Monday, 4 July 2016

5 Lessons from Marie Kondo and Madam Chic

I've been reading a lot of non-fiction recently in this round-about way of searching for (for lack of a better/more apt term) mindfulness. This unconscious quest has led me to read "Quiet" by Susan Cain, a book about introverts. I wish I had found this book as a child; it would have put me at such ease to know that wanting to stay home and read, or just have solo time, instead of going out was okay... that I wasn't lame, or a loser, or had no friends, etc. I love this book so much I asked for it for my birthday just so I could always have a copy. I plan to have a copy in every one of my classrooms so it can potentially fall into the right hands and help someone out.

"Quiet" is not what I wanted to talk about today (wait until I re-read it, then I'll write a post about it). In my quest to become a fully functioning adult, I came across Marie Kondo's "Spark Joy" which, Konmari Methodhype aside, is a wonderful book. Not only did her advice radically improve how I organize my house (yay!), but the way she writes is so cute and so calming, I took to reading it when I was stressed out by assignments just to calm down.

I don't know how I came across the "Lessons from Madam Chic" series by Jennifer L. Scott, but I quickly devoured all three of them in a week, searching for tips. While I do not 100% agree with everything Scott writes -- as much as I'd love to believe it, I know for a fact that no apron, regardless of how pretty, would protect my clothes from getting paint on them when I paint. There is paint on all of my clothes somewhere -- both Kondo and Scott come down to the same points:

  1. Today is a special occasion!

    I really like this principle. Both Kondo and Scott talk about making every moment count. Do you have dishes or fancy cloth napkins that you dream about using one day? Use them today! Make today that special occasion because it is a special occasion!

    Special Meals: According to Scott, French people always sit down for a meal; C'est n'est pas chic to eat breakfast on the go! Whenever possible, sit down when you're eating and enjoy it! What we put into our bodies has a huge impact on our health and well being, so we should take a moment to even recognize what we're eating.


  2. Only keep things that are in good condition.

    As a poor student, I struggle with this one. It can be really hard to not hold onto things when you never know when you might need it, or you tell yourself that you'll fix it one day, or use it in a project. There are lots of ways you can figure out what you do not use: the flipped hanger method, the box method, or just plain old reflecting on your daily life. If you haven't used it in 6 months, give it away. Relax! If you find you need it again down the road, you can buy another one new, find one at a thrift store, or maybe even trade something for one.

    I'll get into this more in item #5, but if you have white shirts that aren't so white anymore, or socks with holes in them, or shirts with paint on them (guilty!), or face clothes with mascara stains, if budget allows, get rid of them and replace them. Or set a goal to mend those socks by the end of the week, or else toss them. To put it in an extreme way, part of viewing every day as a special occasion means valuing yourself and respecting yourself enough to only give yourself the best.

    I find this step is really helpful for making you feel more like a real adult with a real adult home. I was at a friend's childhood home recently and scoured it to find out what exactly about this house made it feel like a real, accomplished adult home? The answer: things in good condition that matched! Something as simple as hand towels that match makes a big difference.  


  3. Only keep what you love.

    Marie Kondo's whole book revolves around this idea: Only keep things that "spark joy" within you. This principle definitely motivated me to donate some of those articles of clothing that I have hauled from apartment to apartment but never wear... and when I do wear it, I hate how I feel in it. Why would anyone keep clothes that make them feel like that?

    I think that if you follow Kondo's message and only surround yourself with things that make you smile, things that you truly love, then your home will be your favourite place in the world. I gave Kondo's "Spark Joy" to a dear friend as a Bon Voyage present when she headed off to Korea to teach English for a year because I think that creating a home-away-from-home that is full of things that bring you joy would really help with homesickness. (Also, Kondo's way of folding clothes makes your suitcase fit WAY more items than before. Not only that, if you only have clothes that you love, it's a lot easier to decide what to bring in the first place, I find).

  4. Think of your future self!

    Think about future you. I don't mean five years into the future you, but tomorrow morning future you. When I am dead tired and just want to go to sleep, I force myself to make lunch for "Future Leslie" and in the morning, I say "Thank-you, Past Leslie!" My boyfriend always laughs at me when I do this, but it really works for me. I'm really appreciative of my past self, because no matter how much I try, Future Leslie will be running out the door and is so thankful that Past Leslie made lunch the night before.

    Kondo promises that a decluttered home will make cleaning a joy (huh?). Scott talks about adding a 15 minute tidy into your pre-bed routine. I haven't quite got the tidying down yet, but I do see the benefits. A clean home makes me so happy and I try to remind myself of that whenever I shy away from tidying up the living room, or am tempted to let my clean laundry sit there instead of putting it away. I like to think about Future Leslie, waking up to a clean house, which I find make mornings feel that much sweeter.

  5. Put your best face forward.

    What's that old adage: "Always wear clean underwear in case you get hit by a bus"? As odd as it sounds, it's a good way to live your life. Always be the best you can be. Don't panic! That doesn't mean spending hours on hair and make-up before leaving the house, it just means a little easy upkeep. Figure out what works for you. I for one never leave the house without quickly wiping on some eyeliner and mascara. You never know who you will meet! The man of your dreams, you future boss, your mortal enemy from high school... Think about what you would want to be wearing in those hypothetical situations, and then figure out how you can make it a daily reality. I'm not saying that you should become horribly vain and primp all the time... it's just that life's too short not to be fierce on a daily basis. ;)

    I think this idea is super important for someone who is in their 20s, but can benefit everyone. You never know who you will run into, who you will meet, and when you will meet them again (or have to work with them again!). Be kind, be courteous, be polite, and don't leave the house in your pyjamas! 

While there are some things that I don't quite jive with in both books --- like Scott's belief that you should make your home less comfy and more like a nicely furnished waiting room to discourage slumping, slouching and snacking --- I will say that I am glad that I read them and the change they have inspired really has made a difference. I'm not quite where I'd like to be as far as maintaining balance and happiness, but I feel like I'm getting pretty damn close.

Have you read Lessons from Madam Chic or Spark Joy? What did you think about them? Have they changed your life? Have the habits and organizational techniques stuck?

If you have any self-help/life-hack type books that you love, please share them in the comments below! I'm a sucker for these kind of books and am dying to read more.

Have a great day everyone!

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