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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo

iconiconI wouldn’t normally buy a book about tidying up, but everywhere I’ve turned recently people seem to be gushing about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying or the KonMarie Method, so I thought that with a baby arriving this month it might be worth a read.

It’s a very short read but as for being a “simple, effective way to banishing clutter forever”? I’m not convinced. And that’s before you get to her claims that it helps her clients lose weight, improve their skin and transform their careers…

Firstly, I found her constant repetition of the phrase “putting your house in order” really disconcerting. I’m not sure whether that’s been translated literally from the original Japanese or poorly translated by someone who isn’t familiar with every day English, but whenever someone talks about putting their house in order in my experience, they are usually referring to putting their affairs in order before they die. So far, so bleak.

I disliked the fact that the KonMarie method focuses on throwing out anything that doesn’t “spark joy”. The author writes with pride about the hundreds of 45 litre rubbish bags her clients have thrown out, the never worn clothes that have gone to the bin and how her clients have learned to eagerly await the arrival of the bin men… it all sounded incredibly wasteful. While I appreciate the need for a good declutter now and again (we’ve taken a lot to the charity shop and put it on ebay while getting the house baby ready), nothing in the book seems to get recycled, just binned. And she has a real fixation with binning. It’s like a one woman crusade to promote landfill.

As a book lover, I think her attitude towards books was the worst for me. Not only does she encourage her clients to throw out any books they don’t truly or deeply love but she counsels people that they are burdening and oppressing their families by passing on the items that they no longer want to them. I can’t speak for all readers, but I love it when a friend or family member passes on a bag of books that I haven’t read to me. And she advises people to keep their bookshelves out of sight in wardrobes, where you should also store such items as wedding albums, souvenirs and mementoes… if you insist upon keeping these, she’d really rather you didn’t.

I admit, I’m probably not Kondo’s target reader, but I have to say, I struggled to understand the deep admiration that fills most of the writing you will read about her. Instead, I was left with a deep concern for her wellbeing. Kondo seems to eagerly reminisce about how she started reading her mother’s lifestyle magazines at the age of five, before taking up compulsively cleaning the family home every evening after school. Throwing away her parents’ and siblings’ possessions if she felt they weren’t in frequent enough use. She recounts one occasion on which she had a kind of breakdown on the bedroom floor at not being able to get her room clean enough for her liking and heard a disembodied voice talking to her… throughout the whole book it seems as though she uses a need to tidy as a way of avoiding living life in the outside world speaking very critically of her family (she admits towards the end of the book that her issues with tidying may relate to her relationship with her mother). And really, what kind of family sees the older brother allowing his little sister to declutter his bedroom? Just weird.

I got the impression that Kondo’s insistence upon treating objects as people, thanking them for their day’s service, unpacking your handbag to allow it to relax after a hard day, holding them to feel whether there is a “spark” between you suggests she’s more comfortable with things than real life. While Kondo’s ritual cleaning of her handbag into specially constructed drawer compartments every evening might be viewed as eccentric, her storage of dishes on the veranda throughout the day sounds unhygienic to me (pollution? wildlife?) and as for her suggestion that shampoo bottles need to be towel dried after each use to prevent them becoming slimy… I can’t imagine wanting to live with someone who allows their surrounding to exert such control over their everyday life and happiness. Life is too short.

So while lots of people have fallen under the spell of the KonMarie method, I politely decline to jump on the bandwagon, preferring to sit in one of my reading nooks with a good view of my heaving bookshelf, mantelpiece and walls which are covered in family photos because that sparks joy in me.

For images of a client’s room before and after the KonMarie method see this Guardian article. Personally I think the before image looks more interesting… the after is like a room in a nursing home…

Getting on trend with a #shelfie

Good morning all, it’s currently ten minutes to six in the morning and I have been awake since 3:30 am thanks to some idiot screaming, “Ian!!!” outside my bedroom window for far too long. To distract myself from the dark thoughts that I have been having about whoever Ian and his would-be hailer were, I’ve decided to get in on the Shelfie act that my friends keep telling me about and share with you a shelfie of my living room bookcase the dining room and landing you don’t get to see because we’re decorating so they are piled with all kinds of non-book nonsense.

Shelfie

My all time favourite personal shelfie (yes, I may have taken more than one) is this one I took in 2008 when my boyfriend and I had just moved in together and my very literary guinea pig decided that he had a new favourite hangout.

Guinea pig shelfie

Save Money on Books – Tips for Cheaper Reads

Untitled design
Let’s face it, books aren’t cheap and they can really hit your pocket if you buy a lot of them. A few years ago I posted some eco-cheap tips about how you could read more, spend less and save the world but given the current financial climate and some extra tips I’ve learned in the three years I’ve been blogging since I decided this didn’t go far enough. So if you consider books to be luxuries rather than essentials, here are my top money-saving tips for you.

