electric boogaloo

The Life-Changing Magic of Being a Rich Person

Alright, it’s time for a KonMari update. Last weekend I decided to work on clothes. This is the first step. It’s supposed to teach you how to tune into the feeling of joy. I’m not proud to say that I’ve watched videos of other people doing this, and it’s always AMAZING.

When I did it, it wasn’t that amazing. It was kind of a bummer. But I did it.

First, as instructed, I washed all of my laundry, emptied all of the dresser drawers and closet hangers. and then piled my entire wardrobe on the bed. Konmari says to put it on the floor, but that’s where I keep most of our cat and dog hair. Plus I’m 42 years old and sitting on the floor makes everything hurt. Marie Kondo is 30. Big difference. Still, I debated. I don’t want to ruin everything by not following the very first instruction! But finally decided that if using the bed instead of the floor is all it takes to kill my success then I was probably going to fail anyway.

She says, “First, go through your shirts.” Pick up each one and feel it and ask yourself: does this shirt spark joy?

I started with some easy ones. Favorites. Heck yes, this Rolling Stone Obama campaign shirt sparks joy. Look at it! It’s awesome! And when I wear it he’s looking down and laughing at anyone shorter than my chest. Joy, indeed.

But it was sad to come across shirts that used to spark joy but now are tired, stained, torn, and clearly needed to go. You’re supposed to talk to the things you toss, like the fabled Indian thanking the buffalo he is about to eat. I’m sorry, friend. Thank you for being a great shirt. Sorry I never read your care instructions, and just tossed you in cold water with everything else. Sorry I got fatter and stretched you out. Sorry about the block printing ink. Sorry you were poorly made by that asshole at American Apparel. Sorry about the stain — what even IS that? Gross. Sorry.

Note that Konmari talks more about THANKING things, rather than apologizing to them but I was raised by a Mexican Catholic mother, so this is how I thank things.

It was going well, but then I committed a Konmari crime. I started second guessing my decisions. And yeah, pulled a few things back out of the rejection pile. Because here’s the thing, okay? I’m not rich. If that shirt is warm and soft and works perfectly for layering under stuff, then the small stain on the front is nobody’s business. When I can afford to replace it with a nicer one, then hey! Joy-sparking items only. But until then I can’t justify getting rid of something that is useful.

She sort of dances around this kind of thing later, those boring, joy-free things like household tools. Because after she got rid of her joyless screwdrivers she broke a nail trying to fix something and then she realized oh WAIT, having the right mundane tool on hand when you need it sparks a certain KIND of joy. The joy of not being an idiot who tries to unscrew something with your fingernail. But it’s a reach, right? And I don’t want to spend money replacing perfectly useful, wearable clothing in order to learn that lesson. So I rescued some stuff. And you know, it’ll be alright. I got rid of a decent amount of clothing and will be ready to do this again later.

After my remaining clothes were put away, I stalled out. After clothes you are supposed to tackle books because it’s the next easiest category. Oh, man. Ruthlessly going through books means facing a lot of my own bullshit. We have sagging shelves crammed with many ambitious homeschool-related books, novels that I probably won’t finish, how-to crafting books — in other words, books where getting rid of them means admitting failure. Konmari would say to thank those books for teaching me what I don’t enjoy doing. Thank you, books, for teaching me that I don’t enjoy getting rid of books.

And then there are the books I keep because awww I remember reading that to my babies when they were *babies* and even though they don’t remember those stories because it’s been years since they were babies, by golly I REMEMBER. She wisely says to save sentimental items for the end, but for me that includes a lot of books. Still, I’m determined. This weekend I started slowly gathering them all from different parts of the house. They’ll be subjected to the JS (Joy Sparking) test soon.

