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It seems ironic that I grew up in a home where everything was "cleared out" and "redecorated" so often that I never got to keep trophies, my highschool yearbooks, or anything else that might be deemed "clutterworthy". (**cue violins**)While I still clean out cabinets and closets often as per my "upbringing", I am not clutter-free. To the contrary, many rooms--especially work areas like my office seem to never be free of clutter.

Rather, they are full of it.

The author immediately opens with full nuggets of inspiration on a subject I thought I'd have to push myself to want to read. (Afterall, I blame my clutterdom on lack of time to fix it anyway.) I love this paragraph for example, that sums up so much:

"Clutter comes from our behavior. We shop. We keep gifts out of respect and affection for the giver. We cling to old organizing habits in spite of life changes that would be better served by new organizing techniques. We hang onto stuff because we "paid good money for it," or it still has some "life in it," or it "could" still be "useful" or just because we "should." We put weeding out and oraganizing low on our priority list. And after a while, we find ourselves buried in our clutter."

Bullseye, baby.

It's funny that I am clutter-free in many areas then in others like my work spaces and studio are surrounded with TOO much...so is my garage...cabinets...

Yes, it was time to herd my shopping habits, change my mental outlook, and learn the phrase "minimalism". HA! That will never happen...but I can at least deal with the clutter.

And, I'll be totally honest, whether this is a gift for someone who attaches sentimentality to objects rather than memories and clutters their life because of it, or for yourself to motivate change, I can't imagine anything more motivational.

The author lists methods for creating change, making it stick, learning why it happened in the first place, and splices all of the above with wit, intelligence on the subject, and inspiration to make the change.

There is NO doctrine of what you must do...instead, there are many suggestions and, as the author states, "readers are invited to pick and choose what works for them. There is no single right way to get rid of clutter!"

It's kind of like telling someone how to lose weight...there may be many different methods, but you have to find the one that inspires you. This book, in my opinion, offers you all the tools--you pick and choose the one or many that change your life.

So did it?

Yeppers. You'd freak if you opened up my bathroom cabinets now (should you come to my home for a party and do the "peek" that you know your guests do when the door is locked in order to see what's behind the doors like I saw on Candid Camera)...labeled containers, no more scores of old lotions or samples I'll never use. Enter my work areas...shelving, no piles of anything like papers or bills, everything is filed.

In fact, you could do a white glove test throughout my home and make my momma proud it's so dang clean now.

Oddly, I blamed my own lack of organization on my busy schedule and lack of time. However, it amazes me that once I prioritized this task and made time for organizing my entire home, I have MORE time. I mean, like crazy more time these past few days. And less stress.

Who knew? There is a place for everything and no tasks left half done.

And there are also people at the women's shelter rejoicing in boxes of items that I felt others would need more than I did...and 3 bags of shoes went to Haiti.

I haven't missed one of them.

Win/Win
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on December 10, 2009
Martha Stewart she is not. Ms. Tako wraps "gems" of simplicity in Maxine-like humor.

She admits her weakness for saving and being sentimental over things, and yet she finds quick and easy ways to deal with clutter. She even admits to being lazy, but getting rid of clutter allows time to do the important and fun things in life.

I avoid home-improvement shows because I feel like I should get off my butt and do whatever they are doing. It is overwhelming. Tako takes the guilt out of it. Nothing has to be done all at once; I can do it at my own pace and when I feel like it. The short chapter format helps me find what I want quickly. Her topics range the gamut from underwear, yard work, travel, and diet.

This book is not about a chore to do; it is how to treat yourself to the time you deserve.
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I was contacted by Barbara Tako asking if I would be interested in reading and reviewing her book Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home & Reclaim Your Life. Being someone who is continually plagued by the clutter bug (both my own and my kids'), I was of course interested. I'll admit I was expecting some type of methodology on how to eliminate clutter, but that's not what this is. Instead, it is a realistic view on how clutter affects your life and how "fixing" it is not as easy or as quick as experts might lead you to believe. She also has a definition of clutter than went beyond what I normally think, and that single idea was worth the reading by itself for me.

