Shopping Ban Update: July 2016 in Review

Shopping Ban Update

Oi. July 2016. What a month that was.

It really was a mixed success in terms of spending. I did a lot better in some areas – I think I went to Walmart maybe five times throughout the month, and generally for just one or two needed items (rabbit food, air filter). I ate out four times during the month, all with other people (and the people I was with paid for my meal three of those times!).

Unfortunately, I’ve ended the month about $700 further into debt. My cat, Knievel, had some sort of an issue, so I took him to the vet, who diagnosed him with Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), essentially urinary crystals, gave him a shot of antibiotics to help ease some of the irritation to the bladder, and told me to begin feeding him an all-canned food diet. That visit alone cost me $80. A few days later, I noticed him acting like he was in pain. Another $20 for pain medicine. Things seemed to clear up until I came home from work Tuesday the 19th and heard him yowling soon after I came home. I gave him some more pain medicine, took him to the vet the next day, and he wound up staying overnight with a urinary catheter and IV fluids in ($450). Friday morning, the 22nd, I woke up and began to get ready for work, only to find him yowling and in a lot of distress. I took him to the vet who attempted to put another catheter in but was unsuccessful – she said it was one of the worst blockages she’d ever seen. I was left with two choices – a surgery that started at $1,200 (and with no promises of success, of course), or euthanasia. I made the decision to put him down. It was heartbreaking, but I knew it was the right choice. Add in the cost of euthanizing him, plus the cost of cremating him (maybe not the most minimalist move I could have made, but I was at work with no way of being able to go and pick up his remains to bury them at home, so I called and told them to cremate him and return the ashes to me), and I now owe another $700 plus I’m down a cat. But he’s no longer in pain and he had a great life before that, so that’s important.

Still haven’t sold my previous car yet either. That’s another drain on my resources since it’s an extra $160 a month. I’m hoping to get that out of the way soon. I also spent an extra $200 getting my new car titled and licensed. So July was definitely a little tight on money.

However – not everything was terrible. I posted my original spending ban announcement on my personal Facebook page (something I rarely do). My mom’s cousin happened to see it and read it and saw that I was wanting a couch – so she let me have hers, and the loveseat that went with it. Last weekend, I got to borrow my dad’s truck, drive to Fayetteville, and pick those up, and while they’re not the most aesthetically pleasing (some damage has occurred to bits of the faux leather on them), they look much nicer than my previous couch, I saved a lot of money, and I got to visit my relatives. Plus, I got to feel pretty awesome when I successfully navigated some pretty tight spaces with a truckload of furniture – and my aunt gave me some 2x4s to use in building the outside rabbit run I’m working on.

I also found out that my violin lessons will be more affordable – so that’s a massive win right there!

I’m hoping to do a better breakdown of how my money gets spent next month. I’m really focusing on what I spend and where I spend it now. August is going to be much easier for me anyway – I might actually be able to save something from my paychecks, despite all the new debt I have to pay off. I think the big challenge for me will actually start this month, once I feel like I have some extra money to spend.

Why I’m Doing a Shopping Ban

Shopping BanAfter bandying the idea about, and making a couple unsuccessful, half-hearted attempts, I’m finally buckling down and doing a full shopping ban.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, a shopping ban is exactly what it says in the title – a ban on shopping. Through the end of the year, my goal is to focus on paying attention to what I have and what things I really need in life.

Wait a second, you say. If you’re a minimalist, why are you still shopping?

Good question. I really don’t feel like I do a lot of shopping. This is one of the reasons I’m doing this – I’d love to analyze exactly where my money is going. I haven’t been to Target in ages, my last Amazon order was over a month ago (and it was a Litter Genie which has been so worth it!), and I generally stick to buying essentials at Walmart. Which indicates to me I’m either not paying attention to my cash flow or I’m forgetting a lot of purchases.

