The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Book Review)

Simplify, simplify, simplify.  Simplify possessions, simplify wants, simplify commitments.  But how in the world do you go about this?

Before we left on our adventure, we spent months and months planning and reading to figure out how to approach a trip of this sort, what we would need, and where we would like to go.  We also spent years preparing financially, even before we made the final decision to travel.  Over the past two years, folks have asked me about how we’re able to do this, and I plan to get into this in later posts.  But this post deals with what we did not do before we left, which was simplify possessions.

Sure, we simplified to a certain extent by necessity.  We had to choose a limited number of things that would fit into our car.  After about a week on the road in our Eurovan, we already had a list of things we would be jettisoning.  When forced to reckon with the smaller space of our car after the death of our Eurovan (R.I.P. Bobby), we purged quite a bit, but still felt as if we had more than we needed.  And yet, we continue to have an entire storage unit in rural Pennsylvania sitting full of items from our former three bedroom townhouse.  I do not miss 99% of these items.  Most of the time, if I’m thinking about missing something, it’s my crock pot.  Strange – whatever!  Sure, we will need some of these not-missed possessions when we have a home.  And there are others that I cherish.  But there are many, many items that we can do without.

As we have been focusing more on finding a home, I have been giving a lot of thought (some would say an unhealthy level of thought) to how we are going to simplify and minimize.  I have begun following several minimalist and simple living bloggers hoping to get inspiration and insight into the process I look forward to going through.   And I am planning on writing about why I am heeding the siren’s call of simplicity and why it may be something for you to consider, as well.

But enough on that, how do I (or you) get started?  I kept seeing the same advice that I have tried in the past in many different places.  And then I had the opportunity to read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo.  It changed everything.  Is it a book for everyone?  No.  Was it a book for me and may it be a book for you if you are interested in learning how to simplify your possessions to increase peace, time, and contentment?  Most certainly, yes!

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The book can get a little cheesy from time-to-time.  The author seems to have an unhealthy obsession with tidying and has been doing it since she was a small child.  Her unhealthy obsession, however, is our gain.  The book provides a number of specifics for decluttering, but not for organizing, since she believes this is unnecessary once you have pared down your belongings.  The most important take-away points are:

  • Do not tidy section-by-section.  Do it all at once, and if you do it well, you only have to do it once.  She estimates the average person’s “all at once” will take six months.
  • Do not ask if you have used this item in the past six months to a year or if you need this item.  Instead, pick up every single item that you own and ask about each item, “Does it bring me joy?”  This, my friends was the magic formula for me.  Of course!  All these years I have been collecting things and holding onto items that I may need one day.  But in the interim, I have to store the item, clean around the item, put away the item, and think about the item.  If it doesn’t bring me joy, why am I doing it?

You may wonder how I will be transitioning to life off the road.  If you listen closely enough, I will be somewhere in the distance, speaking to my things, donating a whole lot, and becoming freer in the process.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review; however, I am completely honest in my reviews.  If I didn’t like the book, you would hear about it.

 

 

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It’s Never Too Late

I imagine I’ll be saying that frequently once we have a home and I begin trying my hand at new skills.  In the mean time, I’m racking up a list of things I want to learn/try/improve upon once I retire from the nomadic lifestyle.  When I realized in mid-winter of last year that we wouldn’t be hanging up our nomadic shoes anytime soon (and how right I was), I decided to begin one of the many things I’d been putting off until I had time.  Knitting.  And if you’ve seen me in the past ten months, you know that this has become a major part of my life.

I love when I try something new and it becomes a part of me.  I struggle to remember that there was a time not very long ago when I didn’t know a knit stitch from a purl stitch.  The fourth time was a charm (there were a few short-lived efforts in years past).  I began with dishcloths and a scarf that has since been frogged (unraveled) to make a much nicer scarf for Van.  I then took a class at Webs in Northampton during the six weeks we were house sitting.  It was fantastic!  As soon as we settle somewhere I’ll be looking for more classes.  When our instructor showed us what we’d be making over the course of the class, my eyes grew wide and I laughed to myself.  But I did it!  And then some.

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Though I’m currently in the midst of three knitting projects (a hat, a scarf, and a blanket) and have a few more projects waiting in the wings (more hats and a cowl), this doesn’t stop me finding new and great patterns to try.

In the spirit of “taking a class” without taking a class, I was excited to begin reading Knockout Knits by Laura Nelkin.  It is basically a class in three advanced techniques with patterns that progress in difficulty.  The sections are devoted to wrapped stitches, lace, and knitting with beads.  The patterns are beautiful, modern, and unique.  Each section begins with a cuff to master the basic technique and then works up in difficulty from there.  Because the patterns are all for accessories (no blankets or sweaters in this book), many of the patterns require a skein or less of yarn.

