Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring Cleaning

In honor of the season, I requested review copies of Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home by Thelma Meyer and Throw Out Fifty Things by Gail Blanke, and Hachette Book Group was kind enough to indulge me. If you need inspiration for spring cleaning (and keeping it clean year-round), these are absolutely the books for you! I finished them on Thursday night and commenced the cleaning/purging Friday morning. In what is probably a record for me, I have not yet lost the motivation Blanke and Meyer lent me, and I seem to be infecting those around me with the need to spring clean.

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home: No Nonsense Advice That Will Inspire You To Clean Like The Dickens by Thelma Meyer: This book is going to be a new automatic housewarming gift from me. Mrs. Meyer packs every page with valuable information, motivation, funny anecdotes, and handy tips. Somehow, even in the litany of cleaning tasks she teaches the reader to tackle, she doesn't make it seem like a daunting task to have a clean, pleasant home that makes you and your family feel happy. It helps that she's practical to the utmost. She raised nine children, and her standard of clean was not "immaculate," but rather, "livable." If you tend to get bogged down in trying to make everything perfectly clean, Mrs. Meyer will not only help you focus on organizing your attempts at cleaning and on doing something instead of nothing, she gives you the tools you need to do so. The book is organized by room (or area) of the house/yard, and includes a sample schedule of daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal cleaning tasks. Attempting to follow this schedule is strangely freeing. Even if we miss a day's tasks, there's a make-up/rest day built in, and Mrs. Meyer is encouraging and inspiring. There is no sense that a level of perfection can be reached while people are actually living in and enjoying the home, but she makes the reader feel inspired to at least try. And those attempts make visible improvements. An "emergency" guide for making the house seem clean when company is on the way is as indispensable as the rest of the book. Mrs. Meyer is also frugal and environmentally conscious, so her cleaning methods are focused on that angle, which I thought was fantastic. Even better, these inexpensive, non-hazardous methods actually work, often better than the purchased harsh chemicals. I highly recommend this book to anyone who doesn't have a staff to keep the house clean and organized.

Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear The Clutter, Find Your Life by Gail Blanke: If you chuck useless items into a corner of the closet to deal with later, agonize over whether to donate that dress you bought five years ago with the intention of losing ten pounds, or feel overwhelmed by the clutter in your home, Gail Blanke will teach you the questions to ask yourself that will empower you to just let it go. You could certainly start decluttering after reading the first four words of the title, but many of us need a little more encouragement than that, not to mention a place to start. In a book helpfully organized by room/area, Blanke excels at repeating advice and guidelines in slightly varied ways that will reach different people. For me, the clear, bulleted lists at the end of each section were the most appealing, but others may prefer Blanke's motivational discussion and inspirational anecdotes. An invaluable resource guide at the end of the book lists donation/recycling/disposal ideas for many different items, from bicycles to computers, to old paint, to allow the reader to actually follow through on throwing out those fifty things. Why fifty? At that point, you'll begin to see a real difference and have the motivation to continue (and to prevent more useless items from even entering your home). More than half the book is "Clearing the Mental Clutter," a more self-help type of writing that will appeal to anyone looking to bring focus and purpose to more than just physical surroundings. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to declutter who isn't sure where to start.

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