Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up

‘Zen And The Art of Minimalism’ could be an alternate title of this book by Marie Kondo. It is the English translation of the original book written in Japanese.

img_0084-1I am part of the Generation X, and grew up when middle class was really the middle class. We seemed to have just enough to get by and save and be debt-free. We rarely discarded anything, I remember, partly because we didn’t seem to have much to discard, and partly because we could surely ‘use it in future’. Now in the age of consumerism, it is  “hoarding”, and there was an urgent need to unlearn.

That point on space & time graph:

I believe that there are trying times in all our lives that sweep us off our feet and we question everything that we have – people, relationships, things. Looking around in this moment of powerful contemplation and finding meaningless “stuff” about us, we just might have the ‘and-why-do-I-have-all-this-cr@p-anyway’ moment. I did, over a year ago when, quite serendipitously, I found this book. Because it resonated with me so much, I strongly wanted spread the word. It answered for me questions like “how do I create my Happy Place?” literally,  or “how to be happy”.

Fight Club, Minimalism, Quote. We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like. Things you own end up owning you.The book:

With systematic steps to declutter your home, what she calls the Kon-Mari method (from her last and first names), the author writes passionately and in an honest voice. Her principle is to surround oneself with things that spark joy, and discard the rest (as much as possible). She goes a few steps further in asking readers to touch everything and see if you feel good about it, to their express gratitude for their service  (something she is ridiculed for). No wonder this book seems to be a hit or a miss. Yes- there is repetition, and yes-there are suggestions that might seem beyond you. But do not take it literally, if you so disagree; take it with a grain of salt so as to not miss the important underlying principle.


MinimalismBeing idealistic and passionate, I aspire to the ideal of minimalism. In principle, one doesn’t need to have what one doesn’t need to have. More and more, I look for meaning in things and people and relationships- quality, more than quantity. Have less things, but good ones that serve your purpose that you feel happy about. Don’t let the things you own, own you.
Minimalism is not as much about figuring and discarding what you don’t want as it is about diving deep within to find what you really do. Gnothi seauton: Know thyself. Quite simple. And very difficult. When you let go of things, I think, you practice “letting go” in general, a very handy virtue. When I  give up/away things with-out, it frees up energy that sort of comes back to me within. This is highly empowering. Pointing to this truth is the beauty and the value of this book.

In defense of the book:

What is an ideal? Some thing that is perfect- a highest attainable degree of excellence. Are  or can humans be ideal? No-not generally. So, do we need ideals? Yes, absolutely. Because we need something to aim for. Something to go by. I wonder if religion had a similar purpose with its tenets- all point to some basic ideals (and ideally keep out of trouble with the Church and one another- but that is a whole ‘nother complex topic). A particular example that I grew up knowing is of Sri Ram in Indian mythology, called maryada purushottam, the ideal man; though no one could be all like him, the society has Him as the model to aspire to.img_0096

While The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up contains tactical steps and a method to tidying up your stuff, the book is not really about things; it is actually about the ideal of living very consciously and having your home/space as an expression and extension of it… with the things that spark joy. Now what a beautiful, inspiring and life-changing idea that is!

Further Reading: The Minimalists, Becoming Minimalist, Best resources

 Goodreads review.

Snacks in minutes!

I had to make something for this new playgroup of moms and toddlers I joined. Since me and my husband were on a ‘juice fast’ (more on it in another blog), I wanted to make sure I use the two loaves of whole grain wheat bread we had.

These are some of my wheat bread snack ideas (which surprisingly were successful):

Crispy sweet discs: Cut out small “discs” out of a few bread slices (the size would be that of a quarter). Or any shape if you want to be adventurous. Roast them on both sides until crisp brown on a non-stick pan with salted butter. Unsalted could be used, but I found a dash of salt adds a savory flavor to it. Sprinkle powdered sugar and serve.

Sweet Wheat discs
Crispy Sweet Wheat discs

Wheat bread bites: Remove the sides of a three bread slices.

1.Put some non-sweet cream cheese (I use the Philadelphia 1/3 Less Fat Chive and Onion flavor and love it!).

2.Cover it with another slice and spread some Tangy Barbeque sauce (I had it leftover from McNuggets bought the past week). This is flavor goes very well with kids.

Variation: Alternatively, you could use regular pesto or tomato pesto sauce, that will go well with the adult party crowd. Cover this with the third slice.

3.Cut this 3-layered bread sandwich into a matrix of 9 square pieces. Stick in a toothpick. Serve!

Savory Wheat Bread Bites
Savory Wheat Bread Bites

Variation – sweet: Substitute the non-sweet creme cheese with the sweeter version, and the sauce with a fruit jam or jelly. These could also be Peanut Butter and Jelly bites. Same old recipe with a new look!

