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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sparking Joy

I am writing this post from 32,000 feet over Nebraska, availing myself of Southwest Airlines wifi. 
I gladly paid the $8.00 connection fee for use on the 4 hour flight from L.A. to Baltimore as I had forgotten to bring ANY reading material on board!!!!! OMG!! I had already read the airline mag on the way out to California and I was starting to panic. Glass of Chardonnay in one hand and my iPhone in the other, it seemed like the perfect time to catch up with a little writing. Lest you think I am a sophisticated traveler, let me correct that notion right now! First I struggled with the new Southwest  LAX  stand where you  print your own boarding pass AND print and attach your baggage tags  AND send your suitcases down the ramp. With two bags to check and two carry on pieces, I couldn't make my way to the ramp without going back for each piece. The couple behind me came to my aid. While I was grateful for the help, I wondered if they saw me like someone's grandmother that needed some extra help ( in case you think I am overreacting, on my flight out,  the  man seated next to me shouted to a companion several rows ahead, "I'm in the seat next to the old lady!"  I actually swatted him and said," Hey!  Watch it!! That hurts!!!"  Such is life of travel for a 61 year old I guess,  and it was kind of a reality check. 

 Now, where was I....oh yes, as I headed into the security area , I  unfastened the wrong end of my Trollbeads bracelet and sent 17 beads bouncing like marbles all over the floor. 

 Several kind souls helped me gather them up and off I headed to my gate. My boarding number was B21 because I forgot to check in yesterday. I was still surprised to find my favorite seat was taken by the time I headed down the aisle: the last seat in the last row by the window. My selection is based on  my own personal theory  that one is less likely to catch someone's cold when there is no one behind you sneezing. I knew this wasn't going to work this time anyway when I overheard one of my seat mates asked if his Sudafed had kicked in yet. SIGH.

This is what it looked like as I left Ohio 10 days ago. Snow, cold, and major de-icing before take off. My mom had called the previous afternoon and asked me to come out for a few days while she recovered from some sort of stomach distress. When I got there she was improving, but as my friend Judy wisely said, "sometimes a mother just needs her daughter".

So, since she was feeling pretty perky I asked Mom if I could use her for my test case for the books I was reading, Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo and her followup book: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. While I had owned the first book for more than a year, and read it twice, I had not as yet put any of the advice into practice. 

The author presents a new angle on decluttering. Instead of deciding what to get rid of, you decide what to keep, that is, you decide what brings you joy. Further, you thank the items for their service to you as you send the discarded items on their way.

 I suggested we try out the method, step by step, following the instructions to the letter.

2. Books
3. Papers
4. Komono(miscellaneous)
5. Sentimental items

My mom was game and we started on a three day intensive journey of finding joy!
According to the author, you must first gather up EVERY piece of clothing you own and put it in a pile on the floor.

Once you are sure you haven't left anything in some other location, and, starting with all of the shirts first, you hold each article and ask  if it sparks joy in your heart when you see and touch it. Really. Now, I know this sounds crazy but if you haven't tried this, just read on. Mom got in the spirit of it immediately and could with lightening speed tell me if the piece sparked joy. If not the article was placed aside and thanked for its previous joy and on we went through all of the jackets, sweaters, pants, shoes, socks until there wasn't a stitch of clothing we hadn't held. Ten large bags were set aside for donations and we began the specific folding process. Sort of like sushi, items were rolled and placed in drawers.

  There wasn't much was left to hang in the closet. 

My brother got into the mix and added some shelves that I asked him to build.

Then a curious thing happened- he went home and started on his closet!!! Kelsey (his daughter and my favorite niece) saw him carrying out bag after bag and asked him what he was doing. "Sparking joy, he replied!!!"

The next day we tackled books. It was fascinating to me to observe my mom making firm decisions on which books met the joy criteria. A college textbook from 1947 of my dad's-Yes!! A favorite novel of his- No!! an art book of French Impressionism-Yes!! A book on travel on the Rhine-No!!  As I watched what sparked joy for her I learned things about my mom that surprised me and I learned about the books in her collection and what the connection was as to why they were there in the first place, why they got to stay, and why some could go. 

After a break at the Wilson Creek Winery with my sister-in-law, Karrie, (who, by the way, was thrilled about the joy factor going on in the closet she shared with my brother) we were ready to take on stage 3: Papers. 

Mom and I share the dilemma of not being able to part with very many papers. Newspaper clippings, brochures, recipe cards, manuals, invoices, statements, old report cards, and lots and lots of photos. 
The photos consisted of tin types of relatives that mixed in with my dad's flight crew photos from WII, that were mixed in with photos from my youth, and photos of grandchildren mixed in with recent bills and greeting cards and....   well, you get the idea! According to author Marie Kondo, the goal is to end up with no papers!! Actually,  you do get to keep one magazine file box called Pending Papers (items that need immediate attention only) She also recommends purchasing a 3 ring binder with clear plastic sleeves to hold  a few papers that are not pending, but, are to be kept close at hand,  such as a print out for a new diet or a list of favorite restaurants. Greeting cards are not to be kept unless they spark sentimental joy. Our family has kept greeting cards from relatives from the early 1900's to recent Valentine's Day cards and it seemed unlikely that many of these would be discarded.

This reminds me of the first card birthday card I gave to Ron. We had meet a few weeks prior to his 40th birthday and I handed him a card that I had carefully selected for him. He opened the card, read it, thanked me, and immediately tossed it in the kitchen wastepaper basket! I almost fainted in shock and seriously wondered what on earth was wrong with him!

Mom and I actually completed step 3 and pitched 5 huge garbage bags of papers. However, in the process, we filled one huge plastic tub with the photos and some greeting cards and letters-to be reviewed in the final step, Tidying up Sentimental Items. It was time for a break and time for me to hit the road.  But first, time to give  Carlson family pups, Lily and Jasper,  a few biscuits!

Mom and I also had some time to attend the monthly book discussion club meeting of her Garden Club. It was so fun to hear each member give a brief sales pitch of favorite recent reads and then  members borrowed whichever books appealed to them. I presented a brief pitch for the Kondo books, but didn't give them up-since Mom's efforts went so well, I'm heading home to start step one with BFF, Paulette, and, then on to my own tidying up efforts. In our cases, I don't think three days will begin to cover the territory, as we are both incorrigible collectors of many, many, many things. I promise to give you an edited update in some future post. Plane is about to land now and the wifi will be turned off shortly. My thumbs are tired of texting this post and I'm eager to head home to Ron and the pet family!

P.S. As it is now the night of the Academy Awards, I think it is only fitting that I end this post, taking a minute to accept the Award for Best Blogpost of February 2016.  First, I would like to thank my mother, for not only giving me birth, but allowing me to use her as a test case for my decluttering project. Of course, I'd like to thank my brother, David, for taking such good care of Mom when she was ill, and for calling me to come to California whenever he needs help. I'd like to thank my niece, Kelsey, for showing me that the future is bright and that playing two basket ball games back to back followed by a softball game can be done. I'd like to thank my sister in law, Karrie, for generously lending her husband and daughter to all causes for my Mom. Praise goes to my BFF, Paulie, an excellent partner in crime, and to my husband, Ron, for always making me laugh. Last, but not least, I'd like to thank my loyal readers, who say nice things about my blog, even if they are just being polite. I love you all. Wait.....I have more people to thank, but the music is now Blaring me off the stage!!!!