How Blogging Led to My Personal Growth

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been blogging now for over 15 years. I’ve written 100’s of posts, some short and some long. I’ve had my shares of ups and downs here but in the end, I’m glad I stuck with it. It’s made me realize that blogging has led to my personal growth. Blogging has become a career!

What’s happened is that I’ve been reposting and repopulating old posts from my archive. I took these posts down a few years ago thinking they were of no use, but now I realize I was wrong. Sure there was some cringe-worthy type of posts back then, but I look at them now and smile. I’m so far removed from them now and I realize I am so different now.

As I repopulate these posts I can’t help but remember where I was in my personal and professional life. I also notice how busy I was. My posting frequency is proportional to how crazy my work and personal life are. Yet still, I wrote at least a few posts a year. 

Year 2007 to 2009

Back in the early 2007-2009 era, I spent a lot of time blogging about Forex, Stocks, and using AI to trade the markets. It was during this time that I first wrote my RapidMiner tutorials. They brought me a lot of traffic and I adored the attention. I market timed and moved money in and out of my accounts, thinking I can beat the market. Lo and behold I was wrong. 

I made a sharp career change. I couldn’t believe how fast things could change, but they did for the better.

I also held onto some crazy ideas back then about Objectivism and Libertarianism. As I grow older I realize that this selfish way of living is a folly. Life does not have to be a zero-sum game. Yes, invest in your future but also invest in deep relationships, love, health, and Nature. Cultivate those and you’ll find balance and true wealth. 

Year 2010-2014

In the 2010 to 2014 era I saw some big changes to this blog. I ramped up my blog posts around Machine Learning and what was to become Data Science. I created a lot of YouTube videos on how to use RapidMiner and it generated even more traffic for me. I was still working full time as a Civil Engineer but I began to dream of moving into the Machine Learning space. As luck would have it, RapidMiner moved to Boston and got VC funding. 

In 2014, RapidMiner offered me a job as a Sales Engineer and I accepted. I made a sharp career change. I couldn’t believe how fast things could change, but they did for the better. 

I learned that passion, learning, and dedication can change your life. If you want something bad enough, you must chase it. You must work hard and learn, face the obstacles and work through or around them. After some time, you’ll see how far you’ve grown and how successful you can be. 

Year 2015-2017

From 2015 to 2017 I cut my teeth as a Data Scientist. I learned so much about Data Science, Marketing, and especially Sales. I’ve come to realize that I LOVE working in Sales. No matter how crazy and stressful it can be sometimes, it matches my personality. It’s who I am. The stars have aligned!

I’ve always loved public speaking and presenting and now I was presenting to CTO’s and CIO’s all over the USA. Yes, the travel burned me out but I learned how to compensate for that (now). I did make A LOT of bad decisions for my health. I ate too much, drank too much, and sat in my chair. While at RapidMiner I gained about 40 lbs, something I’m working off now. 

It’s been a wild and rewarding ride ever since!

I left RapidMiner in 2017 to start my own Data Science and Engineering consultancy. I built up a client base in both fields but left after a serendipitous phone call in July of next year, more on this next.

In the end, those years were tough working years. I loved every minute of it. The startup life was and IS for me. I looked back and kicked myself for not making the leap sooner. I learned that you can’t hide who you are, you must BE who you are. The longer you hide from that, the more miserable you will become. I know it’s scary and I’ll admit that I was scared, but there comes a time when it’s now or never. I chose now. 

Year 2018 – present

I worked in my own consultancy for over a year before I got a phone call from my now colleague J. We had met back in 2014 when she was a new hire at H2O.ai. She reached out to me because she had an extra ticket for H2O World in New York and offered it to me. I declined because I had some client meetings but I did tell her that I left RapidMiner last year. 

That call set up a chain reaction where two weeks later, I had an offer to join the Sales team at H2O.ai. I made preparations to close down my consultancy in September 2018 and joined the team. It’s been a wild and rewarding ride ever since!

