Georgette Heyer: All The Love!

I had grand plans this month to do a lot of reading for Black History Month. I sort of accomplished some of this . . . but mostly, I am afraid that I binge-read Georgette Heyer. I read eight (EIGHT!) Heyer novels over the course of perhaps two weeks. Nothing could stop me, not even my promise to finish reading a Very Intellectual Bork On Islam for my two-person book club (V.S. Naipaul's Among the Believers, which I am not really enjoying.)

Georgette Heyer is worth being lazy for.

Heyer was an English writer of romance and mystery novels. She was born in 1902, died in 1974, and wrote from the 20's until her death. There are not many authors who give me more pure, unalloyed pleasure than Heyer. I didn't think I could possibly enjoy romance novels until I read Heyer (and I have read many romance novels since trying to discover books I will like even half as much as hers . . . to absolutely no avail. Other than Austen, I like literally no other romance authors.)

Her romances are almost all Regencies (set between 1811 and 1820), though a good handful of them are set thirty years earlier than that. Her thrillers are generally contemporary to when she was writing them, though some are also set in the Regency or Georgian periods. She more or less single-handedly created the modern genre of the "Regency Romance," but no one afterwards has at all equaled her.

What I find so delightful about her is her sense of the ridiculous. She knows exactly when to lead us along with a ridiculous plot (almost always) but also when and how to make fun of it (again, almost always).


“Top Ten Tuesday:” Favorite heroines

Top Ten Favorite Heroines From Books

10. Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan (The Vorkosigan Saga)

Cordelia is my favorite sci-fi heroine by far. She's smart, she's funny, she is an equal partner to her love interest / husband in everything she does (without falling into the "shrewish nagging woman" trope), she is a mother without abandoning her own identity, she is a scientist in the society of her birth and a shrewd politician in the society she marries into, despite the latter's entrenched patriarchy. She is pretty without being a Mary Sue and her physicality never defines her.


Octavia Butler: “Parable of the Sower” and “Kindred”

I am afraid that I didn't love these books as much as I had hoped to. I was really ramped up for reading some Octavia Butler, as I had heard every good thing in the world about them. I'd read Parable of the Sower in high school and didn't remember much about it. I wanted to give it another try, as well as check out Kindred, which is possibly Butler's most famous novel.

They're both good books for sure. Parable of the Sower is the first in a dystopian duology about a near-future crumbling America (rising temperatures have driven the cost of water and food up enormously; the central government exists in name only; anarchy reigns) and follows a young woman  — a teenager, really — who ends up founding a new religion. It explores issues of morality, change, and race.

Kindred is about another young woman (slightly older — early twenties) who finds herself drawn back to the antebellum South in order to save the life of her slave-owning ancestor so he can father a child by his slave and, thus, ensure that Dana (the narrator) is born herself. This book explores race as a much more primary theme (obviously) with the nature of love thrown in as well.

I found Sower more thought-provoking and interesting but Kindred more compelling as a story.

Sower is a more complex story in a lot of ways. There are many more characters, more moving parts, just a lot more going on. I found the heroine, Lauren, a little irritating (we follow her from about age 15 to age 18 and she is ridiculously, preternaturally, more mature, intelligent, and on top of things than everyone around her, which I found a bit exasperating), but I liked her more than I didn't. I would have liked some more world-building; there's some, but not what I had hoped for given the praise I heard for the book. The reasons for the collapse of civilization are left more than a bit unclear, for one. There wasn't as much plot as I'd hoped for, either. It was about surviving in a dystopian near-future (and founding a new religion), which you might think would be Enough Plot for me, and probably it should have been, but . . . I wanted a bit of something else driving the forward momentum of the story.

This could have been done in a number of ways — introducing a bit more self-doubt in Lauren would have been particularly compelling to me, as it would give her an internal challenge to overcome. Alternatively, she could have stolen a bit of character development from one of the secondary characters — one of these had an interesting arc wherein he really struggled to accept the brutalities of a dystopian reality (for instance, he struggled with the idea that he had to injure or even kill others). If this had been Lauren's arc, I also would have been more compelled by her. But I wasn't, because she was so smugly right all the time.

