Self-help mini reviews: I read three books about de-cluttering—two misses and one big hit!

April 4, 2023

TITLE: Declutter Like a Mother: A Guilt-Free, No-Stress Way to Transform Your Home and Your Life
AUTHOR: Allie Casazza
GENRE: Nonfiction/Self-Help
AGE RANGE: Adult
PAGES: 240pg

Live lighter. Live freer. Live a bigger life with less. In Declutter Like a Mother , Allie Casazza comes alongside you to explore: Allie Casazza was tired of feeling it was her against the laundry in her home. She wondered if somewhere beneath her frantic days and the mountains of toys in the playroom she would ever find joy and peace in motherhood. Then she discovered the abundance . . . of less. As she purged her home of excess stuff, Allie discovered a lifestyle that strengthened her marriage, saved her motherhood, and helped her develop her gifts in a way that no amount of new kitchen appliances or new organizing system ever could. Research studies show a direct link between stress levels and the amount of physical possessions people have in their homes, and Allie has seen that truth play out in her own life and in the lives of hundreds of thousands of other moms she has mentored through her business and online courses. She proclaims: You don’t need a home that’s perfect. You need a home that’s lighter. Discover less stress, more space. Less chaos, more peace. Less of what doesn’t matter, so you have room for what matters most of all.

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Things I liked about this book:

  • the author took the time to note that parents should not declutter behind their kids’ backs if the kid is old enough to notice; despite it being “your” home, those are your child’s belongings that you (or others) gave them and your child deserves the right (and your respect) to have an input on what stays and what goes.

Things I didn’t like about this book:

  • too much religious talk in the beginning
  • waaaaay too much focus on the implication of every reader of this book being a cishet woman and a mother (sentences constantly calling the reader “girl”, assuming every reader is a parent, etc.)
  • weird random body-shaming tidbits (i.e. the bit about “if you aren’t wearing Spanx and you have a c-section scar, trust me, everyone can see how lumpy your scar is” – WTactualF is this and why is it in a de-cluttering book???)
  • vague parent-shaming stances (such as criticizing toys that are “unimaginative”)
  • every 3rd page is a plug for the author’s website, paid downloads, paid online courses, etc.
  • constant plugs for various brands (like Spanx underwear)
  • falls off-topic constantly (again, with the underwear)
  • The entire book reads like a long, drawn-out, rambling blog post that was only intended for people who are already friends and/or followers of the author’s content. It could easily have been trimmed down to a couple of pages if not for the endless tangents, repetition, and long bulleted lists (the section on de-cluttering your bathroom literally includes a 20+ item bulleted list of items most cis women have in their bathrooms).

Bottom line: this is one of the worst self-help books I’ve ever read and I strongly recommend skipping it and picking up something by a number of other decluttering and organizational aid authors (with my #1 rec being Dana K. White, whose books cover many of the same methods that Allie Casazza details in this book, but in a better, more thorough, and more accessible way).

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WARNINGS:

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TITLE: Tidy the F*ck Up: The American Art of Organizing Your Sh*t
AUTHOR: Messie Condo
GENRE: Nonfiction/Self-Help
AGE RANGE: Adult
PAGES: 192pg

Tidy the F*ck Up is a funny, down-to-earth parody of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, where you’ll be handed the most useful tools for keeping your crap clean and organized without all the pressure.

In this book, you’ll discover useful ways to figure out what to do with your sh*tpiles in an approachable, care-free way, and you’ll say farewell to the hair-pulling stress of marathon cleaning. Tossing all your junk in a closet doesn’t make it any less of a clusterf*ck, but approaching it little by little and making use of some helpful hints can do a world of wonders for all your sh*t, the comfort of your space, and your general sanity. With this hilarious guide, you’ll learn how to:

Become a decision-making bad*ss
Get rid of the sh*t you don’t need and keep the sh*t you do
Live life after a clusterf*ck!
And more!

With a lighthearted tone that the finest sailors would admire, Tidy the F*ck Up will help you make your house a f*cking home.

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Tell me you’re out of touch with modern book lovers without telling me—

Seriously, though, the bit about unhauling books was probably the worst “book decluttering”-specific section I’ve read in an organization book thus far. “If you wouldn’t pay list price, you don’t really want it”: just because someone can’t afford $30 per adult hardcover doesn’t mean they don’t want to read it. “Of books you’ve read, you should only keep a few favorites”: you severely underestimate how many favorites I have. “People with overcrowded bookshelves are hoarders and pretentious jackasses”: no, I just like books! “No bibliophile wants to admit you can put down books you don’t like”: you mean like me putting down this one? 💀

No, seriously though. I had a lot of issues with this book before this chapter and after this chapter, too. It’s repetitive, most of the advice is pretty basic and doesn’t offer anything new, and worst of all, the writing skips out on the ability to offer helpful insight because it’s too focused on being as sassy as possible. I love a funny, vulgar book as much as anyone else (probably more, tbh), but when you’re using it to cover up a lack of depth, it doesn’t work.

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TITLE: Stop Buying Bins: & other blunt but practical advice from a home organizer
AUTHOR: Bonnie Borromeo Tomlinson
GENRE: Nonfiction/Self-Help
AGE RANGE: Adult
PAGES: 258pg

Decluttering our homes can be difficult.
Letting go of things can be challenging.
Living with less seems impossible.

With wit and tough love, Stop Buying Bins seeks to break down the obstacles that tether us to our possessions. Why do we hold onto belongings that no longer serve us? How do we change our perspective regarding our things? And once we’ve tackled those questions, how do we go about actually downsizing our clutter?

Told through individual client stories, Stop Buying Bins reveals the personality traits that create resistance to letting go, flips the switch on assigning value to objects, and provides step-by-step instructions on how to decide what goes and what to do with it.

Stop Buying Bins will have you coming to terms with some hard truths about your stuff as you realize you’ll enjoy what you have more if you have less.

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But to be blunt, bins are the Band-Aid on the severed arm that is your clutter.

This book was absolutely fantastic. The writing is so funny and engaging, the author seems genuinely delightful—blunt in a “tough love” way, but never inconsiderate or unaware of her own biases—and it had some of the most useful tips I’ve ever read in an organizational book. These are steps that actually work and make sense, as proven by her years of experience, but they’re also steps that could be utilized by anyone regardless of life situation, mess level, or budget.

Most of all, I loved Bonnie’s approach to how our mental health and outlooks on life can affect our homes and our clutter levels. There’s an entire chapter about “retail therapy” in which she breaks down the idea that many of us seek out shopping for comfort because we’re unhappy with our everyday lives, and how focusing on the wonderful things we already have can help us stop seeking fulfillment elsewhere. As someone who has spent the past 2 years focusing heavily on re-working my perspectives on life and focusing on gratitude, it has made de-cluttering and restraining from “retail therapy” immeasurably easier, so I have to say I fully agreed with Bonnie’s points there (and everywhere else, to be fair).

If I can recommend one all-purpose book on de-cluttering and organizing your home, this would be it. She breaks things down into step-by-step processes, works through our excuses (and why they usually suck), and each piece of advice comes with a client’s story to drive things home. It’s a fun, quick read that has a lot to offer and I’m so glad I picked it up!

content warnings →
WARNINGS:

mentions of hoarding, divorce, single parenthood, financial struggles, food insecurity, loss of loved ones

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destiny

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More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a children's librarian/horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

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