just let me think it’s my idea: how I came around to Marie Kondo

 

My husband has minimalist tendencies. A few years ago, he started bringing up the idea to me, and I resisted…fiercely.

“Minimalism makes me sad. I don’t want to have the minimum. When it comes to things that make me happy, I want the MAXIMUM!”

He backed off a bit. He gave up on me reading that Marie Kondo book, which frankly sounded batty to me with all the thanking of inanimate objects and throwing out of all your books. But still, I kept finding boxes by the back door full of things he was purging. “Why are MY CUPS in this box? You are NOT ALLOWED to purge things from MY KITCHEN!”

He just kept taking things to donate to the thrift store and mostly left me (and my kitchen) alone.

I should mention that I’m not some kind of major mess. I feel stressed by clutter, and we keep our house pretty picked up. I own a label maker and take great pleasure in using it. I’ve even been known to save little boxes (the boxes from beauty box subscriptions are the best) and use them to corral things in drawers. I discovered Poshmark thanks to my sister and for the past year have been selling clothes I don’t wear much and buying used things that actually do “spark joy” and get worn regularly. But the idea of purging my whole house seemed extreme. Didn’t we just move 3 years ago and get rid of a ton of stuff? Why do that all over again?

But then my Twitter feed was suddenly full of people talking about the Marie Kondo show on Netflix. I was curious. I watched the first episode and wasn’t super hooked. The husband seemed kind of shitty, and the advice seemed pretty basic. Still, I couldn’t deny that Marie wasn’t the strident, judgmental clean freak that she seemed in print. Instead, she’s a joyful Japanese pixie who gently guides people to cleaner habitats. And the show was just boring and soothing enough that it made for good pre-bedtime viewing. I kept watching.

Some of the weirder things made more sense when I could see them in action. For example, at the start of every decluttering, Marie sits on the floor in the family’s house and sort of communes with it. I am sure there is some Japanese cultural stuff I’m missing, but seeing it, as goofy as it was, I realized she was taking a moment to take seriously the way a home feels and to imagine the way it *could* feel. I know that things give me feelings, and science backs up that clutter literally stresses us out, causing our bodies to secrete more of the stress hormone cortisol. It’s not just woo, it’s an actual body response to our environments.

Also, as I watched her help these families, and as I sat astounded that she actually let people keep say, a wall of boxes of stuff, I realized that she wasn’t expecting perfection, just improvement. If something is important to YOU, no one else can tell you to get rid of it. Even if, were it me on that show, I’d be yelling at you that a wall of boxes full of baseball cards is not a good look for your master bedroom, and probably not good for your sleep or sex life.

I could also see the way her weird folding methods make things more visible and accessible in drawers. So I Kondo’d my folded items. I taught my husband how to Kondo his tee shirts. I Kondo’d my kids’ leggings (though I deviated from her folding method, opting for a roll instead for those). I found myself peeking into my drawers throughout the day, just to smile and feel soothed by the tidiness.

And then yesterday my husband didn’t have to go to work until 2, so after we dropped the kids off at school, I turned to him and said, “I think I am ready to Kondo the kitchen.” He gave me some gentle teasing about how he’s been trying to get me on this bandwagon for years. I told him I’m like a dude– you just have to float an idea and then let it rattle around in my brain until I decide it’s MY idea. So, we set to work. EVERYTHING came out of cabinets and drawers, excepting the pantry areas that I had already reorganized recently (I realize this means we weren’t fully following the KonMari Method, but I also let myself eat cheese on Whole30 because I didn’t want to become lactose intolerant. I am not a rule follower). I also said “WE ARE NOT TOUCHING THE SPICE CABINET” to which Jon responded, “OK, but realize you are at about max capacity there.” (Joke’s on him, we cleaned out that cabinet and now I could expand to a whole ‘nother shelf if I wanted.)

The spice cabinet. As you can see, there’s clearly more room up above.

It took most of the morning, and I continued putting things away even after Jon went to work, but we purged an 18 gallon tub full of stuff from the kitchen and ended up with a much more useful system of organizing. My miscellaneous baking supplies went from a jumble inside our smallest cabinet to an organized, easy to see arrangement where the drinking glasses used to be. The kids’ water bottles ended up in a deep drawer where they can reach them for themselves and fix their own drinks. I agreed to part with a whole stack of plates and a few teacups (which had been in their original boxes since we got married…). My husband decided 6 beer glasses is enough for him. I realized I needed fewer casserole dishes and tossed a bunch of kitchen “unitaskers” as Alton Brown would say– though the cherry pitter remains because I am a person who cans her own cocktail cherries.

