That Was The Month That Was… January 2019!

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January is a month that I’ve struggled with in recent years but actually this January didn’t weigh on me quite as much so I feel like I’ve made progress in coming to terms with some things. I also turned 40 this month so am determined that my 40s will be fabulous!

I always plan ahead to keep my mind occupied in January so this time my plan was simple… read lots of good books! And I definitely succeeded with this! I read more books in January then ever before (since I started keeping record of what I read) and ended up finishing 34 books over the month! I can’t pick a single favourite as pretty much every book was really good but I have to give a special mention to Ideal Angels by Robert Welbourn because that book was incredible and it won’t let go of my thoughts!

I also managed a lot more blogging in January than I’ve done for a while and I’m really enjoying it. It feels like my blogging mojo is fully back now after the wobble I had over the summer so hopefully it will stick around now!

 

Here are the books I read in January:

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

This was a Christmas present from my husband. I’ve been wanting to read it for a while and it was worth the wait because I loved it. I already feel that this will make my favourite books of the year so 2019 was off to an amazing start!

Ivy and Abe by Elizabeth Enfield

I had an ARC of this book but I decided to listen to the audio book while I was feeling unwell and I very much enjoyed it. I’m fascinated by the idea of fate so this book was right up my street. I do plan on reviewing it when I get a chance.

The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard

This was another excellent book that I just couldn’t put down! I’ve already reviewed this so you can see my full thoughts here if you’d like to.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

This book a really good way to pass a cold, wintery day when I needed some escapism! My review is here if you’d like to know more.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

I’ve had this book on my TBR for ages and so I decided to part listen to the audio and part read it and I adored it. It was everything I hoped it would be and more!

The Rumour by Lesley Kara

This book was brilliant, it more than lived up to my expectations for it and is another book that I think may well be on my top books of the year! My review is here if you’d like to read it.

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

This book is so atmospheric and had me gripped from start to finish. Find out more in my review here.

No More Plastic by Martin Dorey

This was an interesting introduction to reducing plastic but I was hoping to learn more. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for somewhere to start though.

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

I’d had an ARC of this on my TBR for quite a while and I finally picked it up in January and I ended up reading it in one sitting, it was so good! Here’s my full review!

The Second Sister by Claire Kendall

I bought this book sometime last year and I spotted it when I was tidying up my shelves last month so kept it out to read. It was a good thriller, it kept me turning the pages!

Ideal Angels by Robert Welbourn

This book is incredible. I loved it, even though it broke my heart. I know this book will be in my favourite reads of 2019, it just won’t let go of me. My full review is here if you’d like to know more.

The Party by Lisa Hall

This book was an okay read, it was one I read over the space of a couple of hours but it wasn’t as thrilling as I’d hoped.

Storyteller: The Authorised Biography of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock 

I’ve had the audio book of this for ages and it caught my eye when I was going through my Audible app recently. I very much enjoyed learning more about Roald Dahl, and I now want to read all my favourite of his books!

The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson

I’ve wanted to read this ever since I first heard about it so when I spotted it on an Audible deal recently I snapped it up. I listened to it over a couple of days and found it really interesting. It didn’t have the same lasting impression as Adam Kay’s book but it was a good listen.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

I was lucky to receive an ARC of this last year and finally picked it up a couple of weeks ago and I devoured it in one sitting. It is such a brilliant novel, I loved it! My review is here if you’d like to know more.

Into the Silent Sea by Claire Stibbe

This was a really good thriller and another book that I flew through as I simply had to know how it would all end. Here’s my review!

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

I’ve read and enjoyed Fiona Barton’s previous two novels so I was delighted to receive a copy of this one. This is a brilliant novel, definitely Fiona’s best yet and I loved it. My full review is here if you’d like to know more.

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

This is another ARC that has been on my TBR longer than it should but when I did pick it up I devoured it. I was gripped from start to finish. I hope to get my review finished and posted soon.

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

This was a really good read, although I struggled at times with the child narrator. Here’s my review.

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

I read this novel in one sitting over the course of an afternoon and I loved it. I was intrigued from the opening chapter and it had me hooked right to the end. I’ll be reviewing this one soon.

