Decluttering by the Book

Books on organizing are a dime a dozen but books on decluttering, organizing’s less photogenic buddy, are less easy to come by. Certainly they’re harder to illustrate, and the process doesn’t include buying lots of shiny containers. But if decluttering is overwhelming you and hiring a professional organizer is just not in the cards right now, I have a few recommendations for books that may help you get motivated and get moving. As you would expect, I am NOT an Amazon (or anyone else) affiliate and if you buy any of these books using these links, all money goes straight to Jeff Bezos’s well-lined pockets.

Sidetracked Home Executives and Sink Reflections are where the whole thing began for me. Aimed at the stay-at-home mom who despairs of ever getting her home out of CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome), they’re without a doubt a little dated. And the emphasis is on cleaning. But both of them get that you can’t clean or organize without getting decluttered first. The Sidetracked Sisters are funny and inspiring, I’d recommend starting there first.

Sink Reflections, inspired by the Sidetracked Home Executives, is by Martha Cilley, who styles herself FLYLady. FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself and if you head to her ironically visually cluttered website or sign up for her daily emails, you’ll get lots of essays about doing just that. Sure they’re often schmaltzy and refer to her flowing tears as she composes, but FLYLady’s heart is in the right place and her message of slow and steady daily decluttering is right on the money.

Fast forward thirty years or so and Dana White, blogger and now author of a couple of books, is here to help. It’s the same idea, declutter first before cleaning or organizing. Dana started with a blog A Slob Comes Clean and, like FLYLady’s site, I find the website cluttered and distracting. But her books are excellent reinforcement for little and often, and she offers up a SYSTEM for decluttering, which is helpful if you don’t know where to start. Although you most likely will end up tweaking her ideas, the point is she got you going and that’s a Very Good Thing. She currently has two books, one on cleaning which for my money has the better guide to decluttering, and one on decluttering. Like the Sidetracked Home Executives, she’s funny in that madcap, Erma Bombeck kind of way.

My top pick if you want great visuals and a lot of tips and tricks that you can actually use, is The Fast and Furious 5 Step Organizing Solution. Despite the title, it’s inspiring on the decluttering end while giving guidelines for what to do with the stuff you do keep. This is the kind of book I’d write right now if I had the energy although I’d definitely add a lot more about taking it slow and only doing what you can. But the concepts are clear and sound and the high quality photographs really help those of us who learn by seeing but not necessarily just reading.

And if you have more clutter than the average bear, Buried in Treasures is a compellingly helpful practical guide to untangling the mess. When I’m all done with this cancer crap, my plan is to start regularly offering low cost workshops that guide a small group of people through this book. It’s so practical, so nonjudgmental, with lots of great ideas you can try out.

Wow, that was a lot of links. Again, I get nothing if you choose to buy any of these books from Amazon or anywhere else. I recommend checking your library first (Prospector often can get you access to books your local library doesn’t have) in which case this post from the archives on avoiding library fines may be useful.

If you have other books on decluttering you can recommend, I’d love to hear what they are – do leave me a note in the comments below so I can check them out.

Ready to stop reading and take action? Contact Joyful Surroundings LLC for compassionate, creative, and totally nonjudgmental decluttering & organizing services.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. LINDA says:

    Thanks for the book suggestions. The link to Treasures actually goes to Fast and Furious.

    1. Thank you for catching that Linda, I’ve fixed it now.

  2. Monica Chapman says:

    LOVE your columns! Prayers that you are winning against the “cancer crap”! Don Aslett’s books “Clutter’s Last Stand” and “Not for PackRats Only” always motivate me to look for things to get rid of! Funny thing – I’m extremely organized and not a saver – but I’ve always loved books about organizing and clutter! Might find a new idea! Blessings! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Monica, those are two of my favorites too, don’t know how I forgot them! I always think there’s a nugget in there for most books, some new way of looking at things. As far as cancer goes, I’ve had good scans so far and have 2 more rounds of chemo left to complete. It’s been a marathon, but the finish line is in sight now.

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