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I plan to begin working my way through the section on wrapping stitches in November while we have a home for a month (we’ll be staying near Frederick, Maryland).  There is a gorgeous pair of mitts that are listed as advanced beginner, so I think that will be a good place to start once I knit the cuff.  To be completely honest though, the book sold itself when I turned to page 78 and saw a photo of the Loco Shawl.

Loco Shawl from Knockout Knits

Loco Shawl from Knockout Knits

Wow!  Breathtakingly beautiful.  I’m nowhere near ready to begin something that complicated and delicate at this point, but I am determined to get there.  I’m not even sure where I’d wear that shawl, but when I spend the time and energy to make it, I’ll probably wear it everywhere.  Lookout!

Do you knit?  I’m always looking to expand my small circle of knitting friends from whom I gather (and can hopefully provide) inspiration.  If you are, send me a message or leave a comment below.  Any favorite patterns?  If you’re not a knitter but have thought of starting, I can’t recommend the book Stitch ‘N Bitch more highly.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: The Nourished Kitchen

Although the past nine months have been radically different from the nine months before, we are now approaching the official 18 month mark for our nomadic lifestyle.  Friends often ask what the most difficult part of traveling like this has been.  The answer is easy – food and friends.  Sourcing and cooking good and healthful food while traveling (especially camping) is much harder than when you have a home.  Thankfully, the past nine months of slow travel (staying in one place for a couple of weeks to a month or more) has made the food situation somewhat better, but still not ideal.  Not seeing friends regularly is by far the most difficult part of traveling.  Though we’ve been fortunate to see many friends through our journey, we typically see them for a day or few and then move on.  It has been amazing to see friends in far-flung corners of the country who I don’t see regularly, but I’d love to have a friend or two that I can see each week or couple of weeks.  Our time in Western Mass was amazing for that reason.  This will be one of the things I’ll most appreciate when we settle down somewhere.

To improve our eating habits while traveling, I picked up The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther through my affiliation with Blogging for Books.  It is subtitled “Farm-to-Table recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle.”  Perfect, I thought!  And it is truly a beautiful book.  The photography, layout, fonts, all of it, make this a book you just want to curl up with.  From that perspective, it is a fantastic book.  But, since I wanted this book for the recipes, I quickly decided to put it to the test.  Unfortunately, the recipes, though good, did not live up to the beauty of the pages.

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The book is divided into eight sections: from the garden; from the pasture; from the range; from the waters; from the fields; from the wild; from the orchard; and from the larder.  The recipes range from the simple – delicious looking salads and dressings – to the adventurous – stewed beef heart with root vegetables and porcini mushrooms looks particularly interesting.  I may have to try the chicken foot broth after Van gobbled down chicken feet a few weeks ago when enjoying Chinatown dim sum with our friend, Gina. Given Van’s broad palate, there’s not much in here that he would turn his nose up at, but it’s not for those with a more restrictive palate.

I’ve given it a good go, making six of the recipes in the book with easier to source ingredients (be aware if you buy this book, some of the recipes look great, but call for harder to find ingredients).  This evening my family enjoyed the cider-brined slow-roasted chicken, which probably came out the best of the set.  My problem was less with the end results, but more with the actual recipes themselves.  I’ve come across several glaring mistakes.  For example, the caption under a recipe photo mentions as a main ingredient, something that is not in the recipe.  If it were only one typo, I wouldn’t even mention it.  But for a book of this caliber, I wouldn’t have expected repeated errors.  I’ve also noticed that several of the recipes leave out steps; I’m assuming under the assumption that they’re obvious and do not need to be stated.  However, to a novice chef, this will only cause confusion and a less than complete meal.

That being said, I’m still very happy to have this book in my library given the breadth of recipes that, though traditional, are hardly traditional in today’s society (stinging nettle soup with cream, anyone?).  I look forward to trying many of the recipes while we travel, and some of the more complicated recipes once we have a home.  I’m definitely excited to try my hand at making kombucha.  While camping, my treat to myself (when I could find it) was lavender kombucha.  An acquired taste for some, but I think it is absolutely divine.  It will be fun to experiment with the aid of this book and a proper kitchen.

If this beautiful, interesting, but less than perfect book sounds like it may be up your alley, you can check out a few excerpts here.  If you want to find out more about the author and her take on food, check out her blog, Nourished Kitchen.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.