Saturday, February 12, 2011

Unclutter Your Life in One Week: Perhaps if you live in a tiny apartment...

Unclutter Your Life in One Week (Hardcover)Unclutter Your Life in One Week, by Erin Rooney Doland

It's hard to give this kind of book a rating: how can I compare it to the typical fiction and nonfiction books I read?

I like to read an inspiring organizational book occasionally, because it keeps me motivated. This did the trick, although I found the premise of uncluttering and organizing my life in one week to be distracting and downright ANNOYING! The author, who is the editor-in-chief of (a Web site I like very much), even admits that it took her more than one week to unclutter her own life. And at the time, she was living in an apartment! So why does she say one week? One month would have been a tiny bit more realistic, but I like Regina Leeds' much more practical, measured approach by using a whole year for the organizing process. (Okay, no cracks about how my "One Year to an Organized Life" blog has stretched into its third year now--ha!)

Doland approaches the uncluttering process in a similar way to other organizers: room by room, with guidance on what to keep and what to get rid of. In Chapter 1, she provides a list of "Questions for Items Already in Your Home" and "Questions to Ask Before You Buy," which I've already found helpful in the past few days of uncluttering (or decluttering). She also provides lists of what to do in the spring and fall. Much of the guidance she provides is not new for me, but as I said, it's always good to read these types of books to get me off my butt!

Some of the tactics are not practical for my own family...for example, the laundry schedule she proposes:

Monday: Launder all the sheets from the beds
Tuesday: Launder children's clothing
Wednesday: Launder adults' clothing
Thursday: Launder towels
Friday: Launder children's clothing
Saturday: Launder adults' clothing
Sunday: Rest

If we had separate laundry hampers for every room, I can see how this approach would make sense. But we have a laundry chute (reduces clutter in theory!), so dividing up the clothing into various age groups and towels, sheets, would be a pain in the neck and not helpful in any way. And even with five people in my family, I don't particularly want to run the washing machine six days a week.

Here's one thing I discovered from this book: higher-thread count sheets are usually a waste of money. According to Consumer Reports, "Pick a sheet between 200 and 400 thread count. Paying more for higher thread count is wasting money." I found this out when I ordered some expensive, higher-thread count sheets from (they were a good deal, but supposedly a great bargain). Not long after we got them, they started pilling....not what I expect from high-quality sheets!

Doland also gives lots of advice about organizing your workplace, your work style, and your approaches to communication. Here are some good ones about e-mail:

Cure your e-mail addiction: Check it only once or twice an hour--don't feel compelled to check it constantly. Most of the e-mails you get are not going to be urgent.

Kill the notifications: Turn off the notification that a new message has arrived, and check your e-mail at regularly scheduled times when you need to be focusing on another task.

Know that the fewer you send, the fewer you will receive. Find alternative ways to talk to your clients and coworkers to cut down on e-mail traffic.

Make it short and sweet. When you send short e-mails, you're more likely to get a short one in return. Doland said that Kevin Rose, founder of, is rumored to write "Sent from mobile phone" at the bottom of his e-mails, even ones he sends from his computer.

Keep it out of the news. Before you send any e-mail, ask yourself how you would feel if your message ended up on the front page of a national newspaper. (This is one of the tenets one of my company founders wrote about in the early days of our firm, and even though I do not always remember to follow it, it's a good one!) Who hasn't had the experience of someone else forwarding our e-mail unintentionally or without reading the whole content?

Another recommendation she makes is to blind copy a large group of people, to eliminate people's tendency to reply all (one of my major pet peeves at work!). The challenge I would have in implementing this is that people often want to know who else got the message, so they can figure out if they need to forward it or not. I also find saying "do not reply all" to work, although it's tiresome to have to say it!

Doland also offers some good suggestions on how to say no politely in the workplace:
  • Treat the request with respect.
  • Express appreciation that the person thought you would be qualified to fulfill the request
  • Communicate alternatives, such as a different date or a different person to help
  • Don't leave room for negotiation; state the facts and be firm
Moving back to the house (the book goes back and forth from home to workplace--not sure that format is ideal, really, but she's proposing that all this stuff gets done in 1 week, remember? I'm not sure how any real work is supposed to get done during that time...).

She also advises that people take a full inventory of everything in their house and store the data securely online. This should be a goal for us, as friends lost their home in a fire a little over a year ago...and they lost nearly everything.

Another thing I'm considering is purchasing a photo scanner so I can scan many of our photos (not to mention receipts and other paperwork). Then I wouldn't have to keep all of them in storage. I have boxes and albums of photos from the many years before the digital camera age.

Getting back to the week premise (the subtitle is "A 7-day Plan to Organize Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life!")...another unrealistic thing about this book is that it's patently clear the author does not have children. I would say that 80 percent of the clutter in my home comes from my children. Yes, clearly, I have not raised them well enough to clean up after themselves! But having kids just means more clutter. So does more people in the house. Isn't it fascinating that most of the authors of these organizing books do not have children at home? I'm now going to hunt for an organizational and decluttering book for families! I'm sure there has to be one out there. And I don't want one written by an OCD, organizational overachiever, but a practical, focused-on-parenting-and-not-just-a-clean-house parent.

In summary, this book had some helpful hints and some inspiration for continuing my efforts to simplify my life. But the one-week idea is purely ridiculous.

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