A Rollicking Review: Marie Kondo’s Tidy Book and a Messy View

In last week’s post Paring Down and Tidying Up, I referred to Marie Kondo’s New York Times best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up. Her book has sold over 5 million copies and is being translated into 40 languages.  I promised you a review and here it is.

KondoBookCover

The Review: The life-changing magic of tidying up, Marie Kondo

“Organize your home once, and you’ll never have to do it again.” Tidying consultant Marie Kondo, who has a three-month waiting list, insists you will never again have to sift through snowdrifts of papers or endure clothes that pile up like a tangled mess of noodles. Just follow her revolutionary category-by-category system.

Kondo’s solution is simple but not necessarily easy, especially for pack rats. Effective tidying, she admits, involves only two essential actions: Discarding things and deciding where to store what you keep. Kondo instructs her clients to pick up items one by one and ask, “ Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.” (60)

Simply put, tackle major categories like clothing, books, and papers. Sort by category, not rooms: Sort all clothing at the same time, then move on to books, and so on.

Her chapter headings are iconoclastic: “Clothing: Place Every Item Of Clothing in the House on the Floor.” Do the same with books. Interestingly, her chapter titles yell in capital letters while her book title sits calmly on the cover, lower-case, in a cloud of blue.

Kondo’s wit and humor permeates her 254-page instruction book. She admits to coming home and falling asleep on the floor without even changing her clothes (195) writing this book. In the Afterword, she confesses that she once had to call an ambulance because the day before she had tidied too much and found her neck and shoulders frozen stiff from “looking into the cupboard above the closet and moving heavy furniture” (255).

Why do clients of the eponymous KonMari Method not relapse? The secret lies in a chapter entitled “Reduce Until You Reach the Point Where Something Clicks.” Apparently, satisfied clients have reached their clicking point! Some have even lost weight and experienced a clearer complexion as “detoxing” their houses has had a refreshing effect upon their bodies. (241)

One of her most valuable bits of advice was the functionality of sturdy shoeboxes to store lingerie and socks. Then, she suggests, use the tops like a tray to keep cooking oils, spices, and odd utensils in their rightful place. I may use such advice moving into our new space.

Marie Kondo’s tidying impulse began at age 5 while reading home and lifestyle magazines. She volunteered to be the classroom organizer in grade school. Now in her New York Times best seller, Kondo enthusiastically promotes the Japanese art of de-cluttering and organizing, a magical system that has become her life’s calling.


Not everyone buys into this magic. Sanford in the TV series, Sanford and Son didn’t, and neither did my father as I show in a blog post entitled Neat Versus Messy. It features a poem “Delight in Disorder.”

Dad's Office

My father died many years ago in 1985. During this Father’s Day week, I pause to give thanks. Though my dad did not give me a love for order (Mother did that), he gave me other sterling values: love of music, intellectual curiosity, and appreciation for the natural world. For those I give thanks.

Daddy in his later years, taking a breather
Daddy, often winning trips and other prizes for top sales, takes a breather. Sign courtesy of Cliff Beaman, 1976

 

* * *

One day soon, we will take what we have curated from our possessions and move it to our next home. It will be very messy for a while.

MovingBoxes2005

What is your take on the KonMari Method? What tried and true tips can you add?

 

 

As we make the transition – painting, packing, and re-assembling in another space, future blog posts may be sparse and my comments on your blogs may be spotty too.

I love our weekly connections here and will miss them temporarily. Soon I’ll be back. Enjoy each summer day!

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Help! Vintage Photo Needs Caption, II

Every week, The New Yorker magazine features a Cartoon Caption Contest, inviting readers to submit a caption for consideration. After three finalists are chosen, readers vote for the winning caption. You can view my first attempt at a similiar contest here on this blog with family members on a Sunday outing.

When we sorted through our mother’s things after her passing, I found a large photo likely from the 1970s taken by Ken Smith Photographs from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. The photographer snapped my Grandma Fannie Longenecker with bonnet and neck scarf and my dad, facing her away from the camera. Apparently they are in line at a breakfast buffet likely at a farm equipment convention. Others in the line are unknown. All seem intent on filling their plates, some more than others.

DaddyGrandmaBusBreakfast1970

“What was going on here?” I ask. Everyone in the photograph registers a similar band-width on the emotional scale, except for the couple on the left.

This photo begs a caption.

