Thursday, May 28, 2020

Marie Kondo Would Not Approve

Marie Kondo would not approve.

"Tidy your space; 
transform your life," she promises.

But I'm a pack rat.
There: I said it.
I've also lived in the same house for nearly 35 years now.
It's a recipe for an overwhelming task.
Only a pandemic could have forced my hand.
Well, that's one good thing, I suppose.

The casual visitor wouldn't necessarily uncover this particular character flaw.
On the surface, there may be a little extra dust from time to time.
For the most part, my house is presentable ... at least, at surface level.
But I sure didn't want anyone opening a closet or drawer.

And even though I've been slowly chipping away - a cabinet or closet at a time - I still am not ready for a visit from the white-glove lady.

Kondo - the organizational guru - says you should get rid of "stuff" that doesn't "Spark Joy." OK, but some of it does spark joy - or at the very least - it sparks memories. (I am guessing Kondo is happy enough that some people bought her book. She must be betting that her missive is worth the real estate it takes on the book shelf. Something to ponder, right?!)

Anyway, I've thrown away a bunch of stuff.
We've donated some other stuff.

I couldn't bring myself to throw away some of the cards or letters my kids sent, so those went into a little storage box. I guess they'll get to throw them away some day.
I uncovered a stack of thank you notes from people from back in my days as a writer at The Hutchinson News. Among the stacks of letters I'd saved, I counted five from people who had a bone to pick with a story I wrote. Two of them were connected to a story in which I quoted someone saying that the Kansas Author's Club members were "a bunch of old ladies in hats."

First of all, I didn't say it.
I shared an accurate quote from someone I interviewed.
Their opinion, not mine.
Upon further reflection, perhaps I should have left that quote out. I was young.

A couple more were from the grammar police.
I usually do a better-than-average job with grammar.
But I'm certainly not infallible. One lady enumerated my many faults in a multi-page missive.

Isn't it curious that I've spent a whole lot more time thinking about the criticisms than the largely-positive "thank yous" and "so well done" remarks?" I suppose it's a lesson in human nature as much as it is grammar.

Long, long ago, the Class Prophecy for Skyline High School's Class of 1975 predicted I'd be a writer at The New York Times. Since I'm a small-town girl through and through, I never bought into the vision some creative classmate penned 45 years ago. At the time, I suppose we all envisioned that success was measured far, far away from the plains of Kansas.
I'd forgotten a letter from an opera singer I'd interviewed. It said, in part:
My friends here in New York have decided that you should be on the staff of Opera News or at least The New York Times. I agree. You captured the essence of "me" on paper.
A Lindsborg native sent me a letter from Germany by "Air Mail" after I interviewed her for a feature story. 
I found notes from two of my elementary-school teachers. My college advisor and instructor sent a note after I won some national writing and page design awards.

Two other letters were addressed to Kim Moore and Pete Souza. At the time, Pete was a staff photographer for The News.
Pete Souza went on to serve as White House photographer for both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. (Well, at least one of us moved on to bigger things.)

I read all of the letters again and then reluctantly tossed them. And, in truth, I didn't specifically remember three-fourths of the articles they mentioned. 

In an evaluation I uncovered, a former editor called my feature work "exceptional." He had a lot of nice things to say, but he also pegged my shortcomings rather well.
1) While her reporting is - as always - thorough, it tends to be lengthy ...

2) She often gets very involved in the stories she's doing, and while so far that has actually been a benefit by giving her greater insight, caution must be exercised to see that it doesn't foul her ability to still look at the issue with the detachment necessary to provide balanced reporting.
Guilty as charged to both counts. This blog post certainly qualifies.
I feel really old after finding some thank you notes from Mrs. Leavelle's 2nd grade class at Stafford Elementary. They were sent to me following their field trip to The News. Some of those "second graders" are now friends on Facebook and have their own families.

I may have a harder time throwing away the actual clippings. I'm still in the sorting phase of that particular Kondo-inspired project. It's slow going.
I have a whole legal-sized file folder filled with the love of Herman. (No, I haven't been two-timing Randy. Herman was a sourdough starter whose appeal grew as exponentially as his dough.) Ironically, during this pandemic, there's been a resurgence in bread baking and also an interest in sourdough. I just haven't heard anyone call it "Herman" yet. See? Maybe I'm not ready to get rid of that file quite yet.

