Behind the Shelfie

‘Certainly for artists of all stripes, the unknown, the idea or the form or the tale that has not yet arrived, is what must be found.  It is the job of artists to open doors and invite in prophesies, the unknown, the unfamiliar; it’s where their work comes from, although its arrival signals the beginning of the long disciplined process of making it their own.  Scientists too, as J. Robert Oppenheimer once remarked, “live always at the ‘edge of mystery’–the boundary of the unknown.”  But they transform the unknown into the known, haul it in like fishermen; artists get you out into that dark sea.’

-recently read inA Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Rebecca Solnit

– – currently in my purse, Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado



Back from an embarrassingly long hiatus with the news that I finally caught up with the tidying bug that swept the world a few years ago – Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying. Kondo’s method, called the KonMari method, focusses on only keeping items that bring you joy, jettisoning the unessential to create a cleaner, tidier living space.  The method combines techniques most people have heard before – clean as you go, a place for everything and everything in its place, etc., as I’m sure most people know since I’m the last person to read the book.

The book naturally made me start thinking about materialism. Kondo hits the nail on the head when she lists two categories of items that most people have the biggest issue tossing: gifts and those ‘might come in handy’ items.  I had always felt only marginally guilty about throwing away or donating gifts and items that may AT SOME POINT be useful.  My partner, however, feels massively guilty. It was nice to be able to give him Kondo’s main point – that the gifts had been gratefully received and, in doing so, the purpose of the gift had largely been served.

I was raised by a mother who moved frequently as a child, which meant that she regularly threw away the inessential to save space (and money) during a move. She adapted this process with my sister and I – after Christmas we’d sort through toys, books, and other items to determine what had to be thrown away and what could be donated. Similarly, while pulling our spring or fall wardrobe out of their storage bins, we’d take stock of each item. If it was too worn to wear ourselves or donate, it was tossed; if we had never really worn it and wouldn’t, it was donated. A good method of keeping clutter at a minimum, but one that flew out the window once I was on my own.

I moved to London with two suitcases and a yoga mat. But that was four years ago, and a frying pan, stock pot, single plate, bowl, and set of cutlery has expanded to masses of kitchen gear and dishware.  As I combed through what I had always thought of as a reasonably small collection of clothing, I was reasonably surprised at the items I felt free to toss. Books, less so, but still a few titles that I realised we’d never read. We haven’t done papers or personal items yet, but we’re heading there this week. It’s amazing to think that, in four years, I’ve managed to accumulate so many things.  I’ve seen other challenges and tasks geared towards addressing the vast amounts of stuff we gather around us–blog posts about everything you bought that month to hold yourself accountable, throwing one thing away when you buy something new . . . but I never thought I bought that much because I always lived by such a small budget. Shows what I know.

All this being said, I can’t say that I’m a KonMari acolyte.  I’m not a massive fan of this folding thing (is it really so much better/space economising than folding things flat? Is it?) and I don’t think that this will stop the clutter from, someday, mounting up again. Clutter happens, because life happens. I think it’s great to practice mindful consumption and I think we all should do it as best we can.  I think it’s good to take stock of what you have, what you need, what you use, and adjust the contents of your house accordingly, like my Mom taught me.  But it increasingly seems like we, as a society, are holding each other to an impossibly high standard. Don’t just read the KonMari method, LOVE it, live your LIFE by it – be mindful, be present, be everything. Well, I’m sitting on the couch, surrounded by the books I’m trading in to Amazon (£10-worth, woot!). I’m looking forward to the rest of the clean out, but . . . I’m prepared for the next mess.

Resonance: Acceptance of Failure overkill?


“Yes, failure is part of entrepreneurship . . . but we still need to be careful about not just labeling all failures as equally ‘useful,’” he says. “Some are true learning opportunities born of a disciplined innovation and experimentation process; others are the outcomes of very poor decision making.”

-Michael A. Roberto

Rachel Gillett talks about the acceptance of failure, its failure, and the threatening oversaturation and abuse of the concept over at Fast Company.

Diaries Out, part 1

save the dates, blog

As I mentioned in the last post, the boy and I are getting married next year. As we’re all aware, the days of calling up the only venue/stationer/photographer, etc. in the area are long over. Not only do we now have a catalogue the size of the Louvre’s from which to choose, but every third blog offers advice about the planning process. While of course variety and advice is a wonderful thing, it’s very hard not to feel buried under everything. I do think that some blogs are better than others for real, honest-to-God advice, while others are better for inspiration (A practical wedding vs style me pretty). But one piece of advice that is well-given, and resoundingly true, is to determine what is most important to you and where you want the money to go. Different proposed costs from different vendors begin to naturally shift your priorities, but it can be very difficult when you just want everything to look lovely and you don’t know how to sift through the masses to find the best option. We’re very fond of entertaining, which means that every aspect seems important from the invitations to the food to the hotel welcome bags.

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It’s why I was so glad to come across the blog Oh so beautiful paper, and through that blog the shop Antiquaria. Oh so beautiful paper and Antiquaria make DIY seem do-able, rather than a complete disaster waiting to happen. I’m the sort that likes to think I’m crafty until I’m faced with all the papers and the glues and the inks. At which point, I realize that I can’t even draw stick figures well. But so much of the cost of invitations can be offset by DIY elements, particularly doing your own save the dates. We’re only doing save the dates for the English types and wanted a more traditional style than the ones offered on zazzle and other such places. We ordered a customized ‘save the date’ stamp in a calligraphy script, and I went to a paper goods store to purchase some patterned paper, envelopes, and envelope liner templates.

