[book review] How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana K. White

Let’s get straight to the point. I loved this book. How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana K. White is one woman’s experiment in taking back control of her messy house. She passes the successful strategies and habits on to others who treat (or ignore) housework as she did. I listened to the audiobook but I’m tempted to get the print version because I enjoyed it so much. It’s read by the author and she did an amazing job of being engaging. It feels like listening to an understanding friend talk about how they managed to get some semblance of control over their home. Her advice is realistic. She acknowledges that you might need to tweak things to work for you but doesn’t compromise on the main goal of getting your house under control.

I enjoy listening to self-help books because they can motivate me while on my work commute. By the time I get home, I’ve regained a little energy to make changes. But they can also be frustrating when I feel like the author isn’t speaking from a place that really applies to me. Or when following the advice makes things worse because my ability to finish a project or maintain a certain state are different than the author’s expectation. I didn’t experience that with How to Manage Your Home…  because White has been there. She isn’t someone who worked with people with messy homes and learned how to help them. She was the person with a messy home and learned how to help herself. And that perspective makes a big difference. She dealt with problems I’d actually run into before. She owned up to the same self-sabotaging behavior I’d displayed and then said how she’d addressed it. It also helps that she’s very open about her way not being the only way and if you find something that works for you, do it. Hers is a very accepting, non-judgmental attitude. It motivates me without making me feel bad.

How to Manage Your Home... gives background on how White began her blog A Slob Comes Clean and gradually changed from an overwhelmed clutterbug into someone who maintains a (fairly) clean house. Maintains. That’s such an important word. I recently blogged about how I realized that the key to keeping my kitchen clean (two months now!) was deep cleaning once to get it to a clean state and then maintaining that state through daily (or almost daily) activities. If I maintained daily, then cleaning was a small job that didn’t overwhelm me or feel like it was stealing the precious minutes of my life. I think I connected so well with White’s book because she was talking about something I had recently discovered on my own. Would I have acted upon her advice if I hadn’t already seen my own results? I’d like to think that her PoV and suggestion to start developing just one new daily task would have connected with me, but I suspect that it would have taken me a lot longer to move from listening to action without already having my eyes opened by my personal experience. I’d still suggest giving White’s advice of “just wash your dishes” a try, because I’m looking at it from the other side and can say that it does work for me. Maybe it will be someone else’s eye-opener.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Even more, I like her admission that she doesn’t always do her non-negotiable tasks.[/perfectpullquote]I like the idea of White’s “non-negotiable tasks,” activities like washing the dishes that have to be done every day. Even more, I like her admission that she doesn’t always do her non-negotiable tasks. There are super busy days. There are days when things don’t go as planned. But when you pick that task back up the next day, you’ve only missed one day. It’s still a small task. It isn’t “I’ll wash the dishes when it looks like they need to be washed.” It could be two months down the road before I’d notice! And then it’s a big undertaking. But two days of dishes… that’s fine.

She also recognizes that the first time you do any of these tasks, whether it’s the daily or weekly activities that keep a house clean, it isn’t going to be simple. It isn’t going to take just five minutes. When she talks about laundry day, she recognizes that your first laundry “day” may be a laundry “week” because that’s how much backlog there is. It isn’t often that I hear a cleaning or decluttering guide recognize this challenge of backlog and then actually encourage you on how to get through it. Hearing that she recognized the overwhelming place I was starting from made me feel validated and bolstered.

On the note of feeling recognized, it also meant a lot to me that she had a section about hoarding at the end. She doesn’t have experience with it, she isn’t an expert on it, but she recognized it and validated both a hoarder’s difficulty and the progress that wanting to declutter shows. Taking action to change, no matter how small the action, is a step forward. I appreciated that acknowledgement and support.

I felt such a kindred spirit with White’s slob journey that I picked up her next book, Decluttering at the Speed of Life, once I’d finished this one. It focuses specifically on decluttering while this one covers cleaning tactics for the entire house. I was worried that they would duplicate each other, but there’s only a bit of overlap. White points out that cleaning is not decluttering, but decluttering makes cleaning easier because there isn’t a layer of objects in the way of being able to clean. The first book touches lightly on decluttering, but the second goes room-by-room helping you to apply her tips in each situation. If I were going to choose just one to listen to, it would be How to Manage Your Home… because it covers a wider subject area and includes the decluttering tips, even though it doesn’t go in depth with them. It also seems to give more background information on White and has a more conversational tone. Not that I didn’t enjoy the second book. In Decluttering at the Speed of Life, it feels as if White’s working with you in each room, trying to keep you on task. I listened to Decluttering at the Speed of Life‘s bedroom chapter twice in preparation for my bedroom deep cleaning project and then re-listened to it during that week to keep up my motivation and stay on track. So how did that go? Next blog post!

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