Christmas, KonMari’d!

As promised, an update on the Konmari experiment.

So far, I have tackled Christmas. Here’s what I learned:

  1. It took almost no effort to reduce my bins from 4 to 2.
  2. I had a lot of glitter detritus.
  3. Several items were kept in the dark recesses of the Christmas bins out of sheer obligation and will hopefully be moving along to someone else’s home. Someone who truly enjoys them.
  4. I was pleasantly surprised to unearth some items I never typically get to and look forward to next year when I will use them, including the Spode dishes from hubs’ grandmother.
  5. An unexpected realization: I have kept certain items in those boxes for fear of forgetting.

About that last one: a related story.

There was a ziploc bag full of Christmas potpourri. Really good smelling stuff. Quality. How do I know? It still smelled wonderfully after being in there for the past TWENTY YEARS.

Yes. I had kept potpourri for twenty years. Was it magical potpourri, you ask? Well, kind of.

I bought that bag of potpourri one Christmas season at Kaufmann’s. I wonder if Kaufmann’s still exists? It was the same as Hechts, so probably not. Perhaps it’s now a Macy’s. Anyway. I remember buying that bag of potpourri, which, at the time was such a ridiculous expenditure. I was in college, and I didn’t even have the money for pizza and alcohol, so why was I blowing it on potpourri? (Technically, I wasn’t – I think I charged it. Which, that’s an entirely different story for another day. Suffice it to say, that bag of potpourri probably ended up costing me fifty bucks with interest!)

It was an impulse buy, no doubt. My roommate, Libby, and I were avoiding studying and wandering around the sad shopping center known as Fort Steuben Mall, when I caught the intoxicating scent of cinnamon. So I grabbed the smallest available bag, swiped my card, and brought it back to our tiny apartment.

I only needed about a handful of the stuff in a glass dish in order to permeate the whole of our apartment. Along with our little tree in the window, Seamus the spruce, we had ourselves a festive gathering place. I remember holing up there with a smattering of friends, staying up way past respectable bedtime, running outside in the snow together, and then warming up with spiked hot chocolate while we eventually got down to the task of studying. Even though we lived in a mining town, the stench of which is regionally famous, the thick snow blanket seemed to erase the sulfuric intensity in a blessed and rare respite.

At some point, we would all fall asleep, scattered around the apartment in sleeping bags or under blankets on the couch, and I would get up each morning before everyone else and start a pot of coffee while everyone else would slowly stir to consciousness, squinting as the sunlight reflected off the snow and through the picture window behind the Christmas tree.

Those were magical days. None of us knew the future, of course. Quite frankly, had anyone predicted that two of would be dead less than five years later, we would have all laughed at the absurdity of such a suggestion. We were merely playing at adulthood – no one had any intentions of growing up that quickly. Of course, we did just that, first when Libby and Nate had their two babies, the joy of growing up, and then even moreso when death claimed them within a year of one another.

But each time I opened my Christmas decorations, that cinnamon smell escaped and I relived that memory. Which is why I have kept such a silly thing for two decades. I realized, however, that I don’t need a ziploc of potpourri for that. (Earth-shattering, I know!) It just took me a while longer to figure out that we do not owe our memories and experiences to objects. I don’t need mashed up bits of pine cones and cinnamon sticks to transport me to that crackerbox apartment. Or a Santa figurine that doesn’t quite fit in or make me happy because I loved the person who gave it to me. I am learning that I needn’t be beholden to the secret crates of possessions we squirrel away under the stairs.

I’m better than that. We are all better than that. Our minds are far roomier than our attics and basements, and our memories far more valuable than we give them credit.


I’m Gonna Konmari the Krap Outta This

Please excuse the forced alliteration. I’m bedridden, and I have lost all sense of decorum. (edited to add: i just realized the Ks might seem an homage to *that* famous repetitive K family. it is not.)

Two days ago, on the day after Christmas, instead of enjoying the dulcet tones of my children whining about their boredom in spite of having a metric tonne of shiny new toys, I fell ill with a stomach bug that rivaled any of my four bouts of hyperemesis.

It was the literal worst. Seriously. I went to the ER, and as I sat in the lobby, utilizing one of those lovely blue plastic accordion receptacles, my fingers and legs locked up. I thought I might be having a stroke, but I guess it was the result of extreme dehydration. Impressive, even for me.

