Tackling Tidy

Read “Making a Marriage Magically Tidy” by Hellen Ellis in the NYTimes. It’s delightful and made me laugh out loud several times.

She references Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which was my recent inspiration for the Great Purge of Spring 2017. I read the book a couple of years ago, but could never quite put it into practice. I just wasn’t in the mental space to do it successfully, but after a year of cleaning out the emotional junk in my closet, I finally felt ready to tackle tidy with confidence and grace.

I spent hours trying on every single article of clothing in my possession. I shed many, many tears. It was a cathartic cry, less about the chore of doing the work, but more about the emotional labor I was doing and what I’ve been living with over the last year.

I stared at the scene horrified. It was a physical manifestation of all my body image bullshit that I worked so hard to eradicate.

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This was the purge at its worst. At this point I was on the verge of tears asking myself, “What have I done?! What am I doing?!”

I held onto “someday” clothes, “skinny” clothes, “I’ll get back there one day” clothes. The perfect jacket that would look uh-may-zing, if only I were a size or two smaller. The jeans that would make my backside look great, but put me into forced starvation while wearing them. The clothes I used to wear that served as personal reminders that my body could in fact occupy significantly less space.

On the flip side, I was also holding onto “what if” clothes, “drown me out from the world” clothes, “I just don’t care” clothes. Jeans two sizes too big, an insurance policy should I ever put on any of the weight that I’ve lost. Oversized sweaters to help me retreat within myself rather than conquer the world head on. The clothes that lack a point of view, perfect for when you’re indifferent and want to remain hidden.

I thought about Kondo’s words as I evaluated each item:

“The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”

“But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”

I parted ways with startup swag from companies I worked at or dreamed of working at one day. I said goodbye to dresses I wore on dates and special occasions that now felt dated and far from special. More importantly, I discarded all of my “fat” and “skinny” clothes because those labels simply do not apply. No more “what if” or “someday” because I’m dressing for now, today, me, here.

What I’m left with are clothes that adorn my healthy, strong, capable body.

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It took me a year of letting go of guilt, stress, weight, and bad habits to survive this tidy tornado. After all was said and done I discarded more than 5 trash bags full of stuff and donated 5 or 6 bags full of clothes. I consider this my final act in my year of radical transformation. And although I’m still very much on a journey, I’ve arrived at a milestone that gives me real pause – clarity, tidiness, and most of all, joy.

Strangers and Shadows

I saw a woman struggling to take a selfie in front of this fountain for a good 5 minutes. As a frequent solo traveler I completely empathized with her plight. I asked her if she wanted me to take her picture and she sighed, “Yes please!” with relief. 

Even with a flash, the light emanating from the background made it impossible to capture her face. After a few failed attempts I got creative. I took my phone’s flashlight and held it up as a spotlight while snapping the photo with her phone in the opposite hand.  That did the trick. 

We laughed at the production of this whole exchange. I asked her to return the favor and she snapped this photo of me. No spotlight necessary, just a silhouette. 


When she handed me back my phone, she gave me a huge hug and exclaimed, “Thank you so much for my picture! I’ll always remember this.” I didn’t get her name, but this little exchange was such a nice way to end an already lovely evening. 

Whether I’m in New York or abroad, I find a ton of joy in asking strangers if they want me to take their picture. Sometimes it’s a mom or dad with their kids and I wind up capturing the first complete family shot of their entire vacation. Other times it’s a couple on their honeymoon. Most of the time it’s a lone traveler like myself, and in that brief moment, we’re not alone at all. 

Sunday in Greenwich, London

I’ve been going slomadic this year, which basically means I travel extensively, but try to do it at a slow pace where I can really experience a city like a local. This current round has me in London til mid-May.

Today I explored Greenwich, which is in east London and off the beaten path for most tourists. Getting there is a piece of cake. You take the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf, transfer to the DLR, and get out 3 or 4 stops later at Cutty Sark or Greenwich. Total travel time is 25 minutes max.

Our first stop was the market, which is about a 5 minute walk from the underground exit. Like most London markets, there’s a combination of vendors selling local crafts, vintage items, and food stalls. This market in particular is unique because it’s the only market in the city found within a World Heritage Site.

As tempting as all the goodies were at the stalls, we decided to eat at Nando’s (it’s probably my favorite franchise from the UK, only 2nd to Wagamama). This location has an upper deck that has a great panorama of the pier and Cutty Sark, a historic ship that used to transport tea between China and England.

It amazes me we don’t have Nando’s in the US! Peruvian chicken, varying spice levels of Peri-Peri sauce, yummy sides galore… who doesn’t love Nando’s?

After lunch we walked around the Old Royal Naval College. Architecture nerds will delight in the fact that it was designed by Christopher Wren who is best known for St. Paul’s Cathedral.

After meandering through the campus, we crossed the street to Greenwich Park, which houses the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory.

Make the trek up the hill for a beautiful panorama of Greenwich and London in the distance.  If you’re a science lover, you’re sure to geek out at the observatory. It covers the history of British astronomy and features the only planetarium in the United Kingdom. Oh, and it marks the origin of Greenwich Mean Time.

All the tourists were standing in line waiting to take pictures in front of the Prime Meridian. Here’s a secret: you don’t need to pay an entrance fee to the museum or wait in line if you want a touristy photo op.  There’s a small gate just past the end of the walking path to your right. Walk 10 feet and you’ll get a glimpse of the Prime Meridian stretching from the wall down to the foot path. Ta-dah!

Rather than take the train back to central London, we opted to take the ferry instead. Your Oyster / Tube card works with the ferry system so no need to purchase separate tickets. Before boarding, we made a quick stop past this light house that reminded me of Moulin Rouge. It had a slide running around the perimeter and well, this happened…

There are a few different ferry options from the pier so be sure to take the boat headed to Westminster if you’re venturing back to central London. Pro tip: If you want the best seat, head towards the back and sit in the last row. There are no glass panels to obstruct your view and you’ll have up close and personal views of London’s most iconic sites.

Here are a couple of time lapses from the boat ride, the first from Greenwich to Tower Bridge, the second from Tower Bridge to Westminster Bridge.

Neat right? All together, our adventure lasted four hours and ended with one of London’s most iconic sites: Parliament. Before you exit the dock, you can take a pretty great shot of Big Ben without having to worry about selfie-stick-carrying mobs of tourists getting in your way.

Thanks to Raquel for recommending Greenwich and for being my local tour guide for the day! May we always be tourists in whatever cities we choose to live in.