Part of the problem I’ve had lately is spending too much in general. I’ve had to take most of my pets to the vet lately – and I just bought flea medicine for all of them. Of course, Lucy needs a special (read – $$$$) type of flea medicine, not just an ordinary topical, because she has severe flea allergies. I wound up purchasing a new (to me) car since my old one was having so many issues – which meant I spent money to title and register it. Due to having both cars on my insurance, my insurance bill was a lot higher than normal. I got my stereo installed into the new car, and then, a couple weeks after I bought it, the part that unlocks the back hatch needed to be replaced (which is nothing compared to the engine that needed to be replaced, three weeks after I bought the other car). I saved a lot of money because a friend was able to do both those things for me – but combined with everything else, I’ve been dealing with just a lot of little financial hits that have been adding up. My savings account has taken a blow, and my credit card has absorbed the rest – which is not the position I want to be in.

This sort of stuff can happen to anyone, but right now, it’s a massive stress that I don’t need in my life. The spending ban steps in to help me reassess my finances, balance my budget, and refocus on my financial priorities.

How This Works

Basically, from July 1 until December 31, I’m only buying things on the approved spending list. This covers a pretty wide range of things so I shouldn’t feel too deprived. Oh yeah, I may have forgotten to mention that I already started this…

What I Can Buy

What counts as “approved spending”? Well, consumables are obviously at the top of the list – food and gas. I’m also allowing myself to continue buying fresh flowers, because having a vase full of flowers makes me happy, Pet supplies are on the list – Hope isn’t going to have to go without her favorite bones to gnaw on just because I don’t want to spend money. I’m allowing myself to buy some new jeans (I’ll need them this fall and winter), any supplies I need for work, my music lessons, or ongoing house projects, new running shoes, and possibly a new-to-me couch if I find a good deal. I am also allowing myself to buy items for craft projects if there is a specific item I need and nothing I already have will work as a substitute – but honestly, the “crafting” side of me has become more and more a part of my “fantasy self.”

I’m allowing myself to purchase gifts for other people, and I can still go out to dinner – provided I’m eating with other people. No more snagging fast food for dinner because I don’t want to cook. This is kind of a bummer because there’s a pretty good Chinese place a few minutes from my house, but it’s meant to make me focus more on meal planning and preparing things ahead of time. I’m also allowing myself to buy experiences – if I want to go out to the movies with friends, I can (which is basically necessary since “Star Trek Beyond” and “Rogue One” are both coming out in this time period).

If I find something else I think I might like, it’ll go on my “after the spending ban” list. There are a couple things I put on my initial “approved purchases” list that I changed my mind on – a workout routine from someone I really like, and another kayak. While I would enjoy the workout routine, I have a gym membership and the internet is full of videos on working out, so I really don’t need to spend my money on something that (let’s be honest) I’m not going to use. I’d like to buy another kayak is so I would have a second one to share with a friend – but since I couldn’t afford one until this summer was over anyway, it might as well go on my list of things to get next year.

What Are My Goals?

This is definitely something I’m using as a tool to help me accomplish some goals. I’m really using this to help me keep track of my spending and improve my budgeting. I’m also hoping to get my emergency fund back up to $1000 and to pay off my credit card (which only has a $500 limit anyway). I think these should be pretty achievable.

My biggest goal, however, is to stop stressing over money. I’ve already got a bunch of gray hairs popping up, this doesn’t need to add to them.

Where Did I Get This Idea?

A couple bloggers I’ve read for a while have both done shopping bans – Cait Flanders and The Nife En L’Air. Cait’s shopping ban guide was particularly helpful.

Looking Ahead and How You Can Help…

I’m going to post monthly check ins on how I’m doing, where things are difficult, and if I make any “whoops” purchases. In the meantime – please feel free to cheer me on! I’m putting this out there on this blog (and sharing it on my personal Facebook page) because I want to have some accountability.

I think that covers everything. My first check in will be in early August. We’ll see how this has gone at that time!

Summer 2016 Goals


I figured out a while ago that one of the worst bits of getting older is that time keeps speeding up. Seriously, how is it June?!

I had typed up another post that I was going to put up today, but halfway through I realized it was so boring, I didn’t even want to read it, so instead I’m throwing up some of my summer goals.