I'm having similar withdrawal pangs about tossing:
  • Mountains of newspaper clips, some of which I had entered in state and national competitions;
  • Foothill-sized mounds of newsletter publications for Wesley Towers, Newton Medical Center, Youthville and others for whom I wrote as a freelancer after "retiring" from The News;
  • Vocal solo accompaniment tapes, even though I don't have a working cassette player any longer and the church audio system can no longer play them;
  • 4-H foods and photography leader files. This represents another huge investment of time and effort through my kids' growing-up years.
I did toss a stack of newspaper clips crammed inside 5- by 7-inch manila envelopes. How research has changed! Back in the pre-Google days, we filed articles so we could reference them again. For example, if I was going to write another article about the Cosmosphere, I could pull my handy-dandy manila envelope for background material.
Also destined for the trash pile are file cabinets full of clips from other magazines, newspapers, etc., that might serve as a springboards for story ideas. They range from asparagus to zucchini in the food article realm to files on miscarriage, adoption and more. As long as my helper's back holds out, I'll keep weeding out those file folders and having him tote them by laundry-basket-full out of the basement.

Isn't Google miraculous when you think about it?

I was amused by a file I found labeled "computers." An article in Kansas Farmer from 1989 had this headline: To Computer Or Not to Computer" with the subtitle: That is the question. A computer for your farm isn't necessary. Be aware of how much time it's going to take if you do decide to buy a computer."

My, how times have changed, right?

Another article in the computer file was from Family Fun magazine: "So You'd Like to Buy A Computer: What every family in search of a computer needs to know to get the biggest bang for the buck."

I guess that article ended up with the most pull, since there's also a receipt for the first home computer I purchased in that file folder.
Another publication made me kind of sad. When I worked at The Hutchinson News, it was the flagship paper in the Harris Group. The community newspaper is on its deathbed, I fear, as large media conglomerates have swallowed up papers and slashed local staff.

My old proportion wheel reflects a time when page design required more brainpower than a computer.

I know my old Junior Parent notebook is obsolete, but serving as chair or co-chair of those efforts for both Jill's and Brent's classes also represents a lot of time and effort. Same goes for the kids' scholarship notebooks. And no way am I getting rid of the 3-ring wedding binder yet. 

I don't even want to think about the tubs of photos and my kids' school mementos that need to be sorted and organized. But I have plenty to do before I get to that seemingly insurmountable task. I sure wish that digital photography had arrived a little sooner.

You can't expect miracles, Marie Kondo. I'm trying ... I really am.


  1. I have so enjoyed reading this 'lengthy' expose, as it has enlightened me so much to the 'Kim' before life on the farm. No wonder you are having a hard time culling. Having moved several times in our married life, many of my 'treasures' have been culled. We have several boxes of our boy's school mementos and with them both living overseas, they will have been moved on, when the boys might actually want to read them. I've decided to put the photos of their childhood [of which there are many!] on one of these updated USB sticks,after I have photographed the pages in the albums. Keep up the good work and don't stress over Marie Kondo!

    1. Thanks, Helen! It is slow-going! I took a break this weekend, but I'll get started again today. I have always loved photos, and I didn't do a very good job of culling as I went. The kids' mementos will have to wait for awhile. That part truly is too overwhelming to ponder at the moment. I wish I'd been more of a scrapbook maker when they were little. Your idea about the USB sticks is a good one. I'll keep plodding away.

  2. I feel your heart tugs! We have all Alan's weekly extension columns from 1979-2004, plus many other 'treasures'. It's a journey!

    1. I was lamenting all the work I was throwing away to the kids. Jill said, "Just because you're throwing away the physical reminders of your work at The News doesn't take away from the achievements you had and the hard work that went into it." Even though the kids don't really remember that part of my life, they both had very nice things to say. (Of course, they are also glad that I'm getting some of this done, rather than them having to hire a giant trash bin when I'm gone!) I wish I had a little more of Jill's "toss it" gene! She sure didn't get that from me! Good luck on your efforts, too!