Marie Kondo is a 33-year-old Japanese organization consultant. She gets paid to tell people how to organize their homes and their lives. I think if we’re honest, we’ve all needed an “organization consultant” in our lives at some point. Life is busy, complicated and messy at the very same times that it is beautiful and profound. Kondo’s method of decluttering started with a little book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying—The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” It was published in the U.S. two years ago and is now an international phenomenon.
People all over the world are “kondo-ing” their homes. Kondo’s principal is simple enough—if an item doesn’t spark joy, get rid of it. The technique requires that a person touch every item and ask, “Does this spark joy?” It the answer is yes, you display or store the item properly. If the answer is no, you get rid of it. Simple.
Well, it’s simple enough for items like clothing, Tupperware, cords, or papers, but Marie doesn’t stop there. I can do that. I throw out random cords, papers, even household appliances when I am tired of them. She hits right to the core of everything southern women hold dear—books, letters, dishes and sentimental items. This is where my initial interest in Kondo became nonexistent.
I don’t know of anyone who wants a cluttered house and I am definitely impressed by the strides some of my Facebook friends have made just since starting their “Kondo New Year” on Jan. 1. I’m not going to do it. If I did, my house would be bare because it is filled with books, letters, dishes and sentimental items. When we purchased my grandparents’ home two years ago, I suddenly had two households of belongings to sort through before we moved in. I gave away a lot of things. I made multiple trips to thrift stores. By the time we moved in, I had reconciled my things with my grandmother’s things and I loved what was left. Kondo would vehemently disagree.
Kondo’s principal on items of sentimental value it this: “We live in the present. No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now is more important.” Most of the women I know would disagree. We like looking back at cards and letters that we have received through the years. It’s not something that anyone does regularly, but there’s comfort and nostalgia in it. Those things “spark joy” for me and for others. Kondo would consider the handwritten recipes of my grandmothers as clutter and I would respectfully disagree.
Another area where Kondo and I would not see eye to eye is dishes. I love them. Changing out the plates in my China hutch sparks joy! Yes, the multiple sets of dishes that I own, most of them sentimental in some way, do take up a large amount of storage space, but I have the room to store them. Therefore, they are not in the way. Kondo’s method flies in the face of the Southern tradition of using the “good plates” for the preacher or other important company. I’m fairly certain that the concept “wedding China” would be lost on Kondo and she would not encourage any new bride to register for such frivolous items. I say, if it makes you happy, register for the dishes. Use them. Display them!
I’ll respect Marie Kondo, but I’ll revere my dishes!
Fellow booklovers, the KonMarie method encourages you to get rid of unread books that are collecting dust and only keep books that “spark joy”. Kondo says that she owns only 30 books. That’s okay for her, but most bibliofiles scoff at the slight number. My recommendation is to keep your home library neat. Stacks of unused books become clutter. No one wants that, but I don’t know anyone who willingly throws out books either!
I think the bottom line is this-- your home should be a safe, clean place of retreat. Fill it with the things you love, but not to the point that you are overwhelmed or overtaken by them. Organize your sentimental treasures and put them on display. Use them in your décor rather than stuffing them in a closet.
For those who Kondo—Kondo on! I figure that Marie Kondo is going to be okay if I don’t participate in her challenge. She’s currently worth an estimated eight million dollars. I think she will be fine if I don’t buy her books or watch her show. My home with all of its dishes, books, photographs and sentimental items will remain as it is—happy, sweet and original.
It is Monday. The sun is shining and it’s 66 degrees. It’s hard for me to fathom what the weather forecasters are saying. Snow? After a day like this? They say it’s possible. The schools have already made decisions to close. I’m almost certain that there is no milk or bread in the grocery store. Why milk and bread? Why do we do that? In the event that we lose power, the milk will spoil. I guess I understand the bread. You could always make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I guess. I think if I were going to brave the store today, I’d buy flashlight batteries and maybe a new book to read if the roads are going to be closed.
Snow in this part of the world fascinates most of us. It doesn’t matter if its flurries that never hit the ground or a light dusting that covers the windshields of our cars. We tend to lose our minds, take pictures and post them on social media. Southerners are extra in so many ways and a Southern snow storm is just another way to prove it. Here are some things that we do that set us apart from areas that don’t think twice about snow.
