Review: Throw Out Fifty Things

throw-out-fifty-things-book-cover-jacketI started reading this book ages ago and just randomly stopped. Okay, it wasn’t entirely random, it was because the first time I sat down to read it, I actually intended to follow it and throw out fifty things. In much the same way that I ran out of steam with my One Year to An Organized Life reading and series of blog posts, I just couldn’t keep up with it on any sort of timeline, and gradually the book made its way into the closet and I didn’t even find it until post-KonMari. The thing is, I now compare all organizing/decluttering/tidying books against The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and they all fall short. Not in the sense that the KonMari method is just so mind-blowing that no other book comes close to approximating the genius within those pages, but mostly because all those other books basically say the same thing, but not as clearly and concisely.

Gail Blanke’s purpose for this book is not actually centered around your living space. This is a motivational self-help book disguised as organizing how-to. The book is arranged into 3 basic parts (actually 4, but 1 & 2 are pretty similar). The first deals with physical clutter (what I was interested in), the second was mental clutter (hrm, okay), and the third was about achieving your maximum potential (what?). I just want a clean house – I’ll worry about realizing my dreams after that. (Really, my dreams right now are to be able to walk without stubbing my toe on something or be able to find something without tearing the house upside down.) I felt deceived by this book when I got to the third section, because it did not seem like the same book. And it became a whole lot of positive thinking meets “The Secret” meets cognitive behavioral therapy. And that stuff is all fine, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for.

In a way, I can understand why a book might have this premise and also might appeal to a lot of people. If you are unhappy and looking to make a change, you might think a house sprucing-up might just be the ticket, but while reading you may realize you need to make some bigger changes in your life. That’s great! I hope this book really helped someone. I would have preferred that it hadn’t been advertised as something else though. After finishing the book, I skimmed the jacket and blurbs and really didn’t see how anyone would be able to see what this book is really about. Maybe that’s by design. Either way, it has a lot of rah-rah motivational speak that I find cloying and absurd. The book is also much too long for the content within.

I did not throw out fifty things while reading it this time. I’d already done plenty more before that while going through KonMari, and the best part of that is that book was shorter and didn’t really require steps in between chapters. If I had decided to go back and do Blanke’s program, it not only would have required a lot of journaling for the mental clutter and dream actualization chapters, but I would have had to start over and go chapter by chapter.

The best part of the book was the heart warming stories about being who had turned their lives around after dumping stuff they didn’t need and thoughts and feelings that were holding them back. I would read a whole book about that.

2 stars.

This book fulfills the book with a number in the title and book you started but never finished requirements for the challenge.

Review: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up


A short article I came across about this book piqued my interest in it. I’d already seen a couple of mentions about it, and was ready to disregard it, until I read the basic premise. Marie Kondo’s tidying philosophy is so simple – only keep things that “spark joy”.

I think this book really resonated with me because I’ve been so unhappy with our living space lately. It has become overrun with clutter. I have boxes upon boxes of stuff that I just don’t know what to do with. I had a closet full of clothing that I didn’t love. Books I have had on my shelf for ages that I don’t care about reading anymore. I’m just done with all of it, and I’m tired of storing this stuff that I don’t care about. I was already in the middle of a great amount of discarding, but this really pushed me forward. Now, the idea of having a closet full of things that I am excited about wearing, books I am excited about reading, and other things that “spark joy”, is really attractive.

I kind of lost steam of my “One Year to An Organized Life” book blogging series that I was doing, mostly because it was moving too fast. The monthly sections were just too much to undertake in one month, and I was ending up with a pile of stuff at the end that was in a bit of a holding area, since I didn’t know where to store it and the rooms I wanted to store them in were so messy and cluttered that I didn’t know what to do with them in the meantime.

Getting rid of other people’s things without permission demonstrates a sad lack of common sense. … To quietly work away at disposing of your own excess is actually the best way of dealing with ¬†family that doesn’t tidy. (Kondo, 51-52)

The one thing that I feel is lacking here – although she does address it – is the fact that I have no control over other people’s things and that is part of the problem. Being overrun with toys and other things that don’t give ME joy, but may give joy to my family members – or that they are not psychologically ready to part with for whatever reason – is a huge part of my clutter issues. Her contribution to this problem is to simply take care of your own things, and the zen-like aura emanating from you will be contagious, but I really will have to see it to believe it.

A booby trap lies within the term ‘storage’. (22)

This was one of those ah-ha! moment quotes from the book. It made me think about how I’m storing things, and that I can organize things to be perfectly neat and tidy and it all falls apart within days. Also, unless it’s something that I use at particular times (like holiday items), why am I storing things in a way that makes it hard for me to get to it? It just makes me less likely to use it. If I’m not using it regularly because it’s a pain to get to and that doesn’t effect me in my day-to-day life, then I should just discard it.

In fact, that particular article of clothing has already completed its role in your life and you are free to say, “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you,” or “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me,” and let it go. (60)

There’s no need to finish reading books that you only got halfway through. Their purpose was to be read halfway. (91)

You will never use spare buttons. (111)

The above quotes were some of the biggest take-aways for me from this book. I do hang on to several item “just in case” and half-read books, some clothing, and buttons are big ones. I’m 31 and I have never used a spare button. I’ve forced myself to finish books that I hated. I have a ton of clothes that I save for a someday occasion or size that by the time I even get close to wearing it, I don’t even like it anymore.

The things we own are real. They exist here and now as a result of choices made in the past by no one other than ourselves. (183)

I’m not really into all of the spiritual things that she brings up in the book. I’m not going to start asking my house where it wants me to store things. But hanging onto things out of a sense of obligation to either ourselves or others when the utility or joy of the thing has passed is pretty silly. It just creates more mess to contend with. And I, for one, am tired of dealing with it.

This book fulfills the originally written in a different language requirement for the challenge.