I owe it all to Blogging

I owe everything to Blogging. I do. I took my passion for AI and turned it into a career. Along the way, I’ve met so many awesome people and now I’m surrounded by so many awesome people. I’m part of the Maker culture where you “make stuff” happen and I’m humbled to be there. It’s crazy, wild, stressful, adventurous, hard, enlightening, and plain awesome. 

I would’ve never been here if I resigned myself to my fate back in 2007. Do what scares you, do what you love. Make your world sing.

Do it!

If you’ve ever wondered if you could blog yourself to a new life, you can. I share some tips on how to do it in my How to Blog Yourself to a New Life post.

The Psychology of Writing

I found this interesting article on Pocket about writing. The gist of it is that successful writing is about rituals. Every writer is different and the rituals are different, it’s all about finding out what works best for you.

Location and physical environment also play a role in maintaining a sustained and productive workflow. Bob Dylan, for instance, extolled the virtues of being able to “put yourself in an environment where you can completely accept all the unconscious stuff that comes to you from your inner workings of your mind.” Reviewing the research, Kellogg echoes Faulkner’s memorable assertion that “the only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost” and notes that writers’ dedicated workspaces tend to involve solitude and quiet, although “during the apprenticeship phase of a writer’s career, almost any environment is workable” — most likely a hybrid function of youth’s high tolerance for distraction and the necessity of sharing space earlier in life when the luxury of privacy is unaffordable. via Pocket

This is true. I had a massive lapse in my writing routine over the past few years on this blog because of a mixture of excuses. Now I make it a point to write something at least once or twice a week. Still, writing can be hard. There are so many distractions but sometimes you just got to do it.

I’m a big believer in getting your butt in a chair and just start writing BUT if your environment is distracting (whatever that may be for you), then you’re not going to get any productive work done.

The article is well worth a read, especially the Hemingway quote:

When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until morning when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that.

Figure out what works well for you. Try to figure out what time, location, and whatever allowable distractions will get your butt in a chair and start writing.

Also, don’t let technology impede you as it did me in the past!

Humility and Equanimity in Sales

Dear Friend,

I’ve been meaning to write about the importance of humility and equanimity in sales. From my personal past observations, it seems these are attributes only a few salespeople have.

What are humility and equanimity?

Humility is defined as:

“a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.”

Equanimity is defined as:

“mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.”

The Monkey Brain

Recently I was enlightened by a sales colleague about the concept of the Monkey brain. It was from a book he read.

The Monkey brain is hubris, fight, flight, any emotion or reaction that ties us back to the days when we started walking upright.

Our reaction must be the same, always.

When you give a presentation, it’s the Monkey that says “you’re going say stupid things” or “you don’t look pretty enough.” When you sign a great sales deal, it’s the Monkey that says “YAH! I’m the King/Queen, nothing can touch me!”

The Monkey Brain is not enlightened. It is the attachment to this world, it is that prevents you from achieving moksha. It is what causes the downfall of many a Salesperson.

Leave the Monkey Behind

When you are in Sales, you are essentially asking someone to trade resources (money) for something you have to offer. Your offer must be more of a perceived value to that person that they are willing to part with their money.

This offer. It can be anything. It can be a product or service.

You must sell it so that your organization can survive.

It is the Monkey that goes out hunting for the tribe.

The Monkey gets scared if the potential sale appears to be falling through.

The Monkey parties when the sale goes through, just like if he killed food to bring back to the tribe.

The Monkey falls into the same trap every time because it is the Monkey Brain.

You must leave the Monkey behind.

Humility and Equanimity

Humility is not of the Monkey, it is an understanding that you do not understand everything. Humility is looking inward to oneself and finding that Monkey, hiding in your emotional trees and quieting him. Humility means that you will try your best and do your best, but not let the Monkey control your fears.

Equanimity is not of the Monkey as well. When the Monkey wins, he is elated and thumps his chest. When the Monkey loses, he gets angry and depressed. In life, we will win and we will lose. We will learn and we will make mistakes. It is how we react to the good and bad that is equanimity. Our reaction must be the same, always.

