"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

“Tidying” – the Japanese way . . .

my de-cluttered kitchen "sparks joy"!

my de-cluttered kitchen “sparks joy”!

If you haven’t heard about it yet, Mari Kondo’s book entitled “the life-changing magic of tidying up” has been on the best-seller list for quite awhile. If you are interested in de-cluttering your surroundings and your life, you might try her process of what she calls “tidying.” Her pitch is that if you truly tidy things up, you will never have to tidy again!

Simply put, she advocates dispensing of ANYTHING that does not “spark joy.” If you go around and intuitively take down and do away with whatever doesn’t make you extremely happy to see or have it, you will have prioritized what you want to have around you. The second rule is to have a place for everything that you do keep. This is important because without each thing having its place (like scotch tape,) it will float around where you can’t find it or clutter up some other space.

I’ve tried reading this book a couple of times. This past weekend, I read it again in large-print, borrowed from the library while waiting for a two-piano concert to begin. Imprinted with the messages, I went home and looked around me. Just about everything I have in my home “sparks joy” – mainly because that has been my criteria for having them in the first place. My problem is that although my things spark a lot of joy, there’s too many of them around.

So, I decided to cull some thing away to create a more peaceful aura: I took down the metal branch chandelier from the holidays. I moved a flowering cyclamen plant to a table near the canaries in the other room where it actually gets more sun than here on the kitchen table. A fresh bouquet of tulips in one of my favorite vases was moved to a corner bookcase shelf rather than sitting on the table. Now, there’s just a pair of deep burgundy twisted candles in antique brass candlesticks and a lady-slipper orchid with an antique tin of dried pods on the cherrywood tray at the end of the table. I also culled items from the kitchen windowsill.pods and candles

Before simplifying the visual landscape of our kitchen/living room space, I tackled cleaning out all the kitchen drawers. I’ll bet you know what that’s like. There’s always one drawer that is a catchall for everything: twisty ties, rubber bands, measuring tape, cough drops, picture hangers, screwdrivers, packing tape, flower frogs, miscellaneous thread, string, pens, pencils (you get the picture.) Anyhow, I did it, taking photos of all the things I emptied out on the kitchen countertop in order to reassemble them back into empty, cleaned-out drawers. You should try it sometime! If you’re like me, you’ll have a bunch of leftover stuff that you don’t know what to do with. Kondo recommends ditching it – either throwing it out in the “garbage” or giving it to Goodwill.

Which brings me to the big flaw or omission in Kondo’s theory. What do you do with things that shouldn’t be thrown away or recycled? Auction them off? Give them to people who probably don’t want them anyhow? I guess we’ll have to figure that out for ourselves.

In any case, I’ve given myself this week to “tidy” our living space, next week for clothing and the week after for books. That’s not the same order that Kondo recommends but it’s the one that works best for me. I started with the hardest one first: miscellany!

I was tempted to post some of the “before” photos that I took to show my husband because he was out tuning a piano while I had the kitchen drawers taken apart. I find it’s easier to do these kinds of tasks when he’s not around, looking over my shoulder or worse, going through the stuff himself and making even more work out of a simple sorting exercise. You might have this same experience yourself. For example, if I ask G. to put something in the pantry, he’s still out there minutes later, starting to rearrange things to his liking. Plus, I have discovered I often can’t locate what he’s put out there until some months or years later. The pantry clean out isn’t scheduled as yet until the other phases are completed.

By that time, sparks will fly all over the place as our rooms, clothing, books and whatever is left over are “tidied up” once and for all. It does feel good to know what’s where and that you know why you’re keeping it. The pantry should be a cinch by then.


a winter supper . . .

flowers and candlesGjelina, a restaurant in Venice Beach, California, serves simple vegetable dishes and has recently come out with a cookbook. It arrived on Sunday and the dishes looked appetizing, promising flavors that might be more complex than usual.

Since we are wanting to pare down on all the things that we should be eating less of (red meat, potatoes, sugar and bread) I thought we’d try changing our mindset so that we would share a vegetable dish as our our dinner, rather than as a side dish to add to a heavier meal.

Michael Pollan, in his little paperback called “Food Rules” says basically that we should eat primarily what grows above the ground (greens) and eat less, stopping when we feel 70% full. Thus, I thought it might be a novel idea to shift our expectations and cut down by sharing a vegetable side dish that preserved flavor and that also retained foodie cooking flair that I would miss terribly if all we ate was steamed green vegetables! I took macrobiotic cooking lessons years ago and while it might be healthy, it wasn’t long on flavor or culinary interest, at least not to me.

So tonight, I roasted orange beets, marinated them in a sherry vinegar, orange juice, olive oil dressing to which I added avocado and fresh segments of mineola oranges, topped with toasted, crushed hazelnuts. It was satisfying and tasty too. Next time, we thought we’d put this dish on a bed of arugula and watercress greens.

vegetable dinner

Other dishes in the line-up for supper this week are cooked coarse corn grits (polenta) topped with a fresh mushroom melange and a poached egg on top; roasted acorn squash with brown butter and fresh rosemary and caramelized Japanese sweet potato wedges served with yogurt and fresh lime sprinkled with sliced scallions. A bountiful green salad of arugula, baby spinach, watercress with a sharp soy-ginger-lime vinaigrette might be tasty alongside. Or add some garlicky shrimp scampi to the aforementioned green salad.

To break the monotony, I did come home with a Bell & Evans organic chicken that I’ll brine on Wednesday and roast with potatoes for dinner with an old friend on Thursday night. AND, since fresh crabmeat from Maine is still available, I might make a crabmeat quiche as a treat for the weekend!

And so it goes.