* * *

What’s going on here?

  • Invent a caption.
  • Guess at the scarario.
  • Supply a two-line dialogue between the couple on the left.
  • Imagine the photographer’s motive.
  • Reminisce about an awkward moment you recall.

O, wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us / To see oursels as others’ see us!      “To a Louse”  

Robert Burns 1786

    (On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church)

 


Coming next: Moments of Extreme Emotion: Where’s My Spyglass?

Quiet Lives Matter: My Brother Mark

My brother Mark was my first baby. He was born when I was 12, and I soon became a mother to him. I even have a picture to prove it, a blurry movie still from one of Aunt Ruthie’s 16 millimeter camera shoots.

Holding brother Mark as my sister (age 7) Jean zooms on by
Holding brother Mark as my youngest sister Jean (age 7) happily zooms on by

I most certainly bottle fed him and changed his diapers. When he was a few months old, my sisters and I made up a little ditty often chanted repeatedly when we played with him:

De honey and de sweetie and de hon-ey boy

De hon, de hon, de hon-ey boy . . .

Practicing our Latin, we would refer to him as “Marcus -a -um” when he got a little older. Looking back, I wonder now how much the age difference and his being our longed-for brother played a role in such playfulness.

Mark passed through the usual boyhood stages, going to school at Rheems Elementary (here pictured at age 8) and learning to ride a bike.

Mark8yearsOld

MarkBikeFence

Like most boys this age, he climbed trees and played with his beloved dog, Skippy, butterscotch colored and 3-legged.

Mark handing walnuts to his sister Janice, 1964
Mark handing walnuts to his sister Janice, 1964

MarkDogMailbox

In the doggy photo, Mark is already wearing shop overalls and shop shoes ready for work at Longenecker Farm Supply, our family business in Rheems, Pennsylvania.

Eventually, his work at the shop translated into industrial arts credit at Elizabethtown High School, where he earned a certificate of attendance.

Here painted and sealed in polyurethane is a cartoon of Mark on a Deutz tractor which certified his skill at the wheel and gave a nod to his service with the Rheems Fire Department.

Stool art courtesy of Cliff-Toon Stools by Cliff Beaman, 1985
Stool art courtesy of Cliff-Toon Stools by Artist Cliff Beaman, 1985

Later, he worked at our dad’s shop full time, from where he was often sent out to fix machinery when farmers were stuck needing repairs in the field.

Mark in front of shop beside soybean extruder, 1984
Mark in front of shop beside soybean extruder, 1984

As family members aged, he kept the home-fires burning at the two houses on Anchor Road, first ministering to our Aunt Ruthie’s increasing needs as her memory loss progressed. Because of Mark’s care, Ruthie was able to stay in her own home at the bottom of the hill for four years longer than would have been feasible otherwise. He occasionally took her dog Fritzie IV for walks, a dog variously dubbed vicious, feisty or protective depending on whom you asked. Out of respect for Ruthie and her devotion to her Schnauzer, he took care of a dog he didn’t particularly like and certainly didn’t love.

MarkFritzieWoods

Simultaneously, he helped take our Mother Ruth to doctor and dentist appointments and often shopped for groceries, enabling our mother to stay in her own home at the top of the hill until she died last year at age 96.

When we realized we would be selling Mother’s house, Mark’s contacts from the shop along with his extended group of friends in the area enabled us to sell the property without a realtor’s assistance and accompanying fees.

Every Sunday now he takes Pearl Longenecker in her nineties to church at Bossler Mennonite Church.

Mark continues to live in Aunt Ruthie’s house with his daughter Shakeeta (Kiki) who moved in recently, caretakers of the Longenecker homestead we hold dear.

MarkKiKi

* * *

From my point of view, Mark does not suffer from the effects of striving, the bane of modern existence. It’s safe to say he has never slavishly checked off items on a to-do list or reached for the benchmarks of fame and fortune as many do. In other words, he hasn’t made a big splash in this world. But my brother Mark is a helper, living a quiet life that matters.

Stephen Post, Hidden Gifts of Helping

We eat because it keeps us alive, and we help others because it keeps us human.  (29)

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water . . . , verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.     Matthew 10:42   King James Version


Are there unsung heroes in your family or among your group of friends and acquaintances? Thank you for spicing up our conversation here with your story!