We are doing our job when we win and we are doing our job when we lose.

Be Humble.

Be Equanimous.

Millennials can’t catch a break!

This is just nuts. Millennials just can’t seem to catch a break. Now AI is coming for their jobs.

Research released by Gallup on Thursday indicates a collision between technology and “business as usual” is coming soon, and the fallout will be ugly, especially for Millennials. Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are among the most disruptive forces descending upon the workplace, says the Gallup report, and 37% of Millennials “are at high risk of having their job replaced by automation, compared with 32% of those in the two older generations.”[via Forbes]

If you’re considering a career move, get a beat on what jobs are trending up (software engineer) and which ones are on their way out (reporter). You can boost your skills through a boot camp or with a traditional degree, no matter what your industry is, but know that some companies may prefer a regular degree over a boot-camp certificate or DIY learning.

But those industries might be susceptible to offshoring.

Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that programmer and coder jobs will decline 8% due to outsourcing to other countries from 2014 to 2024, there will still be plenty of work, and in many cases, it will be too unwieldily to move massive operations overseas.

So in other words, Millennials can’t seem to catch a break. If I were part of that creative and awesome generation, I’d probably go the route of entrepreneurship.

Update

Some Millennials are grabbing market share and are changing the world. Uber is the first one that comes to mind but there are many other small niche businesses and startups. I really love the Millennial generation, speaking as a Gex X’er, because I know what it’s like to be given a raw deal from the Boomers, who are on track to become the most hated generation on record.

The Great Content Reorganization

I’ve made some major moves (again) with both of my blogs. Part of the reason for the changes is how I write content and how I was impeding myself.

While I absolutely love Hugo, it was not as WYSWIG friendly and it impeded my writing flow. I got close to streamlining my writing life when I started hosting my own Ghost instance and I love Ghost but it’s not as mature as WordPress, and frankly, I didn’t have the energy to always be hacking my site for uptime.

So I took a hard look at myself and started experimenting with WordPress again. I started moving my thomasott.io Hugo-based blog to WordPress as a test a few weeks ago and realized that I like it a lot.

Why? WordPress works really well with my preferred writing tool, iAWriter. I find iAWriter with its simple interface, markdown forward, and ease of integration with 3rd party services a dream.

I hate to say it but I got tired of writing content with iAWriter, copying and pasting the content into a markdown file, adding the YAML headers, then spell checking and running it through Grammarly, committing the updates in my GitHub repo, then merging pull requests, and keeping it all running on AWS Amplify.

Now I just write, click publish, select what blog I want to publish to and it handles all the image uploads, the titles, and puts things in DRAFT. Sure I have to do a bit of tweaking but doing this workflow saves me a ton of time!

So I went to WordPress.com, reactivated my thomasott.io and neuralmarkettrends.com sites, and paid for hosting. Yes, I put my money where my mouth was with respect to supporting open-source and great products.

I paid for iAWriter and I now pay for WordPress. The best part of sitting on WordPress.com now is that I can build premium content and build a paid newsletter.

Now onto the hard part. I need to stop myself from sabotaging myself in the future. My Neural Market Trends blog is littered with all the back and forth switches between Blot, WordPress, Expression Engine, TextPattern, Hugo, and Ghost.

My goal now is to build this site and rebuild Neural Market Trends. I enjoy writing and I want to do just that. I want to share my thoughts and ideas with the world and keep building my brand – whatever that is – with you all.

What’s going to happen? Not a whole lot on the surface but there will be some content reorganization happening between my two blogs.

I will probably move my finance and passive income-related posts over to thomasott.io and keep Neural Market Trends purely focused on Startups, Machine Learning, and Data Science (all left-brain stuff) like it was before.

My site here, Thomas Ott dot IO will be everything else. It will be my hyperactive hamster in a spinning wheel. Topics all over the place from money, sex, relationships (the biggies) to my photography work (all right brain stuff).

