The author of Live More, Want Less, Mary Carlomagno, is a professional organizer. Her job is to figure out how to make order out of the chaos of other people’s homes and lives while somehow managing to keep hers in line also. In fact, she has a company which she has called Order. through which she offers counsel to others on how to keep their homes clean of “stuff”, how to help keep track of papers at the office, how to manage one’s time, etc. If you are having problems keeping it together, Carlomagno stands ready to help you. If she cannot personally be with you (which is most likely the case), then there is always this book to consult.
Live More, Want Less isn’t exactly one of those books that you sit down and read straight through. (I mean, you can do that if you like and if you have a good memory and all.) As the subtitle of the book suggests, Carlomagno is providing 52 ways to implement change in your life, ridding yourself of unnecessary distractions so that you can focus on what really matters to you as both an individual and perhaps as a family. She recommends that you take this book in 52 “snippets” – applying what you learn about how to simplify as you go along.
The idea and ultimate goal in learning to simplify?
“. . . [To] choose lightness over heaviness; opting to subtract, not add; and finally making choices that free you of distractions so that you can find more meaning in life.” (Introduction, page ix)
Now, I personally don’t find myself to be a particularly unorganized person. Nor am I especially organized either. I’m . . . relaxed. I’m not the type that gets all excited about buying organizers (my sister-in-law is and I find that amusingly pleasant) but I’m not at all fond of clutter. I hate dusting and I prefer my bathroom cabinets to be empty beyond your basic necessities (such as towels and an extra bottle of shampoo for when you run out). I also enjoy shopping but am learning to shop under moderation and browse more often than not. When it comes to organizing our time, I can’t say that keeping life simple comes naturally to either my husband or myself. We’re constantly plunging ourselves into “projects” and activities and find ourselves having to step back and re-evaluate what’s ultimately good and health for our family. Because keeping life simple seems to be something of a challenge in today’s busy world, I was interested in picking up and browsing through this book.
Most of Carlomagno’s tips I found to be practical and applicable. In fact, in most respects I’d say that she is well-balanced and has good advice to give on things like: cutting back on rash or excessive spending, shopping for a functional wardrobe, not buying things until you are actually in need of them, hunting for a good deal, etc. She is also rather funny. Towards the beginning of the book she was talking about when and how we form attachments to things and how we shouldn’t allow for our feelings of attachments to items overwhelm our ability to live life simply without worrying about all of our possessions. When Carlomagno had a baby, one of her friends recommend that she get a “Wooby” to help pacify the baby. It was, as her friend said, something that you could not parent without! She writes the following:
“I questioned the notion of creating an attachment to begin with. Is this where all of our stuff worship originates – with a wooby? I couldn’t help but imagine what cave people did about woobies. And this reflection is one I always come back to. What did our foremothers do without the modern tools seemingly necessary for child rearing? It is amazing that any of us lived, base don the lack of safety inventions available back then. Yet we survived and thrived, maybe through pure instinct. Babies are resilient. I wondered if I’d had a wooby that would perhaps explain my attachment to things in my adulthood – namely Gucci shoes. Perhaps my baby booties were my attachment item, my wooby. (pp. 29-30)
I snickered there and in a few other places. From reading that excerpt, those of you who know me well can figure out that my worldview doesn’t particularly jive with that of Carlomagno’s. She does share about her belief system in this book, but that didn’t provide a hang-up for me when it came to discussing how to organize one’s bedroom closet.
Where I did disagree with her was in the area of books. (Ha! Ha!) She is not a bookworm. She does not understand the allure of books. At all. She writes:
“Bibliophiles are interesting people. They find the written word so powerful that they cannot let go of books they have loved and even books that they think they will love. Unsurprisingly then, that in the course of my work, I have found one of the top cluttered spaces is the bookcase, and one of the top things to store is a book. There are two reasons people keep books: they have read them and think they will read them again, or they plan to read them someday. Either way, people have a difficult time letting books go. It’s as if they are waiting for that day when they have so much spare time, they will read several books a day – a scenario which rarely presents itself, unless it’s part of a strong fantasy life like mine.” (page 137)
Hel-lo. All I can say is: keep your grubby little hands off my books!!!
Anyway, clearly we do not see eye-to-eye on books vs. clutter. Books are not clutter because they do possess a certain power of words, magic and history. We who do love the written word, love the connection to them. Books can be possessed by an individual, sure, but the story connects that person to other people over vasts amount of time and space. They shape our worldviews. They aren’t meaningless household items! (If we get down to it, you can throw away my fridge before my bookshelf. Actually, that might not be a bad idea. . .) In Carlomagno’s mind, books are meant to be read and then passed along. Which is fine. I’ll go with that (for her) as long as she is reading them. As for me and my house, our books decorate the stairs going both up and down.
Mostly though I would have to say I like this book and do not suffer any qualms whatsoever in recommending it. (Just don’t buy into that bit about bibliophiles being too strange. “Interesting” was a nice word.)It’s always good to gather up advice on how to better keep one’s house and life clean, neat and orderly. I believe we are a people created to be orderly. What comes naturally to some takes work for others and if you are looking for some good tips to how to begin enjoying life more and worrying about stuff less, this might be a good read to glean from! (And then, if you like, you may choose to pass the book along.)
Thanks to Storey Publishing who sent me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Carrie blogs about everything in life (children, marriage, home and various adventures) through the eyes of the books she reads (a lot of which are double-booked on her bookshelves) over at Reading to Know.