If you like it hot, brush a little olive oil or spray PAM and broil in the oven for a few minutes until golden crisp. Stick toothpicks and serve.

Grilled cheese sandwich – Now this is my all time favorite indulgence ever since Mr. Husband made it one time. Its fast and easy to make and is yum!

You need two slices of bread, grated sharp cheddar (regular or 2% fat), Sriracha sauce (You can get it in Asian Food isle) .

Helps to apply a little PAM Spray on the non-stick girdle or the grill ( I love my good old girdle to the grill!). Put one bread slice, cover it with shredded cheddar cheese, a little bit (or a little  more- depending on your heat you can handle!) of Sriracha sauce, cover it with another bread slice and press it down. I used a steel plate and mounted a nice heavy marble mortar . Turn when one side is crisp brown and wait till the other one is too.

Put a bread slice on the girdle, cover it with sharp cheddar cheese, add some Sriracha sauce.

Put a bread slice on the girdle, cover it with sharp cheddar cheese, add some Sriracha sauce and cover it with the second bread slice.
Once you cover it with another bread slice, press it down until the lower slice is crisp brown, then flip the sandwich until the other slice becomes  crisp brown.
Press the sandwich down until the lower slice is crisp brown, then flip and press down until the other side becomes crisp brown.
Check out the golden goodness of this awesome grilled cheese sandwich!
Check out the golden goodness of this awesome grilled cheese sandwich!


India visit…

Finally in India, I feel time is speeding beyond control… So many things to do, social visits to make, old friends to catch up… but I fear if I can make it all in this trip.

Being home, even after three years this time, doesn’t feel new or strange. Meeting relatives, especially the older folk, feels good. Still jet lagging! Or is it the great fresh food from moms kitchen? Yesterday I bumped into a tuition-friend from 10th standard – Urvi Sahni! I was delighted. We exchanged numbers. I asked her for her contact info. As she looked for some paper chit in her purse, I observed that she hasn’t changed much – she looks as pretty! She told me she has a 9 year old and a younger one. I was shocked, and happy.  As she wrote her name, I observed she is Urvi “Suri” now. I asked her for her email ID and she said that she isnt that internet savvy and hardly gets time to switch the computer on. I suddenly realized that not the entire world is on cyberspace, as I thought, like me and my cirlce of family/ friends. I quickly learnt from this revelation. It was so happy to meet this friend and see her settled with kids and all. But when I reflect on it, it is like being in a time machine. It just doesn’t feel a decade and a half has turned, feels it was just yesterday that I had this life and these friends! To put it in Bollywood lingo – lagta hai maano kal hi ki baat ho!

I keep looking at faces whenever I am on road; people appear familiar…

My fear now is the day I have to leave, especially as parents would be alone after me and my brother and my uncle leave for the US. Scary! Or is it going back to a place that has very few things and people that I have back home…

Home away from home…

Before coming to the US as a student, I came over to visit my brother Shomit for a few months. The idea was that I get a good change. Having come here I got introduced to his gang of friends- Oakley Mitra Mandal (OMM) as they called themselves-  and a whole new world full of best things! This group of people had dreams in their eyes and a strong bond that would never weaken. Amidst restaurants and movies, chai parties and philosophy, discussions and dreams that would go on until the wee hours of the day, I found myself rejuvenating! One of the best times of my life, I treasure those days and am full of gratitude to my brother and OMM. This was written then as a parting gift dedicated to OMM:

I flew from home, to a land unknown

To my brother, on a foreign shore

Did not know what was in store

Just to switch off, and nothing more


Here the buildings kissed the sky

They were ambitions and dreams, in concrete

Manifesting themselves so tall and high

Showing how you could, if you really wanna fly


I came to not to a house, but a family

The houses albeit four, but one home really

Every pair of eye exuded warmth and ardor

And the smiles for me always, I treasure truly.


We met often in evenings for coffee

And talked and talked and wined and dined

I relished every bit, for, from worry I would flee

‘N talked till it was dawn again, and again time for tea


With them I danced, with them I played

They showed me the colors of life; they didn’t let ‘em fade

They made me feel special, in their ways so grand

I knew how Alice must’ve felt in wonderland


I had my share of bliss, and its time to leave

My heart fills with gratitude for Shomit, more than I grieve

And for his gift of you all to me to cherish

A memory of my best days that would never perish


When in someday of my life ahead, I wonder

After a long day’s work, somewhere across seas yonder

I would want to run back to you all, alone

When they say, “baby its time to go home”…



~ Sonali  for OMM. (Oct 2004)