Monday, May 15, 2017

Weekend Joys, Sparking Joys: A little (un) Kondo Condo Decor . . .

What a weekend! We loved the Vancouver Opera Festival's fresh production of The Marriage of Figaro; it was grand to have my GF check out our guest facilities here and to have two good long morning chats and a leisurely dinner together; and my sons-in-law hosted a Mother's Day dinner to honour their wives and the Grand Matriarch (which would be me!).  In between, I found time to write another Garden Post, as some of you have expressed an interest in learning more about our Urban Condo Terrace Garden.
In fact, I was all set to schedule that post for Monday morning, when I came across this article by Nathalie Atkinson in this weekend's Globe and Mail, coincidentally just as I was trying to decide what to include in vignettes on the new solid-maple floating shelves we had a carpenter friend build for us.

You might remember that I'm trying to find space for displaying collectibles, memorabilia, and bric-a-brac, much of it undoubtedly of the sort that Marie Kondo is urging us to purge. I can't honestly say that each piece I'm reluctant to part with "sparks joy." Some of it triggers sorrow, in fact, or a sense of loss, or simply an ambivalence over a relationship it holds memories of.

As I wrote in Sunday's Instagram post, the Royal Doulton figurine "Patricia" would not be something I'd choose for myself, although there's much about its elegant, simple aesthetic to admire. And perhaps Kondo followers would tell me that I'm missing the point of her advice, that while I might not find aesthetic joy in the object, the joy it sparks through its associated memories would justify its place in my home. In return, I'd have to argue that I'm not sure it's joy, exactly, that the memories bring me, at least not unproblematically, not without a tincture of sadness at my dad's repeated attempts to coax happiness from my mother, to whom it didn't always come easily.


And even the joy that I might admit it triggers is spoiled somewhat by my inclination to tot up the amount of "stuff" in the room and calculate the putative balance point at which it all topples into the dreaded category of Clutter. . . .

So I was glad to read Atkinson's claim that while "the unexamined life is not worth living, an empty room is no fun either." And she talks about the Kondo tribe's "tossing-around" of the Japanese word mottainai, which denotes the regretting of wastefulness.  She counters this tossing-around by arguing that "there's probably an equally evocative word for the regret of discarding that chair/dress/book." Atkinson's article is worth reading in its entirety. I especially appreciate the way she points out that so many of the design or lifestyle books that emphasise minimalism are nonetheless as materialistic as those that tease out the way biographical possibilities of the objects in our lives and that make an argument for holding on to these tangible traces of where and what and who we've been. I'm also making a note of the several titles she cites on both sides of the issue -- there's a great little list here I'll be keeping an eye out for at the library.

I'm curious: how many of you find the Kondo approach a relief and enjoy your cleansed, joy-sparking new spaces? and how many of you prefer to have a lifetime of memorabilia gathered around you? And then let's leave some room for the middle ground, those of us who want to simplify, who are yearning for the tranquility of less-cluttered rooms, but have items that are too important to relinquish, no matter that they spark no aesthetic admiration nor any mood or emotion other than solemnity, sorrow, loss. . . .

Over to you . . .

39 comments:

  1. I like to hear both sides and than,subconsciously or consciously,choose for myself. It is hard not to feel the pressure "how things should be",but one's life or apartement should be one's own,not something to show off or to be ashamed of,because it is not picture ready
    As well as I am politically "too right for the left and too left to the right",I am a minimalist with too many things just now :-)
    I feel I need less of everything,cleansed,joy-sparkling scandinavian place but my space is very ergonomic ( some could call it a mess,but I need it and like it that way. I have friends with beautiful apartements,where everything is polished all the time,I admire it,but I need well lived life and well lived apartement-or maybe two,one for living and one for resting :-))
    Your shelves are beautiful,wonderful wood and craft
    Dottoressa

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    1. Like you, I enjoying visiting friends with beautifully appointed, arranged, and maintained homes, but at home I don't want to feel constrained to spend all my time keeping the house clean at the expense of doing the things I love. And I want people who visit (especially the little people and their parents) to feel as if humans matter more than things here. Sounds as if we have much in common...

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  2. Dottoressa has taken the words right out of my mouth (or pen, rather). I want to live in and express myself through my home just as I do in and through my clothes. And the older I get, the less I bother about rules set by anybody else. At the same time, I am impatiently looking forward to the time when I can get down to de-cluttering, which means for me: time to think about what I want to keep and why. And getting rid of dead weight. In any case, I am going to read the article you mentioned.

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    1. There's much in Kondo's book that does appeal to me -- I like the resistance to materialism, the simplification of de-cluttering. But there are too many absolutes for me . . You are going to enjoy being able to do this sorting, the getting rid of dead weight, as you say. Happy Retirement, almost....

