Tidying Up

Tidying Up

TU junk drawer BEFORE

Okay, I confess. I’ve been completely captivated by the new Netflix original series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Ever since Netflix released eight episodes on January first, the show, and its diminutive dynamo of a host, who started a home organizing business in her native Japan more than a decade ago, have infiltrated the homes of untold numbers of American families pining for control of their clutter.TU Annie text

The release, of course, was perfectly timed to coincide with those New Year’s resolutions so many of us make about sorting, purging, and organizing our possessions.

This will be the year that we finally get the upper hand! No more closets bursting at the seams with clothes we haven’t worn in years; no more basements, garages, and attics filled with mystery boxes; no more digging through the junk drawer to find the flashlight, screwdriver, Scotch tape, or rubber band we know must be in there…somewhere.

In case you don’t already know this about me, I have never been a tidy person.

As a child, when told by my mother to clean up my messy room, I invariably shoved the offending clutter under the bed, where broken toys, dirty socks, and overdue library books went to die.

As an adult, I have often resorted to a similar strategy I call “hiding cleaning” when company is expected. This approach results in a passable level of tidiness in the public areas of my home, but leaves boxes, bags, and bins of random crap (RC for short) stashed in closets, bedrooms, and cupboards—sometimes for months, and occasionally for years.

Like most people I know, I have too much stuff. I hang onto far too many things that I think I might need someday, knowing full well that if the time should ever come when I do need that odd-sized bolt, slightly dented lampshade, or crumpled half-sheet of hot pink poster board, I won’t actually be able to locate it, and will end up going out and buying a new one anyway.

I bought Marie Kondo’s first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a few years ago, and got as far as purging and organizing my clothing, which is Step One of the five-step process through which she leads the families in each episode of the show.

To aid in every decision about what to keep and what to purge, Marie instructs her clients to assess whether or not an item “sparks joy.” I have to admit that I have not yet reached a level in this process that allows me to clutch an item of clothing to my chest and immediately recognize that joyful spark, or lack thereof.

In fact, if I based all of my purging decisions on my ability to feel what Marie believes I should experience, my wardrobe would probably consist solely of flannel pants and soft, well-worn t-shirts, my preferred outfit on stay-at-home days (my favorite days).

But this is Maine, and it’s cold, and most days I have to go to work, so I held onto articles of clothing that are practical, warm, and presentable. (I told myself that it sparks joy in my heart to leave the house without freezing, or being mistaken for a vagrant.)

After she helps her clients figure out what to keep and what to get rid of, Marie teaches them her magical, vertical folding-and-storage method, which results in perfectly organized drawers in which you can see every item of clothing.

It actually works. Even better, three or four years after reading the book and organizing my clothes, they were, for the most part, still pretty tidy.

I kept only enough clothing to fill one small closet, one dresser, and one bin for out-of-season clothes, which, I realized after watching the families on Marie’s TV show pile all of their clothing on a bed in preparation for starting the sorting process, is pretty darn good. Some of them made me look like a minimalist.

It’s the other four steps in what Marie calls “the Kon-Mari method” that have presented much more of a challenge for me.

After clothing, she proceeds to lead her clients through “tidying” their books, then papers, then “komono” (miscellany), then mementos.

When it comes to books, I’m never going to ace the Kon-Mari test.

There have been about a zillion articles, posts, and memes about how “Marie Kondo wants you to get rid of all your books,” alluding to the fact that she has said that she herself keeps fewer than 30 books in her home. However, after watching the eight episodes of her show, I have yet to hear her tell anyone not to keep as many books as they feel comfortable owning.

I’ve decided that I, personally, feel comfortable owning just slightly fewer books than I have space for on my bookshelves. And I’m a big DIY-er, so as long as I have lumber, tools, and a bit of wall space, I’m never going to run out of bookshelves. Problem solved.TU books

Papers: I’m not even going to go there, except to say that I’m working on it. I’ve realized that I’m never in this lifetime going to need to refer to an electric bill from 1998, and that, like those odd-sized bolts, dented lampshades, and crumpled half-sheets of hot pink poster board, I probably couldn’t find it if I wanted to anyway.

Which brings us to the final two categories, komono, which I believe is Japanese for “random crap” (it actually translates to “small things,” which is close enough) and mementos.

For me, there’s a lot of crossover between those two categories. Am I holding onto the Tupperware container with the cover that no longer seals because I believe I’ll use it one day, or because it was my mom’s? Do I keep my craft supplies because I believe that one day I’ll want to paint, stencil, quilt, or make soap, enough to actually do it, or because they remind me of a time in my life when those things seemed important?