Sad, beautiful stories
In my opinion, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is one of the most beautiful stories that has ever been written…and I have read a whole lot of stories. The original English translations of the title are “the miserable ones” and “those who are to be pitied”. The original novel in its 1,500-page unabridged format is not for the casual reader, but the stories intertwined within the novel are captivating and powerful. The stage adaptation that took Broadway by storm in 1987, continues to delight audiences as it tours around the world. This past weekend, the touring company was in New Orleans and it just so happens that my best friend, my daughter and I all received tickets for Christmas.
If you saw the 2012 film version of the musical, you were introduced to the music, the story, and the fact that Hugh Jackman is the most versatile actor in Hollywood and you were likely shocked that Russell Crowe can sing. Like some people I know, you were probably not happy with the ending. Spoiler: The majority of the people die. No matter their age, social position or accomplishment, they don’t have a “happily ever after” ending. It’s definitely not a Disney musical.
So why do people like me still spend their pretty pennies to see the “miserable ones”? Why is this show one of the top grossing Broadway shows of all time? The title even tells you that it isn’t going to end well! For one, the music is amazing. I’d pay just to go hear the score, but the vocals were impressive as well. The main reason is because of the story. The story of Jean Val Jean, released from prison after serving 5 years for stealing bread to feed his sister’s starving family and another 14 years for trying to escape, is captivating. Through many twists and turns Val Jean is shown redemption and redeems a child from a deplorable situation.
Hugo wrote his novel based on events that were taking place in Paris on 1832. Hugo was an eye witness to a small insurrection in Paris, 43 years prior to the French Revolution that made world history books. A friend to the poor and downtrodden, General Jean Maximillien LeMarque died in June 1789 and crowds gathered in the streets to accompany his hearse as it traveled to its burial place. The youth accompanying the hearse had a political agenda and wanted their voices heard. They built barricades and fought for change in their country, knowing that LeMarque’s death would change their world.
Hugo wrote Les Miserables to demonstrate the plight of the poor and social injustices within the world as he knew it. 157 years later, the stories still demand to be told. The stories of the poor. The stories of the law. The stories of the redeemed. The stories of the ones seeking to change their circumstances. The stories of the children. The stories of the parents who sacrifice. Of Les Miserables Hugo wrote, “So long as ignorance and misery remains on earth, books like this cannot be useless.” Hugo’s characters and their struggles are timeless.
I don’t know when the musical phenomena that is Les Miserables will be within my reasonably accepted driving distance for entertainment, but I will see it again. However, I will likely never get my husband to the theatre to see the stage production. He did see the Jackman/Crowe film and does agree that the film has a strong message, but to him, it’s “so depressing” and he does not understand why I insist on seeing it every time it comes near. Years ago when I had tickets and a friend who had planned to attend fell ill, I just knew Mark would go with me. Instead, he arranged a “cultural experience” for the German exchange student who was staying with some friends. Thankfully, she had read the book and the city of New Orleans is always a cultural experience, even for me!
I know it’s sad. I know the ending is never going to change. I’m still going to see it again. I’m still going to listen to the soundtrack. I’m still going to watch the movie occasionally and read the novel once a year. Why? Because I want to always be aware of those who need compassion.
Before Christmas, I bought I plague at Hobby Lobby that simply said, “Cling to what is good.” Simple black lettering on a white background—I just really liked it. I like the thought of good things happening for people. Unfortunately, we would not know good if there was no evil. This fact causes me to value the good all the more.
As I stare at the screen, I need words—something good to write about. Tensions are running high in the area right now. Recent news reports have left us reeling. We all want answers. Some think they have the answers and have taken to social media to freely share these. Many are still wondering how such alleged atrocities could even be mentioned in relation to our local schools and communities. At any rate, we are opinionated and our opinions are divisive. The last thing our community needs is division. There are lessons to be learned that can make our community safer and stronger. We need to be reminded.
We live in a good area, but it is not a bubble, secluded from crime or tragedy. Thankfully, we have competent law enforcement and first responders who know most of us by name and respond with empathy and compassion in times of need. Our rural hospitals are often scrutinized, but they have always risen to any challenge presented. Yes, drugs are a problem and our local and county agencies are combatting this problem by every means available.
