Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Kondoing my Condo

So I finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – a book by Marie Kondo, a Japanese tidying consultant. Because apparently that’s a job. Her basis premises for tidying is that:

  • you should start by discarding a bunch of stuff before you even think about storing stuff
  • you should sort through everything by category (as opposed to, say, by room) in the following order1
    • clothes
    • books
    • paper
    • everything else except mementos (she refers to this “everything else” category as “kimono” or miscellany)
    • mementos
  • for each category, you put every single thing you own from that category into a big pile, then one by one, pick them up and use the following single criterion to decide what to keep (and, therefore, what to discard): “does this item spark joy in me?”
  • once you have decided what to keep, then decide where to store it
  • whenever possible, store things vertically and in drawers
  • store all of the same category in one place and one place only (e.g., don’t store some clothes in your bedroom closet and other clothes on your spare room closet)

piles of papers

On a general level, I can get behind these premises. I’ve held onto things that I never use and don’t really like for reasons like “someone gave me that as a present”, “I might need it someday”2, and “I paid good money for that”3 None of these are actually good reasons. When you think about it, it’s kind of silly to feel guilty for getting rid of a present but not to feel guilty about leaving that same present at the bottom of a drawer where it never sees the light of day. Surely the gift giver didn’t intend that for it to be its fate. The other two excuses comes from my cheapness – I would hate to get rid of something only to then have to go buy that same thing later when I have a use for it. But Kondo points out a good way to think about this – if you think about the cost your home, do you want to use it to store stuff you don’t like/never use or do you want to actually enjoy your space? It’s like my supply chain management prof used to always say: inventory is evil! And saying “I paid good money for that” is just the sunk cost fallacy – you don’t get any of that money back by holding onto the object and if you aren’t using it/don’t enjoy it, you aren’t getting your money’s worth by holding on to it. And, when you think about the cost of your home and your limited square footage, you are essentially spending more money to store it! If it’s a useful object, you may as well donate it so at least someone can get some value out of it. Kondo’s other suggestion that is useful in this realm is to think a bit differently about the value that an object brought to you. For example, you can be grateful for all the times you got to use a piece of clothing that is now worn out. Or perhaps a gift served its purpose by making you happy that the giver was thinking of you and gave you that present (so it’s purpose was fulfilled when you received it). Or maybe a piece of clothing taught you that orange really isn’t a good colour on you, so now you’ll know not to buy any more orange shirts. I think it can be useful to think about things in this way so you feel less guilty about discarding them, and thus it will be easier to let go of them.
Cassetti della memoria della Terra, sistemati e messi in ordine da Marie KondoThis, however, gets to the part where I can’t take seriously what Kondo instructs the reader to do. Basically, she tells you to talk to objects as if they were a person. Thank them for their service before you put them in the trash/donation pile. Say hello to your apartment every time you go home. Take every single thing out of your purse every time you arrive home and put it away, because don’t your objects deserve a home to rest in after they work hard for you all day?? How would you like it if you didn’t have a home?? Similarly, her rationale for storing things vertically is because the poor item on the bottom of a pile will suffer from bearing the weight of all the other items on top of it (as opposed to focusing on the idea that if you store things vertically in a drawer, you can see all of your items, whereas if you stack them, you forget about the item that’s on the bottom because you never see it, which is why I find it useful).

She also makes some outlandish claims. Like her claim that *none* of her clients have ever regressed to being untidy once they have followed her program. Or that if you follow her program you will lose weight, have clearer skin, find your dream job, have better relationships, etc. Of course, there’s no proof of any of this being what really occurs and it would far too easy for her to say that if anyone doesn’t achieve these things, they didn’t follow the program exactly. You didn’t take everything out of your purse when you got home. You weren’t sincere enough when you thanked that pair of jeans for their service. So basically anyone who remains tidy after completing her program must have done the program right, and anyone who doesn’t must not have done it right. She can’t lose!

