Home & Garden · Nonfiction

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo

Two stars

I am so disappointed in this book. I really wanted to like it. I watched Marie Kondo’s Netflix show last year and was inspired to declutter my own home using some of the tips and approaches she talks about. I wanted to go a little deeper, so I checked her book out from the library. It’s a slim volume, and written in an approachable voice.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up might very well transform your life if you have the privilege of lots of vacation time, a family that buys into the concept and possibly the most important one – no mental illness that affects executive function.

Now, you might say to me, executive function disorders, those sound serious and rare! Wrong, my friend, wrong! Mental illness affecting executive function is one of the more common reasons people live with a messy house. Depression, Anxiety, ADD, ADHD (which is grossly underdiagnosed in women, especially adult women, who are often the homemakers…) and a slew of other mental illnesses come with a side of executive dysfunction that makes it very challenging to tackle basic things sometimes.

Okay, but what does that have to do with Marie Kondo’s book? Well reader, the most frustrating thing about her book is that in all however many pages the book has, she doesn’t acknowledge the existence of mental illness as a factor even once. Not a single mention in the entire book. It’s such a gross omission.

Her book reeks of privilege in other ways too. She insists that the only way to properly implement her method is to do your entire home all at once. That will take the average person DAYS if not WEEKS of time. The average American doesn’t have that much vacation time and for those who do, they’ll generally want to spend it traveling or doing something outside of the home.

Kondo also insists that if you throw something away and later regret it, just buy a new one. Because people are made of money, right? And can afford to just buy two of things, nevermind that many things are limited edition or otherwise rare and hard to replace.

I understand what she’s trying to do, but she leaves little room for utility and leaves no room for one to be a collector or hobbyist. She gleefully recounts her own experiences of throwing out her own collections. As both a collector and a hobbyist, her approach is nightmarish. How dare I want to store the materials for my crafts. How dare I want to keep collections of silly things. Oh but you’ll say, if those things spark joy, you will keep them. And while that is somewhat true, she makes it clear through her writing that she looks down upon those decisions.

Finally, her approach will simply not work unless the entire family buys into the process. Try telling a 16 year old she must go through all of her belongings and get rid of things. And then she has to keep her space tidy forever again. Teenagers are fickle. She hates the shirt today and will love it next week only to hate it again next week. If one person in an adult relationship does this and the other doesn’t buy into it, it will never stick.

Aside from those issues, Kondo has a charming worldview where objects have feelings and it is important to thank them for what they do for you and have given you. I don’t think she’s off the mark here entirely. While I don’t believe my shoes have feelings, I feel that her suggestion to thank the items in your life can be transformed into the idea that one should spend more time considering the objects in their life and their utility. Are these shoes appropriate? Do they accomplish the job I need them to. If not, get them out the door and find more appropriate shoes. If so, I should take care of them so they last as long as possible. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to encourage people to care for their belongings and to also work toward having belongings that accomplish what they’re needed for, rather than being worked around. Your belongings should enable your lifestyle not impede it.

All of this is to say, I was very disappointed in the book. No organizational method will work for everyone (though she certainly claims hers will), but this was a huge letdown from her positive attitude in her show.

Home & Garden

Veggie Garden Remix – Nikki Jabbour

5 stars

Just in time to start planning my 2018 garden, I found Nikki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix. An inspiring book full of ideas that will excite gardeners at every experience level.


Cover from Goodreads


From the publisher:

Best-selling author Niki Jabbour invites you to shake up your vegetable garden with an intriguing array of 224 plants from around the world. With her lively “Like this? Then try this!” approach, Jabbour encourages you to start with what you know and expand your repertoire to try related plants, many of which are delicacies in other cultures. Jabbour presents detailed growing information for each plant, along with fun facts and plant history. Be prepared to have your mind expanded and catch Jabbour’s contagious enthusiasm for experimentation and fun in the garden.

I’ll be upfront about the fact that I am not an experienced gardener. My garden this year will be my first attempt at anything bigger than a single pot of lettuce and a tomato plant. But I haven’t been inspired by traditional veggies. My husband and I don’t enjoy eating a lot of the traditional vegetables such as squashes and zucchini. Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix is a wonderful compendium of alternative options for us to grow. I’m excited about my garden this year.

