Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

You won’t die if your house isn’t tidy, and there are many people in the world who really don’t care if they can’t put their house in order. Such people, however, would never pick up this book.


I enjoyed this book very much. Essentially, Kondo’s advice boils down to:

  1. Assemble every object you own in a category (e.g. clothing and subcategorize into shirts, pants, etc.)
  2. Handle each object and only keep it if it “sparks joy”

Only after your possessions have been thinned out do you start to think about storage. For Kondo, the key to storage is to not have very many possessions in the first place. But she also had some great tips that I implemented. For example, she suggests that whenever possible, clothing that should be stored in drawers as it takes up less space that way. She also suggests folding clothes into rectangles that you can stand on end and arrange horizontally in the drawer.

This is a sideways view of my drawer with clothing stacked horizontally instead of vertically. It does make it much easier to find what you are looking for.

I wish that Kondo had included a specific chapter about children’s things in this book, because I find that it is a big struggle for me to know what to keep and what to discard. She does have a section about family members and suggests that you never discard other people’s possessions without them knowing and that if they see you tidying and discarding your own possessions it will inspire them to do the same.

The problem with small children is that they don’t tidy and they receive a lot of possessions for Christmases, birthdays, and even “just because” grandma is coming for a visit or saw something cute. We are also storing a lot of things that RJ has outgrown because we think we will have another baby at some point and wouldn’t want to re-buy all the baby things (e.g. we have two vibrating chairs, a swing, and a bassinet that we are storing along with two and a half huge boxes of clothing in sizes 0-12 months).

We are lucky to live in a large enough house that it can still feel spacious with all the junk we keep. The space isn’t really the issue, what appeals to me about discarding and tidying is the idea that I could be surrounded by items that “spark joy” instead of having to wade through closets and cupboards full of junk to find the item i’m actually looking for at any given time.

So I wonder if the criteria for “sparking joy” applies to my relationship with RJ’s toys as well? To some extent I know whether an item sparks joy in her or not, however, she often loses interest in a toy and regains it later. That being said, her favourite toys tend not to be toys anyway, so just how many toys should I be keeping around the house?

How do you make decisions about how many possessions you need to keep in your home for yourself and your children? Please leave a comment.




Book Review: The Dorito Effect

The Dorito Effect was a very interesting and perhaps somewhat alarmist book. In a nutshell, the book argues that modern agriculture has bred both our animal and vegetable foods to optimize transportability and yield and neglected to breed for flavour. The lack of flavour in our food is remedied by synthesized flavour chemicals that are added to make our food palatable. According to Schatzker, the major problem with this is that in nature, flavour is an indicator of nutrition. So our flavour-poor foods are also nutritionally-poor, and we are being coerced into eating these things because food additives are tricking our bodies into thinking we want to eat them.

There was a particular section of this book that interested me as a parent. I have included the two pertinent pages below (my apologies for the slight blurriness). These pages discuss a study done back in the days when there weren’t ethics review boards. Children of “teenage mothers” and “widows” were fed an experimental diet consisting of 34 different whole, unprocessed foods. The children were allowed to choose whatever they wanted to eat at each meal from the options, and permitted to eat as much as they wanted. Not every meal the children chose for themselves contained all of the food groups, but overall, they ended up with a balanced diet and were in excellent health at the end of the study.


At another point in Schatzker’s book he talks about how flavour chemicals are used in raising livestock. In that particular context they are referred to as “palatants” and they can make livestock consume many more calories than they naturally would and grow much faster (which is great for farmers to maximize profit).

This, in addition to his description of the nutritional experiment with children got me reflecting about RJ, who is still way at the bottom of the growth chart for her weight (somewhere around the 1 percentile mark). She is a good eater and we avoid giving her processed foods. I started to wonder where the numbers on the growth chart come from, and if perhaps the children on which the growth charts are based are fed more processed foods with flavour chemicals (aka palatants) than RJ is, and therefore they might inevitably consume more calories and be more plump than she is.