Coming next: Help! A Vintage Photo in Need of a Caption

Memorial Day Snaps: A Truck and a Quilt

Catchy caption needed. Your suggestions please!

Just as every issue of The New Yorker features a cartoon in need of a caption, today’s post offers a photo calling for your input. There’s one below to get your wheels turning, but I think there are other possibilities.

Even eighteen wheelers have patriotic ties.
Even eighteen wheelers have patriotic ties.

 

The back story: This photo was taken in 2005 when Cliff was in the Chicago area doing his art/music shows. Most likely our son Joel, who was in graduate school in the city at the time, was driving as Cliff snapped the picture of this truck on the Interstate.

*  *  *

Carl Stoneseifer was one of my dad’s best employees at Longenecker Farm Supply in Rheems, PA. He was both personable and competent, as my dad would say, a “crack” mechanic. I remember how sad Daddy felt when Carl moved on.

His wife Helen was a talented quilter. On May 20, 1976 Helen’s picture and write-up appeared in our hometown newspaper, The Elizabethtown Chronicle. The quilt, in honor of the American bicentennial, was a cooperative effort by her sister, her daughter-in-law, and another friend. However, the designs featuring various patriotic symbols were her own.

1976_0520_The Chronicle_Elizabethtown_Bicentennial Quilt

Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who sacrificed for our country. This weekend also heralds the first official holiday weekend of summer.

How do you observe it?

Can you provide a caption for the photo? I’m excited to see your suggestions!

Coming next: Purple Passages: Secrets of the Grimké House, Charleston

Hats Off to Dad!

My father wore many hats. Work hats mostly, but also a goofy blue derby hat I faintly remember stashed high up on a closet shelf, and a fedora reserved for Sundays or other special occasions. Through his long history at the shop, Daddy sold a wide array of tractor brands which supplied him with hats embroidered with their company logo: Massey-Harris, Minneapolis Moline, New Idea, Fox, and Deutz.

His hats changed with his loyalty to the brand of farm equipment he was promoting. None made him happier, however, than the hat he wore with one of his first purchases after his father, Henry R. Longenecker, passed the business on to him. With the tag still attached to the grill, Daddy proudly drove the new Massey-Harris tractor back and forth in the alley next to the shop in Rheems, his sister Aunt Ruthie recording the spectacle with her new 16 mm movie camera.

Shop Hats

The Welding Helmet Invented by the German Hans Goldschmidt in 1903, welding was one of my Dad’s specialties, a boon to farmers with harvester units or even plow shares needing repair. A free-standing acetylene cylinder and oxygen tank for welding stood near one of the double wooden doors. This allowed easy access for welding repairs as a tractor or harvesting equipment was pulled through the giant, wheeled doors that ran back and forth on a metal channel.

I watched Daddy slap a Darth Vader-like helmet on his head, don long, flared-sleeve gloves, and use long, skinny welding rods to fuse broken parts together. Sparks flew everywhere in this Fourth of July fireworks show extending into August, the height of the harvesting season.

Along the back of the dark recesses of the shop was a large grinding machine that could sharpen a 6 to 8-foot section of blade used for scissoring hay, wheat or barley.

Daddy did most of his work in his shop but occasionally he was called to the field. A doctor of motors, he made “house” calls to the fields of anxious farmers, work stalled with broken-down equipment.

Farm Hats

My father was first of all a farm implement dealer and mechanic, but he also farmed ten acres of land in Bainbridge, Pennsylvania combining corn and tobacco crops and then later corn with tomatoes. Farming is serious business in the searing sun requiring a cap with a long bill. The result:  a white “farmer” forehead and red-brown cheeks and arms. My mother and Aunt Ruthie often wore sun bonnets, in the field but as you can see, we were bare-headed and probably bare-footed too.

Brand new tractor with tiny sister Jean and me behind the wheel
Cultivating land for tomato crop in Bainbridge
Cultivating land for tomato crop in Bainbridge

A beekeeper too, my dad wore a bulky hat complete with a mesh veil to smoke out the bees.

 

Fancy Hats

Church, weddings, funerals – all were occasions for a fancy fedora. But one occasion in particular required dressing up: posing on the steps of the U. S. Capitol building ready to meet with congressmen regarding the threat of a proposed air base to some of the rich farmland of northern Lancaster County. A sizable delegation of plain people (many of them Mennonites) including my dad in his fedora and Grandma drove to Washington D.C. to make their case with government officials. When a follow-up investigation was conducted, sink-holes had reportedly been found in the farm-land around Bossler’s Mennonite Church. The case was subsequently closed.