At any rate, I feel like there’s enough stuff in the book that’s worth trying – I’ve already noticed a few items in my closet that I’ve thought “That doesn’t bring me any joy,” so I know at the very least I’ll purge some items that I’ve been holding onto for years. I also know that I have way too much in the way of papers and Kondo’s advice when it comes to papers is pretty much “throw all of it away!” She does make an exception for a few things that you should hold onto – she keeps talking about holding onto warranties (whereas I would have said to focus on keeping legal documents – tax returns, the deed to my home, my divorce papers, my will) – but for the most part, all the other papers people hold onto have a very low likelihood of ever being needed; if you do end up needing it, you can probably get that information online (or perhaps through contacting, for example, your bank to get an old statement should you ever need it). Even in the event that you need to do that, it will probably take less time than searching for it amidst piles and piles of papers (not to mention not needing to store all the paper that you don’t ever use). I think when I get to the papers category, I’m going to have a giant pile of things to get rid of!

I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures of my before and after piles and there will be a spreadsheet to track how much stuff I end up getting rid of vs. keeping. Because spreadsheets spark joy in me! I’m not sure exactly when I’ll start – I think I’ll need to find some dedicated time, as I think you need to do a category (or at least subcategories) all at once. But when I do, rest assured there will be photos and a spreadsheet. And probably graphs.

The Crash of 2016


Image Credits:

Footnotes:

  1. Am I the only one who finds these categories a bit unbalanced? I mean, it’s like she thought of three categories and then went “fuck it, plus everything else!” To me dishes/pots/pans is a major category, as is toiletries, but she just lumps that together with everything else in your home. []
  2. Why is it that so many of us hold onto old clothes saying “I might need it someday when I paint a room!”? You know how many rooms I’ve painted in my entire life? Exactly zero. []
  3. Just ask Sarah how much useless crap I transported across the country when I moved to Vancouver, as she helped me pack it all while I constantly used those excuses when she said “Are you sure you want to keep this [insert name of piece of junk]?” I’ve gotten better at getting rid of stuff since then, but I still have a long way to go! []

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Back to Reality

Done a bunch of laundry, including folding it1

Picked out my outfits for the week2.

Made my lunch for tomorrow.

Set up my coffee maker for the morning.

Packed my work bag.

Set my alarms3

Played with my kitties.

That last one isn’t about going back to work after the holidays, but it sure is fun 🙂

  1. Which is an extremely rare occurrence for me! []
  2. Something I haven’t done in *ages* but which, when I do it, I find makes my mornings so. much. smoother. []
  3. I need multiple alarms. First the radio comes on, and then the loud and annoying beeping, in case the radio instead enough to get me up. And yes, I use an alarm clock, like in the old timey days. []

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A Spicy Situation

As I wrote my goals update post last week, I realized that though I’d long ago come up with a solution to my spice situation (item #14 on my list of goals for 2014) and I had promised Stacy that I would blog about it, I have been delinquent in actually writing said blog posting. But better late than never, right?

To give you a little background, I own about eleventy billion types of spices because spices are awesome. What was not awesome was that I had spices in all sorts of different containers – some were in bags, some in jars/bottles – of all different sizes and I basically just had them all thrown haphazardly into plastic bins that I kept in my cupboard, which meant that whenever I wanted a certain spice, I had to pull all the plastic bins out of the cupboards and dig through them all to find what I wanted. Not very efficient and rather annoying when you are trying to enjoy some cooking! Hence, why I decided I needed to figure out a useful way of organizing the damn spices.

My first step was taken care of, as I long ago had made a test tube spice rack out of surplus lab equipment1. I don’t have enough room for all elevently billion spices, but I was able to put the 13 spices I use the most often (or which just look really cool) into test tubes, labelled them, and now they sit on the counter, within easy reach while I’m cooking.

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For the eleventy billion minus thirteen other spices, I decided to use a drawer to store them, rather than the cupboard, because I’m short and I need a step stool to reach things in my cupboards. True story. For any spices that were already in a jar/bottle, I just laid those down with the label facing up. For all the ones that were in bags, I went out and bought a bunch of little jars and labeled them. Hence, I now have this drawer full of well-labeled spices:

IMG_0430

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The metal thing on the right is a grater that I use to grate nutmeg. Because my sister taught me the joy of freshly ground nutmeg.

