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Socks, Drawers, Tidying and Packaging [en]

Socks, Drawers, Tidying and Packaging [en]

[fr] Comment une histoire de rangement d'habits m'amène à accepter que j'apprécie le soin porté à l'apparence.

Right at the beginning of 2016, I stumbled upon this article, which in turn led me to this one, which in turn led me to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

It’s a short book. But, like Sarah Knight, it didn’t take me long to reorganise my sock drawer. I kid you not. Those who know me will be aware I am a proponent of minimum viable tidying. My place isn’t a dump (some hotspots are), but it’s not the tidiest place around and I definitely have way too much stuff.

Tidy Socks

I’m a long-time fan of A Perfect Mess, and Marie Kondo clearly takes the antithetic approach, with a cult of tidiness, order, and organisation which goes way too far for me. I was surprised, as a person who has never held tidiness or neatness in high regard, to find that I was very much drawn to the ideal she describes in her book. I dream of a life with pared-down possessions, where everything has a place, where my t-shirts and underwear are artfully folded in their drawers, where everything is under control.

Control. This is the draw. We crave control in an often misguided attempt to relieve our anxiety. This is not completely stupid: having control on our environment does make us feel better. Less moving parts are easier to feel in control of, one reason maybe why I regularly fantasise about a simpler life, and why we relax better on vacation (away from everything, life is indeed simpler).

So, if I’m not ready to let go of the belief that having a little bit of mess in our lives can be a good thing, what am I taking away from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? Quite a few things, to be honest, and in a way, it probably has already been life-changing for me.

The first thing I’m keeping is a precious tool to help me part with things: Marie Kondo advises starting with the easiest (hence socks) and emptying everything on the floor, before taking each item in your hands and asking “does it spark joy?” — I’m not too big on the formula, but I really like the idea. Does this object make me happy? Or does it make me feel guilty, bad, indifferent? There are a few things to unpack here.

  1. I like the idea of surrounding yourself with stuff that makes you happy.
  2. I like the idea of choosing what to keep rather than choosing what to part with.
  3. I like the idea of honing one’s parting skills with easy things first.

Number 2. up here reminds me of a packing tip I read long ago, I think it was on Tara Hunt’s blog (can’t find it anymore, and can’t find it on my blog either, though I’m sure I blogged about it at some point). It went something like this:

Instead of asking “can this be useful?” ask “might I be in big trouble if I don’t pack this?”

It changed my way of packing forever. The shift from “can it be useful” to “do I really need it” was really an eye-opener for me.

And Marie Kondo’s “spark joy?” test does the same thing. Instead of choosing things to throw out, I’m choosing what I keep. She also has some interesting thoughts about how to part with objects. Consider what their purpose has been in your life, thank them for it, and send them on their way to where they can fulfil their new purpose. In a very Shinto way of viewing life, Marie Kondo animates objects in a way that makes sense to me.

In that same vein, another takeaway for me is greeting your home when you come back. I’m not sure if I’ll actually do it, but I like the idea of projecting some kind of “personhood” into one’s living space. I just realised that I’ve been doing this for 20 years when I go judo training: we greet the dojo when we enter.

Another major take-away has to do with clothes. I was sure I’d blogged about my desire to try putting together a seasonal capsule wardrobe, but again, I don’t seem to have done it. (Senility? I keep thinking I’ve blogged things but I haven’t. I blame Facebook. For thinking I’ve blogged when I haven’t. For the capsule wardrobe, I blame Andrea.) So, yes, keeping clothes I like, rather than based on criteria like “does it fit”, that makes sense. And then, drawers. Yes, think about it: shelves suck. You can’t access what’s at the back. Piles fall down with time. And my IKEA PAX cupboards actually have drawers that I can buy and stick in them. Done. Ordered. My clothes will live vertically from now on.

I’ve already put this in practice at the chalet, where I’m staying now. I brought some dividers to tidy up my drawers, and have been experimenting with folding my clothes so they can be stacked vertically side-by-side in the drawer. What a revelation! This is similar to when I learned how to take off my socks properly.

I had honestly never given any thought to how I remove my socks. I don’t wear them half the year, anyway. But I did pester against balled-up socks in the laundry. The day I discovered the technique for removing socks without balling them up or turning them inside-out, all became clear to me: with no effort, from one day to the other, I changed the way I remove my socks — never to look back.

I can feel something similar going on with how I fold my clothes. I’ve never thought much about how I fold my clothes. I just fold them, and pile them up on top of one another. Like I was taught. Or hang them. Now a new world is opening up to me, one where I can pull out a drawer and immediately see all the clothes in it, without having to dig through a pile that inevitably topples over at some point.

