A Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo


A review of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Just a little update on my hoard for ya.

Things were going o.k. for awhile - and then we started remodeling our house. And then my Mom died. And then we moved. Remodeling, death, and moving - that's like the TRIFECTA of unwanted stuff raining down into your space. The only thing worse than a bunch of stuff you need to sort through and get rid of is a bunch of stuff that is covered with 200 year-old plaster dust. Seriously.

My intention for the move to Colorado was to bring only the items that I loved. I would donate or sell everything I didn't want in my beautiful new apartment so that I could focus on mountain hikes and eating out at expensive restaurants. And then...I reached the point during packing that pretty much everyone does. The point where you say, "F*ck it. It all goes on the truck. I'll deal with it when I get there."

And that's pretty much where I'm at right now. Dealing with the aftermath of that mentality. Now, on the positive side? The mover made a comment that at 3,000 pounds, we were "light" for two married people. Maybe.

But when I heard good things about Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I downloaded that book right away. So this is also a book review. Not just a hoard review.

Kondo's toughest assignment is to sort by category, asking each item if it brings you joy. Like, she wants you to lay out every piece of clothing you own on the floor so that you can see what you own. And when you can see every piece of clothing you own in front of you, you have to question your relationship with it. If it doesn't bring you joy, it goes in the garbage or gets donated. If it gets sent away, you need to send it away with gratitude. There's more to this process than I can capture here, but I won't spoil it for you. You need to read the book.

And you need to quit dissing your socks. No, really. Kondo says,

"Have you ever had the experience where you thought what you were doing was a good thing but later learned that it hurt someone? At the time, you were totally unconcerned, oblivious to the other person's feelings. This is somewhat similar to the way many of us treat our socks."

Your sucks HURT emotionally when you roll them into balls. According to Marie Kondo.

It's funny to read, in its way, but what she's really talking about is our relationship to what we own and what that relationship means in the context of our lives. It's the meaning of the stuff that makes it so complicated. How many pictures of my mother do I need to save? What does it say if I discard a gift that someone chose for me? The answers to these questions are in this book. Or at least a helpful process for moving toward those answers. And there's a great chapter on the seductive nature of organization products and how to break up with them.

Probably my most immediate takeaway from Kondo's book is the section on sorting papers. There's a small list of things you need to keep - in my case, tax paperwork as I'm self-employed - but everything else? Kondo says pitch it. Chuck it. Throw it away. An instant cure for the stack of appliance manuals I had on my table. I thought the buyer of our Virginia house should have them, but I never quite got them in the mail to the realtor's office. Yesterday, I picked them all up and threw them in the garbage. Google it, dude.

I'm thinking seriously about dropping my grandma's dishes at the thrift store. For real, this time.

Good book. I recommend it. And I recommend it with a bottle of Apathy Anti-Bad-Mood Spray - to refresh your mind and your space while you sort.



The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

A review of The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss.

A Review of The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss


Let me start by saying that I don't have my heart set on a Ferrari and moving to Guatemala isn't something I've always dreamed of. All the same, I did find golden nuggets in this book that seemed worth sharing. If you're like me - overwhelmed with paperwork and an overflowing email inbox - you might also like to give this book a try.

Tim Ferriss wrote the book almost like a series of blog posts. I mention this because other reviewers have found his writing style sort of annoying. I actually found it a quite handy way of parsing out specific insights. I absorbed different sections each day and experimented with those I thought would be helpful.

My greatest takeaway from The Four Hour Workweek will probably be Tim Ferriss' advice to "batch check" email. He recommends checking email just twice a day - 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. - and NEVER checking email in the morning.

Because I'm on Mountain Time, I adjusted the hours a little bit to reflect my clients' time zones, turned off all my phone notifications and then...held my breath. Also on Tim's advice, I set my phone to "Do Not Disturb" between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Ferriss was right. I noticed an instant uptick in my productivity, especially between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. - the hours I decided I would log in for messages. I suddenly had four hours available to complete client projects without interruption, and on top of that? I finished each day in a great mood.

Another thing I'd like to try is routing phone calls to a different number. Ferriss recommends using a service like Google Voice to route unwanted sales and other calls directly to voicemail. When I got rid of my land line a few years ago, it never occurred to me that the end result would be a dramatic uptick in the number of unwanted calls to my cell phone. I guess I'm just not that smart. Last week while I was out exercising, I received five phone calls in a half hour period. Though I didn't answer them, each call interrupted my focus for the task at hand and made me feel guilty for being away from my desk.

