I CAUGHT THE KONMARI FEVER

Yesterday I was snuggling in bed after some incredibly sweet, special days spent with some very special people; a lot of beautiful things have happened in the last few days, I was in a happy-dreamy state of mind whilst looking at random stuff on my phone, when I stumbled upon the review of Netflix new series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”. I’m not even sure why my brain decided it was interesting enough to make me click on the article, but after reading it, I thought “maybe I should give this series a go, just few minutes, see what all this fuss about this Japanese woman is about”.

I am honest, I have never read Marie Kondo’s books and all I knew about her was that she was a sort of “tidy-guru”, so I started watching the first episode full of stupid prejudices, expecting to see one of those shows that you know for a fact it is a stupid set up, one of those “why am I wasting my time watching this crap anyway?”, a very hipster-ish, patronising, annoying as hell thing where a Japanese know-it-all woman would impose her crazily impossible rules on how to keep homes tidy.

Only it was not as my prejudices predicted.
I got totally mesmerised and drawn into it after few minutes. I just couldn’t believe my eyes! Marie presents herself in such a positive, delicate, warm way, it is impossible not to be captivated by her and to not listen to all her tips and advices. At the end of episode one, I felt the urge to get up and apply her KonMari method straight away to my house. Yes, months ago I already had to throw away lot of old clothes because they don’t fit anymore, but still, I knew in my heart I was holding on to stuff I would never, ever wear anyway, and oh my gosh, I could have so done with decluttering my whole house entirely. I zoomed out of my bed, I stormed into my living room and I started to look around: all I could see around me was clutter, clutter, clutter and some more clutter.
If I could have burned down the house, there and then, to get rid of it, I would have done it in a heartbeat. I was desperate to break free from all of it.

my mountain

Following Marie’s lessons, I decided to tackle my house by categories rather than room, and as per her advice, I started by sorting all my clothing. Energised and ready, I piled all, and I mean ALL, my clothes on the sofa. Old and new, lingerie, socks, coats, everything went there. It was quite frightening the amount of “clothes-clutter” I had.
Marie’s advice to deal with clothes is to not focus on the things that needs throwing away, but on those you want to keep: these items must give you a “spark of joy”, as she calls it. Well…. I looked at my clothes’ mountain and, to be honest, very few things sparked joy to me. It didn’t take long before I realised that the pile of the things I was getting rid of was noticeably bigger than the tiny pile of the things I truly wanted to keep.

a very empty wardrobe…

At the end, I saved only my newest gym sets and few other bits purchased recently. My wardrobe is so empty right now, and yet when I look at it, it feels so full of happiness: I only see the things that truly sparks me joy and I promised myself that, from now on, I’ll buy only few things but valuable and with the “joy” factor in it.

Next category on Marie’s list is books.
If clothes went down like a breeze, books… not so much. I don’t necessarily like to depart with books in general, but some of those were only good for gathering dust and I knew in my heart they had to go. To be honest, once I started getting rid of the easiest one to chuck away, like my university guides, the task seemed less daunting. Surprisingly, I even managed to let go of some cooking books I never opened once, and that I was keeping for no reason at all.

“what I want you to ask yourself is if it’s something you really want to take into your future”

Marie Kondo

You know what I realised whilst I was doing this? I have been treating my house like a “space I have to be in”, not a “home”. Since I kicked my ex-husband out, I took some steps to re-own the place and make it “mine”, but I realise now I only went so far in the process. Yes, I painted walls purple, yes I bought a new coffee machine and few other bits and pieces, but I never went “all in” to transform it in a way that resonates with who I am. I have kept so much crap in case “my ex-husband gets offended or moans or maybe he thinks…”, tons of clutter infested my shelves because “I don’t know what to do with it so I might as well leave it as it is”, all of the “I’ll keep it just in case “ left forgotten waiting for the moment I’d use them that never arrived and, I am embarrassed at admitting this, but I also had shit hoarded in cupboards because “omg what if there is a spider or a bug…let’s never open this EVER”. I know. The shame.