The most surprising thing is that I’ve found myself quickly folding my clothes and putting them back in the drawer at the end of the day, instead of just letting them pile up somewhere random — on top of the chest of drawers or on the hooks behind the door. Folding is quick, and they have a place, so putting them there is a no-brainer.

Clothes folded in drawer

I think my future looks like tidy, organised drawers.

But this isn’t just about clothes. You see, I’m realising that I actually enjoy seeing a drawer full of neatly stacked underwear or t-shirts when I open it, rather than a big mess.

I have to admit it: I care about appearance.

This is a big thing.

You see, officially, I don’t care about what I call “packaging”. What’s important is what’s inside, right? Who cares if you make things look all pretty, as long as what you’re selling is good? Their true value should suffice.

I’m not interested in — or good at — making things “look good”. I don’t really do it for myself, either: forget make-up, and clothing is practical. I do my nails, dye my lashes and eyebrows, wear jewellery and have a good hairdresser, but that’s it. In my professional life, my disdain of packaging has long been a pain-point: I’m sure it costs me, compared to others who are great at packaging (and might not even have as much substance underneath the shiny wrapping).

I have a kind of snobbishness about it, though I’ve never really managed to pinpoint its origin: don’t let yourself be blinded by the packaging, see the value of what’s inside, blah blah blah.

But it’s hypocritical, because I’m expecting other people to not pay attention to something that I, as a person/consumer, pay attention to.

I appreciate it when people dress well and have good haircuts. I appreciate products and services that are nicely packaged. I love the box my iDevices come in. One of the reasons I use OSX is that it looks good, and I’m staring at it all day, right? When I buy home-made syrup my friend here in Gryon makes, I love the little labels she puts on the bottles. I like wrapping on presents. I like the card the vet sends me for Christmas. I like the pretty price-list my nail stylist has on her door.

However, when it’s my turn to do it, it doesn’t feel worth the trouble. For others, obviously, and for myself — and I’m not talking about self-grooming here. I love my flat, for example, but have never put up anything on the walls, though it’s been on my to-do list for 15 years and I would enjoy having pretty things around. Because it doesn’t feel that important. Because I don’t think I care. I don’t think I should care.

But I do.

And this is what this whole clothes-folding-stacking business is opening my eyes to: despite my official stance on the matter, I do enjoy pretty things. I do value packaging. I feel I am allowing myself to connect to something I have most of the time forbidden myself from acknowledging: there is pleasure to be found in being surrounded by things that look nice — and there is also, therefore, pleasure to be found in making things look attractive.

For me, and for others.

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Value-Based Pricing: Breaking the Time Barrier [en]

Value-Based Pricing: Breaking the Time Barrier [en]

[fr] En tant qu'indépendant, il faut absolument s'éloigner d'un modèle où l'on facture pour son temps -- et facturer en fonction de la valuer qu'apporte notre travail au client. Cela implique une toute autre approche de la relation client et du travail de l'indépendant, très bien expliquée dans le ebook Breaking The Time Barrier. Une heure de lecture en Anglais, un peu plus si vous êtes moins à l'aise. Mais elle va vous faire gagner de l'argent.

Today I read Breaking the Time Barrier. It’s a quick read, an hour or so if you take your time. If you’re a freelancer, you should read it. If you have an hourly rate and are selling your time, you should read it even more. Thanks a lot to Claude for sharing this e-book on the Going Solo Discuss group.

I was first introduced to the concept of value-based pricing by Martin Roell on the occasion of his introductory workshop on consulting at Lift’07. It made perfect sense: if your expertise can solve a client’s problem in 3 minutes, should you really be paid only for three minutes of your time?

As I was explaining to a prospective client of mine Monday morning, when you spend half a day doing an exploratory workshop with me (to try and figure out what the f*** to do with social media, if anything), you’re not paying for four hours of my time. You’re paying to have answers. You’re paying to know what to do. Why would I charge you less if I can help you get there in just four hours than if I dragged you along for two whole weeks?

Since way back when, I’ve tried as much as possible to price my services based on their value to the client, and not based on how long it takes me. Time-based fees make my skin crawl: the client wants to keep the number of hours down, the consultant wants them to go up. It’s a really stupid system. It also implicitly encourages an “employee/employer” relationship, with the client possibly breathing down your neck to make sure you’re making good use of this time of yours he’s buying.

After reading Breaking the Time Barrier, I’ve understood one of my missing links: not putting a number on the value my client will get out of my work — which is a necessary element to pricing my service as an investment.

I’m also always a bit torn about my exploratory workshops: I charge for them separately, because too many times I ended up doing a workshop, writing up proposals, and end up with the client walking away. I realize now that on some of the occasions my proposals were not adequate because I had not understood the monetary value what my client was hoping to get out of the investment they would be making with me. One of my issues is also that a lot of the value I bring is advice, and that is sometimes all my clients need from me. Sometimes all they needed was that initial workshop. I still haven’t really decided how to deal with this, but I realize I need to think about it.