I think if I was more into dystopians as a genre I would have been really into this (and if you are into dystopians, you should definitely read this; it was way ahead of the curve, sort of the ur-dystopian, like 1984 or Brave New World), but I just wasn't. Again, I want to reiterate that this wasn't a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. It was smart and well written and thoughtful and everything good . . . I just wasn't into it, and I was disappointed because I really wanted to be.

I liked Kindred more but I still wasn't entranced by it.


“Top Ten Tuesday:” Book related problems

Today in Top Ten Tuesday, the lovely folks over at The Broke and the Bookish ask us to list “Ten Book Related Problems I Have.”

1.) In my life, there is no such thing as a problem caused by books. Books solve all problems, balm all wounds, and are their own justification.

Occasionally book love forces me to look at the world differently in some pragmatic ways (as in: "How can I afford books this month?" and, "I don't think we can move into that apartment; it doesn't have enough space for books"), but these are not problems; these are travails of love.

2.) Ibid.
3.) Ibid.
4.) Ibid.
5.) Ibid.
6.) Ibid.
7.) Ibid.
8.) Ibid.
9.) Ibid.
10.) Ibid.


Object Permanence Project, Week Five

Papers. My life is full of papers. They clutter, they pile, they practically drift, sometimes. I don't care much about most of them. Here's a picture of the one I care the most about. (I deliberately took this at a distance so our names would not be visible.)

This is our Quaker marriage certificate. It is ridiculously huge because I was a very new Quaker when we were married and did not realize that they are usually rather smaller.

Our wedding vows are written down here, and underneath R. and I signed our names, followed by the names of everyone present who witnessed our marriage. My sister in law did the calligraphy, R. made the frame, and though it's too tiny to see, I painted chains of autumn leaves in the corners.

This is the most precious piece of paper I own. I would rather lose our state marriage paperwork than lose this. It's the first thing that goes on the wall in a new house, and it will always hang prominently wherever we may live.

Children's Books For My Son's First Birthday . . . and our current favorites.

I intended today to be a post on Octavia Butler (and also a catch-up on my missed Object Permanence project yesterday — expect that later this evening) but I became utterly distracted children's-book-shopping on the internet for my son's first birthday coming up in March. I love children's books and I am going to share my excitement with you!
From "May the Stars Drip Down," by Jeremy Chatelain;
illustrated by Nikki McClure

We are a low-key family when it comes to birthdays, and we are especially low-key when it comes to a birthday we know he won't remember. I will make some cupcakes, and, if we are very lucky and the weather is warm, we will go outside under the trees and have presents, cupcakes, and singing. Guests will include me, his Papa, his auntie who lives close by, and maybe a grandparent or two. Oh, and his teddy bear.

As far as gifts, my husband is making a little something in the wood shop, and I just can't help myself with the books. I set a strict budget (it should probably have been stricter, but . . . books!), which worked out to four books.


Rebecca, by Daphne duMaurier

I expected to like and enjoy this book; I did not at all expect the passion I ended up feeling for this book. I stayed up until 1 am on a worknight unable to put it down! The next night I binge-watched the BBC mini-series! This book was a ridiculous amount of fun to read, the prose was excellent, and the author held together what should have been (well, which kind of is) a ridiculous plot with amazing aplomb, pulling off some special effects along the way.

Here's the basic deal with Rebecca (non-spoiler paragraph to come; all of this you can get from the back cover or the first few pages): Young innocent girl falls in love with billionaire (well, this is Britain between the wars, so not billionaire but landed gentry) Maxim DeWinter, who has a Tragic Past: his wife, Rebecca, died just a year ago. He meets our ingenue (who remains unnamed throughout the book), marries her, and carries her off to his ancestral home, Manderly, where our heroine has to make sense of the past.

It's a classic gothic romance that more than lives up to expectations. It can be read and enjoyed even by those who have zero interest in gothic romances. I don't want to try to tell you about my love for this book while trying to hide what happens, so: spoilers behind the cut!