Get a new car

This wasn’t in my original gameplan for a while. Less than a month after I bought my current vehicle, a teensy tiny little bolt fell off. Unfortunately it fell into just the right spot to blow up my engine – so my dad wound up taking out a loan so I could get a new engine. My plan, because of this, was to drive my car until the original loan was paid off, and the engine loan was paid off. Unfortunately, it has developed a severe case of oil leaking. I went through an entire quart of oil in a day. A day. The estimate from the mechanic is about $1,000 to fix the oil leak. This doesn’t include the power steering leak, the suspension problems, the broken power seat control, the fact that the A/C needs recharged, or little things like the fact that someone did muffler work on it at one point, and instead of cutting the hole for the O2 sensor, they just cut the wires – so you literally can’t shut the “check engine” light off. Since I don’t want to take out a loan to fix the oil leak when there is so much wrong with it, I’m planning on selling it for what I have remaining on the loan, plus a few hundred extra to cover the taxes on my next car. Someone else can fix it. My major task, then, is going to be looking for a new car, hopefully by the end of the month.

Continue decluttering

I’m getting to a point where it’s increasingly hard to find things to get rid of, which is awesome. I went through a couple boxes of old keepsakes I had brought from my parents’ house – many of which had no actual sentimental value to me. I find it hard to get excited about old stained baby clothes, and after years in the summer heat of my parents’ attic, anything with elastic was ruined anyway. There are a lot of items I simply don’t have a sentimental attachment to – so those went in the giveaway box or the trash, depending on their condition. I also had a massive amount of old newspapers, mostly revolving around horse racing’s Triple Crown, and while it was fun (and a little heart-breaking) to read about Barbaro’s Preakness chances again, those wound up in the recycling. My main dilemma, right now, is I have some really nice things I’d like to sell – so I might have to see about listing them on eBay or something.

Do the boring housework

I really dislike painting. I also dislike the fact that two-thirds of one wall in my kitchen is the green shade it’s supposed to be, and the rest is still red/yellow from the previous owners. I need to suck it up and continue painting my house…it’s just so boring. I also have to clean my gutters and power wash the siding. Home ownership is not for the lazy.

Complete a spending fast

So far this month, I haven’t really done any unnecessary spending. Since I’m going to have to buy another car, I need to save as much money as possible – so I’m working this into a formal spending fast. I’m hoping this will help me with re-evaluating my budget as well.

Keep having experiences

This month, I’m spending two weekends at the local Renaissance fair (I’ve been on cast for the last several years, and it’s always so much fun!) and going down to the water park in Branson for a day with a friend and her two daughters. Next month, I’m going floating on one of my favorite rivers with my parents and some family friends – and I really just want to break out the kayak for some more floating in general. I really want to focus on having as many great experiences as I can this summer.

That’s most of my summer goals wrapped up – who else has got some?

How I Accidentally Became a Minimalist

How I Accidentally Became a Minimalist

I remember the first time I heard about minimalism. It was probably about 2008; I was in college, procrastinating taking a study break, and I clicked on StumbleUpon, which took me to an article talking about a guy who lived with less than 100 things. “I could never do that,” I thought, shuddering at the thought. Holy cow, this guy was crazy. Note to self: stay away from anyone calling themselves a minimalist. 

Fast forward to the end of 2013. I had rented a house with my best friend/former college roommate. She had some sort of mental crisis and wound up quitting her job and moving back to Oklahoma. I instantly felt like I’d been caught up in a tornado and Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. There was no way I could afford the house by myself, and she was literally the only person I was willing to be roommates with – I had terrible luck with roommates (it gave me some hilarious stories, but terrible, terrible luck). For the next week, it felt like I could barely breathe. My mind was in a constant state of panic. Eventually we settled on an agreement and the panic subsided into mere constant stress and worry. What if a check bounces? What if I can’t afford utilities? What if I have to sue her? What if I have to declare bankruptcy? I’ll lose my job if I have to declare bankruptcy! I spent months in this state. On a scale of one to ten, my stress was never below a seven – and not only was I stressed about my finances, I had lost my best friend. Circumstances in my life were perfectly lined up to let me discover the concepts of minimalism and simple living, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

By August 2014, we made an arrangement with the landlord – I would transfer the lease to a smaller house I could afford on my own, she would be dropped from the lease. Of course, this meant I had to move – and not only did I have to deal with all of my stuff, I had to deal with all of her stuff too. When she had moved, she’d left behind anything she didn’t want, and I found myself sorting through furniture, old CDs, clothing, and lots of trash.