I must admit, I skipped Marie’s third category, paper, because all my paperwork is self-contained in one cupboard and I don’t feel the urge to purge it right now, so I focussed on what she calls “Komono”, as known as category four: kitchen, bathroom, and all miscellaneous. After emptying the cabinet have under the stairs (one of those “omg I’ll never open it in case a monster will eat me alive”), I stormed in the kitchen like a fury. I emptied all my cupboards, I cleaned them, and I threw away almost everything that was stored inside. It felt amazing. It was also a great chance to assess my relationship with this room. You see, I adore baking. I love just taking half a day (if not a whole day) to create some “oven magic”. For me, baking is so relaxing, a kind of mindfulness exercise where I don’t have to think, it’s one step after the other, and at the end of the whole process, I get to eat a cake! I love purchasing kitchen utensils, pans, pots and tins, but I brutally stopped when I soon realised that the care and love I had for these items was not met by my ex-husband, who didn’t really give a shit about them and therefore ended up ruining every single item I had, including pans, kitchen appliances etc.
It pissed me off beyond belief.
Don’t ask me why, but this mentality of “why should I bother buying it, he’ll ruin it anyway” has kind of stuck with me two years later, and so far I kept using the same old shitty pans and old utensils I had. Well, when I saw that stuff, sad looking on my kitchen counter, I almost started sobbing: that is not me. In a fit of rage, I binned everything. EVERYTHING. I then made a list of all the things I absolutely need as soon as possible, all the things I would love to purchase, and I had a very relaxing evening shopping online for my lovely new, shiny, and so damn purple kitchen stuff. I even purchased a brand-new set of pan and pots! I still have a lot of things to do (the bathroom awaits…!), I feel so great. I feel like finally this place and I are on the same page: rooms are starting to shape up, everything feels so different, clear, positive, and so do I. it is so, so exciting. I’m thrilled at the thought of finishing this task, have my surgery and finally “coming back home”. To my home. To my kingdom. To my special, cherished place. I don’t care if I have plenty more days of dealing with bin bags and cleaning non-stop, I can picture the end of this mammoth task and let me tell you, it is going to be amazing!

“Tidying not only changes your home life but it also allows you to create a space that suits your ideal self”

Marie Kondo
my copy!

For the record, I purchased Marie’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying”. Needless to say, I am devouring it!

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COOKING UP A STORM

I have always been an extremely skinny girl. You could have easily counted my bones if you’d seen me naked. I take it from my father, who was just as skinny when he was young. Having said that, I have also been underweight all my life because I barely ate. Just as for being a tomboy, to me not feeling hungry and eating the tiniest amount of food was nothing strange.

I just never felt the need to eat. No, I have never been anorexic, nor I ever had any eating disorder. I was born with it. I grew up nicely and hit every milestone with a swiss clock precision, but I simply ate nothing at all. My mum, who has always been an extremely anxious person, had me checked millions of times by any doctor she could find. My father still recalls the embarrassment of having a doctor who just left the house crossing his path with another one that was about to get in, waving at each other and commenting “first child syndrome?” “yeah, good luck!”. Anyway, no matter how many consultants my mum rang, the diagnosis was always the same: “Madam, your daughter is just not hungry enough”.

You would think that, after 100+ doctors, my mum would just resign to the fact that there was nothing that could have “healed” me from this “horrible issue”, but we are talking about my mum here, who always knows best and who definitely knows more than any doctor in her (often deluded) head. I don’t know, to this day, why she took it so personally and why she made such a drama about it (she still does, by the way: when I told her the other day that my personal trainer at the gym put me on a diet – to build muscles – she screamed blue murder because “YOU? DIET? YOU ARE SO SKINNY YOU LOOK LIKE ANOREXIC”). All I know is that, even though she was doing it for my own good, she made my life hell on Earth.

fotoOK, to be fair to her, in addition of not feeling the need to eat, I became quite soon an extreme pain in the arse with my fussy eating habits. The combination of having an extremely low level of hunger with an extremely high level of fussiness and squeamishness, meant that almost everything triggered my “nope, my stomach is closed” feeling. Believe me, it was so dead easy to upset me. If cutlery, glasses and plates were not absolutely spotlessly clean (including no water stains) I just couldn’t bring myself to eat, and because I have a very sensitive nose, these better not have smelled of eggs (it is still one of my pet hates today!). Meat had to be cut into microscopical pieces, because I would have spit everything back on the place if any amount of fat reached my mouth. My plate had to be half full. Pasta had to be barely cooked. Fruit had to be as unripen as possible as I couldn’t eat it if sweet (I still have a thing for sour flavours) and in case it had a stone in it, like peaches or apricot, my mum had to dispose it before I saw it or – shock horror – touch it: It makes me feel weird just thinking about it (And writing about it, aaaaahhhh), it gives me goosebumps and it totally freaks me out.

