Queen of Konmari Challenge: Stage 2 – Books

Well, I thought that sorting out the books would be a piece of cake, but it turns out I was so, so wrong. Putting my books through the Konmari wringer was very difficult for me, basically because it was just so labour-intensive!

I started off by walking around the house, just picking up every single stray book and putting them on the spare room bed. This took me about half an hour, and as you can see from the picture below, I hadn’t even emptied my book shelves before the bed was completely covered in books.

Once I started emptying my bookshelves, that’s when I started feeling nauseous and lightheaded. My thoughts were all over the place. How could I possible get rid of any of these precious books?! It was unthinkable! What am I doing? WHY am I doing this? THESE ARE BOOKS!! Also, why have I put random bits of paper and all sorts of rubbish around my books?

I was almost going to stop, but I decided to press on. I broke out into a cold sweat and started retching whilst trying to get all the books out of the cupboard and into stacks as quickly as possible. I also managed to gather together a bag of garbage, mostly half written notes, receipts or grocery lists, even junk mail that had somehow found their way into the pages of my books.

It took me a whole hour to get all my books together.

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On left: All the books from around the house. On Right: All the books.

After I emptied my bookshelves, I had so many books stacked on the floor and on the bed, that I had essentially blocked off my exit from the spare bedroom! Additionally, the books on the bed weren’t staying in neat stacks but had started to slide all over the place, and I risked knocking the whole lot onto the floor.

This is probably why Konmari advises one to lay everything out on the floor. It’s much easier to step around piles on the floor to get things that are out of arms’ reach, and if anything starts to tip over, at least it won’t fall too far! I shall keep this in mind once I reach the part where I have to handle breakables.

Fortunately, the spare room is connected to the children’s room by a balcony, so I had the kids let me in through their balcony (you can see how this could have gone VERY wrong, huh?).

I shut the spare room door and told the kids not to enter, then I went to get a drink of water and sit down for a few minutes to calm down. Then, I threw away the bag of rubbish that I accumulated. That was where I decided to stop for the day, because I knew I didn’t have the emotional strength in me to start sorting through the books as well.

The next morning, I was feeling slightly better, so I started out by going through the children’s books first. I slowly took out books that I never really liked, completed books that the kids would be unlikely to read again, or books that were repeats (surprisingly we had many of these). I kept all the books that I loved and that I loved to read to the kids, or books that I loved to see the children reading on their own.

Then, I went back and looked through the stack of children’s books that I didn’t like, and removed all of the ones that I knew that the children loved.

Then I sorted the ‘keepers’ into piles using my Volcano Method. This is when I pile stuff of the same category together until they form a chain of volcanos. Eventually, things start to flow down the sides to form new islands of interrelated topics. You can see in the picture below, the neat stacks of book volcanoes on the far left.

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Sorting the books using the Volcano Method

At the end of the second hour-long tidying session, I had a tall stack of children’s books that I (and the children – I let them eyeball the books first) had decided not to keep but could be donated or given away (you can see them in the pictures above), some random textbooks that could probably be given away, and a bunch of books that needed to be returned to my friends! I also kept finding random brochures and magazines which totalled TWELVE plastic bags! I threw all of those into the recycling bin.

I spent the third session just putting all the children’s books back into the cupboards. By this time, the cupboards had been well aired out, and I’d also replaced the dehumidifiers to keep the books from getting musty.

I organised the books by reading level, and I’d also tried to arrange them vaguely by height, putting the taller books to the right of the cupboard. I put books that I wanted the kids to read at their eye level – that is, picture books right at the bottom for 1 year old Thumper, early readers and easy chapter books for 5 year old Little E on the bottom and middle shelves, advanced books on the top shelf for 8 year old J.

The next two sessions were spent sorting through and organising our collection of novels and reference books. I took all the books that I wasn’t terribly interested in and showed them to the Barn Owl, and he decided which ones he still wanted to keep. I got rid of all our outdated textbooks and manuals. I listed all the novels that we didn’t want (and weren’t worth keeping for the kids) to be given away on a freecycling website – and someone picked them up at the end of the week.

I put all our books back into the cupboards, making sure that our favourite books were at eye-level, and putting darker coloured books or book series towards the left, lighter coloured books towards the right.

Here’s what our shelves looks like now:

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Tidy and organised!

I have to find some props to hold the books up so that they don’t fall over, but the best thing about all this is that I’ve now got some space for more lovely books! YAY!

I’m really glad that I kept the books that were the kid’s favourites, even if they weren’t my favourites. They were so happy to see their beloved books displayed neatly on the shelves, it was totally worth it.

P.S. Why am I doing this? Here’s why.

P.P.S. Check out the rest of the Queen of Konmari series here.

