Two cleaning books: Simply Clean by Becky Rapinchuk and How to Manage Your Home without Losing Your Mind by Dana White

Find in catalogI flipped through Simply Clean, which was very pretty and well laid out, but immediately discarded it when I saw that doing the dishes wasn’t on the daily task list. I can’t get behind any cleaning book that pretends that dishes aren’t part of cleaning! And I really can’t get behind any cleaning book that makes believe you can keep your house clean in 10 minutes a day, unless you have a tiny house, which this author definitely doesn’t because she talks about how to clean your bathrooms (plural). Which by the way, she says is to spray cleanser in one bathroom and then go to the other bathroom to spray cleanser and then go back to the first bathroom to wipe the cleanser. There’s your 10 minutes right there. This is also the kind of cleaning book that says in order to declutter a closet, you have to take everything out, wipe down the closet walls, vacuum, try everything on, and then put things back on identical hangers. Who’s got time for that (besides Marie Kondo)?

Find in catalogThat’s why I will hold up Dana White’s How to Manage Your Home without Losing Your Mind as the gold standard for realistic cleaning. Her book is really basic, but really useful, and I’ve seen changes in my house following her methods. Some of what she says is kind of obvious, but yet I wasn’t doing it regularly. Like, doing the dishes every day (but then being totally bummed out about the state of my kitchen). Other useful practices: following the “visibility rule” (clean and tidy what’s most obvious and bugging you before you do a project like decluttering the attic) and following the “container concept” (limit your belongings to what fits in a certain space; weed out the items you like least when you want to make room for new items you like more). It’s also really helpful to me to have a laundry day. She devotes two chapters to this, which could seem like overkill, but wasn’t.

Both these books have a 28 day checklist for cleaning your house, and the difference is night and day. Simply Clean has 28 cleaning projects that you do on top of your regular chores. (Again, who’s got time for that?) How to Manage Your Home says wash your dishes every day. Then if you have energy, go around your house and pick up items out of place. If you still have energy, sweep your kitchen floor. And then do it again tomorrow. And tomorrow. And just doing that will help keep your house under control so you can start tackling some larger tasks after you’ve had 28 days forming new cleaning habits. As a tired and overworked person, I appreciate that.

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Junk Beautiful by Sue Whitney

Find in catalogOK. So you’re not reading this decorating book for its erudite vocabulary. (“Nifty-noodle,” “shootie doots!,” “poopdee-dooped.”) Nor for its cutting edge scientific observations. (“Research tells us we spend a third of our life sleeping.”) But you might want to browse through it for ideas and photos if you like decorating, buy a lot of stuff at yard sales, or better yet, have a lot of junk (their word) you’d like to repurpose in your outdoor spaces. Though some ideas had me shaking my head (Why would you serve sushi on an old roller skate?), others were kind of cool (using a big classroom abacus as a towel rack, posing a mannequin in old swimming togs near your pool). The book showcases 24 different outdoor spaces, from tea garden to sun room to picnic, with lots of examples for accessorizing with unusual items like enamel refrigerator drawers, naval belt buckles, vintage faucets, and even a “wee little urinal.”

Everything that Remains by Joshua Fields Millburn

Find in catalogA memoir of how a guy changed from being a high-rolling business man who owned 75 Brooks Brothers shirts to a blogger who owns the bare minimum. His best friend/co-minimalist adds not very illuminative end notes. I did get some good new ideas to ponder, chiefly that collecting and organizing are acceptable forms of hoarding, and that most things you keep “just in case” can be replaced for $20 in 20 minutes, so there’s no need to hang on to them. But I also found something about the tone preachy and superior, and didn’t finish the book. He talks about how on his path to becoming a minimalist he read blogs by Josh Becker, Courtney Carver, and Leo Babauta, and I would recommend these blogs, as well as his own blog The Minimalists, or his book “Essential” (review to come!) over his memoir.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Find in catalogI loved this book! Four siblings are expecting a huge inheritance, which is unexpectedly decimated by one sibling’s rash actions. How they weather this financial blow has a lot to do with who they are individually. For the most part, the characters are very well drawn. (Rather than get a in-depth look at sibling Melody, we hear her twin daughters’ stories; somewhat fitting as she lives for and through her kids, but I wanted to know more about her.) Even sideline characters come front and center; the story is not just about the four sibs, which makes it richer and more interesting. There are lots of “clues” throughout (references to something that gets more fleshed out later), so much so that I started reading it again right after I finished just to have those “aha!” moments of recognizing what the clue referred to, as well as for the pleasure of relishing the author’s beautiful language and pacing again.

