Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Marie Kondo and my Bedroom Project


Let me say right off the bat that I’m about to trash Marie Kondo’s methods of “tidying up.’ If you don’t know who she is, she’s got a new TV show on Netflix that is based on her run-away best-selling books and just about every talk show has either been talking about or interviewing her. As a blogger friend said, “You either love her or hate her.” For me, ‘hate’ is a strong word that I reserve for presidents who commit High Crimes and Misdemeanors but a guest on The View was quick to label Marie “his mortal enemy.” If you’re one of her fans stop reading if you can’t be open-minded about my reasons for not buying into her philosophy starting right out with her calling what she does “tidying up.” In one of her videos she said she’s had clients who filled up over a 100 trash bags. That’s not “tidying up” that’s deep cleaning or decluttering. Tidying up is putting the potholders in the drawer and making your bed because company is coming. Language matters. You wouldn’t call a leg amputation a pedicure and you’re not “tidying up” when you can put a 100 trash bags out to the curb on trash pickup day. Also, Marie never addresses the psychological reasons why possessions are security to people who ‘hoard’ to that extent.

To be fair to the girl, I decided to do some research to figure out why she evokes such a negative reaction in me. In addition to watching some of her YouTube videos I bought the Summary: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. It’s a 75 pages, $3.99 Kindle download and I read every page but it didn’t change my attitude nor make me want to click to buy the full book. I do like her method of folding socks and I’m am now using the official KonMari method of doing that task. I own a lot of socks. I have knee highs and no-show socks and everything in between---all black or gray. I even have old socks in my cleaning closet that are used to clean up dog vomit, after which I finally throw them out. I’ve tried to research how many socks are too many according to the Tidy Up Girl but I couldn’t find a number. She a minimalism so I’m guessing two pair in each style. I visualize her doing laundry nightly like someone living out of a suitcase.

One of the things that I bad-mouth about the KonMari method is Marie’s attitude towards books. She believes you should throw out books you haven’t read and books you’ve already read. Yup, if you’re reading a book that’s the only one in the house that’s safe from being labeled, “garbage” which is her favorite word to use for our stuff. She also says if you have a book you just can’t part with, tear out the pages you like and throw out the rest of the book. And if you can’t do the tear-out thing then, she says, put the books in a box and store them in your closet. Thirty should be enough to keep. I have an entire library room in the house with twenty-feet of floor-to-ceiling shelves full of books. I value books. I wouldn’t destroy a book but I might start calling my library a book closet. All I’d have to do is cover the glass-paneled door over so you can’t see into the room from the living room. I do plan to purge and donate enough books so I can move six running feet of books from my bedroom to my new ‘book closet.’

Which brings me to another, exciting project. It started with an exhaust pipe in the roof that was leaking and caused a stain on the master bath ceiling. I had the pipe cap replaced, then I marked the edges of the stain so I could be sure it didn’t grow. Enough time has passed that I decided I could repaint the ceiling but guess what. A few years ago when I thought I was going to buy a condo I threw out the paint I’d saved for touch ups. Now I have to paint the whole bathroom so I’m taking the opportunity to change color schemes in the master bath and connecting bedroom and to get a smaller bed. So off I went to shop quilts as my color palette starting point. Hours and hours of online shopping later I bought a quilt and shower curtain. I’m going from a grey, black and red palette to a girlie beachy/cottage theme.

My closet purging project, by the way, got done. Like Frank Sinatra, ‘I did it my way’ in five sessions---not the KonMari one giant session way. Her method of piling all the clothing from all over the house into the center of a room, then picking up each piece and asking yourself it if sparks joy might work for some people but if I did that I’d end up with three things to hang back up: two iconic outfits from the ‘70s and a 1950s Scandinavian sweater that my mom made that earned me a quarter page photo in the newspaper with the headline: Baby, It's Cold Outside! I get joy from many things, but clothing is not in the mix. I get joy from my metal Cracker Jack toys, from my handmade scenic and portrait buttons from the 1800s, from books, stones and seashells. I get joy from my whale oil lamps, woman's suffrage postcards and art prints. The list goes on and much of it serves no useful purpose in this century. 