 Borrow and Swap

1. Libraries

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- making use of your public, school or university library is probably the easiest way to get hold of the books you want for free. Sign up for a library card and you can rent a selection of books (and DVDs, and CDs) for weeks at a time, just make sure that you renew or return by the due date to avoid fines. My local library has a great community of readers around it and hosts storytelling, author talks and reading groups so it can work wonders for your social life as well. Bonus point of libraries- authors receive a royalty for books loaned through libraries, so even if you aren’t able to support your favourite author by buying their books, you are still supporting them by reading them.

 

2. Set Up a Swap Table

At work we have a swap table where you can leave your books when you’ve finished reading them and pick up a new book in exchange. This doesn’t even need to be limited to books. Our table is fairly book dominated because of the nature of the publishing industry, but I’ve also seen CDs, DVDs, cake and in the summer a glut of allotment fruit and vegetables. It has all the benefits of swapping with a friend of family member but with much greater variety, and you can spring clean your bookshelves and know that your unloved paperbacks are going to a good home.

 

3. Ask a friend for their book

If you see a friend reading an interesting looking book, don’t be afraid to ask to borrow it. It’s always nice to see what you’re friends think of a book that you’ve loved (or hated) and it will help you bond over a shared interest. I love lending my friends my books as I know they always pass on something exciting in return.

 

4. Book Mooch

If you aren’t able to set up a swap table in work and your friends aren’t big readers, then there are great websites like BookMooch that allow you to swap with readers all over the world for the cost of postage. Though you do have to be patient while you wait for the book you want to appear, there is an immense sense of satisfaction in hunting down that little gem. It is especially good for classics such as The Great Gatsby or set study texts and you can decide where you’re willing to send the books, though you do get more points if you’re willing to agree to international swaps.

 

Beg

5. Make the most of wishlists for Christmas and Birthdays

If you’re a reader on a budget and you aren’t making use of some kind of wishlist for birthdays and Christmas then you need to start, pronto. My boyfriend always asks for a wishlist for my birthday and Christmas (they’re exactly a fortnight apart and he panics) so I always stick a few books on my list and he’ll pick a selection of them. You still get a surprise because you don’t know what you’re getting, and they have reduced pressure. There are tools for this on Amazon, Play etc. but I find it just as easy to send a polite email or text when someone asks what I would like to receive.

6. Ask for national book tokens or gift vouchers for your favourite bookshops

If you’re not sure what books you want when a big occasion is coming up, you could also ask very nicely for book tokens. I often give these to readers (my father especially) for Christmas with a stocking filler because I know he’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of a book, but I’m never sure that he hasn’t already read the book I’m picking out for him.

Buy or Acquire (for a fraction of list price)

7. Charity Shops

As well as clothes that don’t suit or fit me, I take books that I’ve read to my local charity shop to make room for replacements on my shelves. I have pretty regular clear outs (because my boyfriend complains that the house is overrun with books) and not only do I get the exercise benefits of lugging along some pretty weighty tomes on the way there, but I invariably end up finding something I haven’t read but want to. My local charity shops sell paperbacks for about 30p and hardbacks for 50p-£1 so I sometimes end up coming away with more than I’ve left.

8. Second Hand Bookshops

As with Charity Shops, second hand bookshops are a great place to search for hidden gems surrounded by likeminded people, but be warned, this can become addictive, especially if you start scouring places like Hay-on-Wye for beautiful antique books. This happened to me when I started collecting Wuthering Heights books. It may end up costing you more than you save!

9. Green Metropolis

If you are searching for a particular book but want to avoid Amazon (for whatever reason, now’s not the time for a soapbox) then Green Metropolis is a great site which allows people to sell their old books for a flat fee of £3.75 and at least 5p from each sale goes to The Woodland Trust so it boosts your eco-credentials at the same time. Green Metropolis also lets you list your old books for sale, and while you’re not going to make a huge profit when the cost of postage is deducted, you can earn a few pennies towards a new book or to cash in for real world money.

 

10. Sign up for the Newsletter

If you sign up for newsletters from your favourite publishers, they will not only send you information about new releases, but very often special offers and whopping discounts. One of my favourites is the Penguin newsletter which pretty much offers a 25% off discount code every month which I can use to treat myself or buy something nice for other readers in my life.

 

11. Make friends with your local bookshop

My local bookshop runs a loyalty scheme where I get my card stamped for every ten pounds I spend. Once I fill up my card, I get to pick a new book for free. It is addictive and I do have dreams of one day owning a gold loyalty card. It’s not just indie bookshops who do this (though obviously, it’s good to support them if you can) high street chains like Waterstones have a points based reward system which lets you spend points instead of pennies.

