Book: Unstuff Your Life

There was a book I read recently – Unstuff Your Life, by Andrew J. Mellen – that talked about organization. It was a very good book. One of the things that it discussed, that I have noticed more and more in recent works on organization and personal finance, is having the stuff in your life, including your money, all going in the same direction. Basically, you need to figure out what’s important to you and make sure that all of the stuff you have helps you in ways that support your values and goals.

This book had a unique exercise in it. Most books of this nature have you try to come up with things that are important to you on your own. This can lead to you saying that your latest fad interest is one of your true, life’s values. I know I’ve been guilty of that. This book gave you a list. A pretty comprehensive list of over 100 values like flexibility,  freedom, wealth, spirituality, love, leadership, and quality. The author asked you to choose 15 that were important to you. There were a couple of exercises and then he asked you to pick the five that you absolutely could not live without. Not the ones you thought were important, or the ones that “spoke to you”, but the things you absolutely could not live without. Those are your core values. He had already had you make a list of things that you did or were interested in doing for fun or as a job. Then he had you go back through that list and see what served your core values and what didn’t. It was an eye opening exercise. It gave me a list that truly “spoke to me” in ways that weren’t limited to what I do for fun, or what my current interests are. I looked at this list and realized that I have lived my entire life by these five values. Not bad for a book on organization.

The rest of the book is good, too. His mantras are: everything has one home, and like goes with like. Basically, you need to find the one place that your type of stuff lives and keep it there. Return it to it’s home when you are done with it. The other half of that is that like goes with like. If you have six pairs of shoes, they shouldn’t live each scattered to a different home, they should live together (though winter boots can live with winter things until they are needed). The point is that, if you know where one of something is, you should be able to find things similar to it in the same area. You will be clearing out your kitchen cabinets over the course of a day or two, sorting mail more efficiently, and tackling your junk drawer (or room). The book inspired me to clear out our problem kitchen area and reorganize it so that like was with like and everything had a proper home.

This is one that I recommend. The author is very positive and non-judgmental. Wherever you are is a good place to start he seems to say, and you don’t need to run out and buy organizing systems or anything. You can once you’re organized if you think it will help, but it’s not necessary. Most important is having a system that will work for you.

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