Top critical review
165 people found this helpful
My thoughts on a simplistic organizing book
on June 20, 2012
This book has some minor advantages over a few others on the market, but several large disadvantages. I have read & reviewed many an organizing book here on Amazon. It's a passion of mine to read these books. I was not born organized- just the opposite. I have to work hard to maintain a clean, neat home- but it's definitely a very big ongoing goal of mine to keep it that way. I put a lot of time & money into improving my home, to share my perspective with you right from the get-go. While many consider me a born housekeeper in my own circle, I actually have to put a lot of study & thought into the subject. I will always give an author credit where credit is due. If I learn something from someone, trust me, I will say it right out loud that they taught it to me. But I can honestly say that I learned nothing new in this book, which sort of astounded me.
The actual layout of the book is very alluring. The fact that the author separates how to get organized in a week-by-week format is surprisingly innovative. It works well with a logical person's brain, and is a great jumping-off point for the modern busy person. So kudos to the author for that. If her content was as brilliant as her layout, this would most definitely be a five-star book. The color & style used throughout the book is also really nice, very colorful but not obnoxious. I would think women readers especially would be drawn in by that. But the content within is so minimal, so devoid of depth & so haphazardly thrown together that I debated on giving this one star instead of two. However...because just reading the table of contents & deciding to apply the title of the chapters week-by-week could inspire you to conquer particular issues week-by-week, I will give her the second star. To give you an example of what I mean, let's say the room we're focusing on is the kitchen this month- you would clean out your recipe files one week, de-clutter your pantry of expired items the next, then sort through your flatware the third, and so on. But she doesn't go into many details. For those who are relatively "together" already, have a good knowledge of organizing tools under their belt, reside in a home with decent storage space & own items that function well for your life already, you can probably take this book & hit the ground running. But I would definitely not want to hand this to the household-clueless & send them on their way. There is much more to organizing & housekeeping than throwing old items out & separating spoons from forks in a drawer!
She does address keeping Facebook, Twitter, digital images & email simplified. This is rarely addressed in books on organizing for some reason, so I'll give the author some credit for that here. Technology organizing would seem to be her strong suit. But her kitchen organizing? Oy vey...Her timelines are absolutely NUTS by even the most lazy housekeeper's standards. She actually gives the instruction to clear the kitchen countertops of crumbs once a month (no, that isn't a typo on my part) as well as to only disinfect the kitchen sink & clean the toaster oven of crumbs once every three to six MONTHS! Even a takeout food junkie who hardly turns on their kitchen's overhead light has to disinfect their sink more often than that. I can only wish that I was kidding here, believe me. Unless you're looking to raise the local rodent population to new heights, please, please don't heed her advice in this arena. There are many more hair-raising errors or omissions that I'm surprised the author's editor didn't notice, if no one else, especially considering that this was a REVISED edition!
The author is very sweet, doesn't make any comments that one could find intimidating or smacking of a reprimand, and avoids writing anything of a controversial nature- as an example, she doesn't talk about the damage done to family dynamics by hoarding behavior. Some authors are hardcore in this regard (Jeff Campbell is one), and some are hand-holders (Julie Morgenstern, for example). Jennifer Ford Berry would most definitely fall into the latter category. This is not a book that will get to root issues of deep hoarding, paper clutter piles or poor housekeeping. You're not going to get much info here about solving organizing problems permanently. If you are chronically disorganized- which is an actual condition- I don't think that this book would help a lot. If you're looking for a way to devise the perfect filing system or organize your pantry to look like Ina Garten's, forget about finding out how to do that in this book. The book is made up of very brief chapters for each week, more like what you'd expect to read in a "Real Simple" article or a blog- not in a serious book on organizing. Decorating help? Zilch. Step-by-step cleaning instructions? Nil. Gaining knowledge about organizing tools available for various storage needs? Almost unheard of here. Again, in a book about organizing NOW, one would at least expect that these subjects would be touched on. They aren't. Rather, what's here is a collection of tips, most of which have been said many times before by many other authors. So while the layout of the book is unique, rational & appealing, the content within it is often extremely lacking.
Even as a minimalist, I had to scratch my head at a few more of her suggestions. She advised to keep paid medical bills for only three years. (She gives no reason for stating this timeframe, so you as a reader have no facts to base this info on.) I'm sorry to contradict her yet again, but as a person who has worked in both the credit card industry & for a health insurance company, I must advise that you need to keep them for approximately ten years from the date you paid. The reason I say this is because allegedly-unpaid doctors & facilities will send these bills on to collections or worse, even placing a lien on property in extreme situations. The customer will usually have absolutely no idea that this bill is even on their credit report until they go to apply for a mortgage or a personal loan. Ten years is quite often the statute of limitations for credit report agencies to keep these charges "on the books", so I highly recommend that you at least make sure you keep your cancelled check with the account number on it related to the paid bill for a decade. It varies by state law, but at minimum the timeframe is seven years- err on the side of caution, though. Liens against personal property are no joke, and they can come about from what was initially a fairly small bill. Many a mortgage-signing or other imperative financial move has had to be postponed due to crises like this. It is a very real cautionary tale that I never knew of until I worked in the business world. It is akin to the rule of keeping your tax papers for seven years- it's for your own protection. However, assuming that you've set up a file cabinet with a file folder for your financial papers & you've marked your bills by the month + year when they were paid, you should be able to find them easily if needed AND you'll still help minimize paper clutter. Remember that paper is only clutter if it's something that'll never again need to be referred to & isn't filed properly.
I also dislike that she writes with the complete assumption that you have & live with a family, and completely ignores those of us who don't. She tells you to write out a list of all the chores that need to be done in your house, then advises you to split these chores up amongst family members. Some of us live alone, with aging or disabled parents, a significant other who travels or otherwise can't/won't help out, have very small and/or severely disabled children who can't do housework. A decent author would at least acknowledge that some of us are solely responsible for all of the work in a household & can't delegate it. It's not enough for me to get offended over, but the author's incredibly shortsighted.
A common attitude amongst professional organizers is, "Don't give away all of your tips to your clients, or they won't need you!" While I do understand that most people can't afford to spend their lives giving away free advice, people ARE paying to read this book! I cannot say for certain that the author felt that way when writing this book, but I have a sneaking suspicion that most people who are in the organizing business for money just hold their "secrets" close to the vest out of fear. This attitude, though, keeps others from soaring to their greatest heights. If you're a teacher, you must be willing to share all of the knowledge you have with those who want to learn. Maybe I'm wrong about the author- it could be that she herself doesn't have to expertise to tackle a professional organizing task the way that, say, someone like Linda Koopersmith could. Every organizer has different clientele, different aptitudes & different areas of focus. If you want a little motivation, quick sound-bites & a rah-rah approach to getting somewhat more organized, this book will probably suit you fine. If you're ready to tear your hair out because no one ever taught you to clean correctly, you walk into a store full of organizing products & feel immediately overwhelmed or don't even know what a truly functional purse looks like for yourself- you need a book with deeper material than this. My feeling is that if you feed a man a fish, you only feed him today. If you teach him how to fish, he'll be fed for the rest of his life, and his own confidence in himself will be far greater for this knowledge. He will then be able to pass on the knowledge to others, and the circle of wisdom grows into a community over time. This is how great educational institutions, businesses, homes & political movements are built. If a client's hired you as a professional organizer, or if a reader has bought your book on the subject, then you owe them the whole story on the topic. But don't expect by a long shot to receive the instructions for how to piece together your most difficult organizing puzzles in this book.