If you don't want to read it, there is a BBC miniseries starring Jeremy Brett (swoon) that I have now also watched. It hews very closely to the text, almost all of the dialogue being lifted straight from the book. Recommended!

Spoilers away!


“Top Ten Tuesday:” Let me complain to you about romance novels.

The discussion this week over at The Broke and the Bookish is romance novels. Specifically, why do they suck? And how can they do better?

I am not a big romance novel reader . . . but I COULD be, if all of these things didn't suck about romance novels. It is possible for a story primarily about love and romance to be an amazing, gripping, moving, story. I love Jane Austen. But mostly . . . modern romance novels suck. Sorry.

The Number One reason romance novels suck: Terrible writing.

This is a problem throughout genre fiction. Somehow there seems to be an idea that because "what the reader wants" is just a love story, or zombies, or a murder, or space cowboys, or elves, or whatever, that the prose doesn't have to be good. WRONG. I mean, yes, a couple times a month after a really bad day at work, I sit down with a big glass of wine and whatever crappy romance is available on the Kindle for $0.99. I then proceed to mock it mercilessly. (One day I will live-tweet my reading of a crappy romance novel. It will be epic. You are all invited.)

So, I guess, if the romance industry's bar to clear is "readable enough to give someone a good laugh — at least they've spent $0.99 on it!" then OK they've cleared that bar. But if their bar is actually publishing good stuff? NOPE.

Way to improve: Try to publish good prose. Try.

Number Two: Actually this may be #1. It's close. REGRESSIVE GENDER POLITICS. Ohhh, this one makes me ill.


January Reading Roundup: with numbers!

I know this is a boring and pedestrian book-blog thing to do . . . but I actually really like reading these from other bloggers, so here ya go.

I read fifteen (15) books in January. If you're my Facebook friend, you know that I said I read sixteen. I WAS WRONG I AM SO SORRY. How can you ever forgive me, right? I was counting a book that I was sure I was going to finish by the end of the month . . . but I finished it on February 1st. Ah well. You know what they say about counting your books before they've . . . hatched, eh?

Anyway. Here are the books I read in January, the serious as well as the fluff, in the order in which I read them, and with links to Goodreads:

Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey
Fields of Blood, Karen Armstrong
The Professor and the Madman, Simon Winchester
On Immunity, Eula Biss
Breakfast at Tiffany's And Other Stories, Truman Capote
Franny and Zooey, J. D. Salinger
Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine
Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
Spiral Path, Katharine Kimbriel
Nothing More to Lose, Najwan Darwish
Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear
The Duty of Delight, Dorothy Day
The Wandering Falcon, Jamil Ahmad
The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo
Flatland, Edwin Abbott

If there are titles anyone is interested in hearing me talk about at greater length, just add a comment and I'll do so in another post.

In numbers, last month I read:

46% women
26% authors of color
40% fiction; 47% nonfiction; 13% poetry
20% ebooks; 80% Real Books
20% books I would characterize as "fluff;" 80% books I would characterize as "meaty."

I read 9 books published in the 21st century (though one of these was written in the 20th and only published later), 5 books published in the 20th century, and 1 book published in the 19th century.

Books I loved (and links to my full reviews of them):

If the sole criterion is Just Plain Loving It, my favorite book last month was Franny and Zooey.

If the criterion is sheer beauty, my favorite was Nothing More to Lose. In terms of cultural importance, however, definitely Citizen took the cake. Have you read it yet? Read it. 

Books I did not love:

Maisie Dobbs was a huge disappointment to me and I wouldn't recommend it to a lover of period mysteries. Not at all. The characterization was awful, the background was full of anachronisms, and she solved the day through the power of her intuition and singing. Ugh.

Spiral Path was mediocre, but at least not so disappointing; I went in expecting a fluffy YA fantasy, and that's exactly what I got. The premise here is supposed to be: It's Little House on the Prairie! But with MAGIC!