I just have to remember to not sabotage myself, again.

100+ ultra-rich people warn fellow elites in open letter: “It’s taxes or pitchforks”

In an open letter published amid the corporate-dominated virtual Davos summit, 102 rich individuals—including such prominent figures as Disney heiress Abigail Disney and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer—warned that “history paints a pretty bleak picture of what the endgame of extremely unequal societies looks like.” “For all our well-being—rich and poor alike—it’s time to confront inequality and choose to tax the rich,” the letter reads. “Show the people of the world that you deserve their trust.”

100+ ultra-rich people warn fellow elites in open letter: “It’s taxes or pitchforks”

The change will come fast once the switch is flipped. The social contract needs to be brought into balance again.

Test Shoot with Expired Portra 160 Film

A fun experiment with an expired portrait film

I recently did a test shoot of expired Portra 160 film using my Mamiya RZ and the TTL (through the lens) metering prism. I did this mainly to see how much the color shifts on the film and try the spot vs average metering capabilities of the prism. I usually shoot with a handheld incident meter and the waist level finder but I noticed that my metering is sometimes off. Usually in the hardest light situations.

So I loaded up an expired roll of Portra 160 and headed out some closed stores/buildings along the highway where I live. Some closed before Covid19 and others during the pandemic. It’s all a really sad thing to see but I’ve been attracted to the neglected, abandoned, or empty spaces for many years. Here are the resulting photos and my notes on the TTL metering and whether or not I overexposed them or not.

I shot all ten frames at F/16 since it was a nice sunny day but I overexposed some frames by +1 (stop). The reason is that Portra is fantastic to overexpose by +1 because it really brings out detail in the shadows as you’ll see in the images below. They’re also not color corrected from scanning, a straight scan, and unmodified. I’ve uploaded the high-resolution scans of the images in the body of this article, just right-click on them to open up another browser window and zoom in.

Expired Portra Film Test

Image #1 – Closed NYSC, f/16 using TTL spot meter.

Expired Portra Film Test

 Image #2 – Closed NYSC, f/16 using TTL spot meter, +1 Stop

These are the first two images from the roll. Right off the bat expired Portra 160 looks to shift to more of a reddish cast when it starts breaking down. The roll that I had wasn’t stored in a refrigerator and I suspect that the colors would be different if I did store it in a cold place.

Fixing the color cast in post-production is a handy fix. Also, the color tones appear to be muted and washed out. I also notice quite a bit of grain which isn’t too bad but the most important thing I was interested in was the slight differences between the first and second image. If you look in the dark areas of the right window, you get better detail of the reflected signposts in the overexposed image (#2). That’s what I was aiming for.

Expired Portra Film Test

Image #3 – Closed NYSC, f/16 using TTL average meter

Expired Portra Film Test

Image #4 – Closed NYSC, f/16 using TTL average meter, +1 Stop

For these two images of the same subject, I used the average metering setting of TTL prism. The same differences between the normally exposed and +1 exposed frame is the same (i.e. the detail in the right window) but the overall exposure barely different. That’s because the entire scene was lit in 3 PM sunlight but if you open the high res versions of the images you’ll see that the frame’s exposure is more across the entire frame than the spot version. My preference is spot but in situations like this, especially when something is pretty uniformly lit, I would go with the average setting and a +1 overexposure.

Expired Portra Film Test

Image #5 – Abandoned car dealer, f/16 using TTL spot meter, +1 Stop

Expired Portra Film Test

Image #6 – Abandoned car dealer, f/16 using TTL spot meter

For these two images, I left the +1 stop exposure setting on and shot with that setting first. The same things apply as the image #1 and #2 above. The spot metering made a very slight difference in the image but bringing down the ‘hot areas’ of the image. The top of the building has a better visual definition than the average metered ones next.

Expired Portra Film Test

Image #7 – Abandoned car dealer, f/16 using TTL average meter

Expired Portra Film Test

Image #8 – Abandoned car dealer, f/16 using TTL average meter, +1 Stop

Once again images #7 and #8 were average metered and did ok here, my preference still leans to the spot meter with +1 overexposure for shadow details.