Another helpful suggestion was to itemize the tasks you do each day or each week that drain you but could be given to another person. There are so many, right? I chose two - housekeeping and grocery shopping - as things I could outsource as Tim Ferriss suggests. Working from home means you're available to change the laundry; run to the store; take the animals to the vet; accept packages - take care of everything, really.

While you can never totally get away from keeping a clean house, I acknowledged that having a housekeeper in twice a month to deep clean the bathrooms, kitchen, floors and dust surfaces would actually take alot of stress off my plate. Having groceries delivered from Safeway for $13 per order? Well, that $13 is a fraction of my billable time. Again, it's probably not something you'd do EVERY time you need supplies, it's certainly very helpful for the days you're working on deadline and you're almost out of cat food.

There were other sections that inspired as well. There was a proposal on my desk that I wasn't sure about, but when I realized it would pay for that Japan trip I've been wanting to schedule, I decided to put my name in. Instead of thinking about saving money by purchasing boxes in bulk online and taking a few personal packages to the USPS, I just dumped them at the UPS Store and let them wrap and send the boxes (at a premium price.) It's not something I can do all the time, but given how long they've been sitting in the living room - it just made sense. Get it out the door. Git r' done. And I'm going to try keeping UJ Ramdas' Five-Minute Journal.

Other sections I just skimmed through. I'm not going to move abroad to hedge my currency. I'm unlikely to lease a Ferrari, even if I could eventually afford it. So not everything was helpful, but a few tips made a surprising difference in my week, and I will continue to use them.

What helps you control your productive time? What books do you read to motivate and inspire you for the work week? Do you have any favorites you think I should check out?

And P.S. - Consider purchasing an Anti-Bad-Mood Spray! Thanks!


Help and Tips for Seasonal Winter Depression or SAD

I grew up in Minnesota. I'm an expert on winter depression. Looking back, I can see that my seasonal depression affected many, many areas of my life. Sorting through old papers, I found a stack of school report cards. The pattern was obvious even then. Each school year I started strong, bottomed out in the middle winter, and then concluded with a last, desperate rally in the spring.  Back in my day, we didn't really have a name for all of that. The natural and chemical cures for seasonal depression were pretty limited back then - and, in my family, the need for any kind of that kind of support went unrecognized. If we called it anything, we said that Heidi wasn't "trying hard enough."

It wasn't until I moved to Scotland that I became very conscious of SAD, and very deliberate about the ways in which I dealt with it. Minnesota was cold and dark, but Scotland brought the experience of cold and dark to an entirely new level. In the depths of winter Edinburgh doesn't see the sun rise until 9 a.m. and it begins to set at 3 p.m. On a blustery, rainy day it could feel as if the sun never came out at all. But I still had to go about my business. I had a husband. Graduate school. A job. It was during this time that I tried everything I could possibly think of to help me cope with the winter blues, and during this time that I found several things that seem to help me a great deal. I still use these methods today:


1) Light Therapy.

Light therapy boxes help winter depression or SAD.


Light therapy makes an incredible difference. At first you think, I don't need to spend $150 on this thing and then you get so desperate that you do and there's no looking back. If you don't have one - get one. I sit in front of the light box each morning while I'm drinking coffee and I spend about 15 minutes in front of it before I get on with the day. The box in the picture is the one I own but I'm not going to link to it because I think the legs are rickety and, therefore, I don't feel like I want to recommend it. There are lots of them out there but if you're going to get one, get the biggest one you can afford. I cannot vouch for the small desktop versions - maybe someone else can? And don't get confused. The light box is not a tanning booth, and a tanning booth will not give you the anti-depression benefits you are hoping for. It will just give you brown spots and cancer.


2) Exercise.


Exercise will help SAD or Winter Depression.


Just look how happy that chick in the picture is! But seriously, folks. Go to the gym. Drag yourself there with the promise that you'll sit in the steam room afterward. Whatever it takes. But regular exercise will help your winter depression (and other kinds of depression). Walk the dog in the middle of the day. Find a way to get outside the office at lunch (run errands?)


3) Massage.


 Massage will help winter depression.


I know, I know. You can't afford a massage AND a light box. Maybe you can't afford either one. But can you afford to let your life slide into the toilet because you're depressed? No. When you're exhausted, achy, and depressed - a good massage can work wonders.


4) Aromatherapy.


Apathy anti bad mood spray has aromatherapy essential oils helpful for season depression.