I decided to hold a garage sale. I picked out everything I thought could sell. I began to throw my own things in as well. I remember the moment which was the distinct turning point for me – I was holding a cute filing rack I had gotten from Target. It was yellow, and it held hanging folders that were blue and green stripes. I picked it up and decided I’d add it to the sell pile. I’ve never used this, I thought. At least it was only $5. As I looked around the room, it suddenly occurred to me – how many other things did I have that I didn’t use that were “only” $5? What could I have done with that money instead?

I began decluttering like my life depended upon it, getting rid of a lot of my things and continuing even after I moved. I wound up discovering sites like Becoming Minimalist and Zen Habits and realized I was able to attach the word “minimalism” to what I was doing. Without knowing what was happening, I had become the crazy person!

After I’d moved into my new house, I would pull out an item as I unpacked a box and think why did I pack this? I don’t even use it! I began to put all the items I didn’t use into the spare bedroom.

By the time I moved again, a year later, I had packed my spare bedroom full of things I didn’t use, and I had an even bigger garage sale. When it was done, I filled the back of my SUV and made four trips to the thrift store, taking everything that hadn’t sold. I have no way of knowing, but I suspect I got rid of probably 50% of my belongings between the two moves.

A view of my spare bedroom, full of items.
My spare bedroom, just prior to garage sale #2. I kept three things in this picture. The cat was one of them.

Decluttering is a process I’m still working on today – I’m always looking for items in my house that aren’t getting used. I still hang on to portions of my fantasy self, convinced that I will have time to do everything I want to do. There’s a massive load of things waiting to be donated in my garage, and a smaller pile in my spare room of nicer items or some vintage items I want to sell on Craigslist or Etsy. I have to remind myself sometimes that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Living this way seems to have had some interesting side effects. I feel much more centered, mentally, than I ever did before. My house is cleaner. I started recycling and pursuing greener alternatives in my life. My spiritual life is stronger than it’s been since I was a teenager. I feel like I’ve really gotten to know who I am as a person – and I love it! What was easily the most stress-filled episode of my entire life has put me on a path where I’m much happier as a result. I can’t imagine what life would be like if I still owned all that stuff.

A visit to Rocky Ridge


The farmhouse at Rocky Ridge
The farmhouse at Rocky Ridge

On April 22, I was fortunate enough to get to drive an hour east of Springfield to Mansfield. Mansfield is a small town with almost nothing to distinguish it from most of the other small towns in rural Missouri. It’s eleven miles to the nearest Walmart, if that helps give an idea of what it’s like.

Please note though, I said it has almost nothing. As in, there is something – and that something is Rocky Ridge Farm.

Rocky Ridge isn’t much of a farm anymore. Over a century ago, they had apple trees (a surprisingly hard crop to grow in this area, as a late freeze could mean you’re done before you get started for the year), Morgan horses, and chickens. Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Wilder lived there with their daughter, Rose, until Rose left for life as a writer in a big city. They lived in a big white farmhouse Mr. Wilder had built by hand, upgrading it bit by bit from a ramshackle log cabin that had been there when they had moved to the area and purchased the land with all of their earthly belongings in a covered wagon.

Rose encouraged her mother to write the stories of her childhood down, and eventually helped her with editing and getting them published. And thus, one of the greatest children’s authors of all time was created – Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her first book, “Little House in the Big Woods,” was an almost instant success, and it and her other books, detailing her stories from growing up, would go on to become classics.

I could go on and on about how much I love Laura Ingalls Wilder – but instead, I want to share my experience with you of getting to visit her house for the opening day of the new museum.

