May 2012 Archives

The Postman Rang

On the weekend, I had mailed a little box of goodies to some friends in Australia, where there are strict rules are about what can be admitted into the country. I know not to send seeds, plants, raw foods, wood, and dried grasses so I was careful to avoid those sorts of things. But I included a can of fluorescent orange spray paint in my package. And that's a no-no on the anti-terror list. Oops, totally forgot about that.

But I didn't realise that until yesterday afternoon when a man from the post office arrived in the rain to return my parcel and refund my postage. Refund my postage! They didn't just junk the package or return it to me with a "cannot deliver" notice. He stepped away from his desk, hand carried the item to me, explained very politely in person what the problem was, and got my bank details to transfer the money to my account. 

Wow. Go JapanPost!

Out of my Closet

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(Sorry, not that kind of out.)


There is no good reason to have as many clothes as I own. Later this year I will be living out of a backpack while I travel for a month and I'm hoping to repeat the backpack era again at the beginning of next year, so the seasonal wardrobe change is a good time to give my closet a thorough cleaning and asset reduction. Let me plan what I will be travelling with and see how I go over the summer on a significantly reduced wardrobe. 

I've realised out two problems I have when cleaning out my closet: guilt and love. The solution to these problems is multiple sorting in two phases.

Round One,  Five Piles

There are pieces of my wardrobe that I love. They fit well, they serve multiple purposes, they have memories attached. In one way or another, they make me feel good about myself and about owning them. That is not a problem. But what is a problem is letting go of them when they are well and truly worn out. So when I clean my closet I have a pile for "Things I Love" and everything I really love and feel I need to keep goes into that pile.

There is a second pile for "Basics I Think I Need." These are things that I wear frequently. Black leggings. Tank tops. Various foundation pieces. Socks.

And there are clothes in my closet that I'm not in love with at all or don't wear much any more but don't want to part with. It would make me feel guilty to get rid of them. They were expensive or gifts or I thought I'd love them but didn't or they don't fit unless I am at my very thinnest  (but then they look terrific). They go into the "You Are Hurting My Feelings" pile.

There are always a few items that I know I need to give away to a better home. Those go into their own pile to be packed into a box or bag for donation. This is the "Give Away" pile.

Off to the side is "Trash Bag". This is for any clothes that have obviously outlived their time and would not be welcome at a clothes swap or donation box, like odd socks, ratty pajamas, and items with damage. It stays pretty empty in the first round.

Round Two, Consolidation

Now the Things I Love and the Basics I Think I Need piles get another look. I start by making some outfits. It feels a bit like a fashion edit, 5 Pieces = 25 Outfits! Can this item I love be coordinated in multiple ways? Yes? Put it away in the closet. No? It's Give Away for you my friend. And then a final check - are all my coordinating clothes in good condition? I tend to wear things out, so if something's shabby can I (and more importantly will I) repair or refresh the item? If the answer is no, then it goes from the closet to the Trash Bag. Bye bye!

And then the You Are Hurting My Feelings pile gets sorted. If I am feeling strong and ruthless, I use two existing piles - Give Away and Trash Bag. If I am feeling weak, I make a third pile, Maybe Another Day, for things that are going back into the closet for another try. 

At this point the trash bag is getting full, the closet is restocked and it is time to attack the coats, shoes and accessories.

100 kids

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Yesterday I participated in an event at the Sullivans School on Yokosuka Naval Base. It was a day of workshops and activities that focussed on multiple intelligences. You won't be surprised that I was teaching a hoop dance workshop. In my 40 minute sessions, kids learned ten tricks and we strung them together into a little performance piece.

By the end of the day, I had taught 100 kids to hoop dance. What a satisfying accomplishment for a Friday.

The Great Outdoors

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I love being outside and the longer I am in nature, the better I feel. Camping on Niijima is one of the highlights of my year. Over the Golden Week holidays we hosted Guru-guru Camp and stayed at Habushiura campsite for 13 days. It was blissful.

The weather was as predictably unpredictable as always. There was rain and wind and lots of sun just like every year. And living with all of it, I didn't mind any of it. I felt sorry for our camping friends who experienced only the worst of the weather. 

Most mornings I walked down to the beach at dawn and watched the ocean for a while. Sometimes I thought to take a self-portrait. Like the weather, I seemed to change subtly every day: hair dirtier, skin lightly toasted, smile wider. The real changes were inside as I unwound and reconnected with the natural rhythms of the planet.

One of the things I love most about living outside for extended periods is being part of the ecosystem. I spend my days adjusting to temperature changes, watching the flowers bloom and fade, seeing the effect of wind, rain and sun on the flora and fauna, observing nature doing her thing. I miss out on that by living in an urban apartment, as much as I may keep gardens and visit city parks.

After a week in camp, Tod & I discussed whether we could live in a tent long-term. We think that with a few modifications (specifically a wooden platform floor and some watertight storage) we could, but a small cabin or shack would be better for keeping us sheltered. As long as it is set apart from other people with lots of nature surrounding us, I think we would enjoy it.

Returning to Tokyo life has been a bit of a disappointment. I've thrown open all the windows and doors of the apartment, but it's not the same.

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