Today is Clean-up Day!

I grew up outside city limits. In my upbringing, there were no baseball evenings, annual yard sales or citywide clean-up. Now that we live in town, I look forward to these things immensely. When I described this town to a nurse in San Francisco, she said, “oh my gosh, you live in Stars Hollow.” Which is to say, we live in the dream town: a small town, with third places, where people gather, know each other, support each other, mourn for each other and have unique city events that could only happen in a small town. Last weekend we saw the citywide yard sale and Fruit and Nut Festival take place. This weekend, it is time for the citywide clean-up. It is a busy time of year.

When I was away from home in early April, I felt eager to get my hand back into my art. I could, at the time, do little more than sort photos. It is wonderful to think of how far we have come in our home. To design is a process. You can take steps in the beginning and if you really know your taste, your way of functioning and color, you might not need to make any changes for a long time. More likely, you will make decisions and change your mind in the future. But every step in decorating one’s home is a process. The home represents those who live in it. It has a soul just as there is a collective spirit to the family. Our town is a larger version of a home with municipal codes instead of rules and a much larger family.

It takes time to develop a home as a marriage takes time and as a family takes time and a town takes time. With each additional to the family, the home must also change. It grows. It goes through trauma. You can mark the growth of your children, not just with measurements on a wall, but also with photographs of when that bed was there and that room was overwhelmed with baby things and when you tried to organize all those clothes. If you are involved with your home as you are with your family, it becomes an embodiment of your history. And that is a beautiful thing.

It is not always the case. Sometimes we neglect our home. Sometimes we neglect our family. The two are not equal. Even in a neglected home, where you did not give a lick about decorating, you will still have memories. When we did not have a bed frame…when picture frames sat in a shopping bag on the desk for a month…when the living room was nothing but boxes. Even then it can still echo the activities of our year.

There is no perfect home and there is no perfect family. There is no perfect town. If your home is perfect, I suspect it is impersonal, or a vacation house you just arrived to but have not lived in for some time. Because when people live in the home, it must change as much as we do.

And so it is time for the annual clean-up day, when we wander our property for those neglected pieces whose time has passed and must be let go, for the appliance boxes we held onto in case of a return, to trim the trees and haul the brush. This weekend, as well as last, you can invest in your family, your home, and your town, as can only happen in a small town like this.


The KonMari Method and Me: Book lover and graduated graduate student

I’m on my technical Day 4 of the KonMari Method. Mother of three, expectant of one, this is not the sort of addiction I should be getting into. But here we are. I shutter to tell my husband of the physical toll. So if you’re pregnant, just hold onto that book till the baby’s born and you actually can’t move. Pain is your body’s way of telling you to stop. Dopamine is your brain’s way of saying, don’t ever stop.

I have seven garbage bags of clothes for the future yard sale. My husband has consented to storing them in the attic. Four are my clothes, one is boy clothes, two are girl clothes. Since I started reading the book, I waited in anticipation of Category #2: books.

Books have ever been a problem. My father cherished books. I never saw him read them for leisure, but he taught me that sense that books are precious. They made sure I had many books. I recall exploring the Bible for the first time as it had always sat my shelves. I giggled at a leather bound antique book on the human body in my father’s collection. He and I took trips to the local used bookstore. He delighted in buying me books and I delighted in the escape they provided during adolescence.

Thus I owned many books. Naturally they had to go with me. It’s cute in Rory’s room on the Gilmore Girls but not so quite when your husband has to carry them in boxes at least every two years. Here are some storage solutions over time.

IMG_1592In Virginia, using a Target bookshelf and a plastic one from home, stacked on a filing cabinet since there was too much furniture.

IMG_1597Moving to the country in California, we used my father’s double sided bookcase as a room divider to create an office for my husband. It was nearly full.

IMG_3676Before we moved again, I purged and discarded a substantial number of books.

We could not fit the double sided bookshelf in our new and current home so they books were spread all over the house. In our office remodel we created a library wall using brackets and reclaimed wood. A dream come true but some times it seemed so very full, I wondered how attractive it really was.

We created a pallet bookshelf for in-use books in the kid’s room.

IMG_6512I’ve thought about book organization much more than clothing organization, thus my excitement. Kondo directs the reader to, like everything else, only keep that which gives you a thrill. To be grateful for the books that have lived out their time in your life and send them on their way. Because I believe in the value of books, this resonates with me. She tells us to get realistic, if we haven’t read it, we won’t read it again. I keep books for reference and that has been useful, but some of them I have not referenced in years. I can let them go.