If you haven’t read the books already, you can get them here:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

Queen of Konmari Challenge: Stage 1 – Clothes

I was feeling quite chirpy on the morning that I decided to start the Konmari process. I’d already gone through my clothes once before, only a few months ago as part of the Happy Family Plan, so I figured that this was going to be a cinch.

I was in my PJs about to get started, when I remembered that one of the caveats of Marie Kondo’s process is to treat the whole thing like a big party. That means dressing up and everything. I thought this was an immensely silly idea – I might as well wear my pyjamas, then once I was all messy, I could just pull them off and throw them in the wash – but I figured that if I was going to commit to the Konmari method, I might as well go the whole hog.

So I brushed my hair and changed my clothes, then went around taking stock.

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All my clothes.

My clothes are actually split into two cupboards, one narrow cupboard in my bedroom and one larger wardrobe in the spare bedroom.

In my bedroom cupboard I have my daily wear, tops and trousers. In the spare bedroom wardrobe, I have outerwear and dresses. As you can see from the picture above, I had so many clothes that I didn’t even have enough hangers to put them on and ended piling some of them over the top of the clothes rail.

I got everything out of the cupboards and dumped them in a big pile on the ground in my bedroom. I didn’t include anything that was in my dirty laundry or my clean laundry because I knew that those clothes were ones that I would definitely wear again. Then I wandered around the house gathering up accessories like belts, hats and socks.

Gathering my clothes in one place took me the better part of an hour, and I was sweaty, dusty and very upset by the end of it. Why did I buy more shorts and trousers? How could I forget that I own 8 pairs of denim shorts and 5 pairs of jeans? Did I ever wear that white polyester skirt and will I ever have an occasion to wear it? Why am I still hoarding that vintage silk top in puke green? I felt so greedy, and so wasteful.

This was when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, carrying an armful of moldy leather belts and surrounded by untidy hillocks of clothes.

Instead of continuing to feel upset, I actually felt a little bit better, because even though the room was messy, I was still neat. I think that if I was still wearing my toothpaste-stained top and sleep-creased pyjama pants, I would have felt so much worse about myself that I would not have been able to continue tidying. I would have just stuffed everything back into the cupboards as quickly as possible!

With renewed confidence, I began sorting through the piles of clothes.

First, I pulled out everything that I hadn’t worn over the last few months because I knew that those clothes made me look like a giant walking mushroom. These included new clothes that I had altered to fit, but had still looked terrible on me. Those went into a large bag to be given away.

Next, I pulled out clothes that I loved very much but knew I couldn’t wear anymore because they no longer fit. I divided these into two piles. One pile went into another large bag to be given away. The other, much smaller pile, were a few ‘heirloom’ clothes that I felt were classy and special enough to be handed down to Little E once she was older. These were mostly dresses – and I hung these up in the cupboard in the spare room.

By the time I had finished, all of my clothes could fit into the small cupboard in my bedroom. I folded them in the Konmari style and put them away. I wasn’t going to bother folding and storing everything the Konmari-way, but after reading her method carefully, I realised that if I follow her style of folding and storing clothing, I will actually prolong the lifespan of my clothes and be able to wear them for much longer.

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All of my clothes folded Konmari-style can fit into one cupboard (Ignore the Barn Owl’s messy top shelf. It is beyond my reach anyway.)

Looking at the my cupboard now, I have realised that not only is there a lot of wasted space, but the cupboard itself is very poorly designed. The trick to Konmari’s clothing storage method is that it allows you to see all of your clothes at once and get them out of the cupboard or drawer easily. As you can see from the picture above, I need to replace those deep shelves with drawers.

So, although my clothing storage problem is not yet solved, I think that my decluttering of clothes is pretty much done and I can proceed to the next stage!

The Queen of Konmari: 5 Tips to Getting Started

Okay, I’ve been starting to tidy up and organise the house according to the Konmari method for a few weeks now, and I am happy to report that things are progressing.

It is not easy, but I am sticking to it.  I think the reason that I am sticking to it is because I managed to figure out a way to do it without getting too overwhelmed. Additionally, I found that there was a great deal of inertia when it came to actually getting started to Konmari and I needed some help with that.

