Marie Kondo Netflix Show

marie kondo

Marie Kondo

I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up a couple years ago. As a long-term minimalist, I was underwhelmed. Partly it was her (or her translator’s) use of the words “always” and “never” when referring to what her clients were to do and how they felt about it. Except for the maxim that we will all die, I tend to see human feelings and behaviors on a continuum, not as absolutes. And then there was the chapter that had her attorney clients destroying all their paper documents. I have no idea what the requirements for document storage is in Japan, but I know that attorneys in the United States are required to keep client documents for years after they close their practices, as well as for an active practice.

So, I kind of wrote her off as a means-well minimalist, still too young to have gotten into too much trouble. I read she got married, and thought, “Okay, now things will get interesting.” Then she had a couple of girls, both under my radar. Now she has a Netflix show. And I am smitten.

First of all, she is just a joy to watch. She has a manner of moving and speaking that is a combination of serene and playful that makes whatever she is doing on camera fun. She smiles like the Buddha as she tells the cluttered Americans to pile all their clothing on the bed. And you know, you just know, that as the mountain of clothes reaches toward the ceiling, she is probably giggling on the inside knowing that she is going to give them the homework of touching every article of clothing before deciding what to do with it.

I love watching her “greet” the house, which appears to be a meditation where she connects with the energy of the house. Kudos to the one American family who greeted their house with her.

I could do less with the greetings of the humans at the doorways every time she and her interpreter arrive or leave. I would rather see more of the house inhabitants talking about their internal process as they deal with their accumulated stuff. But there is plenty of that too.

I like the variety of the families that have been chosen for the show: preparing for a baby, letting go of a deceased family member’s things, marrying the objects of young couples. There are lessons for all of us. And it was good to see her be flexible with one of her clients who wished to do this out of the “proper” order.

I like listening to Marie tell us and show us in her studio home how to deal with particularly challenging items like children’s toys and paper documents. And I like that she has apparently created a uniform for herself: White tops/jackets, skirts and dresses and black tights with black flat shoes. She is a charming persona and I am delighted with the show.

I still have questions about the Konmari folding. It seems to me that every time you pull out a T-shirt folded to stand on it’s end, it will inevitably have wrinkles in it. And lumping kitchen, bathroom and garage under a “miscellaneous” category seems unwieldly large to me. But I guess the shows producers can keep everybody on track for the length of filming. You would probably want to keep all those things separated out if you were doing your own place by yourselves, on the weekends.

How about you all? Are you fans of the book or the show?

Remembering Why We Are Minimalists


This orchid is beautiful even when it is not in bloom.

Remember why we started decluttering our rooms and our lives?

It was because there was too much and it made us anxious and tired and sometimes angry and out of control.

So we got rid of the stuff that we didn’t use and didn’t like and it felt so good to be that much freer that we made dates with ourselves to do it on a regular basis. And when we had edited our belongings to the place of “just enough” we noticed that our calendars were as crazy jammed as our physical spaces had been before.

So we dropped activities that were no longer fun or meaningful and we noticed that there were people who drained our energy whenever we were with them, so we started spending less time with them.

And we kept asking ourselves, what makes me happy? What activities feel meaningful to me? And if I can infringe on the trademark– “What sparks joy?” And then we do those things. And if you think that is a selfish way to live, I have news for you.

Three times in the past week, three different settings, a relative stranger has made the comment to me, “You seem so happy!” “I am,” I reply.

And that, my friends, is a gift to the world.

Memory Box


16″ x 11.5″ x 8″ of happiness

What does a minimalist put in her memory box? Only items that make me happy to look at and handle.


The box unpacked

Starting at the left bottom and spiraling in clockwise: photo of my dad running in the Senior Olympics the day before he started his radiation treatments, a day book of meaningful quotes I have collected and decorated, a few copies of my book, a few copies of a literary magazine that published some of my poetry, photos that are too big to fit in the photo box, a laminated copy of a newspaper article on hospice care that featured yours truly, the stocking my mom knit for me, a box of photos, greeting cards-both handmade and purchased, and poetry contest award.

Each of these objects represents a happy memory, or uplifts me in someway to review it.

Objects that are not in my memory box: photos of my weddings, a snapshot of my brother being mean to me, a copy of Jonathan Franzen’s memoir that he had the publisher send to me.

It took me a little time to unpack the emotions of the things that I let go. There was such hope at the beginning of the marriages, and love. But the dark and twisty thing that those became does not need a memorial. I have happier photos of my brother and me and no longer need to keep the evidence of his abuse. The pride in having had a friend who went on to be an acclaimed writer, was undone by his lack of courage in explaining to me why he ended our friendship. His explanation is in the book, which he had sent to me twenty years after the fact.

I have said before that I will never be the family historian. It just isn’t something that interests me.  That frees me to keep only the objects that make me happy. Learning to live lightly and freely, that interests me very much.

Whereby I Note That I am Hoarding


Goodies mom brought back from her hotel room from her trip last week

Philosophers Tony Robbins, Brian Cain, Jim Rohn, Dale Carnegie and Marcus Aurelius have all noted that we tend to become more like the people we spend the most time with.  Then they caution us to chose our companions wisely.

But the hoarder is my mom! And I live in her house!

You would think that my twenty years of minimalist discipline would keep me on the right track, but I have noted clutter creeping in to my closet. First there was the stack of fabric for future sewing projects. Then there was the ill-fitting, worn clothing that I was saving for yard work. Third, a large stack of books that people have loaned to me, that I have not gotten to yet. And lastly: photos, card stock and drawings that I am planning to turn into greeting cards.