To fully follow the KonMari Method, you bring all your books to the floor. I am unwilling to do this. So I stood on a comfortable step ladder and held each book, asking if it sparks joy. I was surprised at the result. Oliver Twist, no. Great Expectations, yes (really?). A Tale of Two Cities, yes (that surprises me). I thought I’d discard all my Jane Austen books but Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Persuasion tickled my joy. I accepted that if I ever teach courses in psychology, I can just find a new textbook because most Ethics textbooks for psychology are the same. I left my husband’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Zelda books alone because they give him joy. I still need to ask him about his Calligraphy book.

We recycled children’s books that were torn up and I put into the discard box the books I deeply disliked. So on and so on. My eldest daughter helped me. My son whined and tried to occupy himself otherwise. My youngest (a year and a half)  attached to John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism the rest of the day, which was pretty funny. As long as it’s bringing pleasure and not harming anyone, I guess that’s okay.

IMG_7701  One overflowing, too heavy to carry box of books filled and the shelves now have breathing room. They look neater, more beautiful to me.



I will take the box to the used book store and see what money we can get (for birthdays and Christmas presents) and then take the rest to the library. That last step makes it very easy for me to let them go. I know exactly where I can get them if I ever have the urge to read them again!

I have a few more to go through. I haven’t managed to bring everything to one place. There are some stray books in my room. And I didn’t realize she included magazines. I usually sort through those and take clippings, so that falls to the “papers” category.

Luckily, I can conquer that sitting down. Until then!

The KonMari Method and Me: KonMari my kiddos

So far we’ve had a day of reflection and a day to tackle my own clothes. Day 2 and Day 3 I went after the kids’ clothes.

Day 2: The boy Clothes

We have three born children, first a girl, then a boy, then a girl. The boxes of girl clothes have swelled. They are, however, better sorted than the boy clothes. Those never required another thought other than fitting it into a box for moving.

I spent an hour simply sorting all the boy clothes into sizes. With my first child I attempted to store clothing based on its relative sizes because, if you have children, you know not every 6-9 months is exactly as it is says it is. This method was foolish and made it very difficult to find the things that fit when Girl #2 was ready for a new size.

Welcome KonMari Method. I don’t know that I followed this exactly. What to keep for children is part practical and part about joy. I immediately see that I get more joy in looking at girl clothes than boy clothes. Yet I feel joy when I think of how happy he was to wear those t-shirts. I throw into the discard pile, nearly a full garbage bag. There are items never worn, items given that were faded, items too badly stained to bother with. It’s a simple process yet I still manage to overwork myself.

Baby shower gifts should include this book by Marie Kondo. It’s a double-edged sword. It will bring immense delight to the nesting mother, and immense tiredness. After some heart palpitations, I decide I should sit more often as I work on this.

Still, when I finish, there is another bag with the bunch. My gold star for a day’s work.

Thinking of Kondo’s advice, I use what I have on hand to make my storage efficient. I tear off cardboard box sides and make dividers for the plastic storage boxes. Previously I would have had one size on bottom and one on top, but as she points out, this makes no sense. It only makes a mess when you are looking for something specific. So the boxes are divided, left and right, with two separate sizes in each box. I manage to fit nb/0-3 month clothing all the way to 2T in three boxes. Since we’re embarking on adventures in boyland again in January, I focused on keeping more and discarding less.


Day 3: The girl clothes

IMG_7665I made it: the third day. While my husband was at work, I brought in the boxes of girl clothes from the closet, 7 ½ boxes. While my sick kiddos watched The Wizard of Oz, I made my way through the piles. The process was no emotional for me. Many items gave me joy, some more than others, and it was easy to toss those that did not. It may be that so many were purchased for us, or were purchased at the thrift store. Several times, however, I thought of my mom helping with our yard sale or asking her to help with some of the stained items and worried about how she might react if she saw all the clothes I was discarding. But I would just tell her the numbers.

I started with 7 ½ and now have 4 ½. Three will go to the attic. One is the next size up for the younger and the last, not totally full, is winter clothing for my eldest. With the changing season, it’s appropriate.

So no major revelations during the day three of the process. I’m excited to tackle books now. I admit, I’m tempted to fold my husband’s clothes, but I will try to resist and focus only on that which falls under my jurisdiction.

The KonMari Method and Me: a mother of three tackles all her clothing

To read about my first encounter with the KonMari Method, see the first part of this series, here.

Day 1: KonMari my clothes

My ambition: sort through all the clothes in the house except my husband’s. Kondo recommends a special way of folding and I have doubts I could ever entice him to do that, so I’ll leave his stuff alone. That leaves, all my clothes from pre-pregnancy (which I thought I might wear ago) to maternity to the largest size, immediate postpartum clothing, plus the clothing of three children.

Kondo advises that all your clothes be store in one place after you have discarded. So that is my goal. No more storage boxes of clothes that I will forget about when whichever stage comes along. All my clothes in one place…where I can see them…in my closet. Oy vay.