Sadly this installment wasn't as fun as the prior two books, so I doubt I'll continue with the series (unless the next one, when it comes out, seems like it will pick up a bit). I like my fluff have fewer plot holes, or if holes it must have, at least to be so egregiously full of them that it's laughable. What I'm saying is that I like Quality or Drivel, and Spiral Path produced neither. Sigh.

Plans for February:

Eh. While I'd like to bump my reading of authors of color up to 30% (my goal), my only real plan this month is to read down my TBR books a bit. I reorganized my shelves last night and obsessively put a sticky note flag on every TBR book and realized I had a lot more of these than I thought. I'm therefore planning to conserve my book-buying dollar and buy only ebooks (because I know I don't have the impulse control to stop, so I'm not even gonna try!) and books that I "need" for BookRiot's Read Harder Challenge. And maybe more authors of color, so I have a bit more choice when browsing my shelves / ebook library.

"Need." I know, I know . . . but BOOKS!


Object Permanence Project, Week Four: Baby clothes

Following the Marie Kondo system, I thought I would be moving onto papers this week (skipping books; I'm perfectly happy with the state of my books), but I realized I had more clothes to get rid of. Baby clothes.

I am told that these are among the hardest things to purge, but for me they just aren't. I almost feel as if I'm "cheating" this week because of how easy this was for me. Much easier than my own things!

I am not a very sentimental mother, and while we do want a second child some day, I don't feel the need to hang on to all of A's old clothes thinking that maybe we'll use them again. Rather than giving them to charity, we send his things along to friends of ours who have a little boy just a few months younger than A. We'll get them back again if and when we need them, and in the meantime they'll see some more use. Baby clothes aren't really an own-forever sort of thing in my book. Therefore, this is what I am letting go of this week:

And, in keeping with the same thing, these are what I choose to keep in my life:


Karen Armstrong, Dorothy Day, and Matt Mikalatos: my thoughts on three very different pieces of “religious” writing

If you're not religious,  I do think you might be into one of the books I'm going to discuss (the Karen Armstrong), so keep reading or skip down or whatever, but don't automatically click away!

As everyone who knows either me or this blog is well aware, I am a Quaker. Specifically, I am a progressive Christian Quaker who likes to keep a foot in multiple worldviews. I am (almost) equally comfortable hanging out with evangelicals, atheist skeptics, academic theologians and philosophers, and of course My Own People, liberal Quakers.

My faith is a choice. I don't "know" there is a god in the bedrock way many do, though sometimes I wish I did. The best way to describe that part of my brain is agnostic — I just don't know. Again, I wish I did. I wish I had that kind of ontological certainty. I don't. There isn't any way to give it to me, and I am not going to lie: I ain't got it.

However, I give my heart and my life enthusiastically to the idea that God (the Christian God) is real, and act in all things as if ze is. Which, you know, I think is fine, because isn't that the whole point of faith? Not knowing, but giving yourself to it anyway? I don't really see myself as less of a Christian or as a Quaker for being honest about that, though I do strongly identify with the Thomas of the Gospels. Anyway. 

All that is a preamble to say, I read a lot about religion, and what I read is quite diverse. I like academic theology (including in religions other than Christianity, mostly Judaism), religious memoir, pure philosophy (including from atheists — I have always been fond of Bertrand Russel, though I can't stomach the New Atheists), and straight-up devotional literature.

In the past monthish, I've finished reading three very different books: Karen Armstrong's Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, Dorothy Day's The Duty of Delight, and Matt Mikalatos' The First Time We Saw Him: Awakening to the Wonder of Jesus.


Seven Quick Links (2/4/15)


I am still reading it. And now I am reading things about it, too.

Carl Jung struggled with reading Ulysses, and I entirely identify with his frustration:

"As far as my glance reaches, there are in those seven hundred and thirty-five pages no obvious repetitions and not a single hallowed island where the long-suffering reader may come to rest. There is not a single place where he can seat himself, drunk with memories, and from which he can happily consider the stretch of the road he has covered, be it one hundred pages or even less… But no! The pitiless and uninterrupted stream rolls by, and its velocity or precipitation grows in the last forty pages till it sweeps away even the marks of punctuation. It thus gives cruelest expressions to that emptiness which is both breath taking and stifling, which is under such tension, or is so filled to bursting, as to grow unbearable." 

