Spring Cleaning Reading List

Confession time: I am the absolute worst at keeping everything clean and neat. Some people are extremely organized, and I’ve never been able to understand how they got that way. Other people turn to cleaning and organizing precisely when they feel stressed, as it gives them a measure of control over their environment and gives them something else to focus on for a while. Then there are people like me whose homes and work spaces always seem to be in chaos, as other priorities always seem to trump cleaning and organizing. Whether you’re extreme like me or fall somewhere else on the neatness Bell curve, here are some books that will help us out.

First, let’s talk about clutter. There’s no point in cleaning if there’s stuff to be put away, purged, or repaired, right? This logic is usually what keeps me from progressing with any home organizing or cleaning project. Fortunately The Home Decluttering Diet: Organize Your Way to a Clean and Lean Home by Jennifer Lifford exists. A rare combination of visual appeal and useful information, this book takes you through each room of your house and helps you make those tough decisions about what to keep and what to send away. Within each room, Lifford breaks the work down into smaller projects that are easier to chip away at so that procrastinators like me can’t use the “I don’t have time to do the whole room tonight” line. Every. Single. Night.

If this book doesn’t appeal, try the more direct Unf*ck your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess by Rachel Hoffman. While the title is eye-catching, the blurbs on the back by personal heroes Kelly Sue DeConnick and Cory Doctorow are what sold me. It’s based on a 20/10 system where you clean for 20 minutes and then take a 10 minute break. While this might sound completely obvious to the Martha Stewarts of the world, I need this actually written down so that I can give myself some breathing room when it comes to tackling what is already going to be an unpleasant or at least not fun project. If you’re a professional procrastinator or are really good about ignoring random junk piling up in your entryway, this book might be for you (and it’s definitely for me.)

However, if you think reading a how-to manual on decluttering is too remedial or an insult to your intelligence (seriously, there is no judgement here!) you may find inspiration from someone else’s journey to live a clutter-free life. Year of No Clutter by Eve O. Schaub shows the psychological side of clutter and hoarding. While she spends a year tackling her “Hell Room” where stuff has just piled up in overwhelming chaos, she also explores hoarding in general through some of the recognizable media out there: the TV show Hoarders and the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. As Schaub conquers her psychological clutter, you may find yourself inspired to roll up your sleeves and tackle your own “Hell Room.”

Now let’s talk about cleaning. I think you can learn a lot about them just from their titles: The Cleaning Ninja: How to Clean Your Home in 8 Minutes Flat and Other Clever Housekeeping Techniques by Courtenay Hartford and Clean My Space: the Secret to Cleaning Better, Faster–and Loving Your Home Every Day by Melissa Maker. Both books break down cleaning challenges into smaller tasks, explaining the more difficult ones in detail while also not talking down to you. There are tips for the best kinds of cleaning equipment to own (I bet my cats would love a feather duster!) and professional advice for every level of cleaner (let’s call it slacker–like me– to pro).

Finally, I turn my gaze to organization. After all, it’s the last hurdle after conquering clutter and busting those dust bunnies. And I’ve found the perfect-for-me book: Organized Enough: the Anti-Perfectionist’s Guide to Getting–and Staying–Organized by Amanda Sullivan. There’s some overlap here with decluttering, but the sections on which types of paperwork to keep and for how long really shine. The book is divided into two sections. The first part helps you learn to think differently about your stuff and your habitat. The second part cultivates specific skills that will aid you in staying organized for good. That’s great news for people like me who want to put in the work once and just be done with it.

If you don’t want to spend tons of precious time dealing with the stress and emotional work of decluttering, cleaning, and organization, join me in my spring cleaning quest that all starts with the right book.

The Clutter! The Disarray!

While our daughter was home from graduate school this summer for a debilitating knee surgery, her room and, I’ll admit, parts of the whole house became cluttered and disorganized. It came to a climax when our house cleaners actually quit because of “the clutter!” and “the disarray!”

imagesThis was quite a shock to yours truly as I spend my life, it seems, picking up that house. I’ll admit that I like order so much (and what librarian doesn’t?) that I recently spent a lovely evening organizing our linen closet. I just wish that I had a ‘flip and fold’! Look how happy this woman is with her flip and fold!