The “kid drawer.” All their plates, cups, water bottles, cutlery, and the snacks they’re allowed to grab whenever they need one.
New and improved baking cabinet
The kids’ water bottles used to be here, but now it’s where the drinking glasses go.
The baking stuff used to be crammed in this cabinet, but now it’s for to-go cups and water bottles.

The thing I have realized about Marie Kondo, and the reason it turns out it works for me, is that it’s not about that sad word “minimalism.” It’s about a word I like a lot better: curation. So many of us have more stuff than we need. We have to move the stuff to get to the other stuff that we actually do need. We have to move the stuff to actually get things done. We lose stuff because it’s behind the other stuff. We have to dust the stuff. And we don’t actually care about that stuff or need it, but we keep it for all kinds of reasons. “Sparks Joy” seems like a high bar, but honestly “is it useful, beautiful, or does it make me happy?” is good enough for me. Does it fit me? Do I wear it? Do I like it or am I holding onto it because it was a great deal? Is this something I think I might need someday except someday has never come?

Skillets were in this drawer along with onions and potatoes. The skillets moved to a corner cabinet, and now it’s for pantry items and coffee/tea stuff as it’s under the coffee/tea area.
Our old cutlery organizer was broken and messy and took up the whole drawer. These are from Joseph Joseph via Amazon.

Now, I feel the same kind of joy looking in my tidy cabinets and drawers that I *still feel* when I look at my shelves full of books, which to me are like old friends that I am not interested in parting with at this time. And it turns out Marie isn’t going to make me. She may not want to keep around two different editions of the same crit theory anthology from college, but *I do,* and I actually refer back to them from time to time!

I think part of why I am receptive to all of this at this time is we are now passing the point at which this house becomes the place we have lived the longest. We no longer need to move every 3 years. We are putting down roots, and we might as well make this the place we know it can be for us. Jon’s dreaming of new storage in the entryway, we’ve been fixing up the back yard, we even got solar panels that offset all our energy use. And we’re getting rid of the stuff that we don’t need to take forward with us for our future in this home. And it turns out it’s not sad minimalism, but a joyful creation that affirms that sometimes things make us really happy, and sometimes things are completely unnecessary, and we can figure out the difference and get rid of dead weight.

I really recommend checking out the show with an open mind. Enjoy yelling at the shitty husbands, the lady who needs therapy (ok, wait, that’s all of them), the neurotic dude who needs to stop worrying what his parents think of him, and the guy with 160 pairs of never-worn sneakers. You’ll feel better than some of them, and you just might feel inspired to “tidy” a little yourselves. It doesn’t have to be rigid. It doesn’t have to be everything. And before long you may find yourself staring into your kitchen cabinets as if they are a beautiful sunset.

 

 

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we finished updating our ski condo, and it looks amazing!

Yesterday morning, we officially finished updating our Keystone ski condo rental just in time for a professional photo shoot. Thanks to a super-speedy photographer (who, it turned out, had spent several years living in my hometown in Arkansas– small world!), the photos are here and ready to show off. As I mentioned in the “before” post, the overall aesthetic of the condo when we got it was “aggressively brown” with a side of “lodge cliche.” I think we’ve achieved a modern mountain aesthetic that feels both stylish and peaceful, and we’ve managed to add more sleeping accommodations. If you’d like to book a stay in our condo, please check out our VRBO listing.

Our building, Expedition Station, right in the heart of River Run Village.

 

I’m calling the wire animal heads my “vegan taxidermy.” All of the living room furniture is new. Log coffee table from Zulily (brand privilege), two log side tables from Target, pillows from Target, all other furniture from American Furniture Warehouse, and “vegan taxidermy” from Hobby Lobby.

Continue reading “we finished updating our ski condo, and it looks amazing!”

I have a new job!

Two months, no blogs– what gives?? Well, here’s the story…

We recently received an unexpected inheritance from Jon’s grandfather, George, who died about a decade ago. George had wisely invested in Denver real estate way back when, and fortuitously, by waiting this long to sell his property, his three kids made a bunch of money, which they generously decided to share with all the grandkids, too. We wanted to honor this gift by investing it wisely, and, convinced by a very business-minded friend who owns two condos in Keystone, we decided to invest in a ski condo which we could manage as a vacation rental and also use ourselves.

