“Year of No Clutter: A Memoir” by Eve Schaub

I am posting this review as written. I wrote it in chunks as I was reading the book, so hopefully it is not repetitive. I decided to take a different approach while reading. I usually take notes, or make small notes on Goodreads when I post current reading status updates, but this one I typed my updates in small batches.
In reading the description: “From Hoarders to The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the question of what to do with all of our stuff seems to be on everyone’s mind. Eve Schaub’s new memoir is the tale of how one woman organized an entire room in her house that had been overtaken by pointless items. It’s also a deeply inspiring and frequently hilarious examination of why we keep stuff in the first place—and how to let it all go” I knew that as a minimalist myself, I had to request a copy to review.
I reached my own personal “click point” awhile back after doing some serious decluttering. Afterwards, it has all been maintenance basically. My husband and I moved into a cozier apartment (read smaller) and since downsizing more have found that the items we have are the ones we need/enjoy.
In reading the first few chapters, Schaubs’ writing style reminded me of a calmer/less-hyper and more mature Jenny Lawson (Blogger and author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” and “Furiously Happy” respectively).
Much like I often wonder why people post so many selfies and overshare on social media, I was struck with the same feeling while taking in the content. Why would she include so much that makes her look bad? I understand wanting to show the mess before the clean, wanting to paint a picture of the before to contrast with the reveal of after; however I felt she came across as a bit unsanitary to say the least. Kudos to her for her bravery in admitting her problem of this magnitude, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she wound up with DCFS called on her by anyone reading that personally knows her.
If her household conditions, even if only contained to one (the biggest) room in her home were filled with cat urine, dead bugs, mice carcasses how are her two daughters being raised healthy in an environment like that?!
She may be exaggerating of course for humor sake, which would be my hope, but in this culture of oversharing information, I feel she may have wanted to tone it down a bit. This is my personal opinion, so take it or leave it, and I don’t have children myself so who am I to judge? Then again, anyone putting their story out for publication is setting themselves up to be judged in a variety of ways, so I don’t feel too bad for having felt this way while reading at first.
I did enjoy her conversational tone in the telling as she came across more relatable than say Kondo did in her clean-up guide. Although that would be more attributed to the culture of the woman writing than anything else I think. I enjoyed KonMaries’ book immensely. I enjoyed this book overall but for different reasons.
Schaub explains that both of her daughters love crafting and re-purposing items which makes sense since they probably were following after her example.
Once I began to get more accustomed to her writing style, she herself even saying “Please don’t contact DCFS” which I found funny because I realized she knew what readers would probably be thinking(!), and that she had OCD issues that it all started to come together more and I started to enjoy the book.
When the author is describing going into another persons home who was a hoarder as it being akin to a cautionary tale I began to reflect on why it is that the whole hoarding versus minimalism topics were gaining in popularity recently. It is because it wasn’t a problem or issue until fairly recently in the first place.
As she talked of beginning the process of cleaning the “hell room” she was really explaining a sort of catharsis not only for herself but also for her two daughters as they helped and reflected back her two ways of thinking. Her youngest wanted to hold onto more things. Her eldest wanted to let more things go. She was agreeing with both depending on the item. It was an eye-opening read as well as one that made me stop and think about my own relation to the objects in my life post various clean-out/minimalist purges.
I appreciated that she touched upon some psychological and sociological reasons for why people let a mess turn to clutter turn to hoarding. It was fascinating how she connected different pieces to being memory triggers for both her and her dad.
The references she made varied from literary (Homer was touched upon a couple times) to more current pop-culture (TV shows and books, even with Allie Bosch of Hyperbole and a half gets quoted which I thought was fantastic).
When she began to illustrate her weaving class and how she incorporated many of her meaningful clothing pieces and her childrens’ into a new creation he did so in a way that not only was very easy to imagine/picture, but in a way that showed the great care she placed upon these objects in her life.
I won’t give away too much, as spoilers are the bane of many readers’ existences…so I will jump ahead a bit to where the cleaning magic happens. Sparked mostly by, as I’m sure many of us can relate, someone coming to visit. Not just to visit mind you, but to stay for two weeks.
I know that even with my husband and my quaint apartment, anytime we know someone is coming to visit, a cleaning furry begins the likes of which should be assigned a name on par with a force of nature: like hurricane Cleanstorm, or tsunami GetShitDoneMode. You know, something simple like that.
I didn’t know that schools could FORCE families to take part in a foreign exchange program. It is mandatory? They make parents take part? This, among many myriad of reasons, is yet another reason why I am glad I am not a parent. It must have simply been in the area where the authors’ children went to school because I can not wrap my mind around the concept that all schools do this.
Moving on, in sorting through all of her things, and her daughters joining in, (her husband had a lot more in the “hell-room” than he had thought, but he sorted through everything very quickly and was finished while she was still working on it) she realized too that this was not only contained to that room; but spread all through her home. Extra stuff. An abundance. Too much clutter.
The 80s party part was wonderful. The lessons she took away from it as they were being described, I found myself nodding along.
The Art book she had made was a clever solution to the pile of her children’s artwork over the years.
The book doesn’t deviate too much from its premise. Back history is scattered here and there to tie-in to what is being sorted at the time.
I liked this overall and while not ever having had a “hell-room” myself, I don’t have children, and I have never had any of the psychological problems that she experienced, I found I could easily put myself in her shoes due to the conversational tone and way she presented her work. Basically, it is a worthwhile read and easy to relate to even if you aren’t a forty-some-year-old married woman with two daughters. Bravo to her for laying her “dark secret” out in the open that way and being able to work through a problem and show how she did so. I have no doubt that her own wish of being able to help a stubborn person facing the same issues she did will be helped by this book as well.
Quick Facts:
Pages: 320
Paperback
Publisher: SOURCEBOOKS
Expected Release Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs, Nonfiction (Adult)

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