Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Clutter Free (Book Review)

Clutter Free: Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying Your Space
by Kathi Lipp
Harvest House Publishers, 2015

Probably the worst time to read a decluttering book is the middle of December, and the worst place to do it is in your living room or wherever you put the majority of your Christmas decorations. Christmas, even if we don't buy lots of Stuff, is still, often, about Stuff. For our family, Stuff is the vintage collectibles that are part of our daily life, and the extra helping of them that we bring out at the holidays. Stuff is the extra Crockpot that we picked up at a yard sale in the summer, that is the same vintage and type as ours but looks nicer. We don't buy backups of every appliance (no extra toaster ovens sitting around), but we do pick up Crockpots. Stuff is the gifts that we will give each other, new or used. It's the four-pack of sticky tape I grabbed at Walmart (although I didn't buy any new giftwrap, and our stickers and cards came mostly from yard sales and charitable freebies). It's the several packages of variously-flavoured baking chips and two cans of Eagle Brand milk in the pantry; they're there, and we're going to use them. It's pretty hard to have Christmas without any extra Stuff. (I'll stop with the George Carlin intonation now.)

That said, I don't exactly identify with the shop-o-manic reader Kathi Lipp often seems to be addressing in this book. If you don't regularly go crazy at warehouse stores, or if you don't understand why she buys duplicates of things she already has at home, you may wonder what she has to say that you don't already know. 

Like the Bob Newhart "Stop It" skit she describes near the beginning, the real answer to clutter is "Don't do that." If something's going to cause financial or space problems, or otherwise make a mess of things, the sanest response is just not to do it. However, human beings don't always act sanely, and you may find yourself coping with your own or somebody else's past or present clutter problems. Lipp, being a Christian writer, would also point out that bad stewardship is a form of disobedience (and can include covetousness, dishonesty, and stealing), and that the hoarding of Stuff, which we might justify by calling it prudence, is not God's best for us. I appreciated her thought that simplicity is not all about "one size fits all." For instance, she has no problem with keeping a certain number of physical books around (whereas some clutter guides will happily assume that everything one wants to read can be gotten from the library). Lipp sees value in cultivating her interest and skill in cooking, and therefore spends time and space on that; on the other hand, as a poor seamstress, she has little use for a sewing machine. The takeaway I get from her book, rather than Newhart's stern "Stop It," is a gentler "It's Okay." It's okay to let go. It's okay not to let sharp advertising pull your dollars in the wrong direction. It's okay to say you're already okay (and don't need more).

If you need an "It's Okay" to help get things back on track, Clutter Free may speak to your heart.


Anonymous said...

This book sounds interesting. I'll read it if it comes in a Kindle format. I find that the less stuff I have, and the fewer choices I have to make, the happier I am. I am even ready to declutter my garden!

Mama Squirrel said...

I read it for free by downloading it through the public library (on Overdrive).