Fortunately another blogger whose work I really admire, Alice Callahan over at The Science of Mom had written a well-researched post on growth charts in 2011. I learned from her post that the WHO charts are based on the measurements of a total of 882 children from Pelotas, Brazil; Accra, Ghana; Delhi, India; Oslow, Norway; Muscat, Oman; and Davis, CA, USA. It turns out that children who were “super lean were excluded so as not to skew the data.” I can only speculate that many, if not all of the 882 children ate processed foods with flavour chemicals. According to Schatzker’s book, flavour chemicals are so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine that there are children in the world who aren’t exposed to them. I wonder what a growth chart from 100 years ago would look like, if such a thing exists. Would RJ have been at the bottom of a growth chart 100 years ago before processed foods, or would her weight be more average compared to those children of the past.

Although RJ is a skinny little toddler, she seems healthy and I feel that I am doing the right thing for her by feeding her whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. The Dorito Effect definitely underscored that belief.

Free toys

Buying toys for babies and toddler for Christmas is sometimes more about the enjoyment of the adult than the child. At 14 months, many of RJ’s favourite toys are not toys. Here are some examples:

1. A box of mason jar lids. This post is brought to you by this very box of mason jar lids I am referring to which she is currently playing with. The box is important because jangling them in the box and them dumping them out is part of the fun. Also we have just discovered that these are too big to fit in the heating vent slots. A great toy!

2. A box of clothespins. A bucket of clothespins works well too. Just try it.

3. Cassette tapes. I also let her push all the buttons on the little portable stereo. Warning: she freaks out when she accidentally turns on the radio and it is tuned to static. Second warning: she pinched her fingers in a tape case once. She was upset but not very hurt and considering how often she plays with tapes I still think it’s a low injury rate.

4. A wallet. We put cards we never use and some pretend money in her wallet. She likes to pull things out of wallets.

5. An empty plastic cup. I use this at the end of meals when she is finished eating but I am not. She usually puts her leftover food in and out of it.

6. Pictures of babies: in flyers, on cards, etc. she likes to hold them and look at them.

7. A chromatic tuner. Not everyone has one of these in their house, but we have two (hubby for tuning his guitar, me for tuning my harp). It has lots of buttons and lights up in response to sound. So it’s a good toy.

What are your child’s favourite household item “toys”? Leave a comment below.

Liebster Award

A fellow SAHM nominated me for this award that bloggers give to each other. I think it’s very sweet– thank you Laura! Find her blog at


Laura wrote some questions for me to answer, hopefully I can get through them before RJ wakes up from her nap.

Why did you start your blog and what motivates you to write?

I started my blog because I was lonely and I wanted to have a record of the occasionally interesting things that fill my time on this profound but also tedious journey of motherhood.

When do you find time to write in your blog?

I blog while RJ is napping, when I probably could be cleaning the food off the floor that she spilled an hour ago. 

What is your favorite/best part of your day?

My favourite part of the day is after I put RJ to bed and I get to hang out with my husband and relax. 

What helps you stay sane?

Mom and baby fitness classes.

If you had unlimited funds where would you travel to and why?

I hope we’re going back to Cuba this winter. I’m not big on traveling with a baby (its almost more trouble than enjoyment for me) but the flight is just over 4 hours and an all-inclusive means no dishes to wash. Someday when my kid(s) are older I’d like to go to Russia because I’ve read a lot of Dostoyevsky (and hubby likes Tolstoy). 

What do you love most about the city you currently live in?

I like living in Winnipeg because the weather is terrible. I used to hate the weather here but now I realize how experiencing a few months of brutal cold makes me really appreciate the other seasons. 

Where is your favorite place to shop (for clothes)?

Thrift stores.

What song puts a smile on your face no matter how many times you hear it?

I’m singing the children’s song ”I Had A Little Nut Tree” frequently these days. I like it. 

If you could stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?

I read somewhere that people are happiest when their children are between the ages of 6-12. So I’m going to say, that point in the future, let’s say, 38.