IMG_0431
I have no idea why I inconsistently capitalized the spice names on the labels. I only just noticed it when I looked at this photo. Omg, that’s going to drive me crazy.

So there you have it – my spice storage solution!

  1. There used to be a lab equipment thrift shop at UBC, where you could buy cast off lab supplies. They even had an electron microscope in their inventory at one point! So I got a test tube rack, which was actual white plastic (which is the kind we usually used in the lab), but I painted it metallic silver to make it look cooler). []

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Goals and 101 Update

So, I’m staying up until 4 am to watch the men’s hockey Olympic gold medal game – Go Canada!

My sleeping pattern is totally messed up right now – for various reasons, I didn’t get a lot of sleep this week and have been sooo tired all week and then last night after work I went out for drinks for Cath’s birthday, stayed out fairly late and so I fell asleep on the Skytrain ride home and missed my stop. I woke up when the train stopped due to mechanical problems, totally thinking that I was at one of the stops before my stop, like Joyce or Edmonds, but after dozing on the not-moving Skytrain for about 15 minutes I heard another passenger make a comment about walking to King George Station and so I asked the person where we were and it turned out that we were at Gateway, 3 stops *past* New West! GAH! So I got off the train and had to wait another 10 minutes or so before a train came going the other way to take me back home. Being stuck at a Skytrain station in Surrey at 1:30 am on a freezing cold day – not my idea of a good time. I had a 16 km run with Alicia scheduled for 11:15 am on Saturday, so I managed to get an OK amount of sleep despite not getting home ’til 2 am. And then it turned out to be *snowing* for our run, so it was a pretty tough and freezing cold run, what with the tiredness and 3 beers and a shot of Tequila that I had the night before, but we managed to complete the run, which is the main thing. My running jacket turned out to be less waterproof than I would have liked and that, combined with having run through some puddles that soaked my running shoes mean that on the Skytrain ride on the way home from Alicia’s, I proceeded to get colder and colder; by the time I got home, my hands were so frozen that I could barely move them. I don’t remember my hands been so cold since that time I went surfing in Tofino in January! At least I didn’t fall asleep on the Skytrain and miss my stop this time, and a nice long, hot shower fixed me up just right. And then I followed that with a nap for 5 hours. That’s right, 5 hours. Apparently, I was extremely tired. When I woke up after my 5 hour long nap, both the kitties were curled up at my feet. So cute!

Since I slept for so long this afternoon, I’m now awake at nearly 1 am, with puck drop only 3 hours from now. So it seems to make sense to stay up for the game and then have a nap again before my own 7 pm game. I’m sure this will in no way come back to haunt me tomorrow night when I’m trying to get to sleep at a reasonable hour for the workweek.

Anyway, being awake, I decided I may as well write a blog posting and so here I am. And I had a blog posting halfway written, so basically these first 4 paragraphs are the longest and most irrelevant preamble I’ve ever written! Now, on to the topic of the actual posting!

Without even realizing it, I knocked two items off my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days in January!

5. get a cat

I forgot this was on my list when I got Watson & Crick. When I was living with my last boyfriend, I couldn’t have a cat as he was allergic, so I kind of forgot that it was even on my list. And by the time I thought about getting kitties again, it slipped my mind that it was on my list, until I just noticed it the other day. Hooray! And really, I should get to check this off the list twice, since I got two cats.

101. publish 501 blog postings in this 1001 day period

This happened on January 4 and at the time, I didn’t even notice that it was my momentous 501st posting since I started my 101 list.

On the more deliberate front, I made a concerted effort to knock this item off my list of goals for 2014:

14. Find a solution to my spice situation.

As part of the 52 weeks to an organized home, I finally got around to coming up with a solution for my disorganized collection of spices. I thought I took some photos of the before and after, but I can’t seem to find them, so I’ll have to write a posting about it later, but I have all my spices in either my test tube rack or in neatly labeled jars in a jar, where they are very handy to grab while cooking. This makes me very happy.