In the meantime, I started clearing out some catch-all storage areas. Warning: this is NOT part of the official Konmari way. Do as the smart lady says, not as the dumb lady does! But the need to set up our sewing machine led to a cascade of problem solving which ended with me realizing oh my god there is so much crap everywhere. Two giant garbage bags are going away. I’ve decided that for crafty types and for people with kids and just for generally messy people, there needs to be like a pre-Konmari sweep through the house where you get rid of all the obvious junk and start doing some very basic work putting things into their proper categories for later. So! That’s what I’m working on this week and it is either a brilliant bit of insightful planning OR a sophisticated procrastination technique. Either way, stuff is going out the door.

posted by electric boogaloo in Journal and have Comments (4)

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, and if that Doesn’t Work Maybe Just Laying a Lamp in the Middle of the Bed and Going Out of Town for a Few Days

I’ve decided to blog as I attempt to Konmari the holy living shit out of my life. There are lots of folks out there doing the same thing, but this one will be a somewhat more extreme test of the Konmari method because I have kids and pets and a home-based business with inventory and a creative brain and a bad attitude. Honestly I’m skeptical that it’ll work for me. Konmari says *everyone* is skeptical at first, but then they succeed. Of course that’s just what I’d expect her to say if she was lying.

Let me be clear: there’s a lot to hate about Konmari’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The tone is unbearably smug. She repeatedly brags that NONE of her clients has ever gone back to being messy. I wonder if maybe those who failed were afraid to ever call her again, so she put them in the win column. Would you want to be her one footnote?

“Over the years I have helped hundreds of clients change their lives, and none of them have ever failed!”
*except for one terrible person, Tiffany Ard of Atlanta GA

And a lot of her advice is just plain silly. You are supposed to talk to your socks and thank them for their hard work. Talking to things is not a problem for me but it’s much more fun to be mean and unfair to stuff that doesn’t have feelings. There’s Konmari’s approach
Thank you, socks, for supporting me all day today.
vs mine
See you in hell, sock bastards!

So I’m not sure she and I could ever be friends. But what I do like is this. A lot of other advice about cleaning and organizing seems to be: just stop being like that! Have a different brain! Konmari doesn’t pretend it’s that easy. She doesn’t bullshit. Instead she basically says look, you’re an idiot, I get it. It’s okay. But here’s how to succeed anyway and maybe in time you will learn to at least act a little bit less like an idiot.

Here are the five main non-annoying things I took away from this book:

1. Don’t try to win little battles. Win the motherfucking WAR. Commit to completing the entire program, decluttering the whole house. Otherwise you’ll backslide because you are an idiot slob who never learned how to clean. (This isn’t subtext. She really says several times that you were never taught how to clean house. Bitch! It’s TRUE, but still. Rude.)

2. This is an important point for me, so I’m giving it its own bullet point: DO NOT START BY BUYING BINS. Or folders or boxes or whatever uniform-looking organization product makes you feel like you’re doing something great when all you’re really doing is going shopping. The mess isn’t at Target (well, it partly is, spread out over time). Go to your home. Figure out cute boxes and bins later after you have pared down your stuff.

3. Instead of trying to go room by room, conquer stuff in CATEGORIES. There’s a specific order you should go in that is intended to help you learn how to sort things, doing easier stuff first. First Clothes, then books, followed by papers, office and misc crap, kitcheny things, pantry, cleaning supplies, tools, bathroom junk, furniture/decor, sentimental stuff. Finally (I’m assuming) you go through and discard any pets, people or limbs that are failing to spark joy. Maybe quit your job and just sit and admire your beautiful clean house.

4. Keep only things that make you happy. When you’re working on a category, run around the house and grab everything that qualifies. Pile it all on the floor and go through it. Touch every single item and ask yourself Does This Spark JOY? If not, throw it away. If so, keep it. Don’t keep things because of guilt or maybe someday I’ll lose that ten pounds or it was expensive or a gift etc. If seeing and touching it makes you feel happy, yay! If it makes you feel burdened or bad or blah, let go. I’m not sure how this works with things like important medication, documents and bills, but we will see.

5. Do all this crazy fancy folding that makes you love and appreciate the stuff you are keeping. I think this is also where you learn how to talk nicely to your socks.

