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"Clutter's Last Stand: It's Time to De-Junk Your Life! 2nd Edition" By Don Aslett
Publication Date: March 15, 2005; Adams Media, a division of F+W Publications Company
Purchase Now —$9.95 US, $13.95 CAN Trade Paperback; ISBN: 1593373295

Don Aslett has long been my personal hero. In fact, I've heard firsthand that his no-maintenance home in Hawaii is a modern marvel. Here's a man who truly practices what he preaches. This is a guy who understands completely that there is "life beyond junk," and that decluttering truly frees one to do the things in life which really matter. But, ultimately, his sense of humor shines over a very serious problem...junk.

Consider his definition of "knickknacks:" "Humankind, deep in its secret heart, has always wanted to create and control its own world. To do so on a big scale like the Lord did is a little out of reach, so we mortals settled on a lesser approach. We created little wood, plastic, china and metal models and miniatures of every creature and structure ever devised, rounded them up, and put them on a shelf so we could rule over them. And we named our scaled-down universe Knickknacks...The only time our interest is aroused much is when one of them gets knocked off and broken; then we wail and sob like a wounded packrat (we'd glue it back together but can't remember if it was a Mayan warrior or Pluto the dog)."

Or this gem: "Remember that storage costs money:...Not only is up to 33 percent - that's one-third - of our homes, today devoted to storage, but we have to seek ways and means beyond that to store the overflow. We stick it under beds, under stairs, in-wall units; stow it in attics, basements, furnace rooms, 'spare' rooms; fill the garage with it; then migrate to the yard and get little sheds. When they fill, we head for the local rental unit. Clutter also serves as an enticement for burglary and fodder for accidents, and it makes nice fuel for fires... Storage units are the ghost towns of clutter, a testimony of shame. Why do people store things in another place? Because they aren't using them!"

If you're not sure whether or not to read this book, I suggest you answer the questions on the "Junkee Entrance Exam." You can score yourself from 1 to 5. Here are some sample questions:

  • "I have more-than-a-year-old magazines stored/lying around."
  • "I own clothes that won't fit or are ugly or hopelessly out of style."
  • "I have old games/puzzles/patterns with pieces missing."
  • "I keep unread junk mail, lapsed driver's licenses, and expired policies."
  • "My medicine chest holds bottles of ancient vitamins and antique prescriptions."
  • "I hoard odd socks or pantyhose with one ruined leg."
  • "I have old curtains or blinds stashed away that I've dragged from past residences."

This is a funny, helpful, and hopeful must-read for every clutter bug.

As Don so profoundly states: "Life doesn't begin at forty, sixty-five, twenty, thirty, when you get married, when you get promoted, or when you have grandkids—life truly begins when you discover how flexible and free you are without clutter." I couldn't agree more.

Buy this book, and let me know your successes after reading it.

"Unclutter Your Life: Transforming Your Physical, Mental, and Emotional Space" By Katherine Gibson
Beyond Words Publishing, $14.95 US (Estimated)

My friend and colleague, Katherine, has put together this lovely book of inspiring organizational tips. The cover photo alone brings a feeling of tranquility. This book stemmed from a first-person narrative Katherine wrote titled "Unplugged," chronicling her family's decision to give up television, which was printed in "Reader's Digest" in the United States, Canada, and Australia. It has been incorporated as part of a family development course at Brigham Young University. The book contains 20 chapters of short, lively narratives. Each chapter identifies a single clutter culprit and provides the strategy to wrestle.

"The Organizing Sourcebook" By Kathy Waddill
Contemporary Books, ISBN 0-7373-0424-3, $16.95 (Estimated)

Kathy has been a well-loved president of the NAPO Chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I enjoyed reading her book of wisdom. She suggests that "there is no thing as a perfectly organized person," and the ideal goal is to be "organized enough" so that "your systems fit your life as you're living it right now." She aptly points out that life is constantly changing, and so must your organizing solutions. "Her Nine Strategies of Reasonably Organized People" turns her years of experience into a must-read full of wise, well-thought-out solutions. I highly recommend this book.

"Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic" By John de Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas N. Naylor

The book "Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic," tops my suggested reading list. Affluenza, which was also made into a PBS documentary series, explores the American phenomenon of acquiring excessive material possessions and its effect on the physical, emotional, and environmental health of individuals and society. In this succinctly insightful book, the authors show that societal ills such as stress, pollution, resource exhaustion, loneliness, debt, and the disintegration of the family unit are symptoms of the "disease," Affluenza. The authors do a wonderful job of breaking down their arguments in simple terms, really hitting home the destructive nature of excessive consumerism. They even include a diagnostic self-test to help readers determine if they are victims of Affluenza. The authors also examine the growing movement of simple and frugal living. I couldn't recommend this book enough.

"Making Peace with the Things in Your Life: Why Your Papers, Books, Clothes, and Other Possessions Keep Overwhelming You and What to Do About It" by Cindy Glovinsky, M.S.W., A.C.S.W.

This book was given to me by one of my precious clients, and this woman is wonderful! She addresses the internal manifestations of the clutter around us (much like Karen Kingston — see my review of "Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui," as they relate to our physical beings.) I highly recommend it for getting through the roadblocks to organization. I love her questionnaires, and I love how she connects our past influences with our current values.

"Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui" By Karen Kingston

This is my favorite book on clutter. It's also my favorite book on the basics of Feng Shui because it's short, simple, and to the point. I even recommend it to clients who have little or no knowledge of Feng Shui, simply because of Karen's wisdom and her knowledge of the adverse effects of clutter on the psyche. I was fortunate enough to study with Karen when she attended the International Feng Shui Conference in Monterey a few years ago. What a charming and wonderful soul she is! She divides her time between Bali and the UK and has taught thousands of people around the world. This book will teach you: 1) Why you keep clutter; 2) How to identify and clear clutter; 3) How to clear clutter from your body, mind, and spirit; and 4) How to stay clutter-free. She says that "clutter accumulates when energy stagnates and, likewise, energy stagnates when clutter accumulates. So the clutter begins as a symptom of what is happening with you in your life and then becomes part of the problem itself because the more of it you have, the more stagnant energy it attracts to itself." She will show you "how to sort out your life by sorting out your junk, which results in a tremendous renewal of your life force energy. This is something practical and tangible you can actively do to help yourself." I agree completely.

I highly recommend this book and hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

"If You Haven't Got the Time to Do It Right, When Will You Find the Time to Do It Over?" By Jeffrey J. Mayer

This is still my favorite time management book of all time. It's short, it's simple, it works, and it's changed my life. Jeffrey shows us how to transform our desks into a cleaner, more efficient work area, how to organize files so that they are easier to find and use, and how to create a more effective "To-Do" list, along with dozens of other time-saving techniques. Personally, I would not start my day without my "To-Do" list, and I improved my time management skills drastically when I began to implement his suggestions into my own life (and I had spent hours in many time management courses throughout my career!). His practical approach to getting organized will help you meet your deadlines...and give you more time for yourself. Buy it, schedule the time to read it (even if you have to retreat to your local coffee shop), and put it to work. You won't be sorry you did!

"Not For Packrats Only: How to Clean Up, Clean Out, and De-Junk Your Life Forever" By Don Aslett

Don is my favorite author, and his advice on garages seems to fit with this month's newsletter. He says: "...junk in garages isn't quite as sacred as junk in private areas of the house: it's out on the range, so you should be able to take a firm hand to it. The majority of junk in garages is just lying in wake. Why not get on with the funeral, now, today?" He also suggests: "Out with Old half-finished or never started projects, and pieces of stuff to build or rejuvenate someday; Hanging-from-the-rafters junk; Aged car-accessory junk, like curdled car wax, hubcaps and wheel rims and snow tires and wipers and touchup paint for cars you no longer own..." For some powerful and funny tips on getting organized, read this book!