I found a new book, bought it, took it home and read it and it’s not artsy or academic or literary or even about cooking. I had read about it in the NYT and I had a book coupon, a Xmas gift, so I could afford to indulge my curiosity. Here it is:
"the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organising (no caps) by marie kondo, translated from the Japanese by cathy hirano" (Ten Speed Press/Random House, 2014 – in English).
Stated or not, everyone has some kind of NY resolution to clean up her (more often her) act, to tidy up. (Why up? I guess it’s an intensive. To tidy without the up would make it more half-hearted, more like a lick and a promise.)
You can tell from the title that it’s the right book to buy in January. We all feel some kind of need to clean up (there’s up again) or to clear the decks, though not necessarily the desire to change our lives. I am not quite a neat freak like my daughter-in-law, in fact I have varying levels of neat-/tidy- ness. My clothes drawers were always neater than my desk. I was a Brownie (a member of the Brownies, the junior branch of the Guide Association, for girls aged between about 7 and 10, wearing a brown uniform.) That’s when l learned how to fold a sweater. My mother was very proud of my folding expertise. I remember her taking a friend of hers to my room and throwing open a drawer to exhibit proudly my beautifully folded sweaters.
I mention this now because apparently I’ve been doing it wrong all these years. Kondo's method is not in the book I bought but you can look it up online: The KonMari Method of folding. Actually I wasn’t far off; the neat - and I use the word precisely - the neat trick is in the storage. Once you have the sweater folded flat, fold it again by thirds into a flat package, then find the “sweet spot”, the spot at which it will balance upright. Store it like that, upright, with the next sweater upright beside it, and so on. It uses less space than storing it flat and each vertical sweater can be found instantly without lifting a pile.
I can’t believe I’m going into this detail, but you will if you read the book. Kondo’s approach to changing your life begins with upheaving it. Start by discarding. (The bold print is hers.) Tidying, she says, must start with discarding. All at once. Not just a room at a time. Everything at once. It sounds painful, doesn’t it? Also impossible. I winced a little as I read, until I came to books and papers. Put all your books on the floor. NO! (That’s my marginal note.) Then discard. allowing“books that belong in the hall of fame” to be kept. Kondo keeps her collection of books to about thirty volumes. (I have 24 bookcases, mostly floor to ceiling.) Papers are treated the same way, only worse. With papers the rule of thumb is “discard everything.”
Those of you who are writers know how impossible this is. Books and papers define me. Once I have absorbed this fiat, I will try to go on with this life-changing book. Kondo says that her lifestyle brings her joy, all due to the magic of tidying. Hang on for the next life-changing installment.