Book Review: “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo

It’s May and it’s hot in Bangkok.  Thailand broke an all new record for electricity use the other day.  My thermometer reads 36 degrees celsius but yahoo weather says it feels like 45 degrees.  I agree.  There’s not much I feel like doing in this heat except stay indoors, out of the heat and with a good book.

The other day I picked up “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and it has gotten me on a purging spree.   For the last few years I’ve been trying to clean up my stuff, donate things to charity, but still there seems to be a never ending pile of clutter around the house.  I dream that my house would be minimal like that of a hotel room with only the bare necessities. When I travel, I seem to be able to cope well with just the stuff I have in my suitcase, but when I’m home it seems to be another matter.  Sometimes I feel like I want to just throw everything away, but in the end, I never can.

I succumb to thoughts of guilt and talk myself out of throwing away things in perfectly good condition and function.  I downgrade old t-shirts and pants to “stay at home” clothes and end up with a large pile of stay at home clothes which are not comfortable.  My shelves are filled with books both at my house and at my parent’s house. I have almost all the books I’ve bought since I can remember, even those penguin classics since first grade.  I have handwritten letters in shoeboxes from years ago when we didn’t have email and the only way we kept touch with friends was by writing letters.  With books, I’ve been getting better and sharing the joy of reading with friends, but still, I feel overwhelmed with all the clutter.

Then I picked up this book and she makes you feel better about purging things.

Kondo as a whole “Kon Mari” method to throwing things away by categories and concept on how to fold clothes, but what I love most about the book is the psychology behind it.  She eases your guilt about throwing things away.

She says to keep only the things that “spark joy.”  If it no longer sparks joy, then it no longer needs to be with you.  For things that once gave you happiness and now have passed their use, you can thank them for the pleasure it once gave you.   If you have books and things you saved up to one day  read and use, but have not yet gotten to them, then you most likely will not have the time to get to it. Out it goes. If you have folders and folders of old seminar notes that you hardly refer to anymore, toss it out.  Everything you learnt, should be in your head already.

Decluttering your environment also declutters your mind and soul.  I haven’t done the entire house in one go yet as she suggests, as I may need a whole week off (or maybe two if you count my stuff at my parents house)  but just two days and I am already seeing results.  I have more closet space and my study feels lighter.  I need less furniture. I don’t need to buy anymore storage.  I feel great.  I could keep doing this all day.  Alex has to tell me to stop and rest.

I wonder why I keep so much junk. I  tell myself,  “Live simply. Accumulate experiences, don’t accumulate ‘things.’

Happy cleaning my dear friends.   Oh, the book is pretty light reading and can be finished in one afternoon., But if you don’t want to read, she’s on youtube too.

https://youtu.be/w1-HMMX_NR8

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Dog tales: Jesse and his bloody snout

It’s a Monday and Mondays deserve stories that will put a smile on your face. (Hopefully I will succeed) So here goes my story of Jesse and his bloody snout as told by Alex, Jesse’s dad. It happened a few months ago, I remember not exactly when.

It was a sunny day, extraordinary for the monsoon season, but then this year was a strange year with the rain strangely missing and then sometimes not. And as sunny days goes, James, Jesse, and Zoey would find themselves running around the garden, chasing birds, snapping at insects, killing lizards, jumping at toads, running through hedges and digging holes in the garden. That is the daily life of my dogs when they aren’t sleeping (which dogs do for an average of 14 hours a day), and when Alex and I aren’t home.

So each day, Alex comes homes to happy, dog wagging tails that wag so hard they look like they might just fall off. On that particular sunny day though, Alex came home to wagging dog tails but something was off. James the Labrador was running around as innocent, optimist Labradors do, but with an air of distraction and confusion. Zoey, the protector of the house, was running around back and forth from the middle of the garden to Alex while gently whimpering. Jesse was quiet, still as Siberian huskies are, dog wagging happy but with a bloody snout.

Alex thought to himself, as any concerned dog owner would, “Oh my, what happened to Jesse to have such a bloody snout and will he be okay?”

