Book Reviews 1/25

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 11.07.09 PM51ItyE+LPZLThe Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is not the first book I’ve read on the subject of home organization (not even close), but I am still holding out hope that it may be my last.

The author claims that even the most messy and disorganized people can have a clean and comfortable home if they follow her method. Whereas most guides warn against trying to clean in one go and encourage you to tackle one room at a time or throw out one item a week, this author advocates a whirlwind of declutterization (is that a word?) where you rip the band aid off all at once. The reason people always rebound to a state of messiness, she says, is because they aren’t addressing the root problem. By doing a big clean (and a lot of discarding), you’ll be able to maintain your new peaceful abode like you never have before. Rather than focusing on what to throw away, she encourages a zen mindset of keeping only “what sparks joy.”

Some parts of the book are much too animistic for me, but they provide a fascinating glimpse into the author’s culture. She is so encouraging to people like myself who have secretly given up on the dream of becoming a tidy person. I’ll let you know if this book turns out to be as practical as it is inspirational.

I was in the mood for something light this week, so I decided to listen to Dad Is Fat on audio. It’s a parenting memoir about Gaffigan’s experience raising five kids in a two bedroom apartment in New York City. You should definitely get the audiobook version. It’s a real treat to listen to Jim Gaffigan narrate his book like one of his stand-up routines.

As funny as some of his anecdotes are, there are times I want to take Jim by the shoulders and shake him. For instance, his kid came home crying because she believed the Tooth Fairy didn’t love her as much as a friend who received more money. What more proof does he need that it’s a bad idea to lie to your children? Instead, he just shrugs because hey, telling your kids that the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus exist are part of our society’s conventions. There are so many times throughout the book where he has a light bulb moment that something is absurd, but he can’t bring himself to choose a different path that might be unpopular.

That’s a little surprising, considering that by virtue of having five children, he’s already outside the norm by today’s standards. Speaking of that, I’m happy to see an example of life with a large family outside of the trope of the Duggars. I have to say that I enjoyed his memoir in large part because it managed to be funny and sweet without being saccharine. Here’s one of Gaffigan’s observations on life with a large family:

“I guess the reasons against having more children always seem uninspiring and superficial. What exactly am I missing out on? Money? A few more hours of sleep? A more peaceful meal? More hair? These are nothing compared to what I get from these five monsters who rule my life. I believe each of my five children has made me a better man. So I figure I only need another thirty-four kids to be a pretty decent guy. Each one of them has been a pump of light into my shriveled black heart. I would trade money, sleep, or hair for a smile from one of my children in a heartbeat. Well, it depends on how much hair.”

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