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  3. Through my local voluntary work I visit a lot of people at home to interview them & minimalism is everywhere . Big sofas , big TVs , no books & very few ornaments . That's the younger folk , the oldies have a lifetimes worth of books , trinkets , ornaments , photos , holiday souvenirs etc . I'm generalizing of course , but that's how it seems to me , & I wonder whether the young ones will gather more as they age . Personally I like to see some evidence of personalities , hobbies & interests about the place rather than all the ' dentists waiting room ' decor , but too much clutter makes me twitchy . I think your room is looking good & the sun moving around must keep you entertained - that's when there is sun , very wet here today .
    Wendy from York

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    1. Not sure what it's like where you are, but in our cities, at least, it's less and less likely that young people will be able to afford the storage space their parents have enjoyed for this accumulation. And, of course, they've grown up with so much digital storage, that this serves as a substitute of sorts, I guess. (your voluntary work sounds rather interesting; do you enjoy the interviews?)

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    2. I do enjoy meeting people & getting to know them a little . I especially like checking their gardens - love people's gardens . Perhaps I'm just nosey :)
      Wendy

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  4. Those new shelves look fabulous in your condo next to the garden.
    Marie's book did not resonate with me...perhaps I am one of few as it was so popular.
    I have my own ways and rules for decluttering that work for me.
    There are a few mementos that I cannot part with...more came into our bungalow after Mom's passing...
    I hesitate, because to rush might make for some regrets, so I live with "things" and move them around as I see fit...

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    1. Thanks, L. We're really happy with them -- they bring a bit of our island home into the condo, the maple and the handiwork of our friend.
      Yes, you're in a time that warrants hanging on, only letting go piece by piece, carefully, thoughtfully, often with tears. . .

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    2. I agree with you. I thought the book was repetitive and ridiculous. I have decluttered and continue to do so on my own. However, my daughter really liked it.

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    3. Honestly, there was much that I liked about it as well although it deserved more of the kind of editing she practices in her home. . .

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  5. I find myself in the middle ground on the topic of "Stuff." I did not care for Ms. Kondo's book. While reading it I increasingly felt like someone who'd "come in just for a look-around, but was expected to sign a pledge of loyalty before leaving." Perhaps a better analogy is that her book felt like I was perusing one of those message boards where a self-appointed expert says, "This is what works for me. Therefore, it is the path that will work for everyone else."

    I am heartened at the sight of your grand piano. In the next few years we're anticipating a move from 5,200 square feet (yeah, I know!) to 1,500 square feet. I've been grieving even the idea of leaving the grand behind. You've given me the courage to reconsider that abandonment. Thanks. :)

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    1. I so often find myself, like you, in the middle ground. I can admire a committed absolutism, but it rarely works for me. . .
      When we first committed to this move, before we began looking for a prospective new home, my husband promised me we could keep my piano -- and he wanted to! But as we looked at the too-hot market here, it became painfully obvious it would have to go. Even when we first moved it in, that was only to be able to have it here for prospective buyers to see. And then. . . . somehow it works, and it defines the space in a way that works very well for us. And we still manage to have sit-down dinner space for at least 10 of us. . . . And if you have 1500 sf, you'll have 500 more than we do -- heck, you could have two grands for a two-piano, four-hands concert ;-)

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  6. Minimalism is unimaginative and clutter can tip over into cluttered but I reckon we all have our particular place on that continuum. Right now, parts of my house are about where I like them on the scale, and parts need a good sort out. Each to their own.

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    1. I believe there is inspiring and imaginative minimalism, but that too often we're seeing a derivative and, yes, unimaginative, version. I also think there are undeniable problems with clutter-cluttered-hoarding, and, as you say, we each need to work out where we're comfortable and find ways to get there. Sometimes a book like Kondo's might help; sometimes other approaches are more amenable. I could never do the All-in-one-day declutter she insists on.

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  7. Mmm, lots of greenery and light framing your condo. So many "homes" look like stage sets to me, places waiting for the actors and action. Makes sense for the young of course who may be waiting for life to somehow happen to them, if only the stage is perfectly set. For those of us who are a bit further along, living our lives, home is homier.

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    1. What a good point, about the difference between our stages of life. I've also become quite respectful of what the young manage to accomplish given the cost of housing these days. . . rather makes much of this editing clearly a privilege.

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  8. When I walk into a minimalist home, I'm really uncomfortable. There is no personality, no showing of who these people are. Luckily I live on a islandi which is a haven of artistic excess and yes that does mean there might be clutter....to some. It could also mean that creative juices are being stirred by all the visual stimulation....