Alright, Konmari. To make room for my laptop on the kitchen table I had to shove the following things out of the way:
Cup of ice from QT
Roll of paper towels
Half a loaf of bread
Jar of coins we are saving to go out for frozen yogurt
a small bin of flashlights
a container of sewing needles and thread
three vials of teeny glass beads used for demonstrating static electricity
my house keys
the headband I was wearing until the moment when I couldn’t stand it
my postage printer
a roll of industrial-strength double sided tape
one of many notebooks
at least a dozen pens, pencils, and markers
an empty glass root beer bottle that Graham is saving
a tube of block printing ink
small bottle of nail polish
cordless drill
a soda can we destroyed using gallium (in a plastic bag!)
a bottle of ferro-fluid (in another plastic bag!)
One kid’s math book
box of cheerios
box of special K
a stack of empty ziplock containers
a small hammer
a cassette tape
the necklace I was wearing until I couldn’t wear it even one more instant
wrapper for a dog treat that was supposed to last DAYS and totally didn’t even last an hour
rubber bands
paper towel tubes that Graham is saving for a project
packets of oatmeal
canister of powdered sugar that my older son was using to make tonight’s campfire “look AMAZING”
Package of bandaids
Wooden spoon
Things I probably can’t see because of all the other things

So yeah. It’s worth a shot, right?

posted by electric boogaloo in Journal and have Comments (5)


Someone needs to make a website with a German compound word generator. I’m always looking for words that English lacks to describe specific things, and German is pretty great at shoving words together to make it happen. Like Grief Bacon, or Distance Pain. Some words I need but don’t have:

1. The terrible and exciting restlessness when you have a creative idea but your immediate situation is preventing you from acting on it. Something like [Artist + brain + constipation] or [to dance + restrained]

2. That false belief that you’ll remember your idea later so you don’t need to write it down. “Almost asleep + stupidity”

3. A sense of impatience when you want to talk about big ideas and dreamy possibilities but everyone else in the room only wants to talk about concrete reality.

4. The self-loathing when you are full but you are going to keep eating until your plate is empty because this food is so delicious, even though you know you will feel bloated and awful.

5. That wonderful moment when you decide to go ahead and take the nap your body’s asking for.

6. The happy feeling you get when a dog leans his chin on you because he totally trusts you.

7. The sense that you should be working right now, even though your work is finished.

8. When you’re too hungry to sleep but too exhausted to make a meal so you stay up watching tv, only making hunger and tiredness worse.

9. When your stupid brain wakes you up much earlier than needed, and you feel wide awake but stubbornly stay in bed on principle.

10. When you can’t remember if you did something that’s routine.

11. The frustration when someone isn’t getting your jokes.

12. The relief you feel when you get in someone’s car or home and see that theirs is messier than yours.

13. Tears that come from the stress of speaking up in a difficult situation.

14. The embarrassment of falling asleep while reading, then being startled awake when your book or device falls on your face. Because you fell asleep! Go to bed, you dumbass!

15. The act of adding something to a list so it will contain a nice round number of items.

posted by electric boogaloo in Journal and have No Comments

The Life-changing Magic of Maybe Not Being a Complete Jackass 100% of the Time

I am trying. My brain SO wants me to be depressed. And hey look, I’m not totally unreasonable. We compromised: be depressed and lousy at everything for awhile, ruminate and wallow a bit, sleep too much and sort things into bins labeled “reasons to worry” and “reasons to give up” and “minutia you might like to focus on while ignoring everything that matters.” But only for the winter. That was the deal. We agreed.

But spring — well, you know technically winter isn’t over until April or something idiotic, and does it count as winter if we have to wear sweaters at night? NO, it doesn’t count as winter. If a person couldn’t reasonably expect to see an adorable animal frolicking in the snow on that’s month’s calendar page then it’s not winter anymore. It’s time to cheer the hell up. I decided.

Are you tired of feeling anxious and exhausted? Ask your doctor if just deciding not to be depressed anymore is right for you! So she can laugh at you and increase your dose of Zoloft to the maximum for any mammal who weighs — how much? step on the scale please. With your shoes on or off, it doesn’t matter because we don’t even know how to work these stupid slidey things, we are just going to clang them all around until they say OH. Oh wow, you have gained weight, haven’t you? Maybe do take your shoes off after all? Sorry, it’s just — man. MAN. So yeah, take two of these a day and we are making a note in your chart to remind the nurses to follow up in a few weeks and in the meantime they will be sure to comment on and cackle about all of your many annoying flaws as soon as you leave. Like for one thing, you have this social anxiety thing that is very unflattering.

