'Organized Enough: The Anti-Perfectionist's Guide to Getting and Staying Organized" (Book Review)

©. Organized Enough

This is the perfect book for those who want a sort-of tidy house, but find Marie Kondo and the minimalists far too intense.

Organized Enough” is the most down-to-earth book on organizing that I’ve read in a long time. Written by New York City-based professional organizer Amanda Sullivan, its subtitle immediately appealed to me: “The anti-perfectionist’s guide to getting – and staying – organized.” Anti-perfectionist is right up my alley, considering the chaos of my young family’s home and the perpetual shortage of time with which to deal with the messiness.

Sullivan takes a refreshingly relaxed and forgiving approach to managing one’s home that contrasts with Marie Kondo’s idealistic quest for joy-generating objects and the asceticism of the minimalism movement, both of which are dominant themes in organizing books these days. Sullivan is more practical and realistic. She acknowledges that clutter happens, that needing to own certain items is inevitable (especially with kids and hobbies), and that “having a disorganized home does not mean you’re sick or dysfunctional.”

She offers a seven-part system for dealing with chaos – and it’s not all about how-to. It delves into some interesting psychology and cultural analyses that put our societal clutter problem into perspective, and make the book surprisingly interesting to read. (You know how organizing books can get repetitive!)

First, Sullivan talks about FLOW, which is her actual method for organizing the home. The acronym stands for Forgive yourself, Let stuff go, Organize what’s left, Weed Constantly.

Next she jumps into why it’s crucial to “slow down,” to resist the overwhelming consumerism and the urge to go shopping that is creating so much of our ‘stuff’ problem. She wants people to buy less, but buy better, which echoes minimalism.

Then she emphasizes the need for “fresh eyes” in one’s space – the need to view a home as if it’s unknown, whether it’s by getting a second objective opinion or using some of her intriguing methods for looking with new eyes. (One fun idea: Use a mirror to look at your space in reverse!)

Sullivan wants people to understand how “fear creates clutter” and how this fear can be vanquished. This could be financial fear (of not having the means to replace something if it breaks, or feeling guilty for having spent so much), fear of litigation, of not being able to find something, or of missing out.

Then she urges readers to question, “Who am I today?” Our belongings should reflect our present-day interests, not the person we once were or hope to be. In other words, toss those cake-decorating supplies, quilting fabrics, and downhill skis if they never see the light of day.

Perhaps the crowning glory of “Organized Enough” is its detailed chapter on paper management – everyone’s nightmare. Sullivan jumps right in, explaining how to sort paper from the moment it enters the house to filing one’s tax documents to knowing what to keep and for how long. She offers the same guidelines for digital documents, which is helpful.

Finally, in the second part of the book, Sullivan talks about habits and which ones need to develop in order to maintain a satisfactory level of organization around the house. Many of these good habits are common sense, but others I hadn’t thought of, such as taking inventories in the pantry, wardrobe, and office, and learning how to schedule time for maximum effectiveness. (Not surprisingly, getting off one’s smartphone is a big part of the solution!)

I liked that Sullivan does not tout ‘storage solutions’ as the be all and end all of organizational success; in fact, she rants against The Container Store, calling it “an illusion” and suggesting that you make do with cheaper DIY solutions (and less stuff, of course):

“No box or bin will organize your stuff for you. Organization isn’t a product you can buy. It is an action you do.”

“Organized Enough” was a good read that made me look around my messy house with acceptance, rather than defeat (a nice feeling!), while providing helpful tools for tidying and arranging effectively. I recommend it, especially to anyone with kids.

You can buy 'Organized Enough' online.