colorless_tsukuruI picked up “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami right when it came out. I usually devour Murakami novels on my commutes, back when I lived in NYC. I don’t know whether it was this particular story or whether I lost that special time to read without carving that time out for myself again, but I just never finished that book, until now.

All of Murakami’s covers are unique, but this hardcover book had a great tactile feel and a satisfying collage image. I loved the compact little size. I am serious crushing on the aesthetics of this book. the colors used on the cover and in the story remind me of the stripe of colors of the cover of a Salinger novel.

This novel was approx. 390 pages, and a smaller novel in the vein of “After Dark.” Murakami short novels are very different from his short stories or his longer novels. I would never compare this to “Kafka On the Shore” or “IQ84″. However, I feel like it’s right to compare it to After Dark. Murakami novels get complex, but depending on the length of the work, the level of complexity varies (naturally). It’s dreamy with characters that come and go and disappear. There is a good amount of fantastical elements that make this a Murakami novel. The truth is though, his short novels always appear dreamy, like a short bittersweet dream, but never go to the abstract craziness of his longer novels. So, this tangent more or less just confirms that this novel was in the same vein of his other novels that are around this length.

The story for the most part is very settled with characters that are more or less real to the main character, with the exception of the character named Haida. Similar to earlier works, the main character is of similar age and demeanor (passive, shy/quiet, eats simple Japanese meals, etc.) as many of his other novels. He’s searching like his other characters from “Wind-up Bird Chronicle” or “Wild Sheep Chase,” just to name drop some other novels. However, unlike those earlier characters, Tsukuru us searching for a truth and his self. He’s searching for a history. It’s interesting, because his other characters in his earlier novels are searching for something similar, but it manifests as a lost best friend or lost wife. Or in the case of “Norwegian Wood,” it’s the loss of a manic pixie princess.

It ends like many other of his books. However, the realism in this book makes the ending… a little unsatisfying. There are so many unanswered questions. (One can only hope that this spans into something like the Sheep chronicles, where Sara’s history is uncovered.) This book left me wanting… more. It scratched my Murakami itch, but ultimately made it crave what he does best… which is craft long amazing tales. His strengths are still in long beautiful unconventional stories.

I read a surprisingly sad amount of books in 2013. I think I read a diet book by Tim Ferriss and the Hunger Games. Last year wasn’t much better. I don’t know when the transition happened from reading actual books to the NY Times app, Wired, and magazines each day on my subway commute. Then when I moved to Oregon, it was worse, since I no longer had a commute. I had to create time to read.

Here’s my monthly attempt at highlighting one of the books I read this month. I’m going to post once a month on something I’ve read.

konmari bookcoverIt seems like this book is everywhere right now. However, the first time I saw this was when my mother-in-law got this in her Christmas stash. She read it, and then my husband read a few chapters, and then I took it. It’s a sweet quick read, but satisfying. Since then, I’ve seen at least one XOJANE article about this.

The Konmari(e) method is basically a philosophy and system that promotes living clutter-free by only surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy, nothing less. She promotes paring down your belongings and throwing out anything that is excess. Clutter causes you to forget everything you have, and she rightly points out that sometimes that can be the huge pitfall, causing you to buy more of the same stuff because you are anxious about not having said stuff, but you were not organized enough to know how much you really have in stock. Think of that as wasteful?

The most distinct thing about this (since this is similar in vein to capsule wardrobes or other trends of minimalistic living) is the author’s reverence for objects. You would think that her distaste for clutter and fervor for throwing things out (her clients throw out 30+ bags of items, with her) would mean that she doesn’t put much value in material goods. However, even things that never had much usefulness to us, she reveres and recommends that we “thank it” for coming into our lives and for teaching us that “we did not need it.” She touts that revering homes, items, and treating everything with thoughtfulness will improve your life holistically. By the end of this book, I found myself thinking that she may be on the right track. Maybe it’s her background as a Shinto shrine maiden, this book was definitely was influenced by Shinto spirituality.

In the end, the organizing philosophy of this book can be wrapped up as, don’t keep things in your home that does not bring you joy. Find the items in your home that bring you joy, a place to be. Once that place is identified, you won’t have to tidy, because it will always go back to “it’s own place.” It’s ingenious, because she is basically tapping into the idea that people have clutter build up, because they are often not thoughtful about finding it a permanent place in the house. Without permanent thoughtful places, things float around and accumulate. In fact, if everything was organized to your liking, and once you’ve pared your items enough (so that you know everything you have and you know where it all belongs) then you will never have floating clutter again.