So here’s what I did after I finished reading the books:

Five Tips to Getting Started with the Konmari Method

  1. Get moral support: Konmari’s books were initially written to get her potential clients inspired and start tidying before she can actually fit in a personal appointment with them. I think it helps to have somebody going alongside you, cheering you on (especially if you, like myself, are not naturally a tidy person). I formed a small Facebook group with a few of my friends who were planning to start or who were unsuccessfully trying to Konmari on their own. Being a part of this group is really helping me because we celebrate our small successes together and encourage each other if things appear to be insurmountable.
  2. Set aside a time where you have the most energy and can work undisturbed: Whilst reading the the books, I noticed that Konmari’s clients would put aside 5 hours for every session with her – sending the rest of the family out of the house. I don’t have a whole 5 hour block in a day to devote to tidying, so I took a leaf from my Happy Family Plan and set aside one hour in the morning during weekdays when Thumper is sleeping and the older two kids are in school.
  3. Keep to your schedule: It’s tempting to want to skip around Konmari’s method and try to do a little bit here and there whenever you have snatches of time. However, my friends who did that ended up feeling like they were spending every waking moment tidying and decluttering with no end in sight, and they burn out. I think the tortoise approach, where you just plug steadily away through the various stages of decluttering, works best for Konmari. I set aside time for myself to declutter each day and I would stop after that time had passed (even if I wasn’t finished) or after my task of that day is accomplished, whichever came first.  Then, I would reward myself with a break with a good book.
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    Lister vs Dent (okay, they are both kinda sloppy looking.)

    Dress nicely: Okay, this is one taken straight out of the book, and when I first read it, I thought it was utter rubbish too, but there’s a reason behind this.
    At some point in your tidying, your house is going to look real messy and you may start to question your life choices…then you take a glimpse of yourself in the mirror…and if you are still in your unwashed pyjamas, you are going to feel like a total slob. And not in a cool ironic way, like Arthur Dent saving the earth in his bathrobe with his trusty towel by his side, but more like Dave Lister, slobbing his slobby way around the universe.

  5. Designate a Konmari corner that will remain undisturbed during the rest of the day: This is key, especially if you have kids around because you don’t want them coming in and picking through the mounds of stuff or moving anything around that you haven’t finished sorting through. Pick an area of the house that gets low traffic or can be shut off from the house. I am fortunate to have a spare room in my house, so I did all of my sorting and reorganising in that room, so that at the end of the hour, I could shut the door on all of it and not have to see it until the next day.

P.S. If you haven’t read the books already, you can get them here:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

Queen of Clean Konmari Challenge!

Hi Debs!

I’m so pleased that you managed to complete not only your Baking Challenge, but also successfully implemented your Happy Family Plan!  I’m so proud of you!

Now, I have a new challenge for you!

I know that we have a slight tendency in our family to hoard all sorts of junk.

When I moved from my old apartment to the New Castle, I noticed that I had built up an impressive collection of junk not limited to but including:

  • Guinea feathers that J collected from a beach when he was just a little pup.
  • A Sonic the Hedgehog figurine that had fallen down the back of a shelf
  • A set of fancy titanium ladies golf clubs that I hadn’t used since moving to the apartment; and
  • Every stuffed toy I’d owned since I moved to Australia, some of which had deformed into just little balls of shapeless fluff.

Luckily for me, my move to the New Castle forced me to par down my collections of old rubbish, though I think I’ve still got some old High School clothes that no longer fit.

That being said, you have not had the luxury of a recent move to pare down your stuff.  Plus, the last time I visited, I remember you mentioned that J, Little E and Thumper had so many gifts of old and new toys, that you were despairing of where to put it all.  Therefore, I would like to challenge you to a total declutter of your home!

Obviously, I’m not asking you to throw away all of your stuff like a crazy lady, that would be excessive.  However, there’s no better way to declutter your home than by following the advice of the Ultimate Declutterer, Marie Kondo!

That’s right!  For 2017, I am challenging you to the following:

  1. Complete a Konmari style clean up of your house by the end of this year!
  2. Review the books “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” and “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up
  3. Write a post every time you do a Konmari step or feel particularly proud of doing a Konmari-inspired thing (like folding clothes the Konmari way).
  4. Enjoy your happy family!

So, get ready to be the Queen of Clean!  Good luck!

Preparing for Baby: Washing Up Matters (With Ecover Zero)

I have written before about how I like to choose eco-friendly household cleaning products and that I am always on the look out for products that are kind to sensitive skin. When Thumper came along, I had to switch my laundry products to something that is not only powerful and effective enough to cleanse dirty cloth nappies but also gentle enough on baby skin.

This is why, when Ecover Singapore contacted me and asked if I would like to try out their new Ecover Zero range, I was very excited! This range of washing products are derived from plants and minerals, and are free of phosphates, fragrances, colouring and optical brighteners, so it is great for sensitive skin, whilst being completely biodegradable (septic-tank safe). Additionally, Ecover tests all their washing products for aquatic toxicity to ensure that whatever goes down the drain will have the least impact on the ecological balance of our waterways. I like knowing that I’m not poisoning our fish in the name of fresh laundry and sparkling tableware!

