maybe it'll find a place on my bookshelves. There'll always be room.


This One's for My Sis.

I have a beautiful sister. Her name is Julie. She is one of the most well-read and most sharply intelligent people I know. She served an LDS mission in New York City (speaking Spanish, no less), and has a master's degree in Education Administration. She is teaching at an amazing charter school in AZ called Great Hearts, and I am stinking proud of her

Tolkien is the Man.

She and I have a few things in common, and one of them is an unabashed love for all things Tolkien. I think it's only she that probably beats my record for the most hours spent dived in to the lore and - especially - the language of the Lord of the Rings. The words that Tolkien puts into the mouths of his characters have a bone-deep ring to them that transcends time and distance, and even race (speaking here of hobbits, dwarves, and elves, of course). 

And the girl even got a tattoo in Elvish. So badass. So nerdy. So nerdishly badass, which is even MORE badass than just plain badass. That's right.

And so it was that she told me one of her favorite lines, from a speech given by humble Samwise Gamgee, friend and servant to Frodo, and companion on his long journey. A gardener by trade, he's the stalwart and sturdy and earthy one, and the one who in this case speaks of hope in a gorgeous metaphor.

And so I did what any good Photoshopping sister would, and made her a poster like so, and surprised her with it:

Here's the entire piece from the book:

It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

For me, the most touching part of this, is that of all the amazing lines in that trilogy, this is the one that she chose as her favorite. I won't go into details on her life, of course, but I will say that she's had it rough in a lot of ways.

But she hopes.

She hopes fiercely, like Sam, in the knowledge that future goodness, just like the rising sun, will arrive to banish the current darkness. And when that darkness DOES disappear, how bright the sun will be! 

You can grab this Tolkien quote poster from my Etsy store if you'd like to put one in your own home. It ships flat, and is unframed. 

Your Turn

Do you have a favorite line from The Lord of The Rings? Post it here! You might just see a poster of it! 

Happy New (February) Year!

Happy New Year!

That's what I meant to write one month and six days ago, and somehow January disappeared. So the fact that I didn't even START my New Year's Resolution (this one, and a couple of others) doesn't really mean I broke them, right? Just - delayed for a month. :)

What I do know, is that I'm really glad that 2013 is over. Whew. I know that December 31 and January 1 are just days, and not really that different from one another, but a new year feels like a new opportunity. Maybe to start something we've intended to do, or to get better at something, or to shed the scales of routine and drudge and try to see the world with new eyes again. To learn how to be patient with the process. To get back to joy. 

I got a new case for my iPhone from Uncommon for the new year, and after thinking long and hard I decided to put a Bible verse from Hebrews 12:1 that has felt really apt the past few months. Here's how it turned out: 

IMG_0523.jpg

(I will say that the difficulty of taking a quick picture of my iPhone without the actual phone took a couple of minutes of figuring out. ;)

Do you have a quote or a verse on your phone case or something else you carry everywhere? 

The Business of Being in Business

 First I must share a quote:

“Everybody go back to work…Because this is a business, and we’re in the business of being in business and we’re doing business and nobody’s business…Do it!  Business.  Good!  I want business done…Just the way it should be!”

- Monty Brewster  |  Brewster’s Millions (1985)

Pretty much sums up the last oh, 3 months of my working life? Things are a lot different with me since finding out about lupus. Some of it has just been acceptance. Learning to run with patience. Learning that there are good days and bad days, good hours and bad hours. There wasn't much equilibrium in my life before, what with the working and traveling and teaching and mama-ing and wife-ing and whatnot, and there certainly isn't any more now, but somehow the past few months have felt like permission. Yes. It's ok. Sleep. Feel better. Let it go.

I taught a digital organization class in January, which will be going up for sale as a self-paced class soon. There are other classes in the works. Photoshop isn't going away, memory-keeping isn't, and I'm not. I'll have more to say about this a bit later, though. It IS a slowing down process, for now. Not 9 new classes, like I did last year - but maybe 5 or 6? 

I've been reading a lot of books, designing some new stuff, and taking naps And it feels really good. Especially the naps. ;)

The Business of (Being Afraid to Share My) Writing

I've also been writing. A lot. Trying to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard every day. And I'm finding something interesting there - I have discovered that my writing is one of the very few parts of myself that I'm really shy about sharing. Weird, right? I mean I share my scrapbook pages without batting an eye. I've told personal stories in dozens or hundreds of classes, given talks and speeches since high school. I've blogged for almost 8 years. But my own stuff - the writing like poems and stories? Terrifying

I've been writing (a writer? one who writes?) since I can remember. It's part of the reason I decided to take English as my undergraduate major. I love words.  I love reading them both out loud and silently, savoring the best of them with closed eyes. I'm moved by them, and when they are put together well, they resonate in my soul like nothing else does.

I remember the first time words made me cry. I was sitting on the floor in 2nd grade, surrounded by my classmates, learning the words to the song Puff the Magic Dragon from a flipchart (I assume we were planning to sing it at some point, but I can't remember). We came to the third verse:

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys 
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys. 
One grey night it happened, Jackie paper came no more 
And puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar. 

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain, 
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane. 
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave, 
So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.

All I remember is that this part was so - hard to bear - that I could only cry. Tears ran down my face, in grief at these two friends parting forever. I couldn't believe we were learning a song that was so tragically sad, and that I seemed to be the only person who saw that. I know for a fact I was the only 8 year old in the room who was sobbing her face off. Even now that last refrain makes my heart constrict and my throat close. 

This certainly wasn't the last time - everything from Gone With the Wind (high school) to scripture (also high school), to Annie Dillard's The Writing Life (about 5 years ago or so), to The Lord of The Rings (I cried unashamedly through almost the entire Return of the King - all four times I've read it) to Harry Potter (Snape in Book 7! *sob*) to the third book in the Infernal Devices series (maybe a month ago?), words of poetry and prose, song and scripture and "high art" and "low art" has had me crying my whole life, it seems. Tears of resonance, of recognition, of grief or longing, of humility in the face of great deeds or great sacrifice. 

What I do know, is that there are words inside me. Maybe that's part of the resonance. Sometimes I'll read something or think something, and I must respond to by writing. With this year's new adventure I'm trying to make the writing part happen that more often than those occasions when I can't NOT write or I'll explode. 

So I've been writing. But the fear hasn't gone. 

We shall see. 

As for the rest, Rowen celebrated her 10th birthday on Tuesday. Jared left this morning to attend the Tucson Gem and Mineral show. I bought new shoes (although really, is this much of a surprise?), Elliott got FOUR new Lego sets over this past couple of weeks and has put them all together. 

So, friend, Happy New Year. Let us run with patience.

xo,

-JS

Thinking About Working

Picked up a new book a couple of weeks ago that I have really come to love. It's a set of essays from creative people about being a creative person. Mostly in the area of managing routine and focus and getting all your ideas done.  

It's called Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind, edited by Scott Belsky

Among the empowering, inspiring thoughts is this gem: 

"...your mind and energy are yours and yours alone.  You can surrender your day-to-day and the potential  of your work to the burdens that surround you.  Or, you can audit the way you work and own the responsibility of fixing it."