Why Keystone? It’s close to Denver, we’ve enjoyed visiting there, and it is a little less pricey than some other ski areas, real-estate wise. I will say it felt surreal to be looking at ski condos that cost more than our actual home in Denver, but we felt pretty confident, thanks to our friend’s experience, that were making a good choice.

This is where I’ve been lately: shopping for, buying, and planning a renovation of our new ski condo. Since I’m a stay-at-home parent, it makes sense for me to be the primary manager of our vacation rental, so I’ve been researching and reading and pinning and shopping and generally obsessing with this condo. Part of the big plan is we want our place to look FANTASTIC in online listing photos, so I have been channeling my inner Joanna Gaines, and reminding Jon that he’s my Chip. I HAVE A VISION, OK?

My goal is to make our condo a stylish, rustic/industrial (no cliche lodge furniture or generic decor for us!), family-friendly destination. Because I know what it’s like to travel with little kids, I especially want to make it the number one unit people want to rent when bringing kids to Keystone. We will have pack and plays, high chairs, night lights, baby monitors, bouncy seats, toys, books, and more to prevent families from having to schlep so much gear. Also, our condo has a private pool not shared with any other buildings, and our unit is on the quiet slope-side of the building with no neighbors above. We also chose a unit close to the playground and skating rink/putt putt course, with the Kidtopia headquarters in the same building. Kidtopia puts on cool kids events and activities– on a recent visit, our girls participated in a strider bike race, and Claire got second place! Our unit has slope views, and you can walk to the lifts.

I figured I would share our “before” photos this week, and next week will be the big reveal of our renovated unit. If you want to go ahead and make a reservation, you can check out our VRBO listing and sign on up!

I am not sure which is more baffling here, the permanent Christmas decor, or the chicken-themed art in a ski condo.
I would describe the “before” aesthetic as “aggressively brown.”

Having both a queen murphy bed and a queen sleeper sofa, plus a third bathroom, means this 2 bedroom condo can sleep a TON of people.
BEARS! DEER! CHEVRON?
Fun fact: tons of Keystone condos have this exact bedding. And wall art. I think it came with the place when it was built in the 90s. Which means tons of folks are happily paying the big bucks to sleep under 20 year old bear comforters. Ew.
Am I the only person who irrationally hates tchochkies on top of cabinets? They just get sad, dusty, and gross.

We are ditching the twin beds for a queen with a lofted twin above it. I’m also turning the skylight nook into a cute play space.
That balcony view, though.

our new home in Denver: main floor

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My friend Lauren recently commented on Facebook, “Give the people what they want: a house tour!” So, Lauren, your wish is my command. I’m working on cleaning small segments of my house so I can take pictures of them and share them with my interwebz friends. This weekend I tackled the main living space on the first floor.

Our home is located in East Denver and is a 1911 bungalow. We didn’t do any of the renovations– the previous owners had a remodeler brother, and he did all the renovations for them in 2010. We didn’t even paint before moving in. Luckily they did an amazing job creating a space that seemed perfect for us from the moment we walked in, and that we love even more now that we’ve been living here since the end of June.

The first floor was opened up and the stairs relocated to make a great open living space. Seriously, the first time we walked in, I said to Jon, “We could totally host Meatballs in here.” We decided to keep this floor TV free, to make it a place where we could focus on spending quality time with family and friends. Though the movers didn’t think it was possible, Jon the homebrewer’s beloved kegerator managed to make it into the space. Also, the plate wall (which you may remember from our last home) didn’t go up until this week, and I swear I didn’t feel fully moved in until that moment.

Today, I’ve got pictures of what I consider the main living space of the house on the first floor. Also on this level are two bedrooms, one belonging to Etta and Claire, and one we use as an office/craft room, and a bathroom located between the two bedrooms.

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I love the entryway bench, because it lifts up for storage. Some day I’ll make it a cute cushion.

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I believe in letting sleeping dogs lie, so a napping Bessie dog appears in these pics. Love ya, old girl!

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I love this little beverage area. The previous owners were wine nuts, so they had a wine fridge put in. I’m more of a cocktail girl, so mine is full of mixers and syrups along with some wine. To the right is the fridge, and the pantry is to the right of that. I kind of love these giant drawers. The middle one has become the girls’ drawer, with all their plates and cups and snacks easily accessible to them.

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And there you have the first floor of our new home, minus bedrooms! I promise to share the rest of the house soon.

hi from denver

My last post here was over a month ago, and that was technically a guest post. Moving 1,000 miles keeps you pretty busy, I guess!