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

I had an ARC of this so I read it while also listening to the audio book and I really enjoyed it. It’s such a wonderful novel, one that I think I might re-read in the future. I hope to get my review posted soon.

Bring me Back by BA Paris

Sadly I didn’t really get on with this book, it was too far-fetched to me and it just didn’t gel at all. I have enjoyed a previous book by the author so maybe this just wasn’t the right book for me.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

This book has been on my TBR since it was first published but I’ve put off reading it because it felt like it was no longer for me. I’m so glad that I gave it a go though as I got a lot more out of it than I was expecting to so I recommend it.

Diversify by June Sarpong

This book was hit and miss for me. There were chapters that really struck a chord and others that didn’t. I’m glad I read it though, it was interesting for the most part.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

I finally read this book and I can totally see why it got so much praise last year! I loved it too, it was so different to other books in this genre and I really appreciate how much work it must have taken.

Dead Girls by Graeme Cameron

This was a good read, it wasn’t as good as the previous book Normal but it was still a book that I read in just two sittings.

Notes on A Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

This was another Christmas present and I’m glad I picked it up when I did. I found it even more useful than I was expecting to and I think it is a book that I will go back to in the future.

A Very English Scandal by John Preston

This audio book was fascinating, shocking but really interesting. I already knew some things about this case but there was so much I didn’t know. I was hooked all the way through this book, it left me reeling!

Senseless by Anna Lickley

This is such a good novel. It’s got a great storyline, which I really enjoyed and it also has excellent disability representation, which I very much appreciate in a novel. I’ll be reviewing this in February for the blog tour!

Tilly and the Bookwanderers: Pages & Co. by Anna James

I got this book for Christmas and I saved it to read on the anniversary of my mum’s death when I knew I would need a comforting read. This book was everything I hope it would be and so much more besides, I adored it! I’m hoping to get a chance to re-read A Little Princess soon as it’s reminded me how much I loved that novel as a child.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden

This book was beautiful, so much more more than I was expecting it to be and I loved it. I’ve already reviewed this so you can see that here if you’d like to know more.

The Cactus by Sarah Hayward

This book is gorgeous! I read it in one sitting and I completely and utterly fell in love with it. I’ll definitely be reviewing this one soon but in the meantime I highly recommend it!

Someone Like Me by MR Carey

I was sent an ARC of this and was told it was a thriller so I was a bit discombobulated when I started reading it. I’m still not sure what I think of it but I did read it in just a couple of sittings so it definitely gripped me!

Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell

I read this book in one sitting and it kept me up way past my bed time as I just couldn’t put it down! I reviewed this one yesterday so you can find that here if you’d like to know more.

 

January Blog Posts & Reviews:

My Favourite Novels Read in 2018

My Favourite Non-Fiction Read in 2018

Reading Bingo for 2018! Was it a full house for me??

2018 Reading Reflections, Statistics and Plans for Tackling the TBR

 

Stacking the Shelves (5th Jan)

Mini Crime and Thriller Book Reviews featuring A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay, The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah, All The Hidden Truths by Claire Askew and Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke)

Review of The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Hyde

New Year Book Tag

This Week in Books (9 Jan)

Review of The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

Review of The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

Review of The Rumour by Lesley Kara

Stacking the Shelves (12 Jan)

Review of The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Review of The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

This Week in Books (16 Jan)

Review of Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

Review of Ideal Angels by Robert Welbourn

Stacking the Shelves (19 Jan)

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up and How the #KonMari Method Changed My Life!

This was a much more personal post than I normally share on my blog but I wanted to share how following Marie Kondo’s de-cluttering methods had actually made a huge difference to my life!