I do respect the idea of creating a smaller footprint---the minimalist mindset. I’ve read a lot about other minimalists in recent years because they do fascinate me but none of them make me feel like a lion who'd like to stalk them for dinner like Ms Kondo does and I figured out why. By her soft-spoken, simplistic labeling of everything that you don’t use daily or doesn’t spark joy as “garbage that you can get rid of” she’s insulting my entire, life-long collector’s life style. Other minimalists use words like ‘recycle’ and ‘donate’ for things you may have tired of owning which I don’t believe appeared even once in Marie's summary book while the word ‘garbage’ appeared so often that I wanted to bounce my Kindle up against the wall. ©

Photos: My new quilt at the top and this is my new shower curtain.


34 comments:

  1. Great commentary on the oversimplification and, by default, impracticality of the KonMari trend. If I'm "tidying up" in my kitchen, I'd be tossing out all my cooking gear because, really, does my spatula Spark Joy? Does my whisk? NO. But I need them to cook with.

    Hey--do your toenail clippers Spark Joy? LOL.

    I like your new colour scheme for you. It is light and fresh and breezy.

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    1. I wish I could justify doing the new color scheme in the living room, too. But my couch and matching chair have no wear what so ever. I may get the walls painted but it might have to wait...

      The only minimalist I've known borrows everything from others because she got rid of stuff like floor scrubbers, shop vacuum and vaporizers...the kind of things no one needs until they really need it.

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  2. Okay this struck a nerve. :-)
    I don't care for the itty bitty Marie. I will NEVER throw away a book unless an orange fat man has his name on it.
    I don't get joy from everything in my closet but my waistline has been known to go up and down sizes so I keep a few sizes. A good weekend can mean my jeans are up to a size 12. But then I may lose that and fit into my 10's again. Don't laugh it's happened before. (summer) Then I'm thrilled I have those 10's and don't need to buy new ones.
    So take that Marie. Teeny Tiny Marie doesn't look like she eats more than a grain of rice. Therefore she can not understand this.
    I tried to watch the show on Netflix but found I was yelling at her so I turned it off. It wasn't a becoming side of me. :-)
    I will check out her way of folding socks though since you said that.

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    1. Only two sizes? Up until this past week I had three sizes, now it's only two. So I understand the ups and downs.

      Another thing Marie says that really got to me is her saying that people don't need to have seasonal clothing anymore because, "houses have good furnaces now." Give me a break! Few furnaces can keep a house warm enough when it's below freezing and we still have to go outside in sub-zero temperatures to shovel or get the mail at a minimum.

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  3. I really like the shower curtain and the quilt. Both are lovely but you said Marie and boy I went off the rails there didn't I?

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    1. I'm glad you did. LOL I don't want to be alone in stalking Marie for dinner, so to speak.

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  4. Jean--Just read an interesting article at Smithsonian Magazine about a distinctly American trend earlier in our history when housewives were urged to Tidy Up. Here's the link.

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    1. That was an interesting read, Nance. Thanks for sharing it. Nice to know that "tidying up"---I hate that phrase is nothing new, that this is just the newest reincarnation of decluttering. Two phrases spoke to me: "The excesses of the Victoria Era" and The Cult of Kondo." The former because I went through an era in my life where I loved all things Victorian and the latter phrase because it perfectly describes Marie's hardcore fans. If I belong to a house related cult it would be Martha Stewart's.

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  5. I had never heard of this person until I started my Pre-Death cleaning. My stuff that is leaving is NOT garbage...it is stuff that I haven't used in years and know I will never use again. Like that beautiful, white milk-glass pedestal cake plate that was grandma's and now has been given to my daughter, along with an electric griddle, 4-slice toaster and the Kitchen Aid stand mixer, with all its attachments that has gone into grand daughter Maddie's hope chest. Plus--5 garbage bags and one full trash can of rusted cake pans and pie pans, 12" fry pan with no Teflon left on it and too heavy for me to lift anymore and enough Tupper Ware containers to start my own franchise.
    My project is so that my kids will have less "stuff" to go through when I leave. The only things I can't seem to rid myself of are 30 years of scrapbooks and 40 years of journals. That alone will cause them enough, "Oh Dear Lord, Mother!" comments to last a few months. HAH!