So dosage adjusted. Motivation slowly returned and every day I tried to do something to makes things less worse and more better. No huge goals, of course, because to my core I am a brat and will rebel against anything that sounds like anyone trying to be the boss of me. Even – no, especially! myself. So instead of making big promises all I would say was “I’m trying to do less of the wrong things and more of the right things.”

Ferreted out the parts of Nerdy Baby that were causing stress. Took those products out behind the barn, patted them on the head, told them about the pretty rabbits, and shot em. It was self defense! Textile products were low-margin, high-stress products that were trying to kill me.
I did love them, but they had to go.

Took back ownership of Amazon sales. Thanks for playing, wholesale vendor account. You do not spark joy and this mentally ill woman on the street yelled at me that I should only keep things that spark joy. Opening my email to a flurry of Amazon purchase orders sparked nausea. That’s not okay, even if it is profitable.

A little at a time. This is the way, little steps. Still sometimes sleep til one or eat ice cream for dinner but day by day I’ve been working hard to get better. A little bit more of the right thing, less of the wrong thing.

Now it’s summer. Hot. Definitely not winter, depression isn’t even trying to debate that anymore. I realized the other day that I feel optimistic and… oh wow, happy. Just like the stupid whore depression sneaks in gradually, happiness does the same thing. A little on a Tuesday, neutral on Wednesday, a difficult Thursday then a weirdly excellent Friday until something tips and there are more good minutes than bad.

I’m losing weight. Here is my amazing diet plan: late at night when I crave a bowl of ice cream or something decadent, I substitute the high-calorie snack with a satisfying but low-calorie serving of shutting up and going the hell to bed like a goddamned adult.

I found a place that will cut my hair without making me feel like a weird awkward annoyance. I have issues, decided the girl who cuts everyone’s hair doesn’t like me. Liked my pixie but liked not feeling like a bother even more. BUT in my improperly medicated state of mind, calling other salons to find someone was intimidating. Something about the bored tone of the front-desk girls at Toni and Guy made me feel terrible and unpopular. Yes this is 100% me being neurotic, but still. It meant I had to grow my hair out.

But! Salons that are SCHOOLS, oh ho ho! I don’t feel like a bother there. I’m helping someone learn! Helping feels good! No awkwardness, just a lot of hours but that’s okay.

I’m getting rid of stuff, building new friendships, focusing on the people who live here and you know what? Right now life holds way more of the right stuff, almost none of the wrong stuff. At this rate I’ll be ready to break the sound barrier before winter
What? Sorry. See? Little steps.

posted by electric boogaloo in Journal and have Comments (9)

To the father of my increasingly enormous children, on the occasion of your thirteenth Father’s Day (not counting all of your previous Fathers Days where you HAD a dad but weren’t yet a father yourself).

This year sucked.
Butts! It sucked buckets of butts.

Business was slow and complicated and I made a lot of mistakes that cost money so money was a source of concern in grownup land. For most of the year your job was stupidly stressful, with layoffs looming and a shitty commute, so I felt super guilty about all the money I was losing by being an idiot.
And in the background there were other things. We were all sick at various times all winter. Graham was sick.

I decided to adjust my dose of zoloft and OH NO that was bad WHY. Side effects may include deciding you don’t need this medicine even though you so very very much do.

The social life we had worked hard to cultivate went all wobbly as some of our closest friends ran off down a path we didn’t understand.

Graham was sick all the time and it made him afraid to leave the house so we were stuck at home with this miserable little person.

Everything piles up, you know? But somewhere in all of the pile of stressful bummers was us. This basic core, the heart of the house of Ards. We’ve never stopped talking and connecting and trying to find our way around all the obSTACles so we can move forward. New job for you, much better commute. Correct dose of medication for everyone involved. Testing for Graham, ruling out the scary stuff. Simplifying the business stuff so we can breathe. Making new friends, slowly letting go of old expectations.

We’ve talked through so much and found that we are absolutely on the same page. Parenting, goals, priorities, and the kind of things that other people do for fun… like woah, they’re having fun! Maybe WE should branch out a little?

“Would you ever –”

“No. I mean I might fantasize…”

“Well sure”

“But never…”

“Oh no, god no wouldn’t actually want to –”

“Me either!”

“I mean.”

“All those poor little animals.”