 

12. Electronic versions

If a book is out of copyright (usually 70 years after the death of the author, but it varies depending on international law and publishing history) then you can often find it LEGALLY free through websites like Bibliomania or Google Books. If you want to buy an eBook version of an out of copyright book, then these can often be found for nothing or next to nothing through major online bookshops, though please remember you should only do this with books that are out of copyright.

 

13. Special Occasions

Keep an eye out for special events in the reading character, like world book day or world book night. School children will be given tokens for a free book on world book day, and publishers give away millions of adult’s books for free as part of World Book Night. You can even sign up to spread the joy and hand out copies of your favourite books.

Win

14. National Book Token Competitions

Remember the National Book Tokens I was talking about earlier? Well they often run competitions in which you can win tokens to buy whatever book you fancy. Sign up to their newsletter and details will be emailed to you whenever they run a competition.

 

15. Blog Giveaways

If you follow book blogs, you’ll see that many reviewers will offer giveaways of books they’ve reviewed if they have been given an extra copy by the publisher. I sometimes run such giveaways myself and I occasionally buy books to giveaway for the occasional competition. You’ve got a better chance of winning if you know about the competitions, so keep reading those blogs!

 

16. Publisher Giveaways

As with the discounts, if you follow publishers on twitter or subscribe to their newsletter, you’ll get to hear about the competitions they are running to promote their new releases and will be in with a better chance of winning.

 

17. Foyle’s Book Game

If you’re really clever, you might be able to win the Foyle’s book game run by the London bookshop from their Twitter account each Friday, but competition is fierce and the real reward is a well-crafted book  pun.

 

Is there anything I’ve missed? What are your tips for saving money on books?

 

 

Image adapted from original by @Doug88888 under the terms of the Creative Commons License

Bookish Plants

As much as I am looking forward to Christmas, once it’s over I miss the sunlight and the spring. I’m preparing for those dark winter months between Christmas and my garden sprouting for another year by preparing some book themed flowers in my house. I know that sounds a little crackers, but it’s all in the name. My flowers will have names which associate them with paper, books, stories… etc.

So far we have (sprouting) Amaryllis Novella and Narcissi Paperwhite… ta da!

Amaryllis and Narcissi growth

Amaryllis and Narcissi growth

Amaryllis Novella

Amaryllis Novella

Narcissi Paperwhite

Narcissi Paperwhite

 

Do you know of any plants with similarly bookish names? I am planning on making my garden a nature reserve but can see potential for extending a similar theme to my borders. William Shakespeare roses for example. I’d be really grateful for any suggestions and am willing to include fruit and veg.

Feeling Christmassy at The Book and Biscuit

Yesterday we decorated the Christmas tree.

Book and Biscuit Christmas Tree

Book and Biscuit Christmas Tree

Before heading to Mostly Books, Abingdon, for some late night Christmas shopping and a spot of ginger cake.

Mostly Books Abingdon Late Night Opening

Mostly Books Abingdon Late Night Opening

Then we headed home and had a cup of tea and some Christmas biscuits before wrapping some presents with my little friends.

 

Guinea pigs are better at unwrapping than wrapping.

Guinea pigs are better at unwrapping than wrapping.

100 Artists for Literacy

 

100 Artists for Literacy

100 Artists for Literacy.

I loved the above post on Anni Cardi’s blog, which links you to a charity Doedemee selling posters of redesigned book covers to help raise money to fight illiteracy.

Guess where I’m shopping this month! I think I’ll probably get the Wuthering Heights design for myself,  because it’s completely gorgeous AND one of my favourite books.

The posters for Alice’ Adventures in Wonderland, Anna Karenina, Wind in the Willows, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atonement and Northern Lights are also amazing. I might ask for some for my birthday/Christmas.

Crochet Rainbow Reading Blanket

Sitting and reading for long periods can leave you a bit chilly in the winter, so since my last operation I’ve been making myself a crochet blanket using a pattern from a blog I found via craftgawker. It’s the first big crochet project I’ve made and, though it’s not perfect, it is cheerful and snuggly warm and perfect for cosying down in an arm-chair with a good book when it gets cold.

Winter is coming, as the Stark family are fond of saying, but I am prepared.

More Bookish Presents

As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been a bit slow to the post this month. The main reason for this is Virgin Media. Apparently they’re updating our area to broadband which is twice as fast as light soon. Sadly, this won’t matter much if their service continues to be down two weeks in every four.

Anyway, that’s why I’ve been a bit late sharing some of the lovely bookish presents I received from my family and friends this Christmas which I thought any bookworms out there might like to see. They’re pretty cute!