And delightfully, this week McSweeny's (re)published "Feedback From James Joyce's Submission of Ulysses to His Creative Writing Workshop." Hilarity! Two of my favorite quotes:

“Snotgreen” = hyphenated.
Show us how these characters process memory, language, abstractions, and the urban landscape through stream of consciousness, don’t just tell us.




Theopoetics: "an interdisciplinary field of study that combines elements of poetic analysis, process theology, narrative theology, and postmodern philosophy." THESE ARE ALL OF MY FAVORITE THINGS! I am wearing out my caps-lock here.

But really, seeing faith as like poetry as opposed to like science? That is exactly who I am and what I do.

Look, a primer on theopoetics! Look, a free-access paper on theopoetics! Look, a website devoted to theopoetics! I have found my people!

Someone cut off my exclamation marks; I am abusing them.


Just Plain Fun

Adorable infographic on the unexpected origins of some familiar words.

And, from Book Riot, sage advice on how to stop that book from screaming. Because we all have had that problem, right?


“Top Ten Tuesday:” Books I can't believe I haven't read

The theme for today's "Top Ten Tuesday" over at The Broke and the Bookish is . . .

Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I Haven't Read

I am interpreting this as "Authors I Can't Believe I Haven't Read" … except for the last two because the shame degree is truly sky-high. You will see what I mean.

At any rate, here are seven authors that I am deeply ashamed to say I have read nothing by. Nothing. Not. One. Thing. (I have works by many of these fine writers waiting for me on my shelves, though!)

Eight authors I find it almost inconceivable that I have never read:

Joyce Carol Oates
William Faulkner
Flannery O'Connor
Alice Munro
David Foster Wallace
Thomas Pynchon
Saul Bellow
Chinua Achebe

And, to top it off, two books that truly alarm me every time I contemplate that I have not read them:

A Farewell to Arms
The Catcher in the Rye

oof. That's it for today, folks. I will be back on Wednesday with a links roundup and then, if you're still speaking to me, back again on Friday with a book review!


An apologia for writing in books

I write in books. 

Oh, how I love writing in books, and I am afraid I will never really understand the criticism.

Anne Fadiman, in her lovely collection of essays Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader draws a distinction between courtly and carnal lovers of books.

The courtly lover never dog-ears pages, handles books gently so as not to crack the spine, and would certainly never write in a book.

The carnal lover, however, dog-ears, underlines, and loves with abandon. The carnal lover shoves books in back pockets and then cracks the spine bending them back to read one-handed. The carnal lover definitely writes in their books.

I am a carnal lover. 

The criticism I hear most often is that I am "defacing" my books. But "defacing" implies a public act — something that ruins the experience of others. One can deface a library book, certainly, just as one can deface a statue or a wall or a building or any other work of art. But a private possession? And in particular, a mass-produced object, the content of which is available extraordinarily widely, and (in the case of classics) freely on the internet? I don't see how any amount of dog-earing, ripping of the covers, highlighting, and marginalia could possibly harm anyone or anything, including the work of literature itself.

But reading with a pen in my hand actively helps me.

I like to think critically about what I read. Sometimes I do read for pure, escapist pleasure. I don't (well, rarely) read Agatha Christie with a pen in my hand. I don't want to dissect her; I just want to read her.

Most anything else I read, though? I want to understand it. I want to follow it. I want to lift the curtain and see how the author is creating their effect (and so when I was trying to write my own murder mystery, I did read Christie with a pen in my hand). I want to retain it, I want to interact with it, and I want to be able to intelligently criticize it. I cannot come up with anything coherent to say about Ulysses without jotting it down (and, honestly, I haven't been — which is why there will be no forthcoming post on Ulysses on this blog!).

Yes, there are other ways I could do this. I could write in a steno notebook. I could take pictures of each section I want to mark, save it in Evernote, and mark up the file (I do something like this for borrowed or library books).

