Sunday, January 31, 2016

My Kondo moment

Do you use tailors' tacks or tracing paper? Both?

Looking at my tailors' tacks today, I recalled the first time I saw one.

My cousin (about 20 years older than me), was sewing a dress for herself. She left mid-project for some reason and I tried to 'help' her while she was away.

I had seen her clip threads and throw away stray bits of thread. There were so many bits of white thread on her dark dress pieces. I carefully picked them all out and put them in the trash can for her. Wasn't I a helpful child?   ;-)

Between the western and lunar new years, I usually do a bit of decluttering and cleaning.  This year, it seems like people have been hit by KonMari fever.  I was always a little bit like her, but not quite so extreme.

Where others read a how-to manual for discarding things, I read a coming of age story of a young girl, finding her place in the world.  The story of her sneaking into her brother's room to declutter it for him reminds me of my misguided attempt to help my cousin.

The story of her spending recess in the classroom to rearrange the book shelves broke my heart.

What did you get out of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up?

While I was walking, sewing and cooking today, I reflected upon my own stuff diet.  Things have not worked out quite how I expected.  Both my parents downsized and I took home a carload of sentimental stuff.

Somehow, we accreted a second home and filled it.

[I feel at peace about this.  Scientists have so few job opportunities in the US today, living apart from spouses who are also scientists is not uncommon.  It's not what we would choose, but it is the our reality.]

I also know that this is a temporary living arrangement.  When DD graduates from high school (only 16 more months!), we will all live together again.  Bad Dad and I have made mental lists of what we will move from LA to Boulder, what we will store, and what we will pitch.  On each of my trips to LA, we sort through a different area of the house.

The KonMari method sounds cathartic, but is binging and purging ever environmentally sound?  Wouldn't it be better to not have over-consumed in the first place?  Supposing one has moderately over-consumed, wouldn't it be better to 'use it up' gradually (stuff diet) instead of throwing it all away (purging)?

Stuff from my parents' and in-laws' homes and our own excess stuff came in handy when furnishing and equipping our Boulder home.  I also frequented thrift and consignment stores in Boulder.  When we merge households, duplicate but not sentimental stuff will go back to thrift stores.

Meanwhile, I'm dreaming of a time when we will take long foreign family vacations again.  When that time comes, these hidden travel pockets will come in handy.

Where do you fall on the continuum?

Minimalism or maximalism?

Are you the type to "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" or to make a clean sweep of excess stuff?

Joan Acocella's take in The New Yorker: Let it go


  1. My problem is that I see possibilities in so many things: a thing can be transformed to usefulness or beauty if used creatively. As I age I am more able to ignore "possibilities." Current problem is paper: clippings of books to read, inspiring quotations, using Windows 10, a cartoon for my boss, investment advice, info for my kids upon my demise, info for a kitchen remodel.

  2. I go through cycles. Right now I am trying to get rid of everything that can be cheaply replaced if needed.

    The catalyst was a pair of toddler pajamas. They were a hand-me-down from a child who is now 9. Phoebe wore them, and Ivy was going to wear them, except that the elastic had gone out.

    The elastic was sewn in with seven rows of stitching and there was no way I was picking that out. So I thought, I will just fold over an inch at either side and take it in that way.

    My needle got stuck in the fabric, with a big knotted wad of thread on the back side. I had to take the machine half apart, it seemed, to get everything free. After 45 minutes I managed to sew things how I wanted. And the pajamas were still too big around the waist.

    So now I regret spending an hour of my time to not fix something I could replace for $8 (I didn't -- she has enough hand-me-down pajamas). And that emboldened me to throw out a pair of leggings with a hole in them, which deep down I know I will not sew an adorable applique over. And hopefully that will allow me to get rid of even more stuff that is on the edge of useful.

  3. I like my stuff. When my daughter moved into her own apartment, I gave her a set of dishes, cooking equipment, all sorts of things. Now that my son has moved into his own place, I was able to give him things too. Nothing went to waste. I downsized, and everyone is happy.

  4. I aim for a balance. I have serious packrat tendencies, and that can get overwhelming. But I also think it is silly to throw out things that can be used later. The KonMari craze strikes me as yet another example of people looking for a trick that is a quick fix for something that actually requires effort to improve on.

  5. I might be among the few, but it seemed to me that Marie Kondo is hyper aware of her possessions and it just doesn't seem healthy. In her case what started as an acquiring tendency turned in to a tendency to be constantly evaluating and sizing up, and talking to inanimate objects, and just all around allowing her possessions to have a lot of power over her mental state.

    I do acknowledge that it does feel somewhat cathartic to just throw a bunch of stuff out. Freeing. But it does seem a lot more responsible to just keep it, now that we have it, and use it up. It's true that this doesn't give satisfaction right away. I have decided to let things FULLY run out before I replace them, and it's amazing how long the last 1/8 of a bottle of shampoo lasts, not to mention how long jeans really last. But it seems like a better alternative, even to using up the stuff all in one go. I have enough fabric to last me years of sewing and crafting. If I somehow made clothing and other items from all the fabric I have on hand, I would have FAR too much clothes, and then I would be kondoing my wardrobe!

    1. I read that she used to work at a Shinto shrine, which partly explains the way she treats what westerners call inanimate objects.

      As someone who helped two parents downsize recently, this analysis rings true.

  6. @Ms McCall I use kitchen shears to cut the tops off my lotion bottles so I can scoop the remainder out and use it all up.

    Consumer Reports estimates that 16% of lotions don't get used because of the amount stuck at the bottom and on the sides of the bottles.


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