It was as gorgeous a spring day as anyone could ask for – sunny and the temperature in the low 70s. I enjoyed the drive out there, although generally I think Highway 60 is one of the most boring highways around. It’s just driving through various small towns, although if you keep an eye out around Seymour you may spot an Amish buggy or two.

I arrived a little late, and I missed the opening ceremony. As I parked, people were still milling around outside the museum itself. The new museum is built to look like a barn that used to be on the site. It sits just a short walk from the house, down the hill. I was so excited to get inside I didn’t get the opportunity to take a picture of what it looked like, but take my word for it – it fits the setting well.

The "Little House" books in various translations

Admission into the museum was free for opening day, which I appreciated. It’s normally $14 for an adult, which may seem a bit pricey, but if you’re a fan of the books it’s well worth it – although even if you are a fan, you’ll want to read the books again before you go (I’d recommend reading at least “On The Banks of Plum Creek,” “Little Town on the Prairie,” and “These Happy Golden Years,” as I think you’d recognize the most from those books). The museum is funded by the admission fees and donations, so you’re helping continue the legacy (I wound up putting the money I would have spent on admission into the donation box).

The new museum is larger than the previous museum. The previous museum was built in 1971. It’s clearly a product of the era, a squat, windowless, brown building, just a few feet away from the back door of the farmhouse. I think it’s a bit of a blot on the landscape, so I was thrilled to find out the ultimate goal is to demolish the old museum building, along with the curator’s house/former gift shop (built 1963), and restore the area around the farmhouse to the way it would have looked when Laura and Almanzo lived there. They’ve already built a large chicken coop (sans chickens, at this point) and have several apple trees planted.

Once you’ve paid your admission and walked into the museum, you find yourself in a room with a video talking about Laura’s life. Since it was so active and there were so many people around, I chose to skip the video, walking into the display area instead.

It’s set up with a timeline, and with cases dedicated to various family members of Laura’s – you can see Ma’s beautiful handwriting where she had inscribed a book she owned, beadwork made by Mary, pages from Carrie’s autograph book (with names you will recognize from the books; it’s amazing to see the signatures of these real people who, previously, have just been characters in a book). Of course, Pa’s fiddle is one of the first things on display. Perhaps someday, I’ll be a competent enough violinist to give it a try myself? (I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a dream of mine…)

Pa's fiddle
Pa’s fiddle (please excuse the glare on the glass)

As you proceed around the room, you’ll see so many objects related to the books and the people described in them – a trunk belonging to Almanzo’s sister, Eliza Jane, the lace Ida Brown pressed into Laura’s hand just before Laura married Almanzo, the lap desk Laura described in her journal when the Wilders moved to Missouri (published as “On The Way Home”). It’s truly interesting to see these items, which would be interesting to a history buff such as myself anyway, and be able to connect them with the events and people described in the books.

There are also manuscripts for some of the books themselves, along with a corner dedicated to Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was a popular author in her day, although her legacy has faded since then and she is now known primarily for being the daughter of the person who wrote the “Little House” books.

By the way – prior to taking any pictures, I looked for a sign that said photography was not permitted, but I didn’t see one. I took some pictures of a few items before talking to someone working there who told me that photography wasn’t permitted, but she said it was all right, as people had been taking pictures all day – but I did stop taking pictures after that point. The idea is to get you to come see these things in person, which I wholeheartedly agree with.

The china box Laura received for Christmas in "On The Banks of Plum Creek"
The little china box Laura received for Christmas in “On The Banks of Plum Creek”

After touring the museum, I walked up the hill to the area of the farmhouse, where the rest of the program was getting started. I arrived just in time to hear William Anderson start speaking. He’s a prominent author in the Laura Ingalls Wilder field. He read a selection from his newest book, “The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder.” This was followed by a talk from Pamela Smith Hill, who annotated “Pioneer Girl,” the original manuscript written by Wilder, which was unexpectedly popular when it was released in 2014. Pamela Smith Hill discussed how Laura had inspired her to become a writer, and how Laura’s work had essentially created the field of young adult fiction. She also described about how Laura wrote herself as a flawed character, which helped add to the popularity of the series, stating “It’s Laura’s flaws that make her believable, genuine, and ultimately, timeless.” This section of the program was followed up by a surprise dedication of the new museum to Mrs. Jean Coday, director of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association, and someone who had spent years working to preserve Laura’s legacy.