Panic sets in.   He walks over to the middle of the garden, where Zoey keeps running to, and sees a black snake almost two meters long, lying still but its head moving around.

“Oh shit, was Jesse bitten by the snake?” Dear oh dear little Jesse (who isn’t so little) this might require an emergency trip to the vet. Hope not.

Fortunately, some quick thinking sets in and Alex goes find our neighbor who has some knowledge regarding snakes. The neighbours come in, take a look at the long black snake and tells Alex it’s a rat snake and not to worry. Rat snakes are not dangerous and have no venom.

A deep sign of relief follows. Jesse was safe and Alex need not worry about the snake. The neighbours pointed out that our dogs, which we had feared for their lives, had attacked the snake and broke its back.

At that point, feelings of fear changed to sorrow.   Our dogs had broken the snake’s back when it was out searching for food. And now, the snake was to be our neighbour’s dinner.   From the northeast of Thailand, they were elated to have some delicious snake for dinner. Apparently it tastes like chicken.

That was the excitement of the day. I feel bad for the snake, but then I’m also happy my dogs are safe and that I wasn’t there to see it.

As Free as the Wind Blows

I love dogs and if you’ve ever talked to me about dogs you’ll probably think I’m a little crazy. Now with James, a labrador, and Zoey, a Thai dog, I could spend hours talking about them. I have pictures and video clips of them on my phone and my eyes start to smile just thinking about them. Yes, dogs are really good for your heart and soul. For me anyways.

Watching James run around the garden and playing ball or frisbee with him, I finally understand why Labradors are so popular. Having previously had a miniature daschund, whom I loved dearly, I have to say that labradors are so different in character and temper. They are happy go lucky dogs that see the world as a wonderful playground.  Nothing is bad and everyone is your friend.

James’s favorite game in this world is “Fetch.”  He could play it all day all night and couldn’t be happier.  Everyday I try to fit in a little game of fetch, but in the case that I should forget, James will gently remind me by bringing his favorite bouncy rubber ball to my feet where it gently drops to the ground with a little squeak.  He doesn’t bark nor make a big deal about it.  He just puts it down, sits up straight and looks at me with his big doe eyes and ears a little back.  My heart melts and become his ball thrower.

If he’s not playing fetch, he’s running around the garden with Zoey.  Yes its good to have two dogs so they can keep themselves busy when you are off doing other things.   Together they’ll run round and round the garden, through hedges, round trees and underneath tables.  Don’t think about growing beautiful flowers or potted plants.  Everything in the path of powerful James running with his ears flapping and his paws pounding are taken down.  James and Zoey run as if it were the best game on Earth.

Watching them somehow reminds me of kids running around.  The happiness and joy that comes with running evokes freedom.  Running in tune with nature, wind in your hair and grass beneath your feet.  I wonder why is it that adults no longer run.  As we grow up, we forget the childish delight that comes with running the garden and getting dirt on our hands.

This summer, why not take a little breather, feel some grass beneath your feet and the wind in your hair.  It’ll make wonders.  Find that inner child and be as free as the wind blows.

Zoey, hunter. James, cute.

There are many stories, reviews of travels and eateries waiting to be told, yet tonight I feel like writing about dear James and Zoey, my two dogs.  It’s been roughly three months since we’ve had James and four months since we’ve had Zoey. Time flies happily when you have dogs and I have to say they really are good for the heart and soul. I smile whenever I talk about them and if you talked to me about dogs, I could spend a long while discussing them with you.  Make sure you have a chair. There’s something about dogs that is good for the soul. Its no wonder they have been man’s companions since times past.

James the labrador is a heart breaker.  He has one of the most innocent looking faces especially when he is sitting quietly looking in quiet anticipation of a treat or snack.  He doesn’t jump, nor does he offer his paw, he just sits quietly looking up (for that’s how he has been trained) at you hoping that whatever you are doing will provide him with some snack.  Labradors have a voracious appetite and James is no exception.