Expired Portra Film Test

Image #9 – Abandoned car dealer, f/16 using TTL spot meter

Expired Portra Film Test

Image #10 – Abandoned car dealer, f/16 using TTL spot meter, +1 Stop

The final images above (#9 and #10) close out the experiment. Shooting with expired Potra 160 film isn’t too bad provided you can deal with the color cast, grain, and washed-out tones. The washed-out tones are the one worry for me considering that Portra was always meant to be used for skin tones, but I’m thinking like a Portra purist.

You can shoot anything YOU want with this film because now you know how expired Portra works. Good luck and leave me a comment!

Shoot for Yourself

I upload my photography to 500px, Flickr, Instagram, and occasionally to Twitter. I find that I have to upload to all those social media sites because each one behaves differently!

They don’t behave differently in the sense they’re clunky and hard to use — no that’s not it at all — it’s the audience that behaves quite differently!

I consider myself a hobbyist photographer. I was a semi-professional at one time but I have a full-time gig that pays well and I don’t need the hassle of dealing with people as customers.

I like to shoot models, make fun photos with other creative people, and photograph fungi (mushrooms) when I hike. Once I make those photos I usually process them in Luminar and then upload them to 500px, Flickr, and Instagram.

Would you be surprised that your photo will resonate differently on each platform?

On 500px you have a “pulse” measure to see how quickly and well your photograph is doing. On Flickr, you have your followers comment or “fav” it. Instagram you have little hearts or other emojis. Each platform lets followers and viewers give kudos to a well-made photograph

I’ve written about how insidious sometimes this instant feedback is but it’s also a measure of how well your image resonates with your audience.

Would you be surprised that your photo will resonate differently on each platform? Do you think it’s by a lot or a little?

The answer is by a lot!

This photo of Lucy shot to the top of the 500px pile of popular photos the fasted ever for me.

Art Model Lucy Magdalene as a Witch by Thomas Ott on 500px.com
Art Model Lucy Magdalene, © Thomas Ott

She clocked in at a measure 88.8 (which puts her into the popular category) just shy of the magic 90 measure. This happened in under 3 hours.

The reality is that we’re dealing with social media silos.

Whereas this image of my mushroom clocked in at 52 over the past 24 hours.

Turkey Tail mushrooms - Trametes Versicolor. by Thomas Ott on 500px.com
Turkey Tail mushrooms, © Thomas Ott

It never made out of the “Fresh” category, so by 500px standards, it’s just noise.

Conversely, when I upload my fungi/mushroom photos to my Instagram, people comment, like, and go wild!

The images of Lucy? They’re received well but the excitement isn’t there as it is 500px.

Siloed social media

The reality is that we’re dealing with social media silos. The silos attract different types of people than different social media silos.

You should always work to achieve whatever vision makes you happy, whatever resonates as your authentic truth…

For example, the discussions I have and share on Twitter are vastly different than the ones I have on Facebook.

The same applies to your photography and your work. You have to upload the work you create to multiple social media sites so you can market yourself and sell your artwork.

While that sounds exhausting, it’s always been this way! Ask any writer that has piles of rejection slips from pitching their novel or work. Ask any artist how many galleries have rejected them before they landed the first one.

The thing is your true audience is out there but they’re not going to make it easy for you to find. Yes, social media helps you cast the net faster and further, but you should always be casting your net.

You should always work to achieve whatever vision makes you happy, whatever resonates as your authentic truth, and then take your voice and make yourself heard.

You need to shoot for yourself first because that’s who you are. The saying “be yourself because everyone else is taken” is 100% correct.

I like mushrooms and fungi, so I’m going to be the best mushroom photographer I can be!

I like making art with models, so I’m going to be the best art model photographer I can be!