Aromatherapy is a form of natural support for winter depression. I first learned to use (and blend) essential oils when I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland. I made a version of what I now call Apathy™ Anti-Bad-Mood Spray and used it constantly. My colleagues joked that all the papers coming out of my office were scented with herbs. The product I sell here is a light version - helpful for you but not as intense as my old recipe - and easy to use. No aromatherapy burner required. At $25, the anti-apathy spray is the price of two martinis on South Beach and will last you six months if you use it every day. I spray it into the mist of the shower each morning to sharpen my mind before the work day begins. It's also helpful after lunch or even in the car.


5) Anti-Depressant Medications.


anti-depressant can help seasonal depression or SAD.

If you are unable to improve your mood with exercise and alternative treatments, don't be afraid to talk to your doctor. If you don't feel comfortable talking to your doctor about depression, find another doctor. It's very, very common and lots of folks are struggling just as you are. You might find a low dose of an anti-depressant very helpful. As the years go by, I think it is harder and harder for many people to rebound from seasonal depression. In the spring you are left with the detrius of SAD - unfinished work, weight gain, whatever - and dealing with that stuff can prolong your suffering and carry over into the spring and summer. Ask yourself if it is worth it, big picture, to cycle through this every year and talk to your doctor about what might be done about it. Untreated depression affects your life on so many levels and has been proven to damage areas of the brain critical for health and well being. A healthy mind is critically important for maintaining lifelong physical health - you don't have to suffer.


6) Do stuff.


Force yourself to do things you enjoy even in bad weather.


Force yourself. I learned this the hard way in Scotland. The Scottish winter will break your heart. You'll be half way to work and it will start to rain (sideways) so hard that your pockets fill with water and your trousers are soaked to the knees. I have hung my socks on the office radiator ALL DAY and still found them damp at 4 p.m. But, on the same token, if you wait for nice weather in Scotland, you'll be waiting forever. Food must be purchased. You have to catch the bus to work. So you get yourself the tools you need (wax jacket, super-powered umbrella, waterproof shoes) and just GO. The same holds true for winter everywhere else. Get what you need to be warm and dry and then get out there. Go to a museum. A movie. Meet friends for dinner. Do something fun in the snow. At least once a week.

I could go on and on. But these are my main strategies for coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. I use my Apathy Anti-Bad-Mood aromatherapy spray every day. And I exercise. And sit in front of my light box. As recently as this morning. What do you do to cope with seasonal depression? I'd love to hear your tips and tricks!




Why I don't "Crowdfund" or use Kickstarter

Heidi Rettig's Faux leopard coat and vintage bag.

This photo has absolutely nothing to do with mood sprays or crowd funding. I just wanted to show you my vintage faux leopard coat and the red bag I bought in Paris fifteen years ago.

Now, on to the point:

Every once in awhile a friend will ask me why I don't put the Anti-Bad-Mood Sprays on Kickstarter. I have vision for my products beyond what you see here (mostly marketing and sample sizes) but it's tough to leverage the cash to make some of those dreams come true.The crowdfunding concept is attractive and Kickstarter's success stories would make any entrepreneur want to try for the gold.

But here's what I've learned after working in philanthropy: there's no such thing as "free money." Here's another thing I've learned from a decade of helping nonprofits raise money: You can ask for money but you can only ask one time. No - really.

Think of it this way and your successful grant applications will noticeably increase: If you have just one opportunity to connect with a funding source - are you ready? Can you present a carefully thought out idea (you would be surprised how many people believe that a casual social relationship with a funder will be more important than have an actual idea to discuss.) Does your work fit the donor's funding interests? Is it a quality product? Will you pursue the goal with or without funders' support? Do you have the skills to pull any of it off? Because if you're not ready even though you swore you would be then you can't ask again. If you do get the money then you have a set of responsibilities to the donor. Are you prepared for that?

So much energy goes into the creative presentation of ideas - that's a truly beautiful thing and crowd funders do that really well. Where it often falls apart is on delivery. Because happens when you accept support but your end product is just, kind of..."meh"...? What happens when the idea never comes to fruition? That's powerful information you're sending to your community of supporters about your products and your abilities to pull it off. Botch it and you'll never be able to ask again.

If you've given support to more than one Kickstarter project the chances are you've received something pretty average in return. Okay, it's a gamble and not every gamble pays off. But would you give money to that entrepreneur again? Or just look for someone else the next time around?

Also, my experience has been that people get tired of the "ask." How many times have you received an email from a cause promising that they'll never ask you for money again? Never is as long as it takes for the next email to arrive, just a couple of months later. Like a guy on the street corner with a cup out - passerby eventually become indifferent to his plight. In the case of nonprofit arts, I don't think that your email list makes any distinction between the tickets you're selling as an "ask" and the quarterly plea for donations. An "ask" is an "ask." They will become indifferent to repeated requests. So what do you want the most from them? Ask for that. One time.