I had just enough time at the end to tour the farmhouse. It’s such an interesting experience to see the place where the books were written. There are other objects you can connect to books – the clock Almanzo traded a load of hay for still sits on the shelf in the dining room. By this point, most of the people had already left, so I got to take a moment to stand alone in the room with the little desk where Laura did most of her writing, and look out the window to see the same view she would have seen.

A portion of the new museum's main display area.
A portion of the new museum’s main display area.

To end the day, I chose to go by the Mansfield cemetery, where Laura, Almanzo, and Rose are buried. The cemetery is down a dead-end road, and their graves are easy to spot even without the signs helpfully pointing them out. I spent a few moments there, noticing that there was a number of pens laid down at the base of the marker. It was a peaceful end to the day.

As for this post, the best conclusion I have for it is to quote William Anderson’s closing remarks from that day.

“Come again, and bring your friends and family. You’re always welcome at Rocky Ridge Farm.”

Rocky Ridge hosts Wilder Days on the third weekend in September. If you’re in the area, this is a great time to check it out!


Visit >> The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum

On Imposter Syndrome and My Why

I will have pictures with every post. Sometimes they will have no relevance and be here just because I like them. Because daffodils are pretty.

I’ve been hesitant to get this blog back up and running.

Lately, I’ve been trying to be more self-aware about my thoughts and feelings, so when I realized there was a hesitancy there, I explored that. I think it comes down to this: there are so many people shouting out what you should be doing with a blog – and I’m not interested in that.

“Make it shareable!” “Is your content SEO friendly?” “If you want it to be successful on Pinterest it must have a vertical image!” “Monetize!” “Use the social media platforms that get the most traffic!” “Starting a blog will lead you to being able to be self-employed!” “You have to post on a regular schedule!”

The internet was telling me all these things I should do – and I didn’t want to do any of them. I don’t even want to be self-employed. I like my job, I like my co-workers, and I like knowing my paycheck will be a minimum amount and it’ll be in my account every other week.

Then I was looking at the other simple living and minimalism bloggers out there. Joshua Becker, Leo Babauta, Courtney Carver, Ryan Nicodemous and Joshua Fields Millburn. Read enough minimalism blogs and you instantly know who these people are, what blogs they have, and what led them to minimalism. How can I compete with someone who gave up a six-figure job because it wasn’t making him happy? Or someone who had that profound realization that he was so busy cleaning and organizing his stuff, he had no time to play with his four-year-old son?

What can I say that means anything? I’m not even a very good minimalist. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff, and will continue to get rid of more, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say I’ve got x number of things. I don’t own a lot of clothing, but I own at least seven coats and jackets, and five pairs of boots, seven if you include my hiking and riding boots. I own a salad spinner – what’s minimalistic about a salad spinner?!

Oh yes, the imposter syndrome was strong.

But as I fretted over this, I went back to the reason why I wanted to write this blog in the first place – it’s not for the fame (although the vain part of my soul would like to point out that I wouldn’t mind a little fame…). It’s not for the ability to see my posts all over Pinterest, or spend my days off moderating Facebook comments. It’s not so that I can quit my job and be my own boss. It’s not so I can show off my perfectly curated life, because my life is messy and imperfect and I love it that way. It’s not so I can get companies to send me free stuff, because I recognize that I have enough stuff (but if anyone wants to give me a new couch…let’s talk, because my couch could stand to be replaced).

It’s because writing – no matter what kind – is as important to my soul as breathing is to my body. Because I’m constantly scribbling down ideas and I need an outlet to let them out there. Because I’m a smart, confident woman, who has been learning to enjoy the life she has and take delight in it, and if any of the words I have to say can possibly help someone else do the same thing – why wouldn’t I say them?!

I can’t let fear hold me back.