Sadie Greider, Grandma Fannie Longenecker and Ray Longenecker  on steps of the Capitol in Washington, D. C.
Sadie Greider, Grandma Fannie Longenecker and Ray Longenecker on steps of the Capitol in Washington, D. C.

Tell us about your dad’s hats – what he wore, or any other “Dad” memory you want to share now.

Neat vs. Messy

                              Delight in Disorder

A sweet disorder in the dress

Kindles in clothes a wantonness.

A lawn about the shoulders thrown

Into a fine distraction;

An erring lace, which here and there

Enthralls the crimson stomacher;

A cuff neglectful, and thereby

Ribbons to flow confusedly;

A winning wave, deserving note,

In the tempestuous petticoat;

A careless shoestring, in whose tie

I see a wild civility;

Do more bewitch me than when art

Is too precise in every part.

The British poet Robert Herrick writes a fine sonnet about the allure of the slightly askew, the saucy, the off-beat–the messy in dress! Well, he has a point, but I don’t agree in general. I like neatness and appreciate the beauty of orderliness.

Too precise hand-writing Hanger, EMC college days
Too precise hand-writing
clothes hanger, college days EMC

Mother was a neatnik too, every hair in place under her prayer covering, the whole house scrubbed clean every Friday, a place for everything and everything in its place. On the other hand, my dad, who was precise in the mechanics of fixing machinery in his farm supply business, was by nature messy, messy, messy–in his office, inside his truck, on the porch of his shop.

Dad's Office

Brother Mark before sale of business
Brother Mark before sale of business

Daddy’s messy manner drove me crazy. Besides, it was embarrassing! In the middle of the village of Rheems, the shop faced Harrisburg Avenue with two main sections, one behind the other. The front part housed dozens of storage bins for nuts, bolts, screws, odd implements and, curiously, a Victrola sitting squat right beside the door to the sales office. During planting season, bags of Royster fertilizer for sale would be deposited off to the side near a loading/unloading door. As you walked to the rear, a long wooden ramp led to the back section where the dirty work was done, Daddy and his helpers fixing disk harrows, plows, or welding broken parts. Behind the shop was an assortment of implements stored Sanford & Son-style from which the mechanics harvested parts.

Occasionally, when Daddy said, “It’s time to sweep the shop,” I shuddered because I would be working in the cold with piles of stuff everywhere. Spritzing soapy water from a bucket to settle the dust, I watched charcoal-grey pustules of dirt and grease bead up on the cement floor, then tried to push-broom the filth into a dust pan, often an exercise in futility.

Though Daddy was messy, he had a strong Pennsylvania Dutch work ethic. At the shop six days a week, he caught up with office work and telephone sales in the evenings. “I worked like a Trojan today, and still didn’t get the Fox Harvester ready for Phares Weaver in time,” he’d say to Mother as he walked in the door. And he did so well in sales, dealerships would send him and Mother as VIPs on all-expense paid trips to Ohio, Florida, or Arizona to learn about new farm equipment. Once his sales were so high, his whole family, including three married daughters and son enjoyed a week-long vacation in Jamaica.

Daddy in his later years, taking a breather
Daddy in his later years, taking a breather

So there’s neat and there is messy. “God is a God of order!” shouts one. The other camp retorts: “But you can’t be creative and neat at the same time!”

This post began with an homage to the slightly slovenly, the off-kilter. It ends with a writer lamenting her neat freakiness.

Being A Neat Freak

Being a neat freak, is certainly not a
blessing! No one enjoys, being this
way. When I find everything thrown
all around, on impulse, I have to put
them all away. I have always lived by
the creed, there’s a place for everything
and everything, in its place! It’s
aggravating, dealing with this, but I
know it’s something, I’ve got to face.
I’ve often wondered, how does a
person, get to be this way? It didn’t
happen over night, or in just a day.
Perhaps, it’s what we learned, when
we were young. And frankly speaking,
I’m tired of hearing people say, try not
to be so high strung! I’d like nothing
better, if I could let up, just a little bit,
by not letting myself become so
perturbed. Upon giving this some
thought, I realize, isn’t all of this, quite
absurd!