Tako's book reads more like a journal of one person's effort over the course of a year to declutter her life. She divides up the material into four "seasons": Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. As you might expect, certain seasons have different clutter challenges. Winter has New Year's resolutions which often involve cleaning up areas of your life. There's also cleaning up the air in your house (less stagnant), learning to live with less, and (if you have kids) cleaning up the massive numbers of toys that aren't played with on a regular basis. Spring gets into the traditional "spring cleaning", how to more easily maintain a clean home, and even decluttering your diet to eat more healthy. Summer moves to the outside realm, with yard clutter, kitchen organization, and family vacations. There's also the focus on decluttering your schedule (especially with kids) so you can focus on stuff that is important, rather than just being "busy." Finally, fall moves into organization for the upcoming holidays, as well as cleaning up paperwork and other areas that need to be in shape before the winter season keeps you locked up in the house.

Because Tako writes in a very personal manner, you don't get the impression that she's an expert who has it all together. In fact, it's just the opposite... she admits where she struggles, and what areas seem to defy organization for her after repeated attempts. And because it's not a methodology she's pushing, it's not as if you have to wonder if this works in real life. Not all of her chapters seem to touch on clutter as you normally think of it. For instance, cooking simple meals and deciding what you're going to have for dinner by 8 am that day doesn't seem like a "clutter" issue. But doing this can reduce stress and guilt over food prep and choices, and less stress can lead to less clutter...

One aspect of clutter that she *does* touch on which impacted me was life clutter. Decluttering your life might mean getting an exercise and diet program in place to remove the "clutter" of extra weight and lethargy. It might mean ending certain relationships that are sucking up too much time and energy for what you get back from them. Or it could mean addressing a certain mindset that places roadblocks in your way, stopping you from moving forward. Viewing those things as "clutter" is something I've not done before, and it gives me a different perspective and slant on getting solutions and fixes in place to clean them out.

If you're expecting a "steps 1, 2, and 3" approach in Clutter Clearing Choices, you might be disappointed. But if you want to see someone who is trying to fix the problem herself and is open to sharing the struggles, this book works very well.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Author
Payment: Free
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This book is organised by season: winter; spring; summer and fall (autumn). Winter coincides with New Year in the northern hemisphere, so those of us in the southern hemisphere filled with resolve to attack clutter as part of a new year resolution will be doing so in the heat of summer. This may change the order in which you apply what you read in this book, but no matter which season you start in there are plenty of practical suggestions to follow.
Before you start, it's worth considering what clutter is. In Ms Tako's definition, clutter is anything that is no longer helpful. Clutter can be feelings, relationships and stuff.

`Clutter is basically an accumulation of unmade or postponed decisions.

Keeping this definition in mind, and reading through the chapters to recognise and assess the clutter challenges of each season and assessing what is appropriate to you and your lifestyle is a great experience. Perhaps you, like me, have books and other items stored for `a rainy day'. I can confidently predict that unless I live for another 100 years fully of `rainy days' I am unlikely to read (or reread) all of the books I have stored and complete all of the craft projects I have acquired. Many of these items will be useful to others, though, and I can liberate them.

This book is not a prescriptive list of steps to follow. By sharing her own clutter challenges with us, Ms Tako humanises the process of de-cluttering. I was already on the path of rationalising what I own and where (and how) I store it. Ms Tako's book provides both reinforcement and encouragement. I am inspired!

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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I am looking at 4 cannisters from the cat litter that are in the garage currently. They are empty and I know I'm going to hear "But they are great--we can put stuff in them!" No. If they needed stuff in them, they'd HAVE stuff in them. So I am going to put them in the trash. Likewise looking at my office, I have seven duplicate tubes of paint I am pretty sure I won't be using. Time to destash my art supplies. And not buy more.

It's all about choices. The author Barbara Tako delves into the mindset behind clutter, hanging on to stuff or accumulating stuff for emotional reasons. She gives useful mantras: "Saving stuff won't save the memories. I an journal or use a photo album instead." and "The less stuff I have, the more I can concentrate on the IMPORTANT stuff."

This is a very good book, different than most clutter books. Not only are there how-to instructions, there are basic philosophical ideas to get your mind around clutter-free living. Having lived with family members who left burdens on others of clutter (and it isn't fun sorting the valuable from the worthless) to the same tendency in myself, this book is a sort of life raft. Very helpful on all kinds of levels.
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Where other clutter books are divided up by topics - the garage, the kitchen, and so on - Barbara Tako's book "Clutter Clearing Choices" is divided up by season. You have your spring, summer, fall, and winter chapters - and then you get a special area on Christmas.