I’m not going to actively push my blog. I’m not going to monetize it. I’m not going to say I have to write x number of posts a week. I’m not going to worry if the image is shareable. In fact, I just deleted my Facebook page, so that’s one less thing I have to worry about.

I will add some social media sharing buttons, so if you find something you really enjoy, or you know someone who can relate to something I wrote, you can share it. Because helping people is always a big deal to me. If I can help someone, that makes it worth it.

I won’t guarantee that this is how this will be forever. I might change my mind down the road. It’s my blog, so that’s my choice.

Most importantly – I will write. Because I need to.

Review: Marie Kondo’s “Spark Joy”

sparkjoyIf there were a Bible among the simple-living and minimalism community, one of the strongest contenders for the title would probably be “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

Since it was published in 2014, Marie Kondo’s guide to “tidying” – decluttering the things that don’t “spark joy” and organizing the rest of what you have – has been all over the place. Magazines have published excerpts. Blog after blog has reviewed it. You can hardly scroll through Pinterest without it popping up. People have talked about the success they’ve had applying the “KonMari” method and where Marie Kondo was already popular in her native Japan, now she is a name known worldwide.

Which is why I was really, really excited when I was able to get her new book, “Spark Joy,” from Blogging For Books.

“Spark Joy” is billed as “an illustrated master class on the art of organizing and tidying up” on the cover. It serves as a sequel to “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” with Kondo warning in the introduction that you shouldn’t read it unless you are “committed to the once-in-a-lifetime special event of tidying up” and states that if you aren’t, you need to go back and read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” again.

The book starts off with a brief summary of the KonMari method (tidy by category, not room; do it all at once), defines the difference between “tidying” and “cleaning,” then jumps into what I believe would be the biggest question for most people – what’s “joy”? How do you know what items spark joy unless you know what joy is? Kondo gives examples of how to define what items bring joy.

Kondo describes the book as an “encyclopedia” of tidying, and I think that’s an apt description. It covers a lot of topics, such as how to deal with essential things that don’t spark joy, such as screwdrivers or a pair of scissors; how people deal with items that bring them joy, but may be of little or no practical use; and Kondo’s own experience with the often-repeated advice “if you aren’t sure you need it, put it in a box and reevaluate it in three months,” and why that didn’t work for her.

I found the illustrations helpful, particularly the ones on how to fold things – I’m a visual learner, so seeing what she means when she describes how to fold things a particular way makes a lot of sense. The further you get into the book, the more illustrations there are, which made me laugh, honestly; it’s almost as if someone remembered, “Oh, wait, this is supposed to be illustrated!”

Something I really enjoyed was when she was talking about sorting books, there was a sidebar about having the kind of books that match your personality, which is something I haven’t considered before. “What kind of books would you want in your bookcase to reflect the kind of person you aspire to be?” Kondo asks. I’ve been a bibliophile my whole life, but I’ve never thought about what the books I own say about me.

Just like when I read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” I found myself making notes while I was reading this book – especially the sections on tidying kitchens. There are some really good points and great ideas scattered throughout.

There are two negatives to this book. The first is that Kondo does a lot of anthropomorphizing of objects; for example, saying that it’s “cruel” to store socks balled up. This is something that happened a lot in her first book too, and I’m going to chalk it up largely as a cultural difference, since the Japanese culture tends to have a higher reverence for objects. The second negative is, this might make you hungry. She describes storage in terms of a bento box, and folded underwear as shaped like a spring roll. Items are described as sushi rolls or roll cake. I really love Japanese food though, so maybe that’s just me!

If you’re well into your decluttering journey, this book will probably be an interesting read that may give you a few ideas. If you’re just starting, I would definitely recommend reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” first. If you’ve begun to declutter and you want to build some momentum – this is a great book to help do that.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for review.


Déjà vu, much?

If you’re feeling like this was something you’ve already seen – well, you have. Unfortunately, due mostly to ineptitude on my part while changing hosting companies, I had to recreate my entire blog. This honestly does not bother me – it’s like clearing out the clutter! I was already planning to delete a lot of older posts anyways. I’m excited to show you guys what I have coming up – lots of great topic ideas!