Alice mug

 

My friend George got me this cute mug with Alice wrestling the flamingo to play croquet. I think it might be from Whittard. It’s now my tea mug of choice, out-ranking even my Wizard of Oz mug collection.

 

 

 

 

 

Books to Check Out Journal

Jon’s mother bought me this Books to Check Out journal. It’s really handy with columns for books to read (really handy for me because I can be a bit scatty when I’m busy) and sections for favourite passages and books lent. It also has a pocket in the back which will keep my scribblings safe until I get a chance to use them sensibly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden Shred Apron

My mother bought me this apron which I guess is based on the Golden Shred marmalade campaigns of the 50s. It reminds me of the illustrations in Enid Blyton books like The Magic Faraway Tree that I read as a child. Or maybe even the Noddy books to some extent, though those were more my little sister’s thing.

 

 

 

Book and Biscuit Biscuit Tin

Perfectly matching the theme of my blog, my superhuman cousin turned up at with this amazing box of biscuits neatly wrapped just days before she went into hospital to have my gorgeous mini-cousin Cari. The biscuits quickly evaporated (how does that work, scientists?) but the box will live on forever at my desk. With helpful little snack in case I need energy to help me think.

 

 

Penguin Postcards

Last but not least were this bumper set of Penguin post cards from Jon’s sister. I’m a big fan of the Penguin look- a great design which is both classic and contemporary, they’re a publisher’s dream. I’ve been collecting some vintage look postcards for a while with a view to framing them and using them to decorate the walls. The fanned postcards are ones I’ve picked out from the set to use for this, and the rest I’ll use in my correspondence. Now to order frames. Where did I put that measuring tape?

Alice in Wonderland Inspired Gifts

Alice in Wonderland is universally popular because of the whimsy and nonsense that fill every page. It means different things to different people, but no one can deny that it is one of those stories which has sunk into the British public’s collective consciousness to the point where the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party was included as a scene in this year’s Marks and Spencer Christmas advert alongside scenes from Christmas classic film of choice The Wizard of Oz and panto favourite Aladdin. If you have an Alice in Wonderland fan in your life, they would love any of the following gifts.

 


I’d be happy to add this pretty Penguin Hardcover Classic version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to my collection. It is a work of art on the outside and is complete with the original Tenniel images.

 

 

 

 


For crafty Alice fans, Everything Alice is a must have. One of 2011’s most popular craft books there is something for everyone in this gorgeous book. Given that the Alice in Wonderland bedspread from Urban Outfitters has sold out, this will give you some good ideas for Alice in Wonderland style decor for the home.

 

 

 

Grown up Alice fans will love this too cute little Drink Me bottle from The British Library which is filled with Austrian Grüner Veltliner sparkling wine. I’m sure the wine is delicious but I want this bottle soooo much. I love trinkets…

 

 

 

 

 

And speaking of trinkets this Drink Me pocket watch is also amazing. It doesn’t scream Alice in Wonderland, so readers and non-obsessives alike will love it but it would make a nice vintage-style touch to any outfit.

 

 

 

icon
iconI really love the Alice in Wonderland afternoon tea set pieces from Mrs Moore’s Vintage store which I think were on sale at Liberty a few years ago, but this tea pot has to be my favourite piece.

 

 

 

icon
iconI’ve seen a lot of amazing Alice in Wonderland themed jewellery (I have a pretty funky Disney Couture bracelet that I bought myself in my youth…) but I have never seen a piece of Alice in Wonderland jewellery as unique as this incredibly intricate locket… a once in a lifetime present for an Alice in wonderland fan.

 

 

 

If you want to decorate your tree with a touch of Alice in Wonderland, then the British Library has an amazing set of tree decorations inspired by the stories. You can go Alice, Hatter, Cheshire Cat, Flamingo, but my favourite is this cute Smoking Caterpillar tree ornament.

I’m Addicted to Bookshelf Porn

If you’re a fan of beautiful bookshelves which are functional as well as ornamental then you have to check out Bookshelf Porn. Some are less bookshelves, more libraries, but some will work (or could be scaled down) to fit the smallest spaces ie. my flat. It’s an amazing website and everyone should check them out for some serious style inspiration. All the images below are from their fantastic website.

I could do this if I didn't need my desk for writing

I got questioned at customs for having hand luggage like this on my way to America

I have versions of this going on in my flat, much to my boyfriend’s frustration. They’re less suitable for editorial than these.

And finally, my fantasy reading seat in my future house. Do I need to have some kind of reinforcement put into the ceiling to have a chair like this? I can assure you that I’m only very small…

Proper book and biscuit porn