    Ali

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    1. Sorry - just can't agree. I love my Scandi-modern home, and it is carefully decorated with things that represent us. And yes, we are artistic - and no, we don't do clutter.

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    2. I think I'll agree -- with both of you. I agree that minimalist spaces make some people very uncomfortable, especially those of us who love to read the artifacts, the decoration, to get a sense of whomever we're visiting. And for many of us, artistic expression is associated with an accompanying visual busy-ness, clutter. . . .
      But for others of us, there is enough subtler stimulation to intrigue in a restrained palette and few, very carefully chosen objects and pieces of furniture. I agree that this can also reveal personality, if more slowly and in a more restrained manner, and that it can certainly be artistic as well.
      Spending as much time in our homes as we do, I'd say what is most important is that we arrange them to reflect and comfort us, individually, and if our circumstances and our personalities allow us to, that we ignore those design "rules" that don't ring true for us.

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  9. I have the Royal Doulton, Hummel and Dresden "figurines" from my grandmothers. Someone remarked on that word at Hostess' blog a couple weeks ago but I think that we inherit the words as we do the objects. They are housed in a "curio cabinet" another distinctly old lady piece of furniture. I think that these figures were often purchased to honour or to placate women who worked very hard and
    who seldom (never)bought luxuries for themselves. My father used to receive a Birks' or O.B. Allen box at Christmas from his employer. They often contained
    china ornaments. We lived in a small house but we never sat in the living room except with company. Life is very different now but I used to take my daughter through china shops whenever her father was working in Victoria. I've created a teacup collector. The light and expanse of your apartment will prevent it from being cluttered and the maple wood does integrate the inside and the outside.

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    1. I really appreciate your observation that these china collectibles were meant to "honour or to placate" women who worked hard managing the domestic sphere in homes of a certain aspirational class.
      And I too used to love visiting those shops in Victoria -- so many glorious patterns in that china.

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  10. I read the article you are referring to and appreciated her perspective. I like order and cleanliness but not a the expense of human comfort. You said it well: "...humans matter more than things...". My in-laws' house is so perfectly orderly and immaculate that it has such a cold, unwelcoming feel to it. There is no sense of humans with warm hearts living in the space (that's a reflection of them, unfortunately) and it is the first time that I've realized (and felt I understood) what a home really is and should be. Ultimately, it is the material embodiment of the hearts and souls that live in it. People that are warm, loving, affectionate and passionate people tend to create such homes and people who are not...well, the feeling one gets upon entering is anything but warm and welcoming. Sorry for rambling, but it's an interesting topic to ponder as we all strive for mindful living and less waste with our material possessions, whether it's too much junk, fast fashion, etc. -- Helen

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    1. Not rambling at all, and I too find it an interesting topic. what intrigues me in your comment is that the notion of an "orderly and immaculate" home feeling "cold, unwelcoming" isn't necessarily tied to minimalism. And many of us know people who can make minimalist spaces nurturing and warm. What makes the difference? Food for thought indeed.

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  11. I find the Konso method too limiting and impersonal. I also don't like the touches of animism ( I'm folding my socks anyway I want too, dear). I want a look that is iinteresting, practical, and pleasing to my eye- I lean more toward less than cluttered. I do like things to look collected rather than " decorated". I love the light interplay in your rooms- those shelves look so warm there. I also love musical instruments and books scattered about. We have a lot of both in my house. I also have three dogs, an English mastiff, and two English bull terriers. There is no danger of my house ever looking "staged"- cozy and interesting, yes.
    I toured the private apartments of the Marlboroughs at Blenheim last year. I was happy to see, amongst all the antique campaign furniture and curated items, dog beds and dog hair!

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    1. Ha! Yes! The chatting with objects, the animism as you rightly term it, didn't work for me -- and in a way, this is part of what Atkinson addresses in her article: those who are claiming to be less materialist in their minimalism are, in fact, imparting considerable importance -- even animating them -- to the few material objects they do own.
      We don't have dogs at the moment, but in place of dog hair, there are always what seems a mathematically impossible number of small fingerprints at knee to thigh-height on every mirror and window in the place...

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  12. I find Kondo too sterile and rigid, although I dislike clutter. After taking care of two families' estates over the last four years, and I can verify that holding on to too much "stuff" is exhausting. My mother-in-law kept every butter tub or plastic bag that ever entered her home (very tidy, not a hoarder), and we finally had to hire help to get rid of it all. My father had combined two homes with a desperately ill wife, and his was more difficult because we simply had to sell/give away/donate many beautiful art objects that were too much for our sons and ourselves. I am now in the process of cleaning our home -- every closet, box of pictures, etc. to ensure that what we have worthwhile to keep and labeled carefully if the provenance is not obvious. Of course, then older son wants to keep his high school CDs until he can come home and sort through them.....