Who is your biggest fan?

Probably RJ? She should be anyway, I do a lot of things for her that I don’t do for anyone else. Like wiping her bum. 

What are three things you could not live without?

Food, sleep and love. 

Infant Cereals

I had a meeting with a dietician a couple weeks ago because I was still feeling stressed out about how RJ’s nurse practitioner thinks she is not gaining enough weight. The dietician (who specializes in infant nutrition) recommended that I feed RJ cereal twice per day (among other things).

Today I  rediscovered my copy of “The New Basics” by Michel Cohen (I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed that book for this blog yet because I absolutely love it). He is actually quite anti-cereal in the book. Although I don’t agree 100% with all of his advice, I was having some major cognitive dissonance about this. So I did a bit of googling.

I stumbled upon this great post about infant cereals by another Mommy blogger. Her blog looks really great actually. She is much more educated about science than I am and her content is really interested. AAANNND she is putting out a book that will be released in August. It looks like a good one, hopefully I’ll get my hands on a copy to review for my blog.

Today’s takeaway: I think I am going to reduce the amount of infant cereal I feed to RJ (mostly because I think it’s making her constipated).

Nail polish and health

I was concerned about chemical exposure during pregnancy so I did not paint my nails during my entire pregnancy (I used to really enjoy having painted nails since most makeup is for the benefit of other people looking at you unless you spend a lot of time looking in the mirror, but nail polish is the only form of makeup that you can enjoy on yourself all the time).

I painted my nails once after RJ was born, but I asked my mom to watch her in another room so RJ wouldn’t be exposed to the fumes. Then I was too reluctant to use nail polish remover because I was worried it would leave residue on my hands and I am handling RJ all day. So my nails looked nice for a day and then terrible for a couple of weeks.

Since I’ve had RJ, I’ve become more interested in avoiding potentially harmful chemicals in my personal hygiene routine. Since I am handling her all day and she often has her mouth on my body (I only ever use coconut oil on my breasts) I feel that looking after my own exposure to nasty chemicals is part of looking after her.

I started researching different types of nail polishes awhile ago and finally made a purchase of Suncoat Water-based Nail Polish. I was almost going to buy a Pure Anada brand nail polish because it is made in Manitoba, but it is a solvent-based polish (although it seems to be safe and formaldehyde free) and has that strong smell that I’d like to avoid. Because, you know, whatever you can smell is actually entering your body.

I’m very happy with the polish. It is practically odourless and one coat provides nice coverage.  I had heard that water-based polishes do not last as long as solvent-based but I am satisfied with the durability of this polish.

The one thing I forgot was to buy some nail polish remover. Hubby suggested I just use my old acetone-based remover because he thinks acetone is safe. But here’s a tip, if you want to know the safety of any chemical, you can google “msds” and then the name of the chemical. MSDS stands for Material Safety Data Sheet and it will tell you everything you need to know about a chemical. So here’s what it has to say about acetone:

Special Remarks on Chronic Effects on Humans:

May affect genetic material (mutagenicity) based on studies with yeast (S. cerevisiae), bacteria, and hamster fibroblast cells. May cause reproductive effects (fertility) based upon animal studies. May contain trace amounts of benzene and formaldehyde which may cancer and birth defects. Human: passes the placental barrier.

So it looks like I’ll be wearing ratty nail polish until I can make it to the store for some polish remover alternative.

Packing the Hospital Bag (Canadian Hospitals)

It’s been almost 4 months since I delivered RJ, so before I forget, I thought I would write down the items that I think should be on a packing list for a hospital birth.

I read a few different lists from different sources (e.g. before I did my packing and I ended up packing 3 bags: one for me, one for hubby and one for baby. I was so overpacked. When you give birth in Canada pretty much everything is provided. I used almost nothing that was in my bags (and had my mom running out to get some things that I hadn’t thought to bring). So here are two lists: one listing what to pack, one listing what other lists will tell you you need that you shouldn’t bother with.

What to pack: Continue reading