We’re settling in nicely to our new house and new city. There’s just a handful of boxes still lingering around. We successfully navigated the DMV, and are now licensed drivers with little green mountains on our car instead of my beloved plaid Lyon College Alumni Arkansas plates. We’ve toured schools and applied to a great one for the girls. (Best quote overheard while touring hippie Montessori schools: “If you’re going to choose to go meditate, I would encourage you to put away your polo bat so you can truly focus on your individual self.”) We’ve welcomed my sister and her husband to Denver, too, and helped them move into their apartment just 1.5 miles from our house. I got a bike! We got little trailers for the girls to ride behind us so we can be a family of cycling urban explorers.

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Jon and Etta trying out her new bike trailer for the first time. She’s a natural!

Perhaps the most unbelievable thing? Me, anxiety ridden me? I feel pretty great. Maybe it’s just the Effexor, since we haven’t made new friends yet or really developed a routine, and Jon’s been off for the last month, but I actually think we’re starting a really great new chapter here. I love the weather. I love the mountains. I love the feeling of a million new restaurants just waiting to be tried. I miss Little Rock a lot already, and I reallllly miss our friends and family in Arkansas, but I am feeling bizarrely optimistic.

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Yesterday Jon and I celebrated TEN FREAKING YEARS of marriage. I had a big realization as I was writing Jon’s card– usually at such milestones, we’re like “I can’t believe we made it this far!” But as we hit 10 years, for me, it’s more like “I don’t believe I would have made it through the last 10 years without this strong rock of a relationship at the center of our shared life.” This marriage is GOOD. Everything else in my world may be uncertain, but this is the place where I feel loved, supported, understood, and buoyed to face whatever comes. Even stuff like moving all the way to Denver, apparently.

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Now that we’re settled, I hope to get back into writing more and sharing with you as we build a new life in a new place. I think we’re going to be writing another great chapter of our story here.

House Hunters: Bufflo Fam in Denver

As you know, my family is moving from Little Rock, Arkansas to Denver…next week. Initially, our plan was to stay with family there for a few months as we explored the city and figured out which neighborhood we wanted to live in before committing to buying a house. Then, a few weeks ago, we found out we had an opportunity to buy the house Jon’s grandparents built in the 1950s, which his aunt and uncle have been living in for the last several years. The only thing was, we needed to decide soon, because the Denver real estate market moves fast. Number one real estate market in the country fast. Cue a whirlwind trip to Denver.

As we ate breakfast on our first morning there, we realized that, like every house hunter on HGTV, we had three main choices before us: the grandparents’ house, a city house, or new construction in an area of Denver called Stapleton (a redevelopment of an area that used to be the airport into a “New Urban” community).

The Grandparents’ House

Jon’s grandparents’ house obviously held a lot of emotional pull. The idea of keeping the place in the family really appealed to us. Plus, it had a lot of great midcentury modern appeal, and great mountain views. The main drawbacks were that it was in Wheat Ridge, an area of town farther from the Children’s Hospital than we had initially been considering, and that it would need significant renovations to get it to where we wanted it to be.

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New Construction

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A lot of people who heard we were moving to Denver asked us if we were considering Stapleton, because it’s apparently one of THE places to be if you’re a family with young kids. We toured the community and several model homes. I can’t lie, the homes are large and gorgeous, and I could imagine that we would easily make friends with other families just hanging out in the community’s playgrounds. There is also lots of shopping, dining, and great schools nearby. However, the lot sizes are very small, with postage stamp yards, and the area had more of a cookie-cutter, suburban feel than we are really into. We currently live in an older neighborhood full of 20s Craftsman bungalows, and that’s the style we like.

So we crossed off Stapleton, which left us considering the grandparents’ house and a house on the east side of the city where we had been thinking we would buy before the grandparents’ house came into consideration. We knew we’d need to see some houses in the city in order to really decide if the grandparents’ house was a real contender, so we connected with a Realtor through a friend, and planned a very ambitious day of house hunting. We saw 12 properties in one day!

City House

Since the Children’s Hospital is on the east side of Denver, we were considering areas like Park Hill, Five Points, Cole, Whittier, and Congress Park. One way in which Jon and I differ from most couples on HGTV shows is, we’re in almost complete agreement about the kind of homes we like. I really think either of us could pick out a house for the other one without them there, and they’d be totally pleased. In fact, I once did that when we first moved back to Little Rock– I chose our rental house on my own, but Jon loved it! Our Realtor said we set a speed record for seeing houses for him. We could walk right into a place and know if it was a contender or not, and if not, there’s no sense wasting time there.