I like to believe that I’m not as obsessive or as compulsive as Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. Do you remember this episode when Sheldon can’t refrain from cleaning Penny’s apartment in the middle of the night?

Now that our sweet domestic cyclone has returned to school, I can get back to being orderly and organized. But how? Naturally, I turned to the library for help and inspiration. Here are some of our great books on organizing your home and life.

indexCAVFXGV9The Easy Organizer: 365 Tips for Conquering Clutter by Marily Bohn is a fantastic little book. If you’d like an organized (ha!) book about organizing, this is the title for you! This is a ‘nibbler’ book; you can pick it up and read a little at random. It’s bursting with ideas to get organized. Some tips are the kind that make you want to slap yourself on the forehead for not thinking of them yourself.

index200 Tips for De-Cluttering by Daniela Santos Quartino is a hefty little coffee table book full of photos of orderly and organized spaces. Look at this book as pure inspiration. This is what your home would look like if you didn’t live in it and had no clutter (or life). Still, we all need something to aspire to and the tips are basic:  “Rule number one in the kitchen is to keep everything near the area where it is used.”

indexHome Organizing & Closet Makeovers is from Sunset Magazine and is not only beautiful, but is also chock full of real world advice and solutions. This book shows you how to tackle each room and every closet, finding great organizing and storage solutions at every turn. There are a lot of great tips on each page next to numerous bright and colorful photos.

indexSecrets of an Organized Mom by Barbara Reich. The title says it all. Everything in this new book, from the basic ten commandments of organizing to the Easy-Does-It Mantras at the end, is so logical and creative. This book isn’t just for moms, but for anyone wanting an organized and functional living space. Two thumbs up!

indexCAU58FSOThe 8 Minute Organizer by Regina Leeds has a very appealing premise: You can do something to organize your life in eight minutes. This is the organizing book for the busy person and who isn’t busy these days?  I haven’t had time to read it all, but I’ll give it eight minutes per day and get back to you.

indexCA8PKI23Next up is a title from Lauri Ward who specializes in books on decorating with what you already have – without purchasing new items. Downsizing Your Home with Style is a good source for decorating ideas for small spaces. Her before and after photos are super informative and the highlighted tips are both creative and on the money. This is simply a fun book to read since the solutions seem so easy and yet powerful.

indexIf you’re the type of person who just can’t get rid of all of that good stuff which some people call clutter, this next book is for you. Realsimple 869 New Uses for Old Things shows you how to use that lint roller in a couple of new ways. If an item is useful, it’s not clutter, right?  If you love Realsimple magazine, you’re sure to enjoy this book.

index (1)After reading all of the above books, you may be ready for: How to Start a Home-Based Professional Organizing Business by Dawn Noble. The back cover claims that “From estimating start-up costs and finding clients to how to stay profitable even in slow economic climates, this book takes you through every aspect of setting up and running a thriving home-based professional organizing business.”

If you must attack your linen closet right now without the help of these books, I’ll post some tips gleaned from them. These may help you stay organized:

  • One in, one out.  Come home with a new package of socks? Get rid of all the old ones with holes. A new toy for junior? Donate an old one that he doesn’t play with any longer. Assuming you already own enough (or too many) things, you can stay on top of clutter by disposing of the old when you bring home the new.
  • Have a place for donations. And visit the thrift store often to drop them off. Things sitting around the house waiting to be donated have a way of never actually getting donated.
  • Label things. It keeps you accountable for your own organizing. If there’s a basket on the counter with no label, it’ll soon hold keys, buttons, or legos. If it’s labeled ‘mail’, there’s a good chance that it’ll actually contain mail.
  • Have less stuff than you have room for. A great sale at the grocery store shouldn’t throw your pantry into disarray. But, I’ll admit, this one is a toughie.

I’ll leave you now, armed with these great organizing books and ready for the simple life, because I have a hot date with my pantry.