Perfect schools do not exist, but our area has a wealth of quality educational facilities. Parents have a choice from several public and independent schools as well as religious-based education and home-schooling options. Students from all area high schools receive scholarships each year for their academic achievements, athletic accomplishments and artistic attainments. Our teachers are imperfect people who want to see their imperfect students become productive members of society. Parents have both a right and a responsibility to become stakeholders in their children’s schools.
Recreationally, our area offers so much! The Tombigbee River provides opportunities for boating, fishing and watersport, in addition to learning about conservation and wildlife. Hunting is extremely popular, so much that out of towners seek our area throughout the year for various hunting opportunities. Rural library programs are thriving. We have parks and pools. A day trip to Old St. Stephens and a hike along the trails or kayaking on the lake is an affordable, fun way to make good memories Admittedly, we are lacking in the arts and entertainment areas and it would be amazing to see an independent theatre open once again or maybe a bowling alley, but our local museums host events on a regular basis that are enriching and engaging.
Our local economy benefits from chemical plants, farming, steel production and other manufacturing. Yes, it has taken some big hits through the years, but the resolve of the people remains strong. In recent years, a push to shop local has made a difference in tax revenue and has kept the doors to local businesses open. Keep supporting them!
An individual who chooses to open a business, to teach, to be a physician or a nurse or to serve as a police officer in a rural area truly believes in that rural area. Training and education open doors to other areas with more resources, technology and opportunities for advancement, but it is love for and belief in small towns and rural communities that keeps these individuals there. It may be the fact that they grew up in the area, but that doesn’t mandate a return.
No, our community is not perfect. Yes, we have problems that need to be addressed. As we move forward into this brand new year and as our students return to school, may we cling to what is good, even if finding the good takes some effort on our part. May we find positive ways to be a part of the solution to make our communities safer and stronger.
Cling to what is good!
I have a fifteen-year old daughter. She is extremely talented musically and can sing every single lyric in Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.” Every. Single. Word. She knows any useless trivia that no one else would. Most days, she’s pleasant to be around and she really cares about others. I should also mention that she has lived every day of her fifteen years and seven months in the Washington County community of Frankville. Every. Single. Year.
Since she’s been raised in the country, you’d think things like possums would not cause her to come completely undone, but you’d be so wrong. I was driving to work last week when my phone rang. Her voice was frantic. “There’s a possum in the cat food on the carport. He’s huge. He’s dead and the cats are gonna starve unless D (my dad) is home.” I assured her that the possum was not dead and told her to tilt the container over until the possum ran out. We ended our call.
Not too long after getting in the office, I received a text picture of an enormous possum “dead” in the cat food. The following text said, “It HISSED at me when I tilted the can and he wouldn’t budge.” I laughed and called her.
“It was playing possum.”
“It was playing possum.”
“What? Wait? I thought this WAS a possum. Is this an armadillo?”
Seriously? You can’t script conversations with this kid and if you did, she would not follow it. I honestly don’t know how she has missed the “playing possum” idiom. I do know that she has always been very literal. For example, when she was 3, my mom handed her some money and told her to “tip the table” at Cracker Barrel. She was very upset because she didn’t want to make a mess!
I really want to create a Southern expressions test for her, just to see what she’d do! She’d likely fly off the handle or be as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Who knows? Her English grades are good, but she is lacking in good Southern expressions, God love her.
I should have realized this before now. At Thanksgiving when someone said that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, she got the most disgusted look on her face. “Who wants to catch flies? They need to go away.” We got a dirty look from her for laughing, but her thought process was funny.
She’s out of school for two weeks and I plan on limiting her Broadway playlist listening and teaching her the meanings of Southern idioms. She needs to know that when it’s flooding outside, that’s a gully washer. She needs to know that in addition to “playing,” possums grin. Mules also grin when they are eating briars through a “bob wire” fence. Thankfully to my dad, she is aware that “This ain’t my first rodeo” does not refer to cowboys.
I don’t want people to think that my kid has just fallen off the turnip truck or anything, but her reaction to the possum is putting me real close to a hissy fit! I don’t suppose I should carry on about it. We have encouraged her to be herself and not give into pressure to conform to anyone else’s perceptions, but seriously, how can you grow up in rural Alabama and not know these expressions?
At any rate, it made me laugh (and cringe) and gave me another vignette to add to Tatum’s memory book.
Bless her heart!
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.