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    1. Exactly Judy! Those things have value both monetary and sentimental and will be enjoyed by your daughter and granddaughter.

      I struggle with getting rid of scrapbooks and diaries, too. One minute I think I SHOULD do it so my nieces don't have to. Then the next minute I think I'm STILL ALIVE and still enjoy having them around. Kitchen stuff can be replaced if you have regrets about purging them, but you can't replace your scrapbooks and journals.

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  6. I do love having a TIDY look in my small quarters. Believe me ... if I had more room, my kidlet would be using my name after the funeral. I looked to downsizing, minimizing and keeping only the bare necessities because I had no space! If I had my own place and all the closets .... you bet I'd have more selections! But I do like looking at wearing clothing that makes me feel good!!

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    1. I visited a niece-in-law recently and looked at how she had to pare her life down to living in one room, like you had to do and it boggles the mind that it can be done. The choices come down to a lot of necessary things you must keep and very little sentimental. I would think clothing becomes more important because it's the one of the few places left where you can truly express your personality.

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  7. You know i think the same thing about Kondo. If you want a seriously humorous read: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/the-life-changing-magic-of-keeping-absolutely-everything?fbclid=IwAR1SoVkOADMTNTYk7jU1FGp_9T9rktYxLu3HFGUu5Evh72zPfIxQir-Qzu4

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    1. That was a funny read, Thanks for sharing it. I might be one of those time capsule/Andy Warhol people. Oh, and I have a drawer where I keep screws of unknown origin and other parts that have fallen off things when I wasn't looking. LOL

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  8. Marie Kondo got herself a schtick, and she's going to cash in on it until everyone either tires of it, realizes they're being taken, or begins to regret throwing away all those things that gave them pleasure but didn't fit her model. She's not a bit different than any of the self-help gurus who play on people's insecurities. If I can't figure out for myself what to keep, what to dispose of, and how to arrange what's left, I have bigger problems than Marie Kondo could solve.


    What brought me to a complete halt was her recommendation to tear pages out of a book. The woman is an idiot. And that comment about not needing seasonal clothing? I guess when you live in a bubble that small, you don't need much. Fini.

    Actually, the little guideline that makes more sense to me is the one from William Morris, who said, "Have nothing in your home which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." It seems to me that covers a lot more territory -- and leaves room for the vaporizer and the shop vac.


    Other than that, I'm mostly enjoying (???) the fact that we had sleet this morning, and are sitting at 37F. One of my friends suggested I stop waxing poetic about winter. As she said, "Be careful what you wish for!" Winter's great, until I remember how cold it is!

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    1. I love your last line and laughed out loud. Now I know who to blame for this cold snap.

      As for throwing out something you later find you need, Marie said it saves time because after you tidy up and you can't find something you know you don't have to keep looking for it because you'll know you threw it out. What kind of idiotic circular logic is that?

      I could live with William Morris' guideline.

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  9. Most other countries, especially Asian, live in tiny spaces. Less is more as 4-5 people live in 700 sq ft (I’ve visited!). I do have some special items in storage ... but if Kate and Jesse aren’t interested in my Grandmother’s China and I stop using it twice a year. I’ll find them a good home

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    1. I saw a video that showed 100 "apartments" in China that were each smaller than my bedroom. When I first saw a Marie video I thought her message and mindset was better suited to other cultures. Good luck finding a home for the china. Sadly, younger people don't want stuff that can't go in a microwave or dishwasher.

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  10. I have been hearing so much about Marie Kondo but not really paying close attention. I could really do some clearing out and thought I just might get her book since I don't have access to her on TV. Thank you, thank you, thank you for letting me finally take her off my to do list. You have let me believe I don't need her.

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    1. You don't need her methods to do some cleaning and purging. I got five trash bags out of my closet to donate to Goodwill. It was 2014 the last time I cleaned it---long over due. Although I will admit that I sarcastically asked myself a couple of times if something gave me joy. LOL

      Time Magazine listed her as one of the most influential persons of 2015. I was genuinely curious why the little twit is so popular---she's been translated into 30 different languages---and I still don't really get how she got to cult status.