Oftentimes the home is neglected when thinking about personal happiness. Oftentimes I feel like we like to ignore limitations that our homes and belongings condemn us to. For example, having a clutter home or having too many belongings can get in the way of leading your ideal lifestyle. It will constantly in a nagging way be a blocker for things like, doing exercise (not enough empty floor space), doing hobbies, having people over, etc.). Oftentimes people neglect how spaces promote or hinder certain actions.

Sometimes this books veers on a little too cute and philosophical about inanimate objects. For the most part though, it was a refreshing view on the importance of objects. Unlike capsule wardrobe projects, she doesn’t limit the number of items one can keep. She just challenges you to really think about whether an item sparks joy in you.

She’s very strict about the cadence of what to do. She STRONGLY advises that you tidy all in one swoop, because motivation is a very challenging thing and doing it in small bursts will demotivate and cause you to lose steam. I agree with all of that, but I did start incorporating small changes into my drawers (during laundry, etc.) and already I can see the efficiency in the way that she folds and stores underwear and socks. I mean, I reorganized my closet and drawers motivated by her passages. I ALWAYS thought that I was running out of underwear. However, once I emptied out and rolled up each piece, I realized the clutter in my drawer kept me from really knowing how many pairs of underwear and socks I had. I HAD MORE than enough. OMG. It was kind of mind blowing. (Maybe you guys are just shaking your head, since this may have been common sense to everyone.) This was the case with my whole wardrobe. At a certain point, you just start forgetting about things that are out of sight and out of mind.

If you need to inject a little bit of order in your world, definitely check out this book. I’ll take some before and after pictures, maybe.

The last post was almost a year ago. In fact, if I further procrastinated updating this blog and waited a two more weeks, it would be a whole year after.

A year ago, I was in Oregon for the holidays and first week of January. It was cold and dreary and I was crafting, trying my hand out at felting. (I haven’t made too much progress, I have to admit.)

A lot has changed. I’m no longer a “brooklyn girl.” My partner and I moved to Portland, Oregon, where he grew up, to be closer to family and help out (with his father, the house, etc.). End of February was when things at work picked up and got pretty hectic. Around May, things moved FAST! I found a new job, gave my 2 weeks notice, had only 3 weeks to pack up my 2 bedroom Bushwick apartment. I planned it so that I was working until a week prior to the move. That week was supposed to be dedicated to packing up our lives and spending our remaining time with friends.

OMG, you guys. That week was horrible. It was great to spend time with everyone, but by mid-week, I had to cancel some dinners, stay up until 3am each night to pack, and both my husband and I ended up getting sick with a fever by the time we finished throwing half of our belongings out and rushing to the airport in a cab without even taking a shower. I’m sorry fellow travelers. (Fortunately, we were sitting in the aisle trying to lay low and not cough.)

So life is now a little different. My weekly runs are across neighborhoods in Tigard, Oregon. We are looking to invest in a place. I’m still learning how to drive. I’ve thrown away SO MUCH STUFF. So, I intend to try to start getting back into writing, even if I’ve lost all my readers.

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I’m trying to de-clutter and improve my day-to-day. I’m trying to read more (I haven’t read anything since moving, which I am embarrassed to admit). So, hoping this place keeps me accountable. I’ll share my new aquarium, which I set up for my father-in-law. I’ve made some more progress (less cheating) in my capsule wardrobe, so I’ll share that, too.

How has your 2015 been so far?

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(Balmy 45-50 degree weather – during my mid-morning run today)

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20140202-005349.jpgI’ve written about felting before. This Christmas I got some awesome felting needles and reference books on it. So my first project was the owl below and the freehand white chibi totoro and robot. I’m pretty happy with the totoro, but the robot leaves more to be desired. I may just stick to simple shapes to start.

The allure is that it’s just like sculpture. If you understand spatial relationships, then you can do it. It’s like getting some play dough. You don’t need to be consistent with your punching (you kind of do, but it’s not like knitting/purling with yarn). It’s an incredibly wide entry. You can get SUPER creative with it, but there are a lot of low hanging fruit and it’s so satisfying. It’s pretty quick if you’re dealing with a small project, that you get that satisfaction in 1-5 days.

I may start making my own designs on a wool sweater. (I should pick up cheap ones at Old Navy!)