TU pets textI started “Marie Kondo-ing” my kitchen a few weeks ago, and I’ve made some progress, especially when it comes to the junk drawer. (Everyone has one of those, right? It’s not just me?) I ended up needing three drawers to hold everything I kept from the one original junk drawer, but they’re all very nicely organized, and I have to admit that it’s really nice to be able to find things like scissors, tape, and pliers without plunging my hand into a mess of random objects, some of them dangerously sharp or inexplicably sticky.

Last weekend, I had a secret weapon in my quest to organize the tiny spare upstairs room that I hope will serve as a combination office, quiet reading space, guest room, and yoga studio: my best friend, Donna, came up to spend two days “Doing Projects” with me.

When it comes to home projects, Donna is everything I’m not: organized, naturally tidy, clear-sighted, and relentless.

By the end of the second day, I had banished two boxes of papers to recycling (“You’re never going to need those old electric bills!”), one large black plastic trash bag to the dump (“We’re using a black one so you can’t see what’s in it and change your mind!”), and three boxes to our favorite thrift store (“You can always go to a thrift store and buy another one for two bucks!”).

Donna put knobs on a dresser that has been missing them for ten years or more, organized my wrapping paper and supplies, and made me go through every single knitting needle I own and justify its existence.

She sorted office supplies into tiny boxes that would make Marie Kondo proud and created storage solutions for everything from yarn to blankets. She even convinced me to get rid of that crumpled half-sheet of hot pink poster board.

I only pulled it out of the recycling bin twice before I let it go.

TU tool drawer      TU writing supplies    TU junk drawer


Let me tell you ’bout my best friend

If you don’t recognize the song lyric in the title of this post, chances are you’re not as old as me. (It’s by Harry Nilsson, and it’s from the theme song of “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” which aired from 1969-1972.)

My best friend, Donna, turned 60 a couple of months ago, and I’m not far behind her. Coming to the end of one decade and embarking on another always leads me to reminisce and reflect. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about our long friendship, and how it has endured against some pretty steep odds.

We’ve been best friends for over 53 years—nearly 90 percent of our lives. In fact, I can barely remember anything about my life before we met, on the second day of second grade. (I told our “origin story” in a blog post a few years ago, when we celebrated half a century of friendship; you can read it here.) IMG_2709

Although we grew up on the same street in Milford, Connecticut in the 1960s, in many ways, our family backgrounds were very different.

Donna and her younger brother were raised by two parents who had lived in Milford all their lives, and who still live in the suburban ranch on Marshall Street they moved into in 1965. I was raised by a widowed mother whose family had lived in Maine for generations and who regarded her time in Connecticut as a period of exile to be gotten through before she could retire back to her home state.

Donna’s mom was 25 when she was born, and she stayed at home to raise her two kids. My mom was 39 when she had me and had already raised my four much-older siblings; of necessity, she went to work outside the home by the time I was three or four.

Donna’s father was Italian and her mother was Irish, and they were Roman Catholics; she went to mysterious church-related things called mass, confession, and catechism. I was especially puzzled—and made envious—by the concept that if her family had something else they wanted to do on Sunday morning—even just sleep late—they could get mass out of the way on Saturday afternoon.

Although we lacked the wealth and social connections implied by the acronym, my family was pretty WASP-ish, and we went to the big white Congregational church downtown, every Sunday morning without fail.

Donna’s mom worried a lot about whether we were safe when we were out of her sight; my mom figured that her other kids had survived childhood and, more than likely, I would, too.

After high school, Donna would become the first in her family to attend college, a prospect so terrifying to her mother that she bribed her with a car to stay at home and attend a nearby Catholic university for the first two years.

IMG_2704Both of my parents, and even at least one of my grandparents, were college graduates; I was raised without any question of whether or not I would be, too—and my mother gave me a suitcase for my high school graduation, just three months after I turned 17, to reinforce the idea that it was high time for me to leave the nest.

Not only were our backgrounds different, but the paths we chose through life—or those that chose us—seem, on the surface, quite dissimilar.

Donna finished college in the customary four years; it took me 31. (I got distracted by other things along the way.)

I’ve been married twice. Donna has never been married, although she has a long-time partner, Jerry, who has been in her life almost as many years as Tony has been in mine.

I’ve owned a home since I was 20 years old and have always dealt with yard work, peeling paint, leaky roofs, and remodeling projects. Donna has rented for 40 years (something that makes more and more sense to me the older I get).