So I had a night’s vacation in the observation ward. I had to leave my little baby at home for the first time overnight without me, and she was….displeased. She refused to take a bottle and slept away her stress. I also attempted to sleep away the entire incident, which wasn’t too difficult as I was given several doses of phenergan.

But after tolerating some carrots and a baked potato, I was given my freedom. I took to my bed and haven’t left since. Which is where I have been stationed for the past 27 hours or so, visually combing through every square inch of this room with the fresh eyes of a woman who has recently read the latest religious text of the organization faithful.

the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing

I first took notice of this book on the shelves of Anthropologie, where I work a few hours per week. I was immediately attracted to the ee cummings-esque typeface, and having heard the word “konmari” tossed about, decided I would give it a quick read. After all, I’ve always been a fan of organization. When I was in high school, I actually asked for a closet organizer as a gift. That’s how much I love to organize.

Yet, I still live in a cluttered mess. Sure, a good amount of that is the fact that I have a family of 6 in a tiny home, but there must be more than that. And so I am committing to this book and this kooky Japanese lady with her weirdo methods.

Which is why as I am perched on my sick bed, impatient to kick the remnants of this nasty illness, I have mentally culled my bookshelf, my sock drawer, and the right half of the top shelf of the closet. (The left door is closed, so I can’t see what I need to ditch from that side)

Does it spark joy? If not, it’s out. Done. Gone. Kaput. Audi-5000.

My plan is to Konmari the hell out of this joint.

I’ll keep you posted. Will this be like the time I tried the Atkins diet? Hopefully not. I mean, pork rinds are straight up nasty.



Every Little Ornament Counts

Christmas, 1984. My family was living on base in West Germany, all eight (EIGHT!) of us shoved in a three-bedroom, one-bath apartment. We were on the top floor of three, one of six apartments per stairwell, two stairwells per building. Built in World War II, the architecture was best described as, “early oppressive Stalinist utilitarian.”

Living conditions were cramped, but the youngest three of us were small and therefore not quite as affected. We had the first bedroom when you entered the apartment, a roomy retreat with a set of bunks and my single bed. There was a door into my parents’ room from ours, and as we lived on a guarded and fenced-in base with bars on the window, they probably didn’t feel at all worried that we were the first room accessible from the front door. They wouldn’t have expected any of us to escape, anyway, as we were just not that type of children.

We were, however, the type of children who loved Christmas. And that first winter overseas, we were excited to open up the boxes of ornaments we’d lugged over the Atlantic and make the apartment as close to home as possible. That Friday night, we’d secured a tree from the only lot on base, and after getting it situated in the corner of our crowded living room, had only managed a few decorations before it was time to go to bed. The rest would have to wait until morning.

Around six A.M., the sun was up and so was my brother, Joe. While his twin snored away, his six year-old self was unable to sleep and so he shook me awake. He had a plan: we would tiptoe out to the tree and finish decorating it before anyone else woke up. They would be so excited to see a fully decorated tree!

It was a lovely plan. Truly. We had the best of intentions. We envisioned all of the thanks and admiration we would inevitably receive from our parents and siblings.

But we were two of the shortest kids you’d ever seen. And when two tiny people kneel down, they can only reach their tiny arms so far onto a tree.

And when two tiny people are overloaded on Christmas joy, they overpopulate a very concentrated section of tree branches with every ornament their tiny arms can hang.

Which is right around the time that two tiny people are pinned under a falling tree.

I distinctly remember the clinking and clanking and yes, sadly, some shattering, as the ornaments went every which way, along with our cat who had been silently judging us from her perch on the back of the sofa. My parents shot out of their room and while I’m sure they were ready to murder us, the sight of us trapped under the pine tree more than likely made them unable to stop laughing. As everyone scurried to free us and salvage the ornaments that hadn’t broken, my dad realized that the tree water had poured all over the floor and seemed to be leaking through to the apartment below us. As my mom rushed to warn our downstairs neighbors, the far more refined Bradleys with their perfect two children and their lovely sportscar, I’m sure she momentarily regretted having a big family.

I usually remember the times I was punished, and they were many. But I don’t remember getting in any trouble for this particular disaster. I do believe, however, that was the last Christmas the tree trimming was put off until morning.

fallen tree