Wednesday, August 27, 2008

book review: Stop Clutter From Stealing Your Life by Mike Nelson

Title: Stop Clutter From Stealing Your Life -- Discover Why You Clutter and How You Can Stop
Author: Mike Nelson
New Page Books; Revised edition (March 1, 2008), Paperback, 256 pages
ISBN-10: 1601630085

Stop Clutter from Stealing Your Life
-- Discover Why You Clutter and How You Can Stop (2008 edition) is not just another book about ways to pare down and organize your stuff. Author Mike Nelson states in his introduction,

“This book is about more than just decluttering. It’s about balance … It’s about not having to buy more and more stuff to fill a hole in our souls. It’s about learning what’s really important in our lives and not using stuff to hide from life.”

In the twenty chapters that follow, Nelson delivers on the promised insights. In easy-to-understand prose and a voice that is both helpful and encouraging he tackles topics like what is a clutterer, common traits of clutterers, reasons people clutter, medical and mental aspects of cluttering and hoarding, and many more. He supports his persuasive views with numerous examples and stories, including his own.

Appendices explaining the use of a decluttering diary, a list of affirmations, a bibliography of resources (books, websites, organizations and professionals in the field), and an index follow the main body of the book.

Several things make this a valuable resource for clutterers and those who love them. The book’s central message, that cluttering and hoarding are only manifestations of deeper emotional and spiritual issues is a slant that was new to me. Nelson not only shows how that angle makes sense but supports his thesis with a multitude of stories and case studies gained from therapists and organizers as well as his own experiences first as a clutterer and then a clutter-buster.

Through these anecdotes I began to understand cluttering’s complexity and why it is so difficult to overcome. The multi-pronged approach he advises (self-help groups, getting medical help, tapping in to spiritual resources,* etc.) seems realistic. I also like the courtesy and sensitivity Nelson advises and models when dealing with cluttering family members and friends. Needless to say, he is not in favor of the heavy-handed, TV ratings-imposed tactics used by clutter and hoarding reality shows.

Wherever you fit in to Nelson’s clutterer continuum from mildly disorganized to pathological hoarder, you’ll find something of help and interest in this book. The chapter “Forty Ways to Leave Your Clutter” alone makes it worthwhile. If cluttering is not your problem, get Stop Clutter From Stealing Your Life for its advice on how to deal with cluttering parents, teenage children and business partners. This book will help you understand how clutter is a lot like an iceberg. What you see may indicate that under the surface there’s a lot more to deal with than simple laziness and disorganization.

*Some personal reflection about Stop Clutter

The central message of this book supports the fact that we are spiritual beings with deep-seated hungers. It gives many examples of what happens when we feed those hungers with what can never really satisfy (in the book 'things' but people also use drugs, food, sex, work, gambling etc. etc.)

Nelson suggests that using spiritual beliefs is one way to get over the need for things. His chapter on this was interesting, but pretty weak, in that he equated all religions as equal.

I would go much further and say it's the only thing that will finally work-- if our religious beliefs are grounded in truth. It's only as we recognize that hole inside as a hunger for God and give ourselves to Him (by trusting in Jesus to save us and living our lives for Him) that our gnawing hungers will be satisfied.

This book reminded me of two Bible passages. Both are Jesus speaking -- first about thirst:

"Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." - John 4:13,14

and then about hunger:

"I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst." - John 6:35


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