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  11. I haven't read her book, but I did watch two episodes of her Netflix show yesterday. First was the one with the recent widow, Margie, and I cried through the whole thing because it really struck a chord with me. I thought Marie was very gentle and encouraging with her. Margie was having a hard time getting rid of her husband's clothes (which she wanted to do even before Kondo came) and Marie told her to wait until she was done with the other tasks first, contrary to Kondo's usual sequence, because she recognized how difficult it was for her. I thought the whole show was uplifting and positive. Margie said it changed the whole energy of the house. And the other show I watched was the Japanese/American couple who had tons of Christmas decorations and thousands of the husband's baseball cards. The wife did a lot of "retail therapy" and had the biggest mountain of clothes Kondo had seen so far. Kondo didn't tell them to get rid of it all, but showed them how to whittle it down and how to store things so they wouldn't be piled up all over the house. I don't think Kondo's thing is necessarily minimalism (certainly for that couple it wasn't) but more keeping things that have some meaning for you and having everything in its own place so you can access it when you want to. The Japanese/American couple found some real family treasures that they hadn't even been aware they had. So I enjoyed her show and plan to watch the other episodes. I used to be a slob when I was a teenager, but now I'm a neatnik, so go figure. :)

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    1. Interesting! A lot of widows do need help with pruning her husband's clothing out of the house. I may have to look up that episode. I did find a message board thread that talked about it and a few people thought that Margie wasn't ready for the project but the proof was in the pudding if SHE thought the energy in the house changed when it was finished.

      Thanks for sharing the above impressions and giving balance to this blog entry.

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  12. A friend loaned me the book, and the only thing I read was the folding method. I use that method now and have to say the three drawers have never looked better. But the joy sparking was silly. Like others, I would have nothing in my closet. Not really into clothes. The outfit I wear to funerals definitely doesn't spark joy, but I find the older I get the more I need it.

    Sheila

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    1. I switched from rolling my socks and underpants to her method of folding and I have to agree, they look neater and are easier to find. But have a such a big closet that I don't have to fold anything else. Folding shirts, pants and sweaters like she recommends looks like a lot of extra ironing and I don't have shelve space to fold it all. I hear you on the funeral outfit!

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  13. I volunteer at a thrift shop that donates all proceeds back into the community, so we don't throw out anything that has value or appeal. However.....we are currently overwhelmed with donations, and I blame Marie Kondo specifically. We need another 'perfect your life' guru, to write a book about self-control on our shopping ventures to offset her appeal.

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    1. When I dropped of stuff at Goodwill last week there were so many cars lined up it wasn't funny. I've never had to wait in line in past years. I heard there was one thrift center that even had to turn donations down. We do have a LARGE place in town that gives all donations away to anyone walking in with a need plus they ship clothing overseas to 3rd world countries and refugee centers, I should have gone there. There need is great. Marie is new on TV plus lots of people normally purge closets this time of the year so it won't last.

      I agree with you.People buy too much on impulse. Not me,I rarely buy on impulse.

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  14. I bought her book a few years ago at Costco in Canada. Great exchange rate. It does not give me joy. But it's a book so it does not get thrown out and no, I won't tear the pages out, though I should -- the ones on folding. I actually do fold quite like her and that's been very effective and my drawers of multi-sizes are at least easier to deal with.

    OK, now I've been nice. So let me get to the meat of it. The woman is bat-shit crazy, sorry for the language but it's the tamest thing I can think of. I do think she has an OCD issue and has found a way to channel it productively, so good for her. And I accept after travel to Japan that spaces are much smaller. Jolly good. But good grief. As others said, if I kept only what gave me joy, well, I might have a neater house. But maybe not. Apart from some ugly shoes that actually are the only ones that sort of fit right, Lizzie's litter boxes and some worn out dishtowels, I pretty much don't have stuff that doesn't give me joy. Or have meaning. Those litter boxes are essential. And sorry, to take a photo of something sentimental and toss the other thing doesn't do it. Have you seen her show? It did make me feel better about the state of my environment.