Music Monday: In My Life by The Beatles

Review of Into the Silent Sea by Claire Stibbe

Review of The Suspect by Fiona Barton

This Week in Books (23 Jan)

Stacking the Shelves (26 Jan)

The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden

This Week in Books (30 Jan)

Review of Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell

 

The state of my TBR:

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Well, in 2018 I succeeded in reducing my mammoth TBR… but 2019 has been the month with all the books. I started January with 2447 books (this is books that I own, I don’t add books to my TBR if I don’t own them) and have ended the month with 2464 books. Oops! This is in spite of me reading 34 books off my TBR this month, the fact is that I’ve acquired 51 books so overall my TBR has increased by 17 books. My plan is to reduce my TBR by 20 books every month so I need to do some serious reading and/or unhauling (unhauling keeps autocorrecting to unfailing and I was so tempted to leave it at that! Haha!) in February to get back on track! In all seriousness though I’m not worried as last year the reduction of my TBR happened over the course of the year so I feel sure I’ll be back on track come December 31st!

 


 

How was your January? I hope you all had a good month and that you read lots of good books. Did you read many books? What was your favourite book of the month? Please tell me in the comments, I’d love to know. Also, if you have a blog please feel free to leave a link to your month’s wrap-up post and I’ll be sure to read and comment back. 🙂

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The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and how the #konmari method changed my life! #MarieKondo #TidyingUp #SparkJoy

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I’ve been following the reactions on social media to Marie Kondo and her Tidying Up series on Netflix with interest recently. I did the KonMari method on my whole house last year and I can honestly say that it completely and utterly changed my life so I wanted to share my thoughts on it.

I’ve read so many books about de-cluttering and have always given the ideas a go, some have been more helpful than others but I always fell back into my old ways because I was doing a bit at a time, or one part of my home at a time. I re-read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up, and then read Spark Joy early last year and it struck a chord with me. I loved the idea of tackling all of a category (Clothes, books, papers, komono [all miscellaneous items] then sentimental) at once so the whole house was getting done. This is my story…

I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder (not so bad that you can’t get through the front door but definitely feeling powerless to throw things away without it being an ordeal). I grew up with a mum was very sentimental about things and so she would keep things she didn’t like because she loved the person who gave the item to her. She would also buy extras of things when they were on offer even when the cupboards were full to bursting. I ended up the same way. I have a very distinct memory from when I was really young thinking that I couldn’t get rid of my ornaments and soft toys because I wouldn’t have anything to fill my house with when I grew up. My poor mum put up with my books not only taking over my bedroom, but also the spare room and the landing between the two rooms. Even after I moved out I left a lot of stuff at her house and she never complained. We were as bad as each other for keeping things. It was so much a part of me to have every surface filled with ornaments and trinkets that I found empty shelves made me feel somewhat panicky.

When my mum died I was proud of myself for only keeping the belongings of hers that I genuinely loved and would use. To this day I still use her very best cutlery every single day, and I wear her jewellery. After we sold my mum’s house I moved in with my boyfriend and as I was moving to the other side of the country I could only take what would fit in the van we hired. I felt that this was a new start, a new me and I would do better.

I didn’t.

We bought our home a year later and I gradually filled it with stuff. I don’t know exactly how it happened because I’m not much of a shopper. I think I became someone who would buy a replacement for something that was worn out but then I’d keep both items for some reason. I think I used to keep things just in case! My poor husband is very minimal in his possessions and has never said a word about all the clutter everywhere but I don’t know how he put up with it.

I’ve had a lot of medical issues in the years we’ve been together and I think when you have hoarding tendencies illness can make it worse. I need to keep things I need close by me because I can’t walk more than a few steps, and I can’t carry anything but this would lead to a mountain of stuff next to my chair and my side of the bed because I would never put things away.

Anyway, last year I read Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy which led to me re-reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and these books just spoke to me. I could suddenly see that maybe I could make things different. On finishing those books I took every item of clothing I owned and piled it all on the bed. I had no concept of how much clothing I had and I was mortified by it all (It filled a 2.5 metre wide wardrobe and two chests of drawers). I’m housebound so I really didn’t need this many clothes. I had clothes that I’d not worn in years but kept because I’m sentimental (or because I might lose the weight, or I might gain some weight). Anyway, I got rid of about two thirds of my clothes that day!! I only kept the clothes I can wear now and that fitted me. I later emptied my clothes out of the wardrobe again when we got our new wardrobe delivered and got rid of even more clothes.

