RIP Muji (and Any Remaining Illusions I've Clung To of Control Over Anything)
Okay, but hear me out: I am developing a SYSTEM.
Greetings, subscribers, from the First Day of the Rest of My Life. 🌤
Well, another of them, anyway. There was the one in early June, the morning after I left my job. Then there was another, in mid-June, after I landed a (tiny) deal for my memoir-in-essays.
This First Day of the Rest of My Life 🌤 is different, for it’s the one during which I shall devise a procrastination-proof strategy for buckling down and writing the damn book.
In preparation for this auspicious occasion, last Friday I paid a visit to Muji, historically one of my happy places when I’ve been feeling anxious about anything, most of all my writing. For the past several years, nearly every time I’ve taken the Trailways bus from Kingston to Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, I’ve stopped into the Times Square outpost, mostly to absorb by osmosis a balance of abundance and order.
The Japanese retailer pulls off a unique merchandising trick: a maximum of organizing solutions presented with a minimalist aesthetic, a juxtaposition that has reliably managed to calm me again and again.
(This Muji two-compartment food container — which I use to store whichever lemon and lime are currently in play in my refrigerator — inexplicably makes me feel as if THINGS ARE GOING TO WORK OUT… ^^^)
My husband and I were in Williamsburg Thursday into Friday so he could visit one of his I.T. clients. When I woke Friday morning I was certain that before I could get going on my book, I absolutely had to take a stroll over to the store’s nearby outpost (tropical storm Fay’s torrential downpours would not deter me). I needed to procure just the right set of notebooks, pens, sticky notes, etc., to assist me in getting organized, and getting the job done. Or, at least, getting the job started.
(The view from our room at the Williamsburg Hotel, where my husband’s I.T. client kindly put us up for the night. ^^^)
Despite being exceedingly familiar with the product line, I conjured something somewhat un-Muji-like: a fat, multi-subject, multi-colored notebook, replete with section folders, which would help me organize my thoughts on the various essays in my book — as well as keep track of the other jobs I juggle besides book-writing.
I envisioned this notebook/organizer, and then, as if I were able to magically manifest it, decided they must have it. But, no. Muji of course carried no such clunky thing. (That’s more of a Mead-type item.) So, I left with just a couple of pens and some sticky page-markers, because 54 years in a capitalist society have taught me you can’t derive that wonderful if short-lived dopamine response without whipping out your debit card.
Before paying, though, I wasted a bit more time engaging in another of my Muji rituals: wandering the clothing aisles, running my hands through the racks of simple, neutral-toned cotton and linen clothes, allowing myself to imagine I’m the kind of tall, slim-hipped, small-breasted woman on whom those shapeless styles look effortlessly attractive and smart.
One try-on and that illusion is instantly shattered, but never permanently. Again and again I’d find myself back there, considering the kind of potato sack that leaves my short, curvy body looking, well, like a sack of potatoes.
But those days are over now. A half-hour after leaving the store I read the news that Muji had filed for bankruptcy. Where will I go now, to surround myself with the soothing suggestion of organization-derived control? (Maybe too many of us went for *the experience* and didn’t purchase enough to support the store?)
In the midst of a pandemic…a month after leaving the beloved structure of my job…as I embark on the writing of my book…I HAVE NEVER CRAVED THE ILLUSION OF CONTROL MORE. 😀
Okay, who am I kidding? I have a house full of “solutions” for using color-coding to organize my writing — markers and notebooks and folders I’ve been collecting for years — DECADES — purchased from a variety of shops and online retailers.
Seriously, I have been waiting 14 years for just the right project to justify marring this nice, leather-bound journal with colored sections that someone once gave me:
So…maybe I’ve finally found the right project…?
I guess it’s pretty obvious: all this color-coding and organizing and buying crap is procrastination dressed up as a plan. I have made a schedule for myself, and I am working on a system for tracking my progress. Those things are legitimately useful. The most useful thing, though, will be writing.
The truth is I’m scared. There are moments when I feel very capable of this monumental task. When I experience them, I try to fully inhabit their positivity. When those moments pass, I try to fake it till I make it.
MUJI USA isn't shutting down. They've filed for Chapter 11, and this helps in restructuring the business and reshaping the organisation. Ryohin-Keikaku, the parent company is a much larger organisation with about 1000 stores around the world - who still stand strong and in support of MUJI USA. Most of the stores in the US too, will remain open, and you can still go buy your favourite stationery, explore the absolute beauty and the sheer brilliance of design in the products or simply take a stroll in the calming aesthetics of the lovely stores they've created. Just hold on until the local authorities allow reopening of stores and you'll have both - MUJI and your illusions back :)
My heart stopped a minute when I read RIP Muji -- I have loooved that store in every location I've found it (first Vancouver, then Portland OR, finally NYC), and everything I've ever purchased there, from pens and notebooks to my favorite navy sweater. Sad to realize it is no more! 100 percent with you on the balm of The Right Paper / Pen products and congrats on your book deal. I'm with Elisabeth on morning hours and putting the writing first when your brain is fresh. If there's a Kinokuniya near you, it's a close second for pens and paper.