Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My So-Called Zakka Life

Ahem. For some reason, my Saturday post disappeared. In the interest of historical accuracy (and in the hope of further suggestions) I’ve re-posted, with apologies to those of you who’ve had the same post appear twice in your Bloglines or what have you. Let’s just move on, shall we?

This lifestyle of mine: disorganised desktop, disorganised laptop, no way to accurate predict location of keys, passport or pen is taking a toll. In the library recently, the title Order From Chaos: A 6-Step Plan for Organizing Yourself, Your Office and Your Life caught my eye. I read it, and learned a few important things that I’m trying to implement at work and home.

One of these things is the need to create a vacuum into which all your new organisational systems can take place. This wasn’t too hard at work: I opened a file drawer filled with defunct software, out-of-date manuals, appliance-less power cords, adapters and dust-clogged floppy disks and dumped it all in a box. Ditto a few in-box trays for people no longer working in the office. Voilà: a vacuum. At home, burdened by the fact that all this is my stuff, not the accumulation of a period before my time, the vacuum has been harder to create. I admit to making a critical mistake in thinking I could just go out and buy a vacuum. I have two half-built FIRA units from Ikea to attest to this. A filing cabinet would help, sure, but I’m a little fussy and am holding out for a wooden 1940’s one under $250. Friends and relatives commiserate, suggesting that everyone needs a junk room, but when your house is tiny and the junk room is a third of your total living space, something is clearly wrong.

So, as I often do in a crisis, I turned to my Japanese muses.

Back when I first started hanging out in Kinokuniya, I spent a long time perusing books that, as far as I can make out, are profiles of prominent designers/artists/craftspersons, their living spaces, the places they like to shop, food they like to cook and the beautiful things they surround themselves with. I think of these publications as guides to the gestalt of the zakka life.

Quickly, I decided that I couldn’t actually buy these books, given the expense and the fact that they don’t usually contain much in the way of information (unlike a knitting pattern, for example.) This kind of distinction was a necessary, albeit arbitrary, rule to cling to during the strong acquisitive urges that would frequently overcome me in the craft aisle at Kinokuniya.

The urges won out on two occasions. The first was Lotta’s Lifestyle (ISBN 4-07-234548-2), a profile of San Francisco-based Swedish designer Lotta Jansdotter. This is the one I’m most ashamed of, given that I lived in San Francisco at the time, with easy access to her store. It seemed almost pathologically voyeuristic to own this book, given the pleasure I got out of knowing that we shopped at the same grocery store and having strong suspicions about the exact location of her apartment building. This book follows a formula that I associate with the genre:

– Lotta, the person
– Lotta’s work
– Lotta’s home
– Where Lotta shops
– What Lotta cooks
– Where she travels and
– What she wears.

Reading this book (as much as one can without Japanese), a statement made by illustrator J.otto Seibold comes to mind: “Everyone is famous in Japan.”

I e-mailed Lotta about the envelope skirt, which I love. It was a one-off, made for an exhibition.

My other lifestyle fix comes from Mariko Hirasawa, who may be a fashion designer. Or perhaps she’s an illustrator? Her book Simple Smile (ISBN 4-87303-338-1) includes one pattern for this lovely apron, which I post here as inspiration for Tie-One On participants.

Mariko has a green thumb, and likes picnics. Her shopping inspirations concentrate on traditional artisans: ceramicists, wood turners, basket makers. She likes glass, autumn and natural bristle brushes. I very much doubt she has any need for a book that suggests this train on thought when confronted by a piece of paper:

Do I need it?
Where does it live?
Where do it’s buddies live?
How will I use it?
It is unrecognised trash – throw it away now!

You never know: perhaps the solution to my problem front room is to pay a Japanese stylist to come in for an afternoon and make of it what they will. My fear, however, is what happened on an American home make-over show I saw once: instead of attempting to work with what they had, the TV crew decided to completely tear down the place and re-build it from the ground up.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for a really interesting post! I'm really into trying to de-clutter and simplify lately, and it helps me to repeat the 'do I need it? where does it live?' mantra to myself when going shopping.

I think Mariko is actually thinking along the same lines as you, because the Japanese written before the 'simple' and the 'smile' is 'itsumo' - which means 'always'. So - if it's always simple, you'll always smile - which would seem to fit in with your drive to organise... :-)

12:09 AM  
Blogger Meg said...

I have had de-cluttering forced upon me by moving house 2 weeks ago. We've put the furniture out and the basic necessities are unpacked - but the rest of the clutter is hidden away in boxes (in what may be termed a junk room, but I am as determined as you not to have a junk room!) - I'm quite enjoying this short respite from clutter, and am wondering how long I could go without unpacking all those boxes... I'm even starting to forget what was in them. I also seek the perfect filing cabinet - I've found a few small card filing cabinets for about $15-$15 which clean up nicely but still haven't hit the 'big time' - 4 (or even 2!) drawer proper wooden filing cabinet. Where could they all have gone!?!

8:59 AM  
Blogger sarah said...

such beautiful aprons, thank-you for showing the lotta book i had been wondering what it was like...

11:14 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

ohhhh....thank you for the lotta book information. i continue to be curious!

12:24 AM  
Blogger gusseting said...

lotta, i can totally understand. i've been searching apartment interior books, and came across "living large in small spaces" which featured hers - it's so beautiful.

9:42 PM  
Blogger gusseting said...

more photo filled lotta apartment goodness

9:49 PM  

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