Yeah, it’s been a little quiet around the blog. I’ve been posting away on Social Media, but the blog posts have been lacking. Sorry! I’ve been busy working the KonMari-Method on our home. Yes, I’ll admit it! I’m a sucker for all things clean and tidy and have been a fan of owning a selected few items rather than too much stuff ever since my early twenties when I went through a Karen-Kingston-Feng-Shui phase and discovered that is the magic of letting go of clutter.
But, you get older, you get settled, you work a lot, you want to enjoy yourself in your free time, you get lazy. Stuff accumulates; you stuff more items into a single drawer than is sensible. You start forgetting about what lives in the back of your closet. Eventually there is a lump of clothes in places where there should be free space. You veto any purchases in an effort to keep chaos from moving in with them.
I’m not a hoarder, really. But we owned too much stuff nonetheless. I was constantly tidying. I would do a “ten minute-tidy” and bring the place back to the IKEA catalogue depiction that I wished it had been when I opened the front door as I came in. I started feeling unhappy and stressed in our home, particularly when I would look at all the surfaces of tables, cupboards and shelves. They were all covered. With stuff. My stuff. Every once in a while I would get particularly annoyed and spring clean. This would bring relief – for a little while, but then, one shelf and one pair of shoes carelessly thrown into the closet at a time, chaos would start creeping in until – again – it would get unbearably full.
Enter “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Mari Kondo. I thought “Ugh, I don’t need another book about tidying. I know all about it. But perhaps I’ll be motivated to do another spring clean after I read it.” And boy, did I lack insight! Turns out I’ve never been taught how to properly tidy up. As I read on, I discovered that I had already been doing a pretty good job at tidying, tapping into strategies Mari Kondo discovered, but that I should have used them on other areas of the house, too.
For those of you who don’t know: this is the KonMari-Method: you tidy by category. You go from easy (clothes) to hard (mementos). This way, you see everything of a kind at one glance and decide what to keep. For this (and I excuse the new-age-cuckoo-impression of me you are about to have of me for going along with this and advertising it on the blog) you take every item in your hand at a time and then see if it sparks joy. Whatever doesn’t spark joy has to go. Pretty simple, no? She is right: you are not going to use things that you don’t like. Yes, it’s awful, but next time you’re in a store, think long and hard before you buy.
Of course, that is not all. Mari Kondo, who is thirty years old, very cute and from Japan, also teaches you how to fold and store things making maximum use of space (vertically). Go ahead, check out the videos on YouTube. I hope you find them as enlightening as I did! My closet has never been so tidy and never have I been able to see all my clothes at just one glance. It makes getting dressed for the day so much simpler!
It is hard work though. I’ve been working the KonMari-Method on our apartment for about three weeks, and the end is nowhere near. I am getting there. At some point (when I was sitting in front of our shredder for hours) I started hating myself for accumulating so much. I guess, this is part of the deal. But it is also incredibly rewarding to be able to breathe more freely at home again. And no, hardly anything gets thrown away. I’ve been a regular visitor at the second hand store down the street for the last three weekends, often carrying my own weight in bags hung around my sore shoulder and in my little shopping cart. They have been happy to take my donations. All of them.
I gave away my grandmother’s fur coat, which I inherited when she passed almost ten years ago. During her life, I gave her an extremely hard time about those coats. She was from a different generation, vegetarianism was a concept very foreign to her and our conversations about her fur coats were a big source of conflict between us. But, for the last nine years, this coat (and a second one, which I had also inherited and then given to my mother during a desperate effort to give her both) greeted me from my closet. It even had a prime seat in there. Every morning and every evening it made me feel guilty and sad. I had intended to sell it, but never got around. During my purge I realized that my home is full of mementos from my grandmother. It made letting go of this fur coat much easier. Until three weeks ago I was never conscious about the mass of objects that I had taken with me after she passed. I have kitchen gear, knitting and stitching equipment, old notes and wooden hangers, cookbooks and – of course! – pictures and the odd object from her living room. I already let go of so much between July 2006 and three weeks ago – just imagine! My favorite things are the thick wool socks that she knit for me though. They are probably more than fifteen years old by now, but they still look brand new, the colour of the wool has not faded and they keep my feet warm in winter and the flu away. Thanks, Oma!
Sometimes, it is hard to let go. I am currently doing this exercise with my CDs and it’s a challenge. Music is a sacred area I never ever laid a finger on during my previous purges. Surprisingly, I’ve been able to let some music go. Coincidentally, this summer, I watched Bonne Nuit Papa, a documentary by a friend’s sister about their father. He was originally born in Cambodia and left home to study in the former GDR. The documentary is about that feeling we call home and about loss. It is also about finding whatever comes after loss. On Bonne Nuit Papa’s website you can read an old Cambodian saying: “You can only let somebody go, when you are bound to them”. So true. There is a plethora of songs out there to accompany this feeling, but there is also a universe full of songs about exciting new opportunities, about falling in love and the start of something new. If that’s not comfort, then I don’t know what is.
Take this fresh version of an old classic: potato and cucumber salad with summery tomatoes and creamy mustard dressing. Try it, you won’t be disappointed. I had it at a wedding that we went to recently. I couldn’t wait to get home to recreate it in my own kitchen. It is a very simple dish, ready in no-time, refreshing, not too heavy on the calories and so delicious!
Summery Potato and Cucumber Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Creamy Dijon Dressing
5 medium potatoes (if you can get new potatoes, that are firm-cooking, all the better)
250g cherry tomatoes (that’s half a pound)
one or two cucumbers
Creamy Dion Dressing:
One part Dijon mustard (about a tablespoon and a half)
One part creamy ingredient (e.g. Smetana or Greek yoghurt or soy yoghurt for a vegan version, also about a tablespoon and a half)
fresh herbs, chopped finely (e.g. parsley, chives)
vegetable broth power (if you are so inclined)
freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
Place a pot of water on the stove, add a fair amount of salt. Wash and peel the potatoes. Place them into the pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until tender (I suggest more on the al dente side).
Meanwhile, peel the cucumbers and run them through your kitchen machine, if you have it, obtaining paper-thin slices. Or slice the cucumber very finely e.g. by using a vegetable peeler or a knife. Place the cucumber slices into a salad bowl.
Wash the cherry tomatoes and halve them into the salad bowl.
Drain the potatoes and cut them into squares, wedges and slices of different sizes and place them into the bowl.Mix all of the ingredients of the salad dressing together in a bowl. I suggest making the dressing on the saltier and spicier side and to add more rather than less fresh herbs. The cucumbers and the potatoes absorb a lot of the flavor, so this is something to consider.