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    1. Watching our parents downsize, and then, later, sorting through what was left after they died has been very influential on us as well.
      Watch out with those high school CDs, though. Our own downsizing last year finally gave me the momentum and the permission to pass along several boxes of gradeschool memorabilia we'd been hanging onto for each of our kids, who now range between early 30s and just into 40s -- and have had their own homes for sometime. After a certain point, I realised that they no longer cared at all about the stuff I was guarding as precious, but I couldn't bear to throw it out -- I suspect it was all trashed within half an hour of my passing it along. . . .

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  13. I live here. I am a hoarder. There is clutter. In Lent I decided to sort out 40 books. Which became 8 large shopping bags full.
    Weirdly I now have one empty shelf. I moved the books around a little, opened up some spaces - but - ONE shelf.

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    1. I know what you mean! The books are tricky. It's helping considerably that I'm now nurturing a serious library habit (we live a block away), but I've got a little list of titles I want my own copies of, and I think the little list might equal at least half a shelf. Oh dear.

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  14. My house is neither minimal nor cluttered, I think. It's well-inhabited by stuff;). However, every time I cull, clear out a drawer, clean a closet, I will look at things I've kept for sentiment and remembrance and thrown out the things where the sentiment was sorrow. Or anger. Or regret.

    I love the light in your new place. And the shelves as well. I'll be curious to see how your relationship with stuff shifts as your move becomes more and more the place where you really, really live. xox.

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    1. I'm interested as well in that question you pose in your last sentence. There's much about the shifting relationship that's an "ages and stages" phenomenon -- influenced by watching our parents sign out, and no longer necessarily feeling as responsible for curating family memorabilia as our adult kids take on some of that role in their own way.

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  15. I enjoyed Kondo's book, although I think it is too simplistic. I am no minimalist, although in some sense one might have thought so as I eliminated things from my previous house. It wasn't so much minimalism as a letting go of dead weight. I am sure our things and our spaces evolve just as we do to some extent, and our experiences, our comfort levels, our priorities are all so different. I think I would say I am somewhere in the middle ground, although at the moment between spaces, I fear I have both too much and too little.... and will just have to see how life evolves.

    Anyway I love the photos of your new place, the light and angles and the new shelves with their assortment of treasures. The wood itself is beautiful and I love the warmth and the way space and the artifacts of a life well lived meet.

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    1. Yes! See above, Lisa's comment and my response. This shifts for many of us, with circumstances...

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  16. Interesting post! OK, I am perplexed by the whole Kondo thing because, frankly, you're a minimalist or you're not. I do not believe it is learned behaviour. I do not come from a family of minimalists and yet, I am one. But it's no badge of honour. I happen to feel anxious amongst clutter so for me, it's a coping mechanism. And I appreciate the aesthetic, though maybe that's cuz it's not making me anxious! I do love how easy it is to clean around, well, not much. Alas, the less you surround yourself with, the higher the quality that everything should be because everything is on display. I've gone very minimal, particularly with my wardrobe, in my current rental experience and, I have to say, it's boring! Apparently, I do require some variety of the sartorial sort. So that's a great lesson (easily learned). I may not wear every piece all the time, but sometimes I like to have a choice between colour and basic. There's a reason I have 3 black sweaters! But even with clothing, which I purge regularly, I don't think I'll ever be a maximalist.

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  17. Oh, and I feel compelled to say one more thing: Minimal is not a synonym for cold! I have been told, for years, that my house (the one being renoed) is tremendously "warm and inviting" and it's very minimal. Beautiful materials, architecture and texture can shine when they have the spotlight. Minimalists whose homes are sterile just need to work on their style! :-)

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    1. So glad you added this -- I tried to make that point clear, above, in responding to Helen/Anonymous.
      I also think you make a very good point about being a minimalist or not, and this might be why Kondo's book resonates with some and irritates others.

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  18. LPC: "...throw out things where the sentiment is sorrow. or anger. or regret."
    A good start, then begin on the irrelevant with no connection to the new-life/now.
    Participating in the disassembly of parents, in-laws and aunts' homes was gruelling and demoralizing. Having to dispense with the objects they held dear had an epiphany-like effect.
    I subsequently went home and cut ruthlessly, all that I was keeping. When a house is burning the Fire Dept asks about only four things: people, pets, museum quality art, photographs.
    I find that telling and instructive.
    Giulia

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  19. The garden being viewed from the inside brings up the whole feeling of natural and the place being so neat. I like it!

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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