If you are a bit late with the food, he doesn’t complain but just quietly goes and sleep by the food box, just “in case” you forgot.  He would do anything for a snack so training him is easy. All I have to do is have a snack in my hand and go through the motions together with the words.  Apart from sitting, rollover, heel, fetch and a few other tricks,  my favourite is “Bang bang” where James temporarily acts dead.

I make my hand into a gun, point it at James, and he falls on his back with his paws up as if he were dead. After awhile his paws fall down and if you go “bang bang” they go up again.  It makes me laugh just thinking about it.  It’s incredibly cute especially with his big paws.

James’ babyish charms also get to me.  When he was a puppy, I’d let him crawl onto my lap and sit on it looking out at the garden.  Now that he weighs 18kgs he still attempts to climb onto my lap like a baby wanting to be hugged, only to be turned down because his head alone is as large as my lap.  He hasn’t realized how large he has grown.  It melts my heart.

Zoey, by contrast is a petite, light weight and delicately built Thai dog with a small little face and two black patches that give her a distinct look.  She came together with the house is what we like to say. A sort of “free gift” that popped along with the house and we didn’t have the heart to just throw her out.  She was a mere puppy with a wagging tail and two beady eyes.

Unlike James who runs through water and jumps in whenever he can, Zoey is a clean and polite lady.  She dislikes water and rain and if the grass is wet, she’d walk on the stone slabs we have laid out.  If she wants to walk around the garden, she’d jump onto the little ledge we have along the fence and tiptoe along its walls.

She is also easily distracted living in her own world like a little girl chasing butterflies.  Once let into the garden, she’d run from back to front in a speed that’ll make you wonder if she was a tiny replica of a horse or maybe some sort of greyhound.  She also jumps high.  Sometimes just for the sake of it, she’d jump over James while running as if he were some part of an obstacle course.

Oh and yes, she can also play “dead” with the “bang bang.”  Her tiny legs come up into the air. She too can be cute when she wants to.

Don’t be fooled though by looks and behaviour.  Amongst the two dogs, Zoey’s function in life is to be a guard dog.  She instinctively barks at any strangers with a bark that’d make you wonder how it could have come from such a small dog.  She doesn’t trust people easily and is a fearsome hunter.  My garden has no lizards or crawling insects.  She kills them all.  Sometimes she jumps up in the air to snatch a flying insect.   In the mornings, she looks up into the trees longing to get that squirrel by the mango tree.  Zoey is a hunter.  She lives to hunt.

James’s purpose in life?  His purpose is to just be cute.  He melts your heart into a soft gooey slush and puts a smile on our face.  He fetches balls and frisbees, acts dead and do rollovers.  Nothing useful, nothing with a purpose, but just pure FUN!

So that’s Zoey and James.  Two dogs, two characters. Two different barks. Wolf! Wolf!

 

 

 

It’s a peaceful Sunday my dears

When was the last time you had a peaceful Sunday morning?  For me it’s been awhile since I had a relaxing Sunday like today.  Weekends are usually hijacked by the errands and other obligations that necessitate us being up, dressed and out of the house, or just waiting for people to arrive.  I have come to realize that the most valuable Sundays are the days you can just get up, laze and not feel obligated to do anything.

It’s a day to be treasured.

Last weekend it was hijacked by house projects that although voluntary, it requires one to be up and ready.  Even though all I had to do was wait for the gardener, cleaning lady and fence man to arrive, one still had to be on the watch and make sure things were done correctly.  Which means that you can’t just laze on the couch looking out the window at the big sky with the dogs by your feet.

It becomes an energized day with dogs on full alert at all the strangers roaming about which rubs out on you as well.  You find yourself checking to see if the fence was done the way it was discussed, the dogs don’t get in the way, or just seeing that everything is in order.

This morning, it was an ideal Sunday morning.  There was no one coming, no place I had to be, and nothing I had to do.  It was truly a relaxing “me” time sort of day.

It feels absolutely great.  Rejuvenating.