Despite this, she has been the responsible one, always holding a full-time job with good benefits, while I’ve indulged my irresponsible inner free spirit with a series of dozens of jobs over the decades, many of them part-time, most without benefits.

I have a blended family that includes four kids (most with some degree of free-spiritedness themselves). She has one stepson (and he’s ultra-responsible, too).

Given our differing backgrounds and the different life decisions we’ve made, perhaps it’s a bit surprising that we forged such an early, enduring, and fulfilling friendship. However, the qualities that make us soulmates transcend the details of our family backgrounds, where we live, or how many kids we have.

We are both introverts who can happily spend all day alone, or with just each other, but are easily exhausted when we’re forced to go “among the people.”

We both love cats. She has two; I have three. She knows that two is a sensible number of cats. I confess that if it weren’t for Tony’s objections, I might well have six. Maybe more.

We love our homes. We love them so much that we grieve when we have to leave them for work. We text each other, “It would be a perfect day to stay home and do projects,” and “I’m feeling sad because when I leave the house today it will be ten hours before I can come home,” and “I wish I could just stay home with the cats today.”

We both love a good project, from the planning to the execution to the sense of satisfaction when we’re done.

And we both love camp. We never feel more like ourselves than when we’re there, whether we’re swimming, kayaking, relaxing on the deck, reading byIMG_2711 the woodstove, or doing a project.

We both love email and texting but hate talking on the phone. Although we probably logged several thousand hours talking to each other by phone in the first 30 years or so of our friendship, if either of us gets an actual phone call from the other nowadays, we can be pretty sure it’s either a major crisis or a pocket-dial.

But the most valuable aspect of our friendship, and the reason it has not only endured, but flourished, is the sense of comfort and security that comes from being truly seen, known, and understood by another person—and being loved anyway.

How many of our conversations include the words, “I wouldn’t tell this to anyone else, but…”?

To whom else could we reveal not only our soaring hopes and our greatest fears, but also our most embarrassing moments, our meanest thoughts, our most unflattering pettiness?

As two women who are nearly always viewed by others as unfailingly calm and polite, whose stock-in-trade is our willingness to be helpful and kind, we find great relief, now and then, in giving our better angels a rest.

My daughter uses the hashtag “#textsfromyourthirties” on Instagram to (over)share conversations with her sister and friends. (It’s pretty funny; you should check it out.) If Donna and I created “#textsfromyoursixties” it would be full of posts like this:

IMG_2755“Everyone thinks I’m so nice, but really I just want to hit them.” IMG_2749

“Why does everyone always want to talk to me?”

“If people knew how mean we are, they wouldn’t like us nearly as much. And that might be a relief.”

IMG_2748“I want to scream, ‘I just want to go home!’ but that would be inappropriate.”

Although he may not be famous for his pithy texts, Ralph Waldo Emerson is known for his nuggets of wisdom, and he hit the nail on the head when he said, “A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may think aloud.”

Or text, with impunity.


Some good news for local columns!

LM 1

How Roman spends a snow day.

I’m happy to report that, after receiving what must have been some pretty convincing feedback from readers (thanks to everyone who took the time to weigh in), the “powers that be” at the Bethel Citizen have rescinded their rather draconian cuts to the length and content of the local correspondents’ columns. Beginning next week, we will be allowed up to 500 words, and will be permitted to report not only on events in our towns, but also “any personal news we’d like to share.”

This means it probably won’t be necessary for me to use this space to offer an expanded version of my weekly newspaper column, but since my blog has gained some new and appreciative readers over the past couple of weeks, I’m going to try to post here as often as I can. So please keep coming back, and, if you’d like, you can receive an email letting you know when I post a new entry—just click on the “Subscribe to Blog via Email” link to the right of this post and enter your email address. Thanks for reading!

The Greenwood Farmers’ Market will be held this Friday, Jan. 11, from 4-6 p.m. at the Town Hall on Main Street, after which it will switch to the winter schedule of every other Friday afternoon. The next few market dates after the switch will be Jan. 25, Feb. 8 and 22, and March 8 and 22.

Winter market dates will coincide with the Boondocks Buying Club pickup. Boondocks provides another opportunity for people to buy fresh, local food by joining with others to buy in bulk, and has been going strong for several years. The bulk order, which is received every two weeks, is divided up by volunteers for members to pick up at the Town Hall. If you haven’t heard about Boondocks, you may want to come to the market to find out more, visit their Facebook page, or speak to a member about how to join.