My friends don’t actually have sex with animals — I mean as far as I know, it hasn’t come up specifically in conversation and I know at least one of them has cat allergies — but it’s my blog and I get to retell events in whatever childish way I wish. I’m working on being less sad and unattractively bitter about it all. Plus this way I can be silly about it and not out them for what they actually do now, which lies somewhere between doing cocaine with hookers on my driveway and joining a Multi Level Marketing deal on the spectrum of things other people do that makes me not want to spend as much time with them. I realized that I need to update my list of different kinds of jerks. See below, where red is more annoyed, orange is less annoyed but still annoyed.

Anyway. The important thing is that we discovered that you and I agree on those kinds of things. We were also reminded that yes having friends is wonderful but at the end of the day, it’s us that matter. We are the ones we can rely upon, we are the ones raising these boys, it’s down to us. Village, shmillage; the rest of the world could be consumed by some fiery horror and we would be sad but basically okay here in our weird house with our weird kids.

The kids. Oh man. They are growing up to be SUCH awesome people.

Nicolaus thinks big thoughts, and at different points over the years we have worried that he could easily go down the path of depression and anxiety. This year I have been amazed by his resilience. He’s twelve. We are seeing some definite twelveness. He pushes to be allowed to play violent computer games, he wants to make sure there’s food on hand at all times, he sometimes rolls his eyes when we are being obviously hilarious. But so far no angst, nothing terribly intense. His moods are more even than ever, actually.
1_nicjump 1_nicjump2

This year he learned that people on the Internet can be mean, that some friends will always want more more more, some friends aren’t really friends, and some friends ARE friends but are also complicated humans who need a little benefit of the doubt sometimes. You helped him navigate that stuff and as hard as it is to watch a kid lose his innocence, I love knowing that he feels ready for more of life’s challenges. Where he used to fall apart, now he rallies.

No one can make fun of him because he is so well grounded that most rudeness bounces off. His favorite response to an insult is “I know, right? It’s SAD.” which lets the air out of the balloon instantly.

“You’re a stupid little kid!”

“I know, right?”


We could throw him into an arena with a pack of middleschool bullies, and he would laugh and shake his head and sit down and start inventing a game using whatever shards of bones were scattered on the ground. Pretty soon the other kids would be crowded around waiting for their turn to play his game, the audience would be trying to see the game and he wouldn’t even realize that anything unusual had happened.

I don’t know what we did to help him become this excellent human kid, but let’s take credit for it okay? It’s been a crappy year, give us this one.

And Graham oh Graham Graham Graham. Nobody’s brain works like his. If he didn’t border on misanthropic he could do anything. His moods are challenging sometimes, let’s say that, but he bounces back. He is so damned observant, nothing slips by him. He has become my editor and art director and not in a cute let-the-kid-pretend-to-help way. In a oh-wow-this-is-a-lot-better-now way.



They’re easing towards adolescence. This was the year we let them watch inappropriate stuff like the Simpsons and (eventually) Futurama before moving on to harder stuff: 1980s family movies. Graham learned to use the stove and the oven, and he loves proving his independence. He wants to learn how to do everything and is full of amazing questions even when he feels utterly like crap.

What does this have to do with you being an awesome father and this being father’s day and all? Well first of all they still think you are the coolest. That’s good because they emulate you. They see you working hard to do well at things you don’t always enjoy, they see you laugh at yourself (and me, thanks for that), they see you do creative work, and they see you make time for them and us. It all matters, it all goes in.
They are learning how to camp, how to talk to strangers, how to make friends when it’s hard to make friends, how to ask questions and make guesses and own your flaws and try new things and have the courage to be honest even when the fallout isn’t fun. They bicker, yeah, but when they get along they are unstoppable.

Second of all, the biggest thing you’ve done this year is helped your crazy wife. When I was losing my mind worrying about Graham, you helped me keep things in perspective. You constantly help me sort through all the jumbled messes I manage to create because I avoid thinking about some (important, impending) things for too long and ruminate about other (trivial or unlikely to happen) things way too much.
We take turns being the one who needs help. That’s how marriages work, right? Ebb and flow, wax and wane, gibbous and the other one.

This year let’s shoot for more ebbing and waxing, less of all the bullshit.

I love you,

posted by electric boogaloo in Journal and have Comments (6)