Kondo recommends that most clothing be folded. We have limited drawer space because for so long I have believed in hanging everything. Yet she preaches that clothing takes significantly less space folded rather than hung. Because of her worldview, she speaks about certain items of clothing being “happier” than others. While I don’t attribute emotion to clothing, I can see when these items are better treated, so I get her meaning.

I ask my husband to bring every box of clothing from the attic and garage he can find into our bedroom for me to work. Kondo directs me to put all the clothes in one place, every scrap. You cannot accurately gauge how much you own until it’s in one place. Once I bring out all my clothes, I tell him to stop because my pile is high (remember, we’re spanning five sizes plus maternity because of the babies and my penchant for shopping).

I get to work. It’s a little emotional, in that, it’s a lot of emotion to being paying attention to. Does this give me joy? Again and again. I get discourage that I’m keeping so much. I’m working to finish just so I can take a nap on the bed.

I remember two more boxes under my bed. I take a look: in one box my extreme maternity/postpartum and the other box is the exciting size I reached before finding out I was pregnant again. I feel so discouraged. How can I go through more? Where will I put it all. It is one thing to sort this through stuff and make piles, but rearranging, folding, storing. It feels daunting. I doubt I will manage the goals I didn’t even realize I had. They were an unspoken vision, I guess.

I get the bed cleared and finish all but those two discovery boxes. I don’t feel excited. I try to show my husband all I accomplished thinking it will help it sink in. Obviously I accomplished something. I mean, there is a huge pile of clothes to be discarded on the ground and no more boxes that will return to the garage. It doesn’t work and I still feel kind of down. I definitely feel tired.

I can’t sleep. I’m thinking I’m not sure KonMari is for women in my stage. We just cannot realistically downsize that much. It does not make sense to continue to purchase maternity clothes, etc, when you think there is a fair chance you might have another child in the not too distant future.

I lay down for forty minutes. I can’t sleep so I decide to read more of her book. Maybe it’s not working for me because I didn’t read all of the book before beginning. I read some more, but she is talking more about storage now than discarding, as she says to do all your discarding first. I have to store my clothes because it will be two weeks before the next workday.

When I get up from resting, I feel a sense that I can tackle at least one box. There is plenty of room in closet for the pants at least. After folding and storing in the drawers, I’m only using about half the hanging space.

I finished that box. That wasn’t so bad. I’m sure I can find room for these last five shirts.

You know, I bet I can tackle that last box.

And using an open storage box I had on hand, I have a place for even those clothes on the shelf in my closet.

IMG_7656I did it.  IMG_7659   I grew up with my parents remodeling their barn to use it for storage. There were four wardrobes in the upstairs for clothes. There were boxes everywhere upstairs, downstairs. Now they have even more storage space. I grew up with a perspective of storing what you don’t use in case you need it later. It often pays off.

IMG_7661But I wasn’t happy having boxes and boxes, never knowing where things are. Finding something by accident and thinking how much I wished I had that a week ago.

IMG_7662So it feels really good that I reached my goal. I only got through my clothes, but all work days must come to an end and the dishes must be done.

IMG_7663I don’t have any clothes outside my closet, aside from large jackets in the coat closet and costumes in the nursery closet. It feels really good. It is not just a goal reached, but a certain peace of mind that it is all in place, I can see it all, nothing hiding, no questions about where things are. It’s order.

IMG_7651Maybe I’ll try to tackle kid clothing before the next workday. That one shouldn’t be quite so difficult, at least emotionally. Until next time…

The KonMari Method and Me: the experience of a mom of three attempting to simplify life

When I first read about Marie Kondo and the KonMari Method through a “suggested for you” article online, I was struck. As I way of coping with stress, I love organization. Clutter gives me anxiety. It’s visual noise and I hate to have it around. So I have loved reading the endless articles out there on organization, cutting clutter, downsizing possessions and the like. Spurred by some desire to be more Franciscan and a scrupulous fear of being materialistic, seeing all my possessions together in a U-haul or a POD made me sick to my stomach. I hated that I owned so much, yet could see no way around it.

I made some peace after reading the advice to discard what you have not used in a year. Rotating from pregnant to not pregnant, I made two years my measure and discarded several large bags of clothes when it was apparent I had too many possessions for our little one bedroom apartment in metropolitan Virginia.

We moved from Virginia to California, from a small apartment to a large home in the country and our possessions grew. Oy vay, sick to my stomach we had no where to put our things when we moved to a normal size home in town. So boxed and other items were stored at my parents. So much so that when we moved again, there are things of which we still do not know the whereabouts.