    I don't think she understands the concept of donation or recycling, either. I wish I could come up with a gimmick as successful as hers, though. I have to admire that.

    These days, I'm all for letting go of what doesn't fit, what I don't like, what I socked away because I thought I'd need it someday and didn't. But as others have mentioned, that's not the same thing. She's ruthless. And she hurts books.

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    1. Boy, I think you're right about her being OCD. She says she was organizing when she was still a kid and that got into full swing when she was in college, living with others in a dorm. (She still looks like a kid but is actually 35.)

      I haven't seen her new her show other than clips of it in interviews and I watched a bunch of her videos but I'm a fan of the show Hoarders. What a difference! The Hoarders show has mental health doctors who help the hoarders deal with emotional issues that led them to become hoarders. They do follow up appointments to keep them from starting in again, too. With Marie, it's all about making things look "pretty" by her bare-necessities standards.

      She not only hurts books but she tells people to take all the photos out of their albums and only keep the ones that give them joy and toss out the rest. What about offering them to other family members to go throw first? An album doesn't take up much room. And you're right about her not understanding the concept of donating or recycling.

      And I would take it a step farther and say she doesn't seem to care about filling up out landfills with goods that could be of use to others. Like a mentioned above, we have a thrift store here where people who have been through house fires or an kind of disaster, or are being helped to get off from living on the streets or abused women, even in the prison release program can go and shop the entire place for free, take as much as they need.

      I do believe that we Americans have been programed to buy more clothing than anyone really needs to keep up with changing styles rather than wearing them out like we did back in the day. But that's a curb-your-buying issue or shopping-while-bored issue that she's not addressing at all. A year from a major purging the KonMar way I predict most of those people she works with will be right back in the similar state.

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  15. Tidying up. LOL I agree....she wants us to PURGE! And I too hate her use of the word "garbage". It's insulting.

    I do think we too easily consume; too easily fall prey to impulse buying; have too much of one thing or another and I try to stay on top of the "clutter" which is mostly hidden behind closet doors or in cabinets, but it still bugs me to know I have a bunch of stuff I don't need or even want anymore. I struggle with the sentimental value items, but I've gotten much better at the "I might want it/need it/use it some day" excuse for hanging on to things. On rare occasions I've ditched something I wanted later, but that is so infrequent that I've proven I can get rid of a lot that the fear center of my brain says I should keep.

    I also actually use the "spark joy" question at times. It helps me discern what is truly meaningful to me from what I just have out of habit or mindlessness.

    Thought provoking post. I'm not a fan of KonMar exactly, but I am on a mission to simply and be mindful about my possessions. Good post!

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    1. I have gotten rid of things that I had a need for later, like the paint. But considering how many things I'd downsized out of my life since my husband died, the percentage is small. Once in a while I'll use a method that's like a half-way house for things I'm iffy about purging. I'll box them up and put them in the garage for a month or two before taking it to the donation center...time to change my mind, if needed. LOL

      I know for sure that I can't live long enough to use all the paper I've accumulated in the house. I'm with paper tablets, blank books and notebook paper, colored paper, etc. like some women are with shoes which I have zero interest in which just goes to show that cookie cutter self-help books don't work for all people.

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  16. I confess that I've neither read Marie Kondo's books nor seen her television show. I do like an orderly environment, so I tend not to accumulate a lot of clutter. Like Nance, there are a lot of things in my home (like my snow shovels) that do not spark joy, but that I'm definitely not getting rid of. But my books very definitely do spark joy -- especially when I re-read an old favorite for the umpteenth time! BTW, your new quilt also sparks joy for me; I love the way it works with the gray color on the walls.

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    1. I'm going to try to get the same color grey for my walls which is actually just a shade darker than the gray I already have.

      I honestly can't understand Marie's popularity but I did read one explanation that might be on to something. The idea was put forth that the world is so hectic and stressful since the last election that people are looking for order and simplicity in their own little corner of the world. I tend to be the opposite and want to hold on to more when the world around me is unstable.

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  17. I came across this humor piece today that you might appreciate. :)

    https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/the-life-changing-magic-of-keeping-absolutely-everything

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