Lunches and dinners were dramas, with my mum trying to feed me anything she could and me refusing it. The story was always the same: she put food on the table, I would barely touch it, she proceeded in losing her cool, frustration would rise to the roof, she would demand I eat, then she would start threatening, then yelling, then my father would intervene by barking at me to fucking eat my food and I would end up crying staring at my plate, praying my food would just evaporate like water in the heat. This drama at some point changed though: my mum discovered a medicine called Carpantin: it was liquid, it had a sweet, absolutely vile taste and it made me drowsy as fuck. I think my mum made me drink litres of it throughout my childhood. It stimulated hunger, and it kind of worked as, during “the cure”, as my mum would call the month or so she made me have that shit, I ate more than I normally would. Whenever I saw those bottles in the medicine’s cabinet, my heart sank. I don’t remember why, at some point, this hell ended (I think that there has been a shortage of it and my doctor just stopped prescribing it because “enough is enough”).

The mantras I heard day in, day out, was that I looked sick, that I was skin and bones, that I looked like a stick with clothes. When I was a child, I almost felt a sense of pride: I looked like a boy and I didn’t mind, I fit into tiny clothes, nobody teased me for being overweight (though in the 80s being overweight was rare) and it just seemed a fun thing, so I was welcoming those negative comments about my body because to me they were something cool.

Well.

Not so much when teenage years started: my peers started to have boobs and curves and well, I still had bones on show. Hearing constantly “you will go to the hospital because you are all bones! “you have only skin attached to your bones!” “look at you, you are so skinny you look sick!”, “you are a stick with clothes on”, “you should stay in the science room as you’d be perfect as a skeleton” went from fun to steadily eroding my self-esteem, and once that was gone, it fuelled hate for my body.

Partly because of my fussiness, and partly because I wanted to gain weight and shush all the “skinny bitch” shit, I started to learn how to cook by myself. My mum is worldwide famous OCD: if anything is not spotless (especially her kitchen), hell will break lose, so she never taught me anything in case I made a mess in her house. I didn’t mind, I wanted to do things my way and learn flavours, techniques and recipes all by myself: yes, I’m a loner when it comes to learning and I thrive when I am left alone to do my own things (this is also the way I managed to get a Law degree: no classroom, just me, my books and a tutor for help).

Turned out, cooking became a relaxing session for my brain: I didn’t have to think anything but what I wanted to eat and what steps I had to follow in order to feed me what I wanted. There was no fussiness, no anxiety, no drama: I had total control on everything: the flavours, the portion sizes, the recipes. Moreover, it helped me be more curious about food, more inclined to taste and give it a go. An amazing world of possibilities opened its doors for me and I loved it because I was the undisputed Queen of it.

Cooking became my life saviour when my post-natal depression took a turn for the worst, and I lived on a chain of endless panic attacks. Guess what was the main thing who triggered my attacks? Yes, food: I became scared of dying of an anaphylactic shock from a random allergy. I know, rationally, that it was absolutely insane, but there and then? No way, Jose. It took me 2 years to discover that the feeling of suffocating and dying triggered by food was due to a combination of asthma and gastric reflux, but in the meantime it was constant horror.
Anything that was not plain pasta (and I mean just boiled, no oil, cheese, nothing), plain rice or water sent me in a terrible meltdown. I lost so much weight in the space of two months that I (truly) became a skeleton with clothes on. No one seemed to care though: doctors brushed me off with “first time mum syndrome”, “it’s just baby blues”, “cheer up and enjoy this moment”, like I was having a blast living in that horrible.

I could have never tolerated anyone cooking for me at that stage. I would have never, ever, trusted anyone to cook exactly how my anxiety dictated and with the only few things that spared me a panic attack. I spent more time than I’m happy to admit staring at my kitchen thinking “here we go again… Russian roulette bring it on….”. I started re-introducing things little by little, one item at a time. Depending on how brave I felt in that moment, or how strong I felt to push myself, I increased variety, I added spices and flavours. It took ages but being the master of my own resurrection has been very empowering (but please, if you read this, don’t feel like there is no help out there: there is. Don’t surrender like me. SEEK HELP. I beg you), but it left massive mental scars that only now I’m managing to heal.

cake.jpg
A cake I made recently to celebrate Seb Vettel’s victory at the Belgium Grand Prix

Now that I’m better, I am back at loving cooking for what it is. Over the last couple of years I have also improved my baking skills, and every now and then I test my creations on my colleagues. Funny thing is, when I started bringing cakes at the office, their feedback was “good”, “nice”, “ok”, “amazing”; now that it happens quite often, they are used to it and their feedback is like Michelin Star inspector: “needs more moisture”, “this was good but slightly too lemony”, “amazing, but decoration could have been neater”.

By the way, since I see that my blog gets read all over the world, if you have any recipe please please please share it with me (any good dhal recipe would be greatly appreciated!)!