I had hoped to bake cookies and whoopie pies for last Friday’s market, but I got home from work on Thursday to find that my oven had died. Well, technically, there was probably nothing wrong with the oven itself, but the computerized control panel had given up the ghost.

I’d known for some time that it was on its way out, because several times in the past few months I’d had to unplug the range to get the control panel to reset itself and start working again. But this time it was completely done for, and no amount of unplugging, replugging, and button-pushing would get it to respond. (Not even bad words helped.)

Having been told that once the control panel goes on an electric range, it’s not worth replacing, I had to prevail upon Tony to make a trip to Auburn with me on Friday afternoon to pick up a new one. (There are probably people who can get along just fine without an oven for a while, but I’m not one of them.)

This time, I went with a stripped-down model, the only one I could find without digital controls. Without a computer to break down, there isn’t much that can go wrong with an electric range that can’t be cured by replacing an element. My new one is so basic that it doesn’t even have a clock or timer, so I had to pick up a battery-operated one, but I’m hoping its simplicity will mean it will last a good long time.

Remember the days when even small kitchen appliances were worth taking in for repair? I think my mother had the same toaster for about 30 years, and I recall going with her at least once to drop it off to be repaired when something went wrong with it. And I’m pretty sure the stove she used at camp for 40 years, from the mid-1950s until the mid-1990s, was one she and my father had acquired for their first home when they were married in 1942.

Nowadays it seems as if I replace my toaster almost as often as I replace my toothbrush, and I shop for major appliances more often than my mother shopped for a new toaster or mixer. With all of those appliances, large and small, ending up in landfills, no wonder the disposal of our solid waste is one of our biggest environmental challenges.

But, anyway, I’m back in the baking business, and, whether or not I’m able to be at the Farmers’ Market in person in the coming weeks, I’ll have frozen pies, and probably other baked goods, too, in the Town Hall freezer, available for purchase from Michelle Shutty of Greenwood Bean Coffee or Suzanne Dunham of Dunham Farm and Velvet Hollow Sugarworks.

Three hikes to celebrate the new year

Since I now work all day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays—mornings in the office at the Museums of the Bethel Historical Society, and afternoons in the Adult Education Learning Center at Telstar—it was a few days into 2019 before I was able to fit in my first hike of the new year, but then I managed to take a different short hike three days in a row.

On Saturday, Will, Eli, and I hiked up to Lapham Ledge. There were three other cars in the parking lot on Route 26, and the last time we had hiked at Maggie’s Nature Park, there were two other cars there. It’s great to see people using our local trails year-round! I’m glad that Greenwood has formed a Conservation Commission to help ensure that trails are maintained, as well as to oversee cleanup along the roads and at the Town Beach. Thanks to Betsey Foster for getting the ball rolling, and for being one of the Commission’s first members, along with Norman Milliard and Mark Plourde. (And thanks to Woodstock Conservation Commission member Jane Chandler for setting such a good example.)

Sunday was a Community Ski Day at Sunday River, and Will decided to go snowboarding, so Eli and I went for a hike up to Buck’s Ledge. I parked my car on Rocky Road and we walked to the trailhead on the Mann Road to take the shorter, steeper ascent, then we hiked down to the snowmobile trail that leads back to the Mann Road, and from there back to the car. We met a guy at the top who had hiked up from the parking lot near the spring, packing a collapsible camp chair with him. He was sitting there enjoying the view and, I’m sure, the peace and solitude—at least until Eli showed up and I had to caution him to hold on tightly to his gloves, hat, and anything else a rather undisciplined young dog might run off with.

On Monday, while Will was working his weekly shift at the library at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Eli and I hiked up Peaked Mountain in Maggie’s Nature Park. We extended the usual two-mile round trip by about an extra three-quarters of a mile by taking the blue trail loop before joining the yellow trail that leads to the top.

Peaked map

Trails in Maggie’s Nature Park.

I was able to do all three of my first hikes of 2019 with Microspikes, but after our Tuesday/Wednesday storm(s), it looks like snowshoes will be the way to go for a while, at least until the trails have been well broken out.

I’m glad to have some fresh snow, at least now that we’ve gotten it cleared out of the driveway and walkways, but I think there’s probably some roof-shoveling in my future. One of the joys of home ownership—I’ve never needed a gym membership!

Please send me your local news via email at amy.w.chapman@gmail.com, by phone at 207-890-4812, or find me on Facebook or in person around town. Thanks for reading!