I don't crowd fund because I'd rather just sell you my truly beautiful thing - my Mood Sprays - because I am pretty confident you will enjoy the scent, the luxury packaging, and the humor on the labels. If you enjoy them you will return to the website for more. Mood Sprays are a real idea, in the marketplace, for real-time feedback. And the feedback and support from customers is incredibly satisfying. (Best "starter" mood spray for the novice user: Apathy - smells like fresh-peeled grapefruit!)

I so appreciate my relationships with the folks who have taken a chance on my products - it has been wonderful to get to know all of you and your candor over the past two years has helped me refine the project in so many important ways. Good reviews give me energy for the next steps. Thank you!

I feel good about every box I ship - I've hand-blended every bottle and I know that if it smells good enough for me it smells good enough for you. So, I guess from that point of view, I could feel confident about putting my work up on a crowd funding site. But honestly - it feels so much better when you buy Mood Sprays just because you enjoy them! Thanks for listening.

[steps off soapbox]



Mood Sprays to Appear in Nexus, Colorado's Holistic Health Journal.

This ad for Anti-Bad-Mood Sprays™ will appear in an upcoming issue of Nexus, a holistic health journal published in the Denver area. This ad was designed by Steve at Nexus!


Ad for anti-bad-mood sprays to appear in Nexus holistic health journal.


Are Mood Sprays Safe for Pets and Children?

Anti-Bad-Mood Sprays are safe for use around children and pets.


Yes. Our mood sprays are safe for use around pets and children. The ingredient list is short, 100 percent natural, and essential oils are organically sourced as often as possible.

You can use your Anti-Bad-Mood sprays to freshen pet areas without worrying about exposing sensitive noses to harsh cleaning products. I use my Apathy spray near the litter box to clean the air without harmful chemicals. I spray the bedroom a couple of times after making the bed and I find it gives our bedroom a feeling of freshness when we return to it in the evening. When my cats are snoozing on the bed during the day, I know they are healthy and safe in that space.

I don't have children, but I'm always trying to push Anti-Bad-Mood Sprays on people who do. Anyone with a diaper pail needs a bottle of Apathy. I'm shipping a free mini-pack (a $10 value) with every purchase of a full-sized bottle through the end of October so you can give them all a try!


My First Job and Two Ways To Make Your Office Less Miserable


Remember your first full-time office job? How unprepared were you to sit in one chair, in one room, with the same group of people day in and day out? School doesn't cut it. Even at school you get the occasional break - moving from classroom to classroom or the gym for the dreaded P.E. hour. No. The office is something entirely different. 

Obviously, it was kind of hard on me. My first job was at a major multinational corporation. The woman I worked for sat me down at a desk and trained me from 9-5 for two solid weeks.The training was intense, but it was HANDS DOWN the best job training I've ever received. For eight hours a day I looked at the hair on her arms and swore I'd never wear a finger condom when *I* filed. (That was *before* I found out that I was responsible for filing 2,000 paper purchase orders by number each and every day.) For those two weeks of training, the bathroom stall was my only private space. And it wasn't even that private. No matter what time of day, it seemed that a certain elderly employee would be settled in the adjacent stall smoking a cigarette and flinging questions toward my high heels.

This was a long time ago. Back then you could still smoke at your desk! I was so young I once believed an ingrown toenail caused by those pointy, 80's high heels worthy of a visit to the corporate nurse. Times are different now. It's 11 a.m. and I'm wearing flip flops in my home office. And that's just the start.

But I digress. A friend shared this ThinkGeek product on Facebook and I had to post it here.The Insta Sky flourescent light filter creates...well...an instasky out of those miserable overhead office lights. Simple products (like Anti-Bad-Mood Sprays) can change the mood of the whole room. A perfect gift for that office worker in your life. Add a bottle of Apathy and they're set for the year.


Special for Denver, Colorado RIGHT HERE.

Inspired by the people I met on a recent trip to Denver, I'm running a new ad in Colorado's Westword publication.



This week's special: Purchase a full-sized bottle of Apathy and you will receive a set of four mini-misters as a bonus gift!


Mini Travel Size Aromatherapy Mood Sprays

The yellow? Or the orange. Obviously the orange. Coming soon: a mini four-pack of Anti-Bad-Mood Spray bottles. For your bad moods on-the-go. This package will replace the mini aromatherapy mood spray tins in time for the holidays.


Changing Your Habits by Changing Your Environment.


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