I also find it hard to stand firm sometimes with clients who insist on counting in hours. Business is so formatted to function like this that even when you tell people that you have no hourly rate, also because all your hours are not worth the same, and how many hours you spend on something is your problem and not theirs, and that what is important on their side is the result and value they are going to get, the conversation still ends up drifting back to “ok, sure, but how much will you charge for a day a month?”

I’m also having trouble applying this model to training. Training typically is something with a day rate. How do I provide value-based training? Focus on competencies and outcomes — but then, there is the unknown: how well the student learns. It does not take a fixed effort to teach something to somebody. Some people learn fast, and with others… you can start again from the beginning next month.

So there we are… my questions-in-the-guise-of-musings to Karen in the story.

Do you still have a day/hourly rate? Do you apply value-based pricing for your business, or part of it? Do you have any answers for the points I still struggle with after all these years?

3rd #back2blog challenge (9/10), with: Brigitte Djajasasmita (@bibiweb), Baudouin Van Humbeeck (@somebaudy), Mlle Cassis (@mlle_cassis), Luca Palli (@lpalli), Yann Kerveno (@justaboutvelo), Annemarie Fuschetto (@libellula_free), Ewan Spence (@ewan), Kantu (@kantutita), Jean-François Genoud (@jfgpro), Michelle Carrupt (@cmic), Sally O’Brien (@swissingaround), Adam Tinworth (@adders), Mathieu Laferrière (@mlaferriere), Graham Holliday (@noodlepie), Denis Dogvopoliy (@dennydov), Christine Cavalier (@purplecar), Emmanuel Clément (@emmanuelc), Xavier Bertschy (@xavier83). Follow #back2blog.

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Call to WordPress Plugin Developers [en]

Call to WordPress Plugin Developers [en]

[fr] Un descriptif des plugins que j'écrirais pour WordPress si je ne faisais pas un vilain blocage sur le sujet. Ne vous gênez pas si vous voulez contribuer!

If I was fluent in WordPress plugin coding, here are the plugins I’d write. If you feel like coding one of them yourself, or helping me get it done, you’re most welcome. Carthik has already pointed me to Plunge into Plugins, which I will have a close look at once I’ve finished writing this post.

Of course, if you know of a plugin which does precisely what I’m describing here, leave a link to it in the comments!

Keywords plugin

This would be a pretty straightforward one:

  • add a “keywords” text input to post.php
  • save the value of that text input to a custom field called “keywords”
  • add those keywords as an HTML meta tag on the individual post pages.
Excerpt plugin

This one would also be pretty straightforward, as all it would do is add the “excerpt” field to the “simple” post.php layout.

Customize post.php plugin

This would be more complex, but allow for more flexibility than the previous plugin. I don’t yet have a clear idea of how to make it work, but the basic principle would be to allow the user to select which fields should appear on the post.php page. Instead of having “simple” and “advanced” controls, this would add the option to have “custom” controls and define them.

TopicExchange plugin

As far as functionality is concerned, this plugin would do what my TopicExchange hack did:

  • add a “trackback TopicExchange channels” text input to post.php
  • store the space-separated list of keywords in a meta value named (e.g.) ite_topic (one record for each value)
  • for each value, trackback the appropriate TopicExchange channel
  • display the trackbacked channels (with link) on each post.
Bilingual plugin

This would be a clean version of my language hacks:

  • add a small “language” text input to post.php (with a default value)
  • add an “other language excerpt” textarea, which posts to the corresponding custom value
  • display the “other language excerpt” at the top of each post
  • provide a function to return the post language, and the other-excerpt language (so it can be declared in a lang attribute, allowing the use of language-dependant CSS formatting, in addition to being semantically correct)
  • if this is not already possible with the date function in the WordPress core, provide an alternative date function which will format the date correctly corresponding on the language of the post
  • optional: figure out a way to adapt text like “comments”, “categories” etc. to the post language; make the plugin usable with more than two languages.
Smart Linkroll plugin

I love the way ViaBloga manages blogrolls and would love to see a plugin for WordPress that does the same thing. In ViaBloga, you simply enter the URL of the site you want to add to your links. ViaBloga then retrieves the title, description, RSS feed address, and even (yes!) a screenshot for the site. No need to fill in fields manually anymore…

Wiki-Keywords plugin

I haven’t through this through yet completely, but it seems to me that a plugin which would add wiki-like capability to WordPress, like ViaBloga does with keywords, could be an interesting idea to explore.

Technorati plugin

This is really a simple one: add a function which will allow easy display of the Technorati cosmos of each post, like I have done manually for this weblog.

On the subject of multilingual blogging, Kevin Marks has some interesting markup suggestions I need to look at more closely.

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