All that stuff for my future self to deal with was kinda stressing me out. So I started dealing with it. I winnowed the sewing projects down to a volume that might actually get done in this calendar year. I got rid of the ill-fitting clothing and kept just one set of yard work clothes. I’m working through the books, and not letting myself get any new titles until these have been read (exception for this month’s book club book: Anne Lamont’s Help, Thanks, Wow!) And I took the time to assemble the paper chaos into greeting cards, which are now ready to be sent at a moment’s notice.

And that bag of goodies mom brought back from her trip? It has gone to the food pantry.

Oh, The Irony

The writer of the Small House, Big Life blog is now living in a big house.

When I lived in this house as a teenager, I knew that I didn’t want to live in a house like this as an adult. It is too big, requires too much time and money to maintain it.

My mother loves this house. She doesn’t want to live anywhere else. But she is frail enough that she can not take care of it alone. A lot of work just didn’t get done for the past 20 years or so. I moved in to take care of the house, so my mother can stay here for the rest of her life.

Before I got here, I thought that I would spend a month or so getting things in order and then on to writing my novel. I’ve been here 2.5 months now and I will probably need to work that much again to get things under control.

Here is a partial list of what I have been doing: cleared out the room and closet that is now my room. Sorted through that stuff and moved some to the basement, some to a thrift store and some to other family. Sanded, stained and sealed the floor in my room. Painted my room. Moved two old mattresses to the basement (and later to the curb for pick-up) and helped mom buy new ones, new linens for the guest room,  cleaned and sealed the limestone in the master bath, coordinated the electrician visits to replace the electrical panels for the house, moved two large rugs: one to a different room and one to the thrift store, cleaned and organized four kitchen drawers, fixed three assorted drawer pulls/knobs, cleaned out and organized two bath cabinets (from the master bath seven shoe boxes of expired medications and toiletries were taken to a hazardous waste center), cleaned and boxed up about thirty framed family photos, cleaned and organized the shelves in the laundry room, installed two new smoke detectors.

It is a good thing that I actually like to de-clutter and organize.

Privilege and Minimalism


Ebony and ivory keys harmonize.

My heart is breaking. My beloved hometown St. Louis, Missouri continues to be oppressed with life-threatening racial injustice. I feel silly posting photos of my closet.

So instead, I’m going to write about privilege and minimalism. Yes, I’m privileged. I’m a white, middle-class, educated, American. I’ve had my struggles with low cash flow (very different from poverty) and sexism. But it is a rare day that I am not fully aware that I have had access to education, abundance and luxury that most women in the world can only dream of. And it is because of this education and abundance that I have the privilege to decline some of it as too much.

~ minimalism is sometimes criticized as a spoiled persons’ game.

Minimalism can benefit the individual practitioner with reduced stress and increased savings. Often folks new to minimalism talk about these benefits first. But with longer practice, other blessings are revealed. Minimalism can be a high-priced aesthetic, or it can be practiced as voluntary simplicity. This is my version.

~ “Live simply so that others may simply live.” –Gandhi

By consciously choosing to use fewer clothes, a smaller home, less energy there are more of these available for other inhabitants of the earth. By not filling my time with meaningless activities, I learn the equanimity to sit with difficult emotions and not add my own troubled reactions to the fray. I use my love of my brothers and sisters, both black and white to be a bridge over the violence.

I use my voluntary simplicity as a tool for social justice.

Organizing Paper Records


Current file system

When we lived in the house, I had file drawer that was 55 cm deep. It was mostly full, and I went through it yearly to discard outdated stuff. When I moved, I was able to get rid of a lot of house related papers including my mortgage repayment instructions and the warranties for the house appliances. In the photo is the current file box, and an envelope for previous tax records.

Here is the system: each topic gets a hanging folder, and for many subjects that is all that is needed.  The automobile records don’t need any more organization. I toss in the maintenance receipts, the insurance coverage documents as they accumulate. During my yearly purge, I take out the outdated ones. Some topics need a bit more organization. The Money folder has three subdivisions (the manila colored folders): one for the credit card, one for the credit union accounts and one for retirement accounts.

The folder with my name has things like my birth certificate, my nursing license, my current item count. I used to have a folder for each of the kids with subdivisions of things like school, medical history, birth certificates and social security cards. As each child has turned twenty-one, I have given the contents of the folder to the young adult, who must then manage his or her own papers.

You may notice a folder titled Death. This folder holds my will, my Health Care Power of Attorney, my Do Not Resuscitate form, a brief set of instructions of what to do with my body and music I would like played at my memorial service. It also contains a letter to my children with money information, how to access the accounts. This letter I update each year, usually around New Year’s Day. Each of my children knows where this information is kept, so they can find it easily when I die.

Some of you will argue for a safe deposit box, or a fire-proof box to keep at home. If you desire these things, go right ahead. I have found I have no need for my marriage license or divorce degree, but they are available at the county courthouse, should I ever need a copy. I have been able to get new copies of documents like a Passport or a birth certificate, when they were destroyed by fire. I mostly hold onto papers that I might need to reference in the coming year or two.

The tax papers I save for seven years. When I file a new year, I destroy the oldest one.

I don’t think I will ever get rid of all papers–I like writing in a paper journal, I find balancing my checkbook easier with a paper statement of the account. But I do feel a bit lighter each time I recognize I no longer need something.

The Next Chapter


I have gone and done it…I have purchased a run down travel trailer with the intent of creating something exceptional to live in for many years to come. I have my work cut out for me. The roof has had leaks, the floor is spongey, everything except the air conditioner (which works!) is probably from 1976. The trailer cost $1,400 as is. I am paying more than that to have a new roof put on it. Then I shall take possession and get to work removing the dirty, moldy mess. While I am waiting on the roof, I will scout out a proper home for it for the next year or so…and find a friend with a pick-up to move it for me.

Is not every traveler excited and trepidatious as the journey begins? What adventures await? Stay tuned!