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These are the clothes I got rid of AFTER I’d already got rid of two thirds of my clothes! There is always more to get rid of it seems! 😉

Next I moved on to books, as recommended in the method. This was easier than I thought it would be because I’d got used to the idea of sparking joy and what mattered to me. Incidentally, sparking joy doesn’t just mean it makes you happy. I kept books that have made me weep when I read them because they matter deeply to me, and that’s what sparking joy means – keep only the things that matter to you. I got rid of about half of my books over the next few days.

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Some of the books that spark the most joy for me!

Up next was papers and this was hard work. I’m someone who keeps paperwork because I might need it some day. By this point I’d been following the method for a couple of weeks and knew I could get rid of a lot of papers but it was daunting having to sift through and look at everything so I didn’t actually throw away something important. I also scanned some documents that I needed to keep but didn’t need them taking up room in my file box. Now all my important papers are in one file box and not scattered in various boxes all over the house. The shredder is permanently plugged in and accessible so I can open my post and immediately get rid of junk or anything that I don’t need to keep or refer to again.

Komono was a scary category because it basically means everything that’s not clothes, books, papers or sentimental items! This part took me weeks to complete because I wanted to do it properly. It was also really hard because prior to starting KonMari my idea of having a sort out was buying pretty storage boxes and shoving all the stuff in them (out of sight, out of mind) but sorting through komono meant I had to face up to all that stuff. Some of my most sentimental items were wedged in boxes with general junk so I put those things to one side and got on with going through all of the other stuff. I ended up making myself a list of sub-categories and then putting stuff into corresponding boxes then working from there. It meant I could see how much I had of any one type of thing and it made it easier for me to get rid of all the excess. For example I had a load of stationary but I can’t physically write more than a few words any more so that all went to charity. I realised how much I’d stockpiled shower gel and shampoo etc so I kept all of that but organised it so I’d know when I finally needed to buy more.

The final category is Sentimental Items. This was a hard one to face sorting through but Marie Kondo insists you work through things in a set order (clothes, books, papers, komono and then sentimental items) so that by the time you get to the hardest things you have a much better sense of what’s important to you and you understand what really sparks joy. And even though it initially sounded so silly to me, it actually helped to mentally thank the items before I put them in the charity bags. I got rid of way more sentimental items than I expected to and I instantly felt better, like a weight was lifted off me. I’d finally given myself permission to not feel guilty and to stop holding onto things that don’t make me happy. I’d previously found it incredibly hard to get rid of things that my mum had given me because I knew that I’d never again have anything from her, but now I know that I had joy from those items and good memories and I don’t need to keep them if I don’t want to. Now my sentimental items are where I can see them and that brings me so much joy!

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This space in our living room used to have big shelves on it full of stuff. Now it’s light and I love seeing the space. (Excuse the terrible pic, I took it at night-time with my rubbish phone camera).

 

I think the hardest thing was getting my head around not sorting through what I would get rid of but coming at it from the angle of what I wanted to keep and then letting the rest go. Once I got used to that the method got easier and easier. Also the sparking joy thing was confusing at first because my vacuum cleaner sparks no joy but I soon got to grips with the fact that I could keep it because I like having clean floors and it’s my vacuum cleaner that allows me to have clean floors. I think once you get used to what sparking joy is and how it feels for you then you know what you need to keep and what you need to get rid of.

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(Every thing in this photo was got rid of… including the red armchair (it went to charity). We loved that chair but we never sat on it because it was always piled high with stuff. Once I’d finished de-cluttering we decided that we’d rather have the space than the chair so it went as well! This was our spare room that I filled with bags for charity or the tip… I didn’t get a photo when it was full. We got rid of things as soon as we had a car load but I reckon I could have filled the floor space in this room twenty or more times with the stuff I chucked out.)

I LOVE the vertical folding that Marie Kondo raves about. It’s amazing how much easier life is when you can see all of the tops in your drawer. I even fold my underwear and it’s a revelation! I will say that I found it hard to grasp what she meant in her descriptions of folding when I was reading the books but if you look on youtube there are loads of tutorial videos and it all makes sense once you see someone folding clothes her way.

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Vertical folding!

