Year of No Clutter

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Thank You to Sourcebooks for providing me with an advanced copy of Eve O. Schaub’s memoir, Year of No Clutter, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT– Having previously written a book where her family eliminated added sugar for a year, Schaub is back, with a challenge to give herself a year to master the clutter in her home. It’s more than just clutter, Schaub has one room in particular, that has been dubbed the “Hell Room”, which has turned into something out of an episode of Hoarders. Can Schaub and her family fix the “Hell Room” and get to the root of their clutter problem? In modern society, is it possible to live clutter-free?

LIKE – My mom was a highly organized person, who did not keep more than was necessary, however, after she died, I found some unusual examples of hoarding. She was a single woman, who didn’t cook, yet she had about thirty boxes of Saran wrap in a pantry. In the pantry, I found stock-piles of tin foil, AA batteries, and unopened boxes of playing cards. No clue why she amassed such quantities of these specific items. I wish I could have asked her! None of this of course was a huge deal, but it was weird. Schaub mentions dealing with death, and wondering what your possessions will say about you, when you’re gone. Thinking about this topic fascinates and worries me.

Year of No Clutter does not contain photographic evidence, however, Schaub’s home in no-way sounds like a hoarding situation. She does visit the house of a deceased hoarder, who was a friend of a friend. Schaub wore a mask, as she carefully waded through the mounds of trash, accumulated over many years. This made me think of an experience I had a decade ago, cleaning out the apartment of the daughter of my mom’s friend, who had died. This apartment was just on the edge of hoarder status, certainly a situation where the clutter was out of control. The job was so massive, that we ended up searching for anything of value, and then calling a company to do the clearing out. I was stunned by the enormity of it all.

Schaub writes about the accumulation of clutter, and how things as innocent as a birthday present, contribute to a growing mess. Schaub has a friend who sent out an email asking her friends and family to stop giving her gifts. She had everything she need. Schaub’s friend quickly learned that this was easier said than done; our culture shows love and appreciation through gifts. Her loved ones could not comply. I connected with this sentiment and I imagine most readers would agree that the own stuff that they simply don’t need or even want. The stuff is a burden and because it was a gift, they are even more torn over removing it from their home. Schaub makes many references to organization guru, Marie Kondo, who has a rule about only keeping objects that bring you joy. Unfortunately in Schaub’s case, she manages to “find joy” in what most people would consider to be junk. Junk, or maybe just gross, like when she decides to keep a dead mouse in a box.

DISLIKE– Although I found Year of No Clutter to be relatable and even inspirational, it lacked a sense of intensity or urgency. A year is a long time to spread out this type of project and there were no consequences for failure, other than a home with clutter. To this end, I found myself losing interest and wondering if the concept warranted a full book treatment. I think a more appropriate venue for her story would have been a lengthy magazine feature, hitting the highlights of her experiment. In book form, it lost steam.

RECOMMEND– Maybe. Schaub is funny and likable, as is her family, and Year of No Clutter is going to be relatable for many readers. Although I found myself skimming her memoir I think it would provide inspiration to many readers. Clutter is certainly a problem that plagues many people.

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