Tidying Up

Our staff book club is reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It has sparked numerous conversations! 

Beginning a new year always seems to inspire a fresh start. You try something new, lose weight, tidy up your abode. This year Netflix’s new series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, has encouraged even more people to tackle their accumulation of ‘stuff’.  

As my readers know, most of my posts focus on helping others, alleviating suffering or upcycling. So, this post is no different. I wish to share with you how I am riding myself of years of collecting and providing others with options as well. Let’s face it, we can’t all just throw our stuff out; our garbage dumps are full enough! There’s quite a few programming ideas here too. Your library makerspace/programming may be able to capitalize on the KonMari craze and score some wonderful assets. Here are a few ways you can help others and yourself: 


  1. Donate to thrift shops or consider selling your items to local consignment shops. I’ve used an online consignment shop, ThredUp, to sell my good quality, still usable items. They take clothing, shoes, handbags, scarves and costume jewelry. 
  2. Cotton t-shirts can become dog toys for an animal shelter or rescue group. 
  3. Bras. Let’s face it we’ve all purchased a bra or two (or more) that looked and felt fine in the store for the five minutes we had it on in the dressing room. Now what to do with it after we discovered the painful truth. Donate to Free the Girls, or another upcycler/recycler organization
  4. I found some socks leftover that I’ll make into catnip toys


  1. Donate to Friends of the Library at your public library or a local group collecting books. We have the Book Fairies nearby. 
  2. We host an annual Read to Feed book sale. We gather used books and sell them students and staff for a nominal fee in our school library. All proceeds go to Heifer International, an organization striving to end world hunger. 
  3. Upcycle for crafts. Blackout poetry. Using die cuts (I.e. Ellison) cut out letters for library displays. Decoupage. I written about sustainability and also have a LibGuide on upcycling various household objects.


  1. Over the course of tidying up, I’ve shredded quite a bit of paper. We use the shreds to supplement our pet rabbit, Gin’s, habitat.  
  1. Non-sensitive paper items can be put in the recycle bin. Help the world! 

Komono (Miscellaneous) 

  1. While going through my make-up draw I found several eyelash/eybrow items. Wash these up and send them to Wands for Wildlife
  2. Fun programming idea: Turn that draw full of takeout chopsticks into Harry Potter wands!
  3. Towels can go to your local animal shelter.
  4. Turn pillowcases into Little Dresses for Africa. Our animal shelter will take pillowcases – they use them to capture and collect snakes!


  1. My husband passed away this summer, so this is a difficult category for me. I’ve offered my children various items. One son has my husband’s stethoscope, and another has his art easel. I believe these sentimental items will ‘spark joy’ in their homes. 
  2. I can’t seem to part with my husband’s favorite shirts, so I believe I’ll have teddy bears made from the fabric. I’ll give these bears to future grandchildren and great-nieces and nephews. Since I can’t sew well, I’ll turn to Etsy for this.
  3. If you’re looking for memorial ideas, take a look at my Grief and Bereavement LibGuide
  4. Every year I go to ALA Annual and some years, MidWinter. While there, I always buy a conference t-shirt. I don’t actually wear t-shirts (ever), but they take up an entire drawer of space. So, I’ve decided to make them into a quilt using Project Repat, one of many online quilting services. Now I’ll have a needed blanket for my guest room and it will ‘spark joy’ remembering all the conferences, people and places. 

When handling your items there are three categories: throw away, keep, relocate. Try to upcycle as much as you can when throwing away. And don’t forget to thank each item! 

From Boston to London: Connecting YAs through a transatlantic book club.

Helen and I met at the American Library Association MidWinter conference in Boston, Massachusetts this past January. I was volunteering my time at the YALSA booth (Young Adult Library Services Association; a division of ALA) and she was an international librarian hailing from London, England. We hit it off immediately, exchanged cards, and promised to keep in touch. We both run after-school book clubs and are committed to literacy in young adults.  Initially we thought we’d read a novel together and have our students discuss it thus forming a transatlantic book club.  However, when my school decided on hosting a Big Read with the book I Am Malala, I contacted Ms. Swinyard to ask if she was interested in reading along with us. Things took off from there.

This week we communicated online with our book club friends at the Heartlands High School in Haringey, England. This was our first online session and to get started we felt that understanding education in other countries would be beneficial. After all, education is Malala’s predominate focus. Students on both sides of ‘the pond’ were fascinated by each others responses. One notable exchange regarding school uniforms had us all in stitches. While our British counterparts wear school uniforms throughout their academic careers, Islip’s student body have never worn one. In fact most American public school attendees do not. I hadn’t really thought much about students rights, freedom of expression, the first amendment, or Tinker v. Des Moines until I saw the reaction of non-American students. Their reaction to the question, “What did you learn in school about the American Revolution?” was priceless, as well. It was a wonderful hour long exchange of ideas, thoughts, and laughs. We are grateful for this and for our new friends!


We’ve planned another online session in mid May when we’ll discuss the book and Malala. I’ve had numerous students stop me in the hallway, “When are we Skype-ing again?” I’ve also had at least half a dozen additional students take out a Malala book to read over our Spring break based on the ‘buzz’ going around the building. I can’t wait to volunteer a the YALSA booth again at the upcoming ALA Annual conference in Orlando. Who will I meet next and what benefit will it have for me and my students?


If you want to follow our transatlantic progress, check us out on Twitter:





And, www.facebook.com/IslipHighSchoolLibrary


Carpe Librum. Seize the Book!

The phone rings at 5:30 am. It means nothing to me. After all, I am married to a doctor the phone rings all hours of the night (and day). “Gina, school’s closed today,” he says. Let that sink in. Hmm, I can catch up on emails, committee work, make soup! So much to do. So much I can get done. Heavy eyelids fade to black. He has to go to work, so I get up and join him for my first cup of tea of the day. There will be many more cups to come – it’s cold out there.

So what did I eventually accomplish? Yes, I did get two loads of laundry done. No, I didn’t make the soup. And the only committee work I attempted was the @YALSA Twitter chat hosted by YALSA President Candice Mack (@tinylibarian) with an update about organizational planning. Well, I’m already on Twitter so I should post some updates, right? And why stop there I should let the Facebook world know what’s up, too. The morning is over and I’ve drank tea and visited social media sites. The best laid plans of mice and men….

I’m sorry, but it’s a Snow Day. I did what needed to be done! I sat on the couch all day and read!!! (And drank tea, of course.) All the Light We Cannot See is our school Staff Book Club pick and I really wanted to finish the book this weekend (even though we’re not discussing it until next month). Forget the soup, vacuuming, emails, spreadsheets. Life is short. We must seize the day or better yet, Carpe Librum, seize the book!

Happy Snow Day!