The thing about felting is it takes no real skill (I suppose you need to be good with spatial conception) and you get results fairly quickly. It’s just so much more satisfying than knitting or crocheting.

A lot less abstract and really cathartic to stab something with needles. (I did stab my palm a couple of times (ouch), so you need to be careful.

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20140201-224802.jpgAs I mentioned before, Ryan and I were away from the apartment for 4+ weeks. I originally didn’t intent to be away for that long. I knew 3 weeks was a little long, but I knew they would be ok for 2 weeks, and I was willing to risk the extra week. Little did I know that the East coast Polar Vortex had another plans for me. When my flight was canceled, they weren’t able to schedule me on a plane for another WEEK.

Luckily, I was just at my in-laws and I wasn’t stranded in the airport or in a hotel for that extra week. It was pretty lovely and I worked from home.

So, my poor fish. We had 11 fish in a 20 gallon tank. I cleaned the tank before I left and had a timer on the light. (I have plants in there – so I wanted to make sure they wouldn’t die.) I lost 2 fish, which probably became fish food for the rest of the fish (yeaaaaaah…), and my aquaria was infested with red and brown algae. I guess that was to be expected.

All of my rummy nose tetras survived. The neons, though, didn’t do well. My 2 cardinals were fine. The algae just made my tank LOOK SO UGLY. I was pretty depressed about my tank and when I came back, I cut the amount of light to the tank to restrain the growth. (Of course, I also did frequent smaller water changes to keep the nutrients out of the water.) It helped a little bit.

The second step was to buy some extra plans so that they out compete the algae for the light.

The third step, which made me nervous, was to do a bleach dip of the old plants covered in algae. (They won’t be able to get light and they are going to die. My java fern was already turning all sorts of red shades.) I made a solution of 20 parts water and 1 part bleach. I soaked the leaves and stems for 1-3 minutes (depending on how fragile the leaves where) and rubbed off as much algae as I could without damaging the leaves. I also did a quick bleach dip on the new plants to make sure I wasn’t introducing any pests to my aquarium.

I decided to clean much of my cloth plants and my castle, as well. The result is that my aquarium is not as bad to look at again. (Final picture above.) I am so pleased with the extra plants. I hope they survive. I did a quick water change, and I may do another one tomorrow, since I am paranoid about the bleach. (After the bleach solution, I soaked everything in regular tap water for 3-5 minutes, then I soaked them in dechlorinated water for 10+ minutes.)

It’s been a couple of hours + a feeding and so far so good.

Odd Note – The Neon tetras and cardinals were always SO skittish. I think the great hunger of 4 weeks, made them come out of their shell. That, and the fact that there is only 3 blue fish, they sort of joined the rummy nosed school. They follow them around and the result is that they are visible and not skittish anymore. They come out for food, I see them schooling regularly. I was thinking of getting 3 more neons to finish the school, but I may leave well enough alone for now.

OK. I know this was a big trend before, but can I just say that I love the animal graphic sweater/tee trend?

It’s so cute. And now that it’s old news, I still want to continue wearing my dog print sweater and fox print beanie. Truth be told, I’ve always loved animal stuff. I have couple of small dolls and sculptures around the apartment of animals (birds, owls, deer, and foxes), and I love animal graphics on clothes. (I have a fox dress that I bought in Williamsburg that I love and a deer ring that can stab you with its antlers.)

I’ve already accepted that I will look like someone who just can’t get away from fall of 2012.

I feel like it’s that little old lady in me. In another generation, I would have been that lady with a huge boho bag in some crazy bird pattern with all these porcelain animals everywhere. Maybe a glass menagerie chirping on about some gentleman caller? Perhaps.

When I cleaned my closet, I lost a couple of sweaters to moths. Maybe that’s why I let myself buy a couple of sweaters at old navy, one of them being a bird cardigan (in navy).


(found at old navy)

Buying new things was against one of the rules I set for myself for the capsule wardrobe. I have more than enough stuff. Still… I just couldn’t resist. The kicker is that everything I bought was on sale (1 $10 sweater, 1 $20 sweater, and $20 button down shirt). IN ADDITION, since I bought $50, I got free shipping and an extra 30% off for using a mobile phone and code “MOBILE.” I got those three items for $35. How amazing is that?

So… hopefully I don’t get too many eye rolls, but I think that sweater is ADORABLE.