This set of topics will make sense for you if you're the type of person to go back and re-read a book several times over a year. That was as fall approaches you can read the Fall section, and re-set yourself for taking on the challenges of fall. However, it can be a bit off-putting if you're the type to sit down and read your way through a book. Yes, if you're reading it in spring the spring section will be helpful - but then the entire remaining 3/4 of the book will talk about things which don't help you much at all. Also, as you might imagine, things that end up in "summer" might apply to other seasons as well, in a more generic way. So if you try to focus on reading Fall items in the Fall season, you could easily miss out on some great tips in Spring that could apply to you too.

So this leaves you re-reading the entire book every season and having to skim large parts of it. I'm just not sure I'm keen on the layout of the book for these reasons.

Another issue hits me right away. In Chapter 1, you have 2.5 pages, and in that content she's already recommended 3 other books for you to buy plus 2 websites for you to go read. If you're trying to relax and read this book curled up in your favorite chair, it feels like you need a notebook at your side and a credit-card, to build up your giant library of content. It frustrates me when you are reading a book to learn something and they say "Here's step 1 but to get the rest of the story, make sure you go out and buy book Z." I bought THIS book because I wanted to learn the solutions.

And then - really, I was enthusiastic about reading this book, but it was amazing how the issues hit me one after another - Barbara is talking about setting up a weight goal for herself, and her reward was going to be GOING OUT TO EAT. Even she admits it's an inane idea - but then why do it? Why promote it? Food should NEVER be a reward. That sets people up for all sorts of grief. Food should be a normal, wonderful part of your daily life that you do not use either as a reward or a punishment. Use a trip to the theater as a reward, or buying yourself a new iPod. Do NOT use food as as reward.

Just when I was pleading internally for me not to hit another hurdle, she talks about throwing away clothes you're not wearing any more. Talk about nailing one of my pet peeves. NO fabric or clothes should ever be thrown away. Even stained and ripped clothes get re-used as quilts and rags in developing countries. Never, ever throw fabric of any kind into the waste stream. Donate ALL of it for reuse.

I was almost afraid to turn pages at this point, but I seemed to have reached a calm area. The book really does have a lot of wonderful information in here. Sort through every commonly used area - front closets, top drawers - and make sure the items in there ARE used frequently. Put little-used items in back storage. The more you do this sort of sorting, the easier your life will be. Be persistent in working on issues. It can take a couple of tries to get something right. Develop relationships with people who support and nurture you, who believe in your goals and help you reach them. Keep lists of your goals, and work steadily towards them. Even if you do just ONE tiny change every week, they add up. Work on those little steps. If it's a challenging type of change, like eating more veggies, keep at it for at least three weeks. Sometimes it can take a little while for a change to "stick". Give yourself leeway for slips, and keep plugging at it. Soon it will become a part of your life.

Decorate your world with items you LOVE. If it's something a family member gave you, take a photo of it and then donate it. Your personal world is about you. If you have it for other reasons - you liked it 20 years ago, it was historical, it was expensive, etc. - take photos of it then donate it. Someone else will adore it, and you'll have the images to enjoy.

Even if you're happy with your world, think about tweaking it every few months. If you have a favorite photo on the wall and it is there for 20 years, you no longer notice it. It's just a fade-in-the-background part of your scenery. If you swap it out every 6 months with another photo, then it becomes new and interesting.

When you're organizing, keep like things together. Put all light bulbs in one shelf. Put all pencils in one drawer. It greatly reduces your "hunting" time.

Do you love garage sales? These just add to your clutter and junk. Only take things if you absolutely need them or plan on selling them quickly for money.

I do like how she says that clutter ties up your life - clearing clutter frees up your time and emotions for new opportunities. Make sure you have laid out your priorities in life - spiritual, relationships, career - whatever they are. Focus on them, and release any other clutter items. Put your time, energy and space into your passions.

I enjoy her rule of "one in, one out". If you take something new into the house, do a cleaning and donate something to a charity. Keep the balance in your home.

When you're cleaning a given room, have three boxes there. One for charity, one for trash, and one for "things to go elsewhere". Do NOT actually bring items out to other rooms while cleaning. If you do, you're likely to get distracted and not finish your current task. I would say strongly here that you also need a box for "recycling". You should throw away as LITTLE as possible. Only items which absolutely have no other option should be thrown away.

If you have special items stored away in boxes, find a way to display them. They do nobody any good hidden away. If you really feel you'll never display them, take lots of photos of them and then sell them or give them away. Let them be somewhere that they're used and loved.