Great for delicate baby skin and our delicate ecosystem

Great for delicate baby skin and our delicate ecosystem

I have been using Ecover Zero Non-Bio Laundry Liquid and Fabric Conditioner for the last couple of months and I have to say that I love the way that my clothes feel when they have dried! I have not used fabric conditioner on my laundry for the last 7 years because of my family’s sensitive skin, but we have had no problems at all with the Ecover Zero Fabric Conditioner. It is so fantastic for all the baby clothes and it leaves our line-dried clothes feeling wonderfully soft and fluffy. Despite Ecover Zero being a non-fragranced product, our laundry does not give off a musty, damp smell when it comes out of the wash, which is great!

I have also been using the Ecover Zero Non-Bio Laundry Liquid on my cloth nappy stash and it is FANTASTIC. I have had no problems at all with residue build-up on the microfibre inserts or the fleece and suede cloth lining of my cloth diapers. As this is a Non-Bio liquid, there are no enzymes present at all, so it is safe to use on cloth nappies! This is a step-up from Ecover’s regular laundry liquid range which has not been recommended for use on cloth nappies because they contain plant-derived enzymes which eat the waterproof PUL-lining of synthetic nappy covers.

Owls Well Recommends: I use a front-loading washing machine at home and I recommend reducing the dose of laundry liquid for front-loading washing machines and other high-efficiency machines that do not require a lot of soap suds for a thorough clean. I found that using half the recommended dose on my regular laundry load is enough to leave my laundry thoroughly clean – even J’s grubby P.E. uniform (covered in grime and the occasional bloodstain) will come out looking bright and fresh. For my cloth nappies, I use a quarter of the recommended dose and add a extra rinse cycle, which seems to do the trick of keeping them beautifully clean and stain-free!

As for the Ecover Zero Washing-Up Liquid, it does a really good job of cleaning greasy dishpans and I find that a very little bit will go a long way. I have been using the washing-up liquid for two months now and there is still more than half a bottle left to go. The Outlaws, including my new brother-in-law on the Barn Owl’s side, are big fans of Ecover washing-up liquid as it cleans well and lasts a very long time, making it a better value than a similar-sized bottle of the ubiquitous Fairy liquid (although the Father Outlaw says that he misses the smell of Fairy liquid).

(You can find Ecover Zero washing products online at the Ecover Singapore website which offers free shipping within Singapore for orders over SGD$30!)

Got the Dream!

DEBS DEBS DEBSDEBSDEBSDEBS!  WE GOT THE HOUSE!

The Boobook and I just finished signing the papers for the loan and the exchange of contracts for the house!

WOO HOO!

It’s perfect Debs!  LOOK AT IT!

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The house!  Isn’t it lovely?

IT HAS A GARDEN!

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A slightly overexposed garden.  It’s quite bright in Newcastle.

 

It’s at the end of the lane so that now the Boobook and I can be called A Becky Lee and the Boobook at the end of the lane!

It’s so cool!

NEWCASTLE, HERE I COME!

PS.  We’re still thinking of what to name the place.  Something that has to do with rabbits, cats or rats would be nice.

PPSS.  Also considering, “Wombotuff House”.

Make the Dream

Gosh, Meimei, your house hunting seems like it has been rather a struggle! When the Barn Owl and I first got to Singapore, I did a little bit of house hunting on my own, as we were thinking of buying a resale HDB flat.

Well, it’s amazing the sort of homes exist and how much tastes vary across generations and cultures. I viewed one flat that seemed to be a mega-fengshui place, complete with translucent jade-effect tiles with the occasional mother-of-pearl inlay with gilded details and a large reflexology pebble path spiralling across the floor. It had gorgeous views over the Chinese Gardens.

I saw another flat that turned their bomb shelter (yes, Singapore flats all come with inbuilt bomb shelters for the impending apocalypse) into a shrine to Ganesh, and they were so devout that even the floor tiles had Ganesh’s likeness inscribed on it.

Yet another flat decided to embrace the industrial nature of the early flat designs, before the BTO “choose your own floor tiles” flats came into being. It was all unpainted cement floors and walls, bare light bulbs and Ducts, Ducts, Ducts.

Do your ducts seem old-fashioned and out of date?

Do your ducts seem old-fashioned and out of date?

I am really thankful for the flat that we are staying in now, with the large windows looking out into the trees, letting in lots of light. We did not need to do any renovations to it, just got our own furniture. It’s by no means perfect, and it’s not really the dream house that the Barn Owl and I had in mind when we first got married but we have been here for 6 years, which is the longest continuous length of time that I have ever lived in one place, in one house.

This house has seen us grow our family from one to three little ones. It’s seen the Barn Owl as he struggled to balance work, study and new fatherhood until he finally passed his postgraduate exams. It’s seen me on sleepless nights with pregnancy-induced insomnia, baby-induced insomnia and first-day-of-school insomnia.

We may not have found our dream house, but we’ve made our dream home here, and you’ll find yours too soon.