So, normally I’m not one to make any New Year’s resolutions. That being said, I wanted to try to live a better life with less. I wanted to appropriate the mantra, “Quality over quantity.” this year. That being said, the first step was just getting my life in order (haha) and getting my act together to clean the apartment.

Last time we were in Oregon (in October), a friend of mine needed a place to stay and asked to stay at our apartment for a night when we weren’t there. Unfortunately the state of our bedroom was RIDICULOUS, but she was able to stay on the futon in the living room. That was embarrassing, but she’s like family, so what are you going to do, right? Either way, I was very much aware of how I need to clean my apartment.

20140201-223712.jpgThis time Ryan and I have been away from the apartment for nearly 4 week+ weeks. The aquarium was a MESS. (Although majority of the fish survived without anyone feeding it or doing water changes.) The living room was cluttered and it was everything we could do to just get rid of the filth and do all the dishes before we left. (We may not be doing this adult thing like we’re suppose to.)

So the first thing I did when we came back (ok – so this happened the second weekend back) was to clean the apartment. To facilitate this, I invited Jay and his GF over. I had to clean the living room, at least. I felt motivated. That’s saying a lot, since normally I would need to force myself to watch Hoarders to get the horrific inspiration to clean. I cleaned the kitchen (dishes, stovetop, and scrubbed the sink clean), bathroom, living area/TV… everything except my bedroom. Uhg.

20140201-223703.jpgEventually, on Sunday, I hauled my ass to clean the bedroom. It’s not perfect, but it’s SO much better. The floor is completely clear of stray clothes. I cleaned my closet for the first time in YEARS. I found this iced tea in one of those tote bags above. I also may have found a Duane Reade receipt dated 2011. Yeah. It has never been opened, so it’s probably fine. (If there is ever a nuclear disaster, it may have been a good idea to just go foraging for food and water in my closet. Thankfully there wasn’t too much more perishables in there. It was a little ridiculous how I found extra packets of hot cocoa mix in one of my bags still filled with sordid random items from my last job. (Mind you, I’ve been at my current job over 2 years now.) There were mountains of tote bags. I found random sweaters eaten apart by moths. Sweaters I used to like. :( (This resulted in a small shopping spree at Old Navy for 2 new sweaters – but that’s another story.)

20140201-223720.jpgIt’s always the case in these situations that you find things you COMPLETELY forgot about. Clothes that you never wore and bags you never saw again. I bought a tote bag the last time I was at a Tori Amos concert, and I found it. I don’t think I ever used it. :P (This also leads to the question, WHY ON EARTH DO I HAVE SO MANY FABRIC TOTES NOW? I never used to have fabric totes a decade ago. These are bags I collected in the last… 10 years? Where did all these bags come from? I’ve organized them into, bags I like and want to keep – aka. bags I bought – and bags I am going to set aside to give to friends whenever they need a bag to put shit in – aka. random tote bags I managed to accumulate via free stuff.)

It’s like a weird unintentional time capsule, don’t you think? I also found 3 random Magic the Gathering cards, H&M gift cards, scarves, hats and gloves I forgot I had (I suspect these were gifts from a friend who works at an accessories company), etc.

Also, WHAT IS THAT BLACK PIG with wire around it’s neck? I think it was given to me by someone at my last job, but why on earth would I take it and keep it? I just hold on to way too much stuff. Also, what is that unidentified clear bottle of liquid, which was clearly some free item without a label saying what it is, just the damn healthcare brand on it. WTH?

I still also found tons of shutterfly branded chapstick that I drunkenly took at a vendor event at shutterfly.

I want to adopt the idea of a capsule wardrobe. I just want to have a regular rotation of high quality items I can wear that will last. I want to get rid of all of my “crap” in my bedroom. (Hence the recent cleaning spree, which I will discuss later.) I want to stop being such a hoarder. I need to purge. (33 is an arbitrary number. I will probably settle on 40-50 depending on the season, but it’s definitely a start.)


(image courtesy of samishome, which illustrates the idea of capsule wardrobes well)

I have an insane amount of hats. It’s ridiculous. I have like 20-30 hats. I DID NOT BUY ANY OF THEM. This is what happens when you know someone in the accessory field. I like a lot of them, but I’m not a hat person. Hmmm. I may sell some of them to Beacon’s Closet or on Ebay.

I plan to throw away anything I don’t want. I want to store everything else out of sight and mind. The plan is that if I don’t think about these things when I move next year… I am throwing them out. (Reasonable, right? I need to take baby steps.)

I just want to live a better life with less.