Now it’s your turn: neat vs. messy — Can they co-exist?
Is it possible to find a middle ground?
Thank you for sounding out on this topic. Your thoughts please. They keep me going! And I will always reply.

Mennonite Lexicon

Quilt exhibited at the bicentennial of Bossler Mennonite Church
Quilt exhibited at the bicentennial celebration at Bossler Mennonite Church

You won’t find the definitions for rumspringa or bundling, (often referring to the Amish) in this mini-dictionary of Pennsylvania Dutch words, but here are some expressions the Longeneckers and other Mennonite families in Lancaster County often used growing up in the 1950s and 60s:

The word “Dutch” is actually a misnomer. Many Pennsylvania Dutch settlers originated in Switzerland before migrating to Germany, not the Netherlands. Thus, “Dutch” may be a corruption of Deutsch (German for the word German).

(Spellings below are dubious, an amalgam of what sounds I heard and some expressions “translated” in modern media from the German.)

ach: variously paired with yes/no/not sure, meaning “yes, of course” and so on.

brutzing: as in “stop your whining, crying!”

dopplich: clumsy with yourself

daymedich: not too smart, slow-witted

ferhoodled: not neat, messy–as in a messy house

fire-ich-butz: one who “flies off the handle,” flares with anger

hipschick: snazzy looking, stylish in fashion. Referring to machinery: working well, no glitches

“It wonders me. . . .”  meaning, I wonder (Grandma Longenecker said this often.)

Kunst du Deutch schwetza: Do you speak Pennsylvania Dutch?

kutz: to vomit

nix nootz: mischievous child

rutschy: restless (something you shouldn’t be in church), squirmy. Also: “giegling,” as in “quit your giegling around,” wiggling on a chair at the table, or at a desk at school.

schmutzich: smeary, messy, or runny–like ice cream from a cone melting onto your fingers

schnickelfritz: troublemaker, usually referring to a child

schtrubelich: messy, uncombed hair

schuslich: in a hurry and leaving a mess behind

spritzing: raining lightly

shit-mo-link: Coined by my dad, a good Mennonite brother, who would never curse or use 4-letter words. His definition: Someone who caused him trouble in business; a crook. It’s only a guess, but his invented word could have originated from the Minneapolis Moline tractors he sold in his dealership, Longenecker Farm Supply:

Cultivating land for tomato crop in Bainbridge
Cultivating nearly 10 acres of land for our tomato crop in Bainbridge, PA with a Minneapolis Moline tractor

“Gay” (church): non-Mennonite church where people dressed fancy without coverings and cape dresses. Some daughters from the Alvin Longenecker clan got married in the Evangelical United Brethren Church, a dressy church in Elizabethtown, PA and wore lovely bridal gowns and shimmering veils at their weddings. As a plain Mennonite girl, I dreamed of having such a wedding. (Now “gay churches” often refer to churches who welcome alternative lifestyles.)

Interestingly, many of the words and expressions we used growing up express strong feelings. Many of them seem onomatopoeic to me now, the sound giving a hint to the meaning.

This listing is just a start. What words can you add to this lexicon? From the Pennsylvania Dutch?

From a different ancestry?

Join the conversation! I’d love to hear from you, and I will always reply.

*** Here is the link to my story set in Ukraine submitted to the My Gutsy Story Contest:

http://soniamarsh.com/2013/12/rising-above-the-pettiness-to-focus-on-the-positive-by-marian-beaman.html

Thanksgiving Collection II

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914) Courtesy Wikipedia
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914)
Courtesy Wikipedia Image
Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania
Saying grace before carving the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner in the home of                         Earle Landis in Neffsville, Pennsylvania  1942

This image is a work of an employee of the United States Farm Security Administration, taken as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.

Jonah 2:9  KJV

Every year about this time my Dad would start handing out calendars for the new year, advertising his business, Longenecker Farm Supply. Calendars always featured something inspirational: a glossy, colored photo of a farm scene, happy children at play, or in this case, a family observing Thanksgiving. Daddy died in 1985 and after that time the business was sold, so calendars stopped. But I still keep the “Thanksgiving” calendar in its plastic cradle attached to the inside of one of my kitchen cabinets, with calendar year postings now computer-generated.

Calendar

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.                  Psalm 100:4
Happy Thanksgiving! Your comments welcome. I will always respond.
Coming soon!  A new series: Moments of Extreme Emotion with Original Art by Cliff