A steady hand with the pencil and scissors is all you really need, I think. Antiquaria also provides letterpress elements that match the various stamp styles, which is very convenient. I was so worried about things looking fantastic that I just forgot to think about my own skills and the most logical options. This feeling in particular is SO inherent to the wedding industry right now; that everything must be custom and special to you and amazing, and there is just so much cost–not even monetary, also time and effort–tied in with planning that it can just drive you mad.

Podcasts and Platforms

It’s so difficult to come to grips with that fact that you DON’T have endless time over the summer. Summer reading lists that would have taken me two weeks during school now just . . . never happen. Or at least don’t happen within the bounds of what one would call ‘summer’. Particularly when you start a new (old) job in an industry that you’re passionate about and want to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible. Particularly when said job involves reading. Lots and lots of reading. 

This past summer vanished in a cloud of re-organization, work, and planning the biggest party of my adult life: our wedding. And I knew I liked organizing things and I knew that I was a bit type A, but I had no idea how much until I decide to turn the organization of my life around while also planning this huge event from across the ocean. I’m increasingly fascinating by how people (adults) make major financial decisions, how/where/when they invest their money, how you budget and for what, etc. I think I’m at the point where ‘adulthood’ is a significantly more complex concept to me. 

I’ve been listening (religiously) to Grace Bonney’s podcast After the Jump (have I mentioned this?) which is geared towards small business owners in the craft/style industry. But I find the podcast to be really applicable to my life overall, how I want to operate, and how I want to present myself to the professional world. Not only do I obsessively buy/download the apps recommended (currently loving: vscocam, timeful, the ministry of silly walks [last not recommended on After the Jump]) and enjoy her interviews with interesting makers, but I really respond to her more personal episodes about managing stress and creating a better work-life balance. But the really great episodes that I listen to over and over again are the episodes about branding and communicating that brand via social media. 

It’s very evident, and at this point long-discussed, that the recent generations will have a work history that is very different from that of their parents and grandparents. Where my father worked at the same company, in its various iterations, for 30 some-odd years. Most of my friends within the working world have had at least two jobs in the last five years and this is not at all uncommon. I think that this aspect, along with the way we communicate and share our lives via the internet, means that EVERYONE is a small business in some way or another. At least, thinking that way works for me. I think we all have a personal brand communicated through our instagrams, twitters, facebooks, and whatever other platforms we choose to use. It’s very apparent that potential employers search their candidates, so the thought that our digital content doesn’t affect our hire-ability/overall person is pretty naive. 

I don’t think that this means that everything on every social media platform should be upbeat and positive; on the contrary, I think (tastefully) revealing adversity and how you overcome it can be just as helpful as trumpeting your successes. Nor do I think this means that everyone should plan every moment of their life and how they will showcase these moment, to a degree that your entire life is a facade. I just think that it’s better to view social media as something that’s purpose is to broadcast and share in a total, professional/creative sense than just a ‘this is fun!’ thing. 

It’s still something I’m working out, and maybe (probably) it’s just what works for me. I don’t really think that I have the solution for EVERYONE in the WORLD. Something to ponder, though.



Of the rooms in our flat, I think I’m most fond of the bathroom. While our flat is lovely, previous paint and wallpaper decision have put a definite design stamp on the kitchen and bedroom that my partner and I have little to no control over. The bathroom, painted white with white subway tiles and white fixtures, had an old purple shower curtain and abstract IKEA art prints. Easy enough to put our own stamp on it.

I very quickly put up an understated, striped shower curtain and changed out the glass and metal set of open shelves for a white particle board cupboard. I later picked up a nice soap dish and some glass jars for cotton balls and q-tips (classy like), a bin and a toilet paper holder. Previously, the toilet paper was placed on the handle of the toilet brush. Not exactly sanitary. But the IKEA art stayed on the walls, taunting us.

I don’t know about other people, but art seems to be the hardest part about putting a new flat together. I have a fair amount of pieces back home in Virginia but every time I think about shipping the art over . . . the mind boggles with shipping companies and costs that make your eyes bug out of your head. So we’ve a Turner print . . . that’s yet to be framed and other prints from our travels and the ever-amazing Etsy, framed in the ubiquitous black IKEA frames.

We finally chose three prints from local south London artist and author of the blog Birds in Hats, Alice Tams. Clean lines with a touch of whimsy is obviously a major trend everywhere right now–it keeps the room pretty timeless, and art can obviously be changed as tastes change. In this instance, the stark black frames suit the birds perfectly and the prints add the final touch to the room. The room is an indication of our shared design sense–what our home might look like once we have a fully blank slate.



This flat is the first flat that I’ve felt I could treat as my actual home, rather than a temporary space intended for students or ‘young people’. I feel like I can buy nice things after years of holding back out of fear of things being destroyed accidentally. It’s nice to feel like your home has a sense of permanence, even if it will definitely change buildings at some point.

198 x 126 mm (unsewn)