But really, why? It is so inconvenient. The steno pads would mount up. I would have to make an annoying electronic fuss. And then, when I re-read the book, I would have to go back, find the right steno pad or the right evernote file, and match up my notes with the text.

Why on earth would I want to do that when those big, beautiful margins are there, just waiting for me? Writing in books effortlessly connects "my" text with "the" text. It brings me closer to the author and the thoughts of the author. Responding to the text as the story or argument unfolds, I feel as if I am partaking in the "Great Conversation." And partaking in that conversation, even to the smallest extent, is much of what makes me happy in life. (Read this post of mine here on how books help me conquer my existential fear.)

Almost (though not quite) more than helping me connect with the thoughts of the authors, writing in books is like writing a letter to myself. I am a huge re-reader. I love coming across marginalia I scrawled years ago and seeing how my thoughts have changed (or haven't) on the passage. Sometimes I see things totally differently now — sometimes, too, my past self had an insight that my present self has forgotten about that. I do this most, by far, in my Bible, which is a wide-margin Bible specifically designed for this purpose. As I read and re-read my favorite passages, I can see the accretion of my thoughts, growing down the margins. So with my other books, though to a lesser extent.

I also love reading other people's marginalia. A book which has been scrawled in by a famous author dramatically increases in value. I love peeking into such books and seeing what their thoughts were on the matter at hand. I doubt I will ever rise to such prominence that my marginalia will have independent value, but I find that the principle is consistent. I react with glee when I open a used book to find that someone has been there before me. I like to read their insights, too. Apparently Studs Terkel would scold friends if they returned a borrowed book to him without adding marginalia. He told them that reading a book should "not be a passive exercise, but rather a raucous conversation." I agree.

One statement by the anti-writing-in-books set that really sets me off is "I love books too much to ever do that to a book!" Mark Twain was a scribbler-in-books. So were Coleridge, Blake, Darwin, David Foster Wallace, and C. S. Lewis. Are you really arguing that you love and respect books more than they did? Really? Really?

C. S. Lewis, in particular, was an ardent annotator. He had an entire system for his marginalia that he mentioned in one of his letters.

"To enjoy a book like that thoroughly I find I have to treat it as a sort of hobby and set about it seriously. I begin by making a map on one of the end-leafs: then I put in a genealogical tree or two. Then I put a running headline at the top of each page: finally I index at the end all the passages I have for any reason underlined. I often wonder -- considering how people enjoy themselves developing photos or making scrap-books -- why so few people make a hobby of their reading in this way. Many an otherwise dull book which I had to read have I enjoyed in this way, with a fine-nibbed pen in my hand: one is making something all the time and a book so read acquires the charm of a toy without losing that of a book."

In the past my scribbling has been very haphazard, and has often been mainly highlighting passages for easy reference later. Recently, though, I have begun to adopt the C. S. Lewis method: the running header, yes (though not the maps or the genealogical tree), but more importantly the sense of a book as a project. Approaching a book like this gives me an extra zest of pleasure from the book, a pleasure than only compounds itself as I re-read.

So in the end, the more I write in books the more pleasure I get from books. You can pry my pen from my cold, dead, book-loving fingers.


Object Permanence Project Week Three, Or: Adventures in Life-Changing Magic!

Welcome back to the Object Permanence Project, wherein I let go of the unnecessary and work to appreciate with joy what I already have. 

I have never read a book on organization, tidying, minimalism, or anything of the sort. Self-help books are just not my jam. However, this week my attention came to rest on a veritable Tidying Phenomenon of a book, featured in the New York Times and set to be made into a documentary film in Japan.

I refer to Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing."

Here is her advice: Organize by category. Scour your house for everything in that category, put it in a heap on the floor, and go through the pile item by item, taking each object into your hands and considering its existential place in your life. She recommends the question, "does this spark joy?"

Discard everything that does not spark joy. Organize the rest.

I wouldn't have read it (probably just tried the advice), but then I read the Goodreads reviews. Hilarious. 