I love the way Jabbour organizes this book as well. It’s set up in easy to browse “If you like this, try these other options” sections so you can quickly jump directly to tomato alternatives or squash alternatives. In each section, she helpfully gives you a rundown of the pros, cons and other “good to know” facts about the plants she’s recommending. As a beginning gardener, I found her photos of the plants in different maturity stages to be incredibly helpful. I like to know what I’m looking for in a ripe fruit.

Many of the alternative fruits and veggie’s Jabbour is recommending are heirloom varieties or ethnic varietals from far-flung parts of the world. Japanese squashes, Mexican and Armenian cucumbers and Egyptian beans are just a few of the fun and funky plants Jabbour profiles in this accessible, easy to read book.

Nikki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix hits shelves February 6, 2018 and is a must-have for any gardener looking to do something new in the dirt this year.

I received an eARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Home & Garden · Nonfiction

Our Native Bees – Paige Embry

5 stars

There’s so much more to the story than honey bees. In the last few years, at least for me, bees have been in the news more and more frequently. Bees dying! We’re all going to starve! No one knows how to stop colony collapse! Mites, fungus, and disease – oh my! And then, on the edges, I started hearing about mason bees. And then leafcutter bees. And then suddenly I owned a house, and keeping bees was suddenly something I could explore for more than just curiosity’s sake.

Cover image from Goodreads

Our Native Bees by Paige Embry is a thoughtful introduction to some of the 4,000 bees native to the United States. Embry’s wry sense of humor and storytelling keeps this book from being a dry textbook recounting of bee facts and instead is an engaging book that will endear our tiny neighbors to anyone with a passing interest in our most efficient pollinators.

Embry’s book is full of anecdotes of bee hunting adventures and stunning photographs. From likely-extinct Franklin’s bumblebee to blue orchard bees, and even the ubiquitous European honey bee, Embry profiles the different species in such a way that I can’t help but want to install a mason bee house in my backyard as soon as the weather is appropriate.

In a wondrous turn of luck, Embry lives in Seattle, where I also live, so her personal beekeeping anecdotes are applicable directly to me, and where I live. In her section about blue orchard bees (also called mason bees), Embry references Crown Bees, a company based in Woodinville Washington, just across Lake Washington from Seattle, and a company I’m already familiar with. Crown Bees is the company that kicked off my interest in mason and leafcutter bees, and where I intend to purchase my cocoons and supplies from this spring.

Along with profiling the different bees, Embry also outlines the many challenges facing our bees – natural and manmade.

A fascinating read for gardeners and bee enthusiasts alike, Our Native Bees is on sale February 7 from Timber Press.

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Home & Garden

The Backyard Gardener – Kelly Orzel

I received an e-ARC from Netgalley in exchange for my unbiased review. 

4 Stars

I recently bought my first house and it just so happens to have raised garden boxes already. So when I saw this book pop up on NetGalley, I thought, “What timing!” and requested the ARC.

In reading this book, I learned a lot about gardening – soil, plants, bugs, additives, tools, etc. I did end up spending a lot of time looking up new terms. “What is a cucurbit?” From a technical writing background and a beginner’s standpoint, I wanted the author to define terms to me in the text or as sidebars. She did occasionally define a term, and often when she did she’d repeat the definition more than once.

Definitions aside, this was a great book with a lot of useful information. I wouldn’t recommend it for casual reading, but if you’re planning to have a garden for the first time, it’s a great place to start and keep as a reference. I really loved the monthly “garden checklists” the author included at the end. It’s helpful to have a monthly guide. As soon as I’m done tearing back the overgrowth, I’ll be using them to help me plan my garden.

If I could ask for one other thing, it would have been sample garden plans. For example, if you have just one box, here’s what to grow together; if you have two boxes, grow these; and so forth. She describes in the book what kinds of plants grow together, but it’s still overwhelming to try to pull all that information out of the book and build an actual garden plan for the first time. 

A version of this review first appeared on Goodreads on April 5, 2017.