And just now when I went to make the link to my goals for 2014 posting, I noticed this goal, which I’d completely forgotten that I’d set as a goal for this year: 13. Find a reliable cleaning person …but which I just achieved last week! I’ve been looking for a cleaning person for awhile, but finally found one through my friend Tig. I tried out this cleaning lady last week and she did an amazing job and her prices are reasonable, so I’ve now gotten into her rotation for a cleaning every 2 weeks. Especially with the cats, someone needs to keep this place clean and it certainly wasn’t going to be me. So cleaning lady it is. This also makes me very happy.

In addition to those updates, I can also inform you that I’m now past the halfway mark of the 90 Fitness & Accountability Challenge and so far I’ve managed to keep up with my weekly goal of 6 workouts of at least 30 minutes per day. This week was by far the most challenging for me, due to the being so tired and having so many after-work things to do, so I decided to be kind to myself and let one of those be a half hour of deep stretches while I watched the most recent episode of the Walking Dead. I actually felt pretty good after that – sometimes I forget how much good some yoga/stretching can be!

OK, it’s now 1:13 am – less than 3 hours ’til the game starts. Maybe I’ll spend some time playing with my blog theme – I’ve been meaning to do that for a while!

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An Organization Quest

Since I finished school1, I no longer have an excuse for my place to be a mess. For the past two years, I was able to tell myself that I didn’t have time to be organized, but now that I’ve got nothing but time on my hands, I think it’s time to do a total reboot of my apartment.

Organizing my Seed StashAs I was thinking these lofty thoughts, I came across this on Lifehacker: 52 weeks to an organized home. It’s a series of challenges where you tackle one organizing task per week. The idea with it is that you can’t do everything at once, and even if you could, you’d probably just mess it all up right away anyway, because you haven’t given each new organizing solution enough time to let it sink in and become a new habit. Also, giving yourself a week to do each task allows you to spend time thinking about the best way to set things up for your particular (for lack of a better phrase) work flow and to test out the new configuration to see if it works. It’s basically Lean and prototyping2.

What really appeals to me about this is that I don’t have to decide where to start. I think of it as being similar to running. When I’m training for a half marathon, I follow a training plan where each day that I need to run, the decision about how long I need to run that day has already been made for me – maybe I run 12 km on Sunday, 5 km on Tuesday, 8 hill repeats on Wednesday. I know when I have to run and how far and so having to make a decision about that is eliminated as a barrier to me actually going and doing it. So it’s much the same with this organizing program. This week you organizing your kitchen counters, next week you organize your kitchen cabinets, etc.

As I’m organizing, I have to keep reminding myself to take it one step at a time. Like this week, I’m organizing kitchen counters, which means all the stuff that I had stacked on my counters that didn’t belong that had to be moved, ideally to the location where I’ll ultimately be wanting it. But as I do that, I’m super tempted to then organize that other location completely, but I know that if I fall into that trap, I’m going to become overwhelmed with all of it and that’s what this program is trying to avoid. So I’m trying to be content with shoving things in a cabinet or closet that isn’t organized, as I know I’ll get to it on a future week.

TastefulThat’s not to say that I’m not organizing *anything* that’s off schedule, as I have re-arranged my living room to accommodate the flat screen TV I bought myself as an “I’m done school” present, which necessitated moving a bookshelf from the living room to the growerly3, and since I had to take all the books off said shelf to move it, I used that opportunity to organize the bookshelf a little better. I also set up a better spot to keep my recycling bins, because they were totally in the way where I had been keeping them, as well as creating a box to put things to donate in4, as I figure the organizing process will generate a fair bit of things to recycle and things to donate.

So, that’ s my plan for the next 52 weeks. But this time next year, I’ll have the most organized apartment ever!

Image Credits:

Footnotes:

  1. Fun fact: 57% of my sentences these days start with “Since I finished school”. The other 43% start with “When I was in Ireland”. []
  2. See, I learned useful stuff in school! []
  3. Not to mention rearranging how my living room furniture was configured. []
  4. As I had just been shoving stuff into a plastic bag, which wasn’t working well at all. []