Of the 12 places we saw, we ended up with 5 strong contenders:

  1. The Garden Bed House: had an amazing front yard with a ton of raised beds for Jon’s “victory garden,” and a large back yard with a covered patio too. However, the interior living space was smaller than we’d like, and the ceiling in the basement was a little low for my 6’3″ husband.FullSizeRender 5
  2. The Funky Victorian: was on an AMAZING triple lot with a pond and gazebo. Had been nicely renovated with an amazing kitchen and dining space. The main drawbacks were there was no bedroom on the main floor, which we prefer for Claire, and the ceilings in the upper floor were slanted in strange ways because of the roof– Jon might not have been able to shower in the master shower because it was so low!FullSizeRender 3
  3. Race St: I walked into this little Victorian bungalow and loved it. It had been nicely renovated into a big open kitchen/dining/living room, had two bedrooms on the main floor, had a second floor master suite, and a great basement with playroom, guest room, and full bath. However, the yard was the size of a postage stamp, mostly eaten up by the large garage. Also, we weren’t entirely sure about the schools it was zoned for.FullSizeRender 4
  4. The Congress Park House: This house and street reminded me a lot of our current neighborhood. It had a great Craftsman feel, and the tiny closets to go along with it. The main drawbacks were that it was near a noisy street, the back yard was looked down on by a large apartment building behind it, and the basement had a real hobbit feel with curvy floors that hand’t been fully dug out to level it. Also, because of its location, it was at the very top of our budget. FullSizeRender
  5. The Hip Bungalow: This house was very similar to the Race St. house, but had cool exposed-brick walls in the main living space, and a slightly larger yard. However, it had no finished basement, and all the bedrooms were upstairs. We were the very first people to see this house, and it was already under contract the next day. Not kidding about how fast the Denver market moves. FullSizeRender 2

Decision Time

Ultimately, we were left considering the Grandparents’ House and the Race St. House. The day after all our showings, we had to catch a morning flight back home. When we went to bed that night, I felt like my heart was leaning toward Race St., and I felt like Jon was leaning toward the Grandparents’ House. We slept on it and didn’t talk about the decision until we were on the way to the airport the next morning. “So, which house are you thinking about this morning?” I asked. “Oh. I decided which one I wanted at 3 am when I couldn’t sleep,” Jon said. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I’ve been with this internal processor for 13 years now, and he always needs some time to work out things in his head. What surprised me was when he said “Race St.”

He realized that what appealed to him about the Grandparents’ House was mostly emotional, but that Race St. seemed like the place we would be the happiest, in the area we had been considering all along, before the Grandparents’ House came into play. At the airport, we called our Realtor and told him to start writing up an offer. Given the seller’s market, we had to offer full price, and all closing costs, and I even wrote them a letter about why we loved their house so much. We anxiously waited to hear if we got the house, and the next morning, the call came.

WE GOT THE HOUSE! Looks like our 10 year wedding anniversary gift to each other will be a house in Denver.

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*Image of Stapleton via Flickr user BeyondDC under a Creative Commons license.

formal dining room: dead or a mark of adulthood?

Recently, a friend at one of our Friday Night Meatballs dinners remarked as we set the table in the dining room that I must be a real adult because I have a dining room that I don’t use every day. It made me laugh.

I thought of his comment when I saw a post on Apartment Therapy called “Is the Formal Dining Room Dead?” Many of the 91 comments seemed to agree that the formal dining room is a thing of the past, with many folks preferring to eat at counters, breakfast nooks, in kitchens, and in other “open-concept” multi-function rooms.

Our dining room, being put to good use at Friday Night Meatballs.
Our dining room, being put to good use at Friday Night Meatballs.

Here’s the thing: my “front room,” sort of a living/dining room, is my favorite room of the house. I guess you could call it “formal,” since it’s full of our nicest things and is a space I keep free of kids toys, and, in fact, where my children are rarely allowed unsupervised. But that actually makes it “work” great for us. While we eat most of our meals around a four-seater table in our breakfast nook, any time we have one or more people join us for dinner, we eat at the dining table. And more and more as we host not just Friday Night Meatballs but also things like: a baptism brunch, baby showers, a Christmas party, wedding showers, and other gatherings, having a large “formal” dining table that expands from a small circle to a four-leaf oblong table that seats up to 12 has made having a “more the merrier” attitude about hospitality quite easy.

Continue reading “formal dining room: dead or a mark of adulthood?”