Tag Archives: organization

** The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

I was disappointed by The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, which for the most part reads like any organizational manual: get rid of stuff you don’t need, keep only what you love, etc. Still, the perspective is interesting since the idea is not to force clutter on the next generation, and the voice of the writer (who says, multiple times, that she is between 80 and 100; why is she so coy about her age?) comes through and gently exhorts the readers to bring their possessions to order. And I loved her idea to keep a box, clearly labeled “throw away”, to hold personal and confidential treasures.

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*** The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing has given rise to much merriment online, most centered around the essential question she thinks we should ask of our belongings: “Does this give me joy?”. (If not, we are to banish them immediately.) But I’m not sure the question is either revolutionary or ridiculous. After all, most organizing gurus would recommend asking ourselves whether we love something, a very close concept, I think, especially post-translation from the Japanese.

What may be revolutionary is her approach. For instance, she advises organizing by categories (such as clothes or books) and not by area (the master closet), which makes a lot of sense to me. And the subtitle to her section on sorting paper is “Rule of thumb — discard everything”! Music to my ears.

What made the book most charming to me were the cultural references. The sizes of apartments given in tatami mats. The author’s initial attempt to create systems based on blood types… And sometimes cultural differences get in the way.  Storing all one’s possessions in one spot may work well in a seven-tatami mat apartment, but in a sprawling house I like my jacket near the door, thank you very much.

The book is full of cute references. For instance, the author recommends against horizontal piles (I wholeheartedly agrees) and justifies it by the plight of those items at the bottom of the pile: they will feel overburdened by the ones on top! This is from someone who believes that folding is a dialog with one’s wardrobe and that items of clothing will tell us how they want to be folded.

You will love this book, even if, like me, you never fold anything beyond napkins. I think they are telling me they like to be folded in thirds.

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Getting Organized in the Google Era by Douglas Merrill

I confess, I love organization books. I picked up that one because I thought I should get clued in to how young people conquer the world. And now I’m confused.

I’m confused because the book moves from the strategic (the school year is not adapted to the modern world) to the most minute detail (how to use Boolean operators for Google search) without much logic to it. There’s also a lot of personal details that don’t add much to the story, including the very tragic illness and death of the author’s first wife. Very sad, but perhaps not the right place to share it. And some of the book sounds like an unabashed commercial. Yes, I do own a Kindle already, thank you very much (read the appendix, though: the reviews there are much more nuanced and in some cases scathing!)

One thing I learned is that the paperless office is not attainable even for Google’s ex-Chief Information Officer, who still insists on paper for his financial statements. I can now feel smug in the knowledge that I have moved to all-digital before he did. And that’s the real reason to read organization books: feeling superior to the hoi polloi.

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Throw out Fifty Things by Gail Blanke

Some people read mysteries as a guilty pleasure: I read organization books. So when I picked up Throw Out Fifty Things I was expecting some interesting strategies about purging one’s possessions, and indeed the author includes recommendations on how to separate the useful from the superfluous, room by room. Nothing very creative there, but I like her counting method, scoring one point by category rather than by item. And then she moves to more ambitious territory, getting rid of memories that weigh us down — and the book turns rather silly as she ponderously attempts to recreate old dialogs with parents and such. Pity!

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One Year to an Organized Life by Regina Leeds

One Year to an Organized Life takes the reasonable stand that it takes more than a weekend to reorganize a truly disorganized house and life and so breaks up the tasks into 12 months (actually only 48 weeks, 4 per month.) Over-achievers can read the entire program in a couple of hours. The author mixes generic advice (purge your possessions before organizing them; assign a specific place for each item; store like with like) with the usual customer vignettes of truly out-of-control families (making us feel we’re not that bad) as well as some personal memories to lighten the load.

The 12-month format is effective. Each task seems doable (and if you’re not moving this year you can skip August altogether, yeah!) I don’t much care for the affirmations she mixes into each chapter but you can skip them. And who knows why she had to add a section about scrapbooking: doesn’t scrapbooking produce more stuff to store? You can skip that…

Overall a nice format to pace yourself over a year.

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1001 ideas for Kitchen Organization by Joseph R. Provey

Some blog readers feel that I should not arbitrarily censor books about kitchen organization so here’s a wonderful one. 1001 Ideas for Kitchen Organization is the best book I’ve ever read about organizing a kitchen (and as a dedicated organization freak I’ve read many!) It’s the only book that suggests solutions to the crucial issue of how to organize deep drawers for pots, pans, and their tops. I can only regret that my kitchen is already remodeled and won’t get a second chance for many, many years. (Fortunately those deep drawers can be retrofitted; I’m a happy girl.)

The illustrations are numerous and excellent. It would be a good brainstorming book for would-be remodelers. It also lists sources for all kinds of gizmos we never knew existed. And handy people will love the detailed explanations for do-it-yourself items.

 A thoroughly satisfying compendium of kitchen organization.

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