I’ve sought to cut clutter, so have everything neatly stored away in boxes, in cupboards, in the attic, in the garage. But it’s not enough. If I could get rid of more, I would. But how to do it? I use what I have. I just use a lot of things throughout the year.

In walks Marie Kondo. I read about her book. The next day I went out and bought her book. The key in discarding possessions, is not to ask have I used this in the last year, but rather to ask, does this bring me joy. Well!

I have clothes that I purchased in my last pregnancy and last postpartum period that I was a little sad to put away. They brought me such joy. I have antiques in my home or items I created that I delight in when I look at them. We’re not purely spiritual beings, things that affect our senses move us.

So perhaps you will end up with a lot less, but you will love to use what you have. When a thing’s time has passed and it no longer gives you joy, you take a moment of gratitude for it’s time or memory or use and let it go. How interesting!

I began to look eagerly around my home.

But wait, Kondo does not recommend working little by little. Rather she says you must do this in one fell swoop, so that the energy you gain from your success spurs you on to the next. Rather than taking a room by room approach, you work at categories. First clothes, then books, then papers, then miscellaneous items and lastly, sentimental items. The earlier categories are meant to have the least emotional attachment. She declares you will grow in the skill of discerning the joy of an item as you progress, so by the time you reach old photographs, you can tell more definitively what gives you joy, and keep or discard accordingly.

I spoke with my mother and scheduled some workdays, as we had in the summer. My husband can work on whatever projects he likes and I will tackle what I can each work day with my kids running amok for want of attention.

So let the games begin!

Jewelry holder reveal

I love the idea of a world where necklaces live free, breathing clean air, away from the tangles and clutter of life piled deep within a drawer. Necklace holders, where they hang with grace, have attracted me for a while. I attempted to buy one shaped like a tree last year, but it was not in stock. In retrospect, I’m grateful for that.

My mother purchased a spool holder for her sewing room. I asked her to pick one up for me too. I know great projects start with rows of pegs. Cue work by amazing husband: he cut them up for me.


Spool holder from the craft store $13. Cut it into several pieces.

An antique frame from the consignment shop (if you follow this, you can guess where already: Selective Consignments in Hughson, CA), $10.


Frame mounting hardware stolen from a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe (there is a special seat for me in Purgatory for that, I warrant).

A little spray paint. A little wood glue.

Put ’em together what have you got?


Bibbity bobbity boo!




I’d like to say the story ends here. Unfortunately, it lasted for fewer hours than Cinderella’s dress. I came home to see it all on the floor, so my wood gluing skills need some work yet. I haven’t had a chance to get back to it, but I post it anyway because I know it will work, once we put the screws on it. Even without the finished-finished project, I hope you enjoyed sharing the vision.

A solution to the toddler-book-decor dilemma: bookshelf reveal!

If you have young children and a yen to decorate you know how young children push you to adapt. I have been in search of a way to store my children’s books. I tried a traditional bookshelf a few years ago. That ended quickly. You’d be amazed how difficult it is for a two year old to re-shelve books. We used baskets. The book collection grew. We settled on using the bottom drawer of a dresser and that worked very well. That is, until we moved the children into the same room and needed every drawer of the dresser. Next we stuck the books into their play IKEA kitchen they never use. It was okay, but…new two-year old, same problem. The books ended up all over the floor. I invented a library system (perhaps not a totally original idea). We stored the books in our room and allowed the children to pick out three books each week. That lasted until Saturday (a week and a half into the system) when the kids were driving each other crazy and I let them loose in the “library” to occupy themselves. So here we are!

I liked this bookcase from The Land of Nod.

But at $200 it just wouldn’t work for us. I don’t believe transitional furniture should cost so much. Then I came across this diy tutorial.

Fabulous. As I’ve looked out of my kids’ window, since we moved here, I have enjoyed the view of the aged pallet the previous owners left behind. Let’s do it.

Clip, clip here. Clip, clip there.

We cut the pallet, which was missing some boards, into three usable sections. Here is a photo of the last one left.


Follow that with a white wash in Annie Sloans’ Chalk Paint, pure white.


I love how it turned out to a feathered soft gray. The walls in the kids’ room are gray, so I knew it would be the perfect complement.


By the goodwill of my gracious, wonderful, tired of looking for drywall screws husband to hang them, two shelves went on the wall. Recently, we had yet another incident of important things falling off walls (my fault it wasn’t hung with proper screws), so let me just say, drywall screws are important!


IMG_6200Add a book…

IMG_6201Add some seating…

IMG_6206And a child…


And voila! DIY pallet bookshelves for the kids’ room. My daughter has already staked out the top shelf as “hers” a pronoun we don’t often use here, so there may be some battles. Nevertheless, I’m pleased with how they turned out!

What methods have you used to solve the toddler-book-decor dilemma?