Don’t be discouraged if Flickr gives your photos the cold shoulder. Find that Instagram or Twitter that will make your work go viral. That’s the tribe that will welcome you and your message, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Storytelling a Life From an Old Dungeon Master

The piece of paper below is over 35 years old. I drew it on a grid paper when I was a teenager, probably 14 or 15 years old. This was a map of a Dungeons and Dragons world that I created and used to make up games to play with my friends. A world, created in my mind, where I would daydream adventures in.

I found this old map when my mother asked me to go through an old box I left behind when I moved. I opened it up and found so many memories from my youth. I found my electronic design kits, my comic books, and my Dungeons and Dragons stuff.

Opening that box was a superhighway trip down memory lane. In an instant I was back in my parent’s basement on Friday and Saturday evenings, rolling dice, killing monsters, and finding treasure. My friends were there too as we poured soda and ate Doritos. We laughed, argued, and lived glorious adventures.

There were 5 of us over the years, with some dropping out because they thought it wasn’t cool anymore. Then high school got serious and we started to have part-time jobs. Somewhere along the way we ‘grew up’ and just stopped playing. These maps, the books, and dice I had all were put in a box until I opened it up 35 years later.

I felt like I had found a treasure chest when I opened that box. It wasn’t gold or riches, but something far more valuable. It was my youth.

Hidden among those comic books, dice, and other stuff was the essence of a 14-year-old boy. A box of my life was packed away in some dusty corner of the basement waiting to be discovered again.

Or did those memories come with me and shape my life for years to come?


When our kids got older we started to set aside a few Fridays a month for game night. At first, the games were pretty simple, matching games, Connect 4, and easy card games. As they got older the games got more complex and fun.

Three years ago I introduced them to Settlers of Catan and found they really liked the game. I could see them formulating their strategies to win against Mom and Dad. Of course, once they figured out how to win they got bored quickly and didn’t want to play it anymore.

They lamented that they wanted to play a new game, this one was too boring. They didn’t want to play card games and much preferred their online games. What to do? I had no answer, until a fateful trip to Target one day

I was with my family at Target one evening, shopping for something that I can’t remember when we decided to browse the board game section. At the end of the shelf was the answer to the problem. I spied a black box with the letters Dungeons and Dragons Starter Kit on it.

I picked up the box and looked at it, a smile escaped across my face and my daughter asks me “What’s that?”

“A game I played for years that was so much fun,” I say.

“Let’s get it then!”

“Hmm,” I pause and flip it over. It was on sale for $19.99. and I thought why the hell not?

Later that evening my daughter rolled up an assassin character named Damian, my son a fighter, and my partner a cleric. I played the part of the Dungeon Master as I wove a tale of adventure for that night.

Everyone quickly realized that this game was very free form, there were no hard and fast rules, except for survival. I remember one exchange between my partner and a barkeep non-player character that left her flabbergasted. She didn’t expect someone to talk back to her in such a flippant manner!

After a few hours of laughs and slaying undead monsters, it was time for bed. We tucked in the kids and retired to our room. As we lay in bed and talked about the fun we had my partner blurts out, “you’re a good storyteller, that was fun.”


Somewhere between that 14-year-old boy and this 51-year-old man, I found my storytelling voice. I found my passion the moment I gave my first Toastmaster speech. I found my drive when I was a keynote speaker at a machine learning conference in Germany, and I found the depth of my soul at my father’s memorial.

I had become a storyteller of my life and my adventures over time. From all the good and bad adventures that I lived over the years, like those Dungeons and Dragons characters. I had lived cross-country travels where all we had to eat was canned soup and no can opener.

I remember the time when I froze in absolute terror, clinging to a cliff wall after losing my footing, waiting for my friend to help me up.

I remember feeling my heart swell when I saw the laughter in an old lover’s eye.

I cherish those memories and those old scribbles in those books. It wasn’t that I locked my youth or a part of myself away! No! That always came with me, that box of stuff was just a reminder that everything in life is a circle. Old becomes new, and new becomes old, and along the way, we live life.