I also love the idea of using small boxes within drawers and cupboards to segment the space so things stay where they’re supposed to. I haven’t bought any boxes or containers for this – I’ve used Apple product boxes, shoe boxes etc. I find that the lids off boxes can be great to use as separators. Also if you have excess tupperware containers in your home – the ones you don’t need in the kitchen – can often be used in drawers to corral things. I definitely recommend using what you already have initially because you may find you don’t need to buy anything else.

Another tip while I’m on the subject is get things out of your house as soon as you can after you’ve decided you no longer want them. And don’t ever look in a bag or box once you’ve put stuff in there to be got rid of. It just makes you second guess yourself but if you’ve followed the method properly you already know that these are things you no longer want in your home.

I’m not in great health so going through the whole house took me a few months in the end but it was worth it. I finally finished in the summer last year and my house has stayed clutter-free ever since and is so easy to keep clean and tidy now. The KonMari influence hasn’t left me either – when I spot anything in my house that annoys me or that I don’t like anymore it goes straight in a box for the charity shop. I regularly look through my clothes and books and get rid of anything that no longer sparks joy. I’m not perfect but I feel like the stuff in our home is manageable now and tidying up is no longer an ordeal.

I’ve only watched one episode of  Tidying Up with Marie Kondo so far and I’m not sure that it really showed how the method works. The meme doing the rounds online about you only being allowed to keep 30 books is a myth! The rule that Marie Kondo has is that you only keep things that spark joy so when you go through your books, if a thousand of them genuinely spark joy and you have room to comfortably live with that many books then that is fine. So if you’ve been watching the show and are intrigued I would definitely recommend reading both of Marie Kondo’s books.

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This is just one of my post KonMari bookcases (I definitely still own more than thirty books!).

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These days space in my home matters to me more than hoarding stuff.

If you want to know if I have any regrets… I do have one! My one and only regret about doing the KonMari method is that I didn’t take any before photos! I got so swept up in just getting on with it that I forgot. I have noticed that when I look at photos from over the years that the background is always a mess, so that gives me a reminder of how far I’ve come. If you’re about to start sorting your home out I definitely recommend taking photos along the way!

(The photo on the left is an example of the background of a photo. The person didn’t want to be on my blog so I’ve cropped them out but you can still see the mountain of clutter in the shot. This was the room on a reasonably ‘tidy’ day, which shows how bad I was at my worst!).

 

 

I can honestly say that doing the KonMari method has changed my life. I feel so much happier and less stressed now our house isn’t crammed full of stuff. It’s so much easier to clean, and tidying up takes just a few minutes now. Our house feels so much bigger, and because I made so much space my husband was able to re-decorate our bedroom and living room last year so everywhere is much brighter now. In our bedroom we even have shelves with NOTHING on them and it feels so calming and peaceful! The old me would have seen an empty shelf and immediately put boxes full of stuff on them but not any more!

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My lovely EMPTY shelves! 

 

 

What was really lovely for me, and a moment when I knew I’d cracked my clutter issues, was after we’d taken a load of stuff to a local charity shop we were back in town and happened to pass this particular shop. The window display was predominantly my old belongings – there was a gorgeous skirt that I’d only worn once (because it was too hard for me to fasten it as my hands no longer work very well), a lovely dress (that I’d bought and worn to my mum’s funeral and then couldn’t bear to wear it again). There were shoes that I got rid of because I can only wear flat shoes that fit over my leg brace now. And some of my jewellery. My reaction to seeing it all in the window was genuinely that I knew someone was going to get a great bargain and a gorgeous item to wear, and the money would go to a charity close to my heart. There was no desire to go and buy all my stuff back, I was glad it was gone.

Marie Kondo’s method for tidying really has honestly changed my life and I am so grateful for it. It’s given me a new mindset and allowed me to let myself have a home I can enjoy. I’ve noticed that since completing the method that I approach everything from the standpoint of whether it makes me happy. My life generally has so much more joy in it now I’m not weighed down by stuff and guilt. I appreciate what I have so much more now and my home is a lovely place to be.

 

Have you watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo? Or read her books? What did you think? Are you tempted to start decluttering? I’d love to know what you think. 🙂