To summarize, there was a LOT of great content in this book. It just is very poorly organized. It's nearly impossible, if you remember that there was a great chapter on dealing with "draining relationships", to find it again. Would that be a spring topic or a fall one? If you remember she talked about asking for help with your cleaning tasks, would that be found in winter? Maybe that's summer? There were also some rather questionable tips mixed in with the great ones. Finally there were WAY too many promos for other books and websites you should go off and use. It was almost like being in a link farm.

So I would recommend getting this from the library, reading it through once, and knowing that you should take notes during that read. Organize the notes yourself in a logical way. That way you can use them in an easier way going forward.
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on December 10, 2009
If you are looking to organize your home and your life ... and the task seems overwhelming (which it does for me), this book is a really great one to get you motivated and to give you many different ideas of how to start. Barbara has a wonderful sense of humor, which comes out in each section, and helped me to make this task more fun. I enjoyed how she broke the book out by the seasons - helping me to turn to those clutter problems that come along with each one. For example, winter issues from extra clothing to winter cooking. Each season had fun (and funny) useful ideas that can help un-clutter and organize everyone in the family. She also mentions great resources, such as cookbooks to how to locate charitable organizations. I especially enjoyed that she encourages a new way to live your life - by simplifying and prioritizing what you really value in life - and then she gives you ideas of how to carry out a plan to give you more time to do what matters most to you. I highly recommend this book, for yourself or as a gift- to get anyone started on the journey of simplifying their lives and un-cluttering their homes.
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on December 9, 2009
This is a great way to approach clutter clearing. The book made me laugh AND motivated me to DO something. The author gave me a variety of ways to approach clearing my clutter -- not just one method. I can choose what I want to tackle and when, and the best method for me. I have been following the author through her columns in the local paper, a neighborhood newspaper, and an online newsletter. One of the techniques that she has mentioned in her articles and in the book, that I use now all the time, is timing myself when I do a task I hate. Removing clean dishes from the dishwasher and putting them away only takes me about 5 minutes. Now when I consider the dreaded task, I say "it only takes 5 minutes" and I get it done, well, at least most days. Whew! See page 199 (Fall Section: Chapter 2) for that and other time management ideas.

The book covers a variety of clutter -- from objects to paper to time management, all in a nonjudgmental way. The book approaches clutter clearing in ways that I had not thought of. Approaching clutter clearing as a way to give it to someone else who could really use it, or so that I have more time for myself, were both really motivating approaches for me. The tips and resources at the end of the book were also valuable.
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on December 12, 2009
I'm in the hospitality business and as I've applied the ideas put forward by the author, my guest, my family and I have enjoyed the benefits!

One of the benefits that I have gained from Takos' ideas is the time to coach. I have shared her emotional "de-cluttering" philosophy with some of the kids I have the privilege of working with. They play better and live better without the additional baggage!

Now, if I only had the courage to apply it in my garage!!!!

Well done!
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In this book, Tako defines clutter as anything we have too much of, whether that's stuff, obligations or weight. Sprinkled throughout her book is the notion that it's not enough to organize our clutter or even to throw it away. We have to examine where, figuratively, the clutter comes from.

We also have to acknowledge that if we want to eliminate clutter we have to maintain our lives on a regular schedule; the laundry can't just be done when we realize we don't have anything to wear, and the house can't be cleaned only at those times when we realize that we have company coming over. We may not need a system, but we do need a schedule.

I like these sentiments. However, the book seemed to have a split identity. On the one hand were practical tips for clearing up clutter and useful advice from Tako's mother-in-law, who apparently was nominated for a well-kept home award years ago. This is much of what you might see in other books, but she doesn't belabor the details, which makes what she says seem more approachable. On the other hand, when she writes about managing Thanksgiving and Christmas, she seems unable to take her own advice about keeping the holidays in line with her feelings about clutter. Those events may be smaller now, but still not small enough. We know this because she talks about how she struggles with the feeling that the walls are closing in.

I had trouble relating to a lot of what she wrote. I felt her audience was a certain kind of person: somewhat affluent (or at least willing to spend that way) who was willing to spend money on professional organizers, The Container Store, and a bunch of other resources she lists. Tako also lists numerous other books and references. While I appreciate a thorough bibliography, at one point she listed on many books in her text that I felt like I wasn't reading a useful reference in and of itself but a survey of everything else out there.

So why four stars? Because some of what she wrote, particularly about the need to schedule, was very useful. And also because after I read the book I was motivated to finally donate the boxes and bags of books and used clothing I'd been meaning to get rid of for two months.

Perfect? No. Useful? Yes.
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