Alex and I make a mental note that more days like this are needed.  Every now and then, it is absolutely divine to just stay home and laze.  It clears the mind and regulates your heartbeat.  I feel myself breathing slightly slower (although it could just be my imagination) and my mind is strangely clear.  Stress relieve. What about you?  When was the last time you gave yourself some rest?  Have a lazy, peaceful Sunday everyone 🙂

 

A Balancing Act

Sitting in my study looking out the window, I am still thinking about “The Descendants” I wrote about yesterday.  That movie was about a man, a successful lawyer and a land baron who had devoted all his time to his career, to making money only to later realize he had “lost” his family.  Although his wife was now seriously ill from a boating incident, he had lost her years ago.  They had ceased to talk, to spend time together, to go out and enjoy each other’s company.   They had grown apart.  His daughters, he had hardly seen and could hardly remember the last time he was alone with them.  They too had grown.  So that was Matt King who spent his life focusing on himself.  Then there are opposites:   those who spend their time completely devoted to other’s lives until they forget to have a life of their own.

It happens sometimes.    It happens more often than I would like to acknowledge.

It happens in relationships and in families.   They believe that family is number one and that nothing else is more important.  They find themselves unconsciously assimilated into the other person or persons.  They forget everything about themselves and focus entirely on the person or persons.   They must spend their time taking care of the family, taking care of their needs and anticipating their needs.   They serve each and every need in the belief that this is right.  This is the “right” thing to do.  This is what is “expected” of them.  They devote their entire time, their entire life to others.   Guilt prevails if they want to do something of their own.  Guilt, self-inflicted.   So the cycle continues, on and on.

Now do not get me wrong, I am not saying that it is a bad thing to care of others, it is good to take care of loved ones and people around us.  What is most important though is that there needs to be a balance.

There needs to be a balance between taking care of others and taking care of your own needs.

Your own needs are equally important, and your life is equally important.  You have dreams, you have desires and there are things you want to do, places you want to go.  Don’t push all your own needs out of sight and hide them somewhere deep inside your soul.  One day you might just erupt like Mount Vesuvius.

And when your erupt, or if you just stay dormant.  One day you may find yourself on your deathbed looking back on your life and thinking about all the things you could have done, all the things you wanted to do, and all the places you wanted to go.    You might feel a resentment at others, why they had done the things they wanted to do and did all they wanted to do.  Yet all these emotions come too late and your life has passed you by.  You will just have to wait for your next life to do the things you want to do.

Find a balance in your life.   Have some time of your own, have some time for others, have some time for your dreams.

The Heart Melter

There’s something about coming home to dogs that are just great for the heart. No matter how tiring or crazy a day you’ve had, when the dogs run towards to you as if they hadn’t seen you in years, wagging their tails, and innocently staring up at you with the sweetest eyes;  a part of you melt.  It softens you and your heart goes all gooey.

It reminds one of nature and of life.

It reminds us to take time out from all the gadgets, TVs and technologies that surround us.   It reminds us to enjoy the nature that surrounds us, to feel the grass beneath our feet, feel the wind in our hair and hear the birds chirp.

Yes having dogs remind you of all that.  They do because you have to really stop and notice them, take care of them.  You also have to play with them so that they use up excess energy.  Excess energy they would otherwise turn into biting your trees, and digging up your flowerbeds.  So you end up on grass throwing balls and playing “Fetch.”  You end up gardening to fix those plants the dog dug up or finding ways to keep them from digging.  Then as you are doing all that, the dogs are running around playing, occasionally bumping into you as if they were six year olds.  You can’t help but smile.  They seem so happy just running around on the grass, like when once a upon a time we too used to run around.  That must have been over twenty years go.

To be happy doesn’t mean you need to have all the excesses of this world.  It’s purely a state of mind.

Dogs are happy with the simplest snack or a little scratch behind the ear.  Maybe we should train our minds to be happy just as easily.  Life would indeed be a happy one.  Yes, dogs are indeed good for the heart (even though your house and garden gets occasionally turned upside down.)  Have a good weekend!