I believe that the only way we can derive meaning from this wacky thing we call life is to speak our stories. Tell our stories to all that would listen. Speak of your grand adventures. Speak of the love that is lost, and perhaps gained again. Speak of the births, of the deaths, and of the wisdom, you gathered.

The circle remains unbroken and begins anew, so pull up a chair, pour yourself an ale, and weave a tale for all of us to enjoy.

The Joys of Tidying Up

I bought Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing at the end of 2018. Since then, I’ve been reading it on and off and find it to be quite good. I’ve taken some of her techniques and put them to use in my house, not because it’s overly cluttered but to help bring more harmony to my house.

Our house is not overly cluttered but it does have some pockets of disorganization and clutter. This is mostly in our office. Both my wife and I work from home 90% of the time and the office tends to be the magnet for papers, letters, books, laptops, chargers, cameras, etc.

Another spot of clutter is the coffee table in the living room. It becomes a magnet for magazines and books. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that ‘books’ and paper products appear to be the big things in our house.

The next big thing is laundry. We have two kids and it seems that every time I look around, there’s another load to wash and fold. Usually, we do 4 loads at a time and then have 4 loads of laundry to fold. This turns into a large pile of terror to look at and we tend to leave folding for the last minute. Everyone in our house folds completely differently and clothes get jammed into weird places in our respective dressers and closets.

Joys of Tidying Up

After watching some Kondo videos and reading her book, I decided to take charge of the laundry problem while I think about the book and paper problem. I cleared the tops of the washing machine and dryer and now the laundry right as soon as it comes out. I do it using her ‘stand up method’ and folding it in thirds. Then I put it away, wait for the next load to finish washing, then dry it, and repeat.

I even got my wife to do this and we’ve found that the dread of folding a mountain of clothes has completely gone away. The kids help too and we’ve reduced our stress completely, so score a point for Marie.

Book Clutter

Worse than the paper clutter (and I start recycling them), is my book clutter. We have 100’s of books that haven’t been read and are just jammed into our bookshelves, coffee tables, and nightstands. I love books and love reading but I came to a realization that 85% of these books are never read, 10% is used (recipe books, reference, etc), and 5% are books I’ve read several times over the years.

What was it about 5% of the books I’ve re-read over the years? It’s because I love them and I always learn something new from them. So I completely get Marie’s point on touching the book and if I get an emotional reaction to it, then I keep it.

What are those books? They’re my books on Haiku and History. Some are on Self Improvement and Personal Growth. Others are Hiking, Adventure, and Cooking. The rest of them I feel zero emotion to them and realize I can probably donate over 50% of them to the local library book sale.

I will be commencing with a book decluttering shortly after I talk my better half into decluttering her books too.

The Joy of the Library

The book decluttering process has taught me, or shall I say reinforced another lesson. Learn to Love Thy Local Library. Instead of buying books from Amazon, I can borrow the books I want to read and then return them. I can return them if I don’t like them or if I loved them. I can re-read the ones I loved and never read again the ones I don’t. I can return them and never have them clutter up my house for years.

Yes, that’s the power of your local library. Get books for free, read them for free, and return them. It’s a super win-win. You save money, support your local library, and have a clean house. Why didn’t think of this before? Score another point for decluttering books Marie, and get a bonus point for reminding me how awesome libraries are.

Sparking Joy

One of the big themes in Marie’s book is the concept of Sparking Joy. We all have a short life to live and it’ll be filled with problems and stress. Yet, we are meant to live our lives in happiness and joy, so we try to surround ourselves with loved ones, a good job, friends, and things that make us happy.

Marie’s point is that your space, your house, your ‘castle’ is a primary point for creating (sparking) joy. If your home is not in balance and you’re not feeling happy, then there’s something wrong and your entire life can get out of whack.

I completely get this as all these things are ultimately in your control. You can pick good friends, you can find people to love, you can search for a job you love, and you can create your living space in a joyful environment.

Thanks, Marie. I’m going to doing to do a load of laundry right now.