Hiking meme


Happy New Year! (Now go take a hike!)


Welcome to readers of my Locke’s Mills column in the Bethel Citizen. As promised, here’s an expanded version of this week’s column.

Amy on Peaked 12_25_18Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe it’s already 2019. It really doesn’t seem very long ago that it was the last day of the 20th century, and we were all worrying about the effects of “Y2K” on our computer systems.

I spent some time going through my “Hikes 2018” photo album on Facebook, and it looks like I managed to “take a hike” at least 105 times last year. There may have been a few short hikes that didn’t make it into the album, but I usually try to take at least one photo on every hike so I’ll have a record of where I went and when.

I was surprised to find that the month with the most hikes—14—was the shortest month, February. I remember that after some early winter snowstorms, there was a brief January thaw followed by a long stretch of cold temperatures and something of a snow drought, which made it easy to go just about anywhere with Microspikes. By March, it was back to snowshoes, and there was snow on some of the local trails through mid-April. According to a video I saved on my phone, Eli even found a patch of snow to slide on at Mt. Abram on May 8.

My longest hikes of 2018 were only about seven or eight miles—Sunday River Whitecap, Caribou, and the full Sanborn River/Overset Pond trail network. Most of my hikes ranged between two and five miles, and I stuck mostly to very local, familiar trails, especially when I was hiking solo. I hiked in Maggie’s Nature Park at least 28 times, and to Buck’s and/or Lapham Ledges at least 25 times.

Tony hiked with me 19 times, Will came along 35 times, and Eli the Wonder Pup accompanied me on at least 81 hikes in 2018. I also hiked with other family or friends ten times. More than half of my hikes, 56, were either solo, or done with only canine companionship. I enjoy hiking with someone and hiking alone (or with just Eli) about equally, so it was a good mix of both throughout the year.

For 2019, I’d like to challenge myself to hike a few longer distances. And maybe I’ll challenge Tony to come along with me a little more often.

Eli on Peaked 12_25_18I have yet to hike in 2019, but I did do three nice hikes in the last week of 2018. Will, Eli, and I hiked up Peaked Mountain in Greenwood’s own Maggie’s Nature Park on Christmas afternoon, and again on December 30. On Saturday, December 29, I enjoyed a beautiful hike up Peabody Mountain in Albany with my niece Sara and my Peabody hike 12_29_18nephew Keith and his wife, Cindi. The temperature was about 40 degrees when we started out, but by the time we reached the summit, it had dropped by nearly ten degrees and the wind had come up. We had brought along a few extra articles of clothing, and even though we didn’t actually need them, it was a good reminder that it’s best to be prepared for quick changes in the weather when hiking in northern New England in the winter.

Peabody hike

Peabody hike crew

The first Greenwood Board of Selectmen’s meeting of 2019 will be held at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at the Town Office. This is due to New Year’s Day falling on Tuesday this year. The normal schedule for selectmen’s meetings is the first and third Tuesday of the month. All Board of Selectmen’s meetings (with the exception of executive sessions), as well as those of the Planning Board and any town committees, are open to the public.

The Greenwood Farmers’ Market will be held on the next two Fridays, Jan. 4 and 11, then will switch to every other Friday for the winter. The next few market dates after the switch will be Jan. 25, Feb. 8 and 22, and March 8 and 22. Since I started my new part-time job at the Museums of the Bethel Historical Society this week, I will no longer be at the market “in person” on a regular basis, although I hope to be there occasionally. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep the Town Hall freezer stocked with frozen pies and cookies, which can be purchased from either Suzanne Dunham (Dunham Farm/Velvet Hollow Sugarworks) or Michelle Shutty (Greenwood Bean Coffee).Baked goods

It looks like last Friday’s storm, which started as snow and ended as rain and freezing rain, put an end to what was, from all reports, a fantastic early-winter ice-skating season on the local ponds. Now it’s on to ice-fishing, and there are already a couple of shacks out on North Pond. Someone has also been tending to a lot of traps on the small pond between Route 26 and the railroad tracks, which, although it looks like a separate pond, is considered a part of Round Pond, one of the three connected Alder River Ponds. I wonder what kind of fish they catch there, and whether the fish in that part of the pond spend their whole lives there, or have access to the other parts of the ponds via culverts or streams. Who knows the answer to that? Anyone?

Please send me your local news via email at amy.w.chapman@gmail.com, by phone at 207-890-4812, or find me on Facebook or in person around town. Thanks for reading!

Amy on Peaked 12_25_18