My favorite, by "George," read, in its entirety, thusly: "Do you like talking to furniture? Do you believe shirts have souls? Are you insane? This might be the book for you." Other review highlights included, "Interesting if read as the autobiography of a tidy-mongering obsessive," and "The book is short and sweet, and the author is bat-shit crazy."

Bat-shit crazy? Just my style. 

So I read it.

I was very taken with it, indeed. For a book on cleaning, she has an intensely individual voice. She is charming and very quirky. She talks to her socks. She places no value on tidiness for the sake of tidiness (neither do I); she finds value in how tidying helps us focus on other things more easily. "Tidying," she writes, "is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order … After all, what is the point in tidying? If it's not so that our space and the things in it can bring us happiness, then I think there is no point at all."

And most congruent with what I have been trying to do here, she also focuses on appreciating what we have: "We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of … I had been so focused on what to discard, on attacking the unwanted obstacles around me, that I had forgotten to cherish the things that I loved, the things I wanted to keep."

Yup. That's what I want to do.

So yesterday, I embarked upon following her advice. She instructs her disciples to begin with clothing.

Every article of clothing I own, piled on my living room floor.
Baby for scale. (Baby is not actually an article of clothing.)

So that was a lot of clothes. I would say I spent a righteous five hours in sorting, discarding, folding, and putting away.

I'm not a huge shopper, and I have often culled clothes on a smaller scale, so I did not think I had quite so much clothing (or so much to get rid of). Kondo points out, though, that if we store our things in multiple places (I had) it is easy to overlook how much we have.

I filled five 13-gallon kitchen trash bags with clothes and shoes for donation or discard. (Note: This was a delightful project to do with a baby. He was very engaged with chewing on belt buckles and banging boot heels against the floor.)

In the end, everything I decided to keep fit neatly into one chest of drawers and half of our small closet (Rob has the other half) except for some outerwear, etc that I keep on the coat rack or in the mud room.

One of the aspects I find most delightful about Getting Rid of Stuff is that the more I let go of stuff, the less I want to shop for new stuff. That's pretty great, and I think it's because the more I mindfully surround myself only with things I love, the less I feel I need.

If I can open my drawer and feel as if I am really pleased with every shirt in there, I feel the need for new clothing much less. The same with books, etc. On the other hand, if I open the drawer and only see things that I have no real interest in wearing, I feel tempted to buy more.

Further, the more I let go of the more I realize how little I truly need (except for books. I "need" a lot of those.)

Speaking of things I really love, here are my appreciated objects for this week. It is cold here — 9 degrees Fahrenheit minus windchill at 12:30pm in the sunny, blue-skied afternoon. I am feeling a great deal of appreciation for my everyday outerwear.

This coat wins Most Valuable Player in my wardrobe. It is a rather ancient Burberry that I picked up years ago in a second-hand shop for almost no money. It has a zip-in wool liner for cold weather. It gets more wear than anything else I own, hands down. I wear it all four seasons, zipping the liner in and out. It has been with me to Kenya and China. I lost the belt on a plane ride into Shanghai but that almost makes me love it more, not less. I use it as a raincoat, my winter coat (layered up with sweaters), and a blanket when I travel. I have it dry-cleaned once or twice a year to get the inevitable coffee stains out, and while it is at the cleaner's I feel bereft. I don't know what I'll ever do if and when it finally dies because this is not a coat I could afford to replace new.

Both the hat and scarf are from Sweet Lady Jane in downtown B'ton. I love the scarf in particular — it is a finely woven merino wool and it's also an infinity scarf. I wear it both as a scarf or as a shawl, it wraps around my head easily to keep out the wind, and it is attractive enough to be worn at work. The hat is just plain old acrylic, but it is warm and has a darling wooden button accent that I love. Navy blue goes with everything. (Not pictured: black and white wool mittens, from a yard sale.)

Outerwear. It's important to love your outerwear during winter in northern Vermont.

That's it for this week, then! Object Permanence returns next week, with more discarding and appreciating.