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

Find in catalogThe Sleepwalker is like many a thriller–pretty interesting buildup, lots of suspense, let down ending. Sleepwalker Annalee Ahlberg (whose narrator daughter will often, weirdly, call her just that) disappears one night. Did she run away, was she murdered, did some accident befall her? And who is writing the interspersed journal entries about sleepwalking and sleep sex? Her daughter Lianna tries to find out, teaming up with a detective who might not be all that he seems. In retrospect, I think Goodreads reviewers have it right that the bulk of the book is not that compelling. I was engaged while reading it but when I think back a lot of the action is fairly mundane. I kept reading to see “who dunnit” so to speak, but the answer was not that believable to me, although it was surprising.

Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu

Find in catalogI didn’t expect this book (shelved in the business center) to be so memoir-y, but I liked it anyway. Tiffany Dufu tells the path she took to successfully and equitably co-parent and co-manage her household with her husband–even when she was living in NYC and he was living in Dubai! Some of her success was specific to her circumstances (having a friend who moved in to help with childcare), some of it to her surroundings (living in a city with dry cleaning delivery), and some was adaptable to many circumstances (let things slide, know how and when to enlist your partner, take advantage of online shopping). There are many great philosophies for busy, overworked women to consider. For example, she learned to identify her top goals: love her husband, raise her children to be global citizens, support women and girls, and support sub-Saharan Africa. She changed her focus to those goals, rather than the housework. “What you do is less important than the difference you make. I didn’t want my epitaph to read ‘She got a lot of stuff done’.” She also suggests focusing your attention on where you bring the most value, rather than just doing what you’re good at, especially if you can outsource those tasks. She gives tips about how to “Delegate with Joy” and enlist your partner in helping you achieve your potential. An enjoyable and practical read!

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Find in catalogKatie, a country lass in the big city of London, is trying hard to make it in her marketing job, despite a boss she can’t stand. When Katie gets laid off, she goes back to her family to help them start a glamorous camping business. But there is trouble when her hated boss shows up. Will Katie give her the comeuppance she thinks the boss deserves? I enjoyed Sophie Kinsella’s My Not So Perfect Life up to a point, and that point was the end, where a few ridiculous business details and characters derailed it. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but suffice it to say that interviews and motivations don’t usually go that way. However, before it got off the rails, it was fun, in the somewhat formulaic Sophie Kinsella way–plucky young heroine with money troubles meets handsome, rich slightly older man and despite glaring differences, romance ensues. As usual, there is another successful woman character who seems to be a romantic rival, and who the heroine considers a bitch, but at least this time that trope got turned on its head. Pluses: A heroine named Katie, a fun business venture in glamping (nitpick: the book never defines what that is), details of the English countryside. Minuses: Aforementioned ridiculousness, the perfect ending where all is tied up with a bow in quite a cheesy way, and another nitpick: this British character kept referring to her “bangs” rather than her “fringe.”

Smarter, Faster, Better, by Charles Duhigg

Find in catalogFor each chapter on a secret of success (Motivation, Focus, Goal Setting, and Decision Making, among others), there are at least three stories of people putting those principles in action. Some of those people include the creative team behind Frozen, laid off auto workers, and one of the world’s best poker players. The stories are surprisingly suspenseful and illustrative, full of big ideas. The appendix brings it all down to practical applications, with ideas I’ll be implementing, such opening up email replies and writing one line to kickstart action when I feel stuck, or coming up with stretch goals that challenge me to reach far, rather than set easy but unimportant goals that I may waste time of just because of a need for cognitive closure.

You’ll Grow Out of It, by Jessi Klein

Find in catalogI picked this book up to leaf through and next thing I knew I had read most of it. Her comedic musings on dating “a cad,” the rocky path to getting engaged, and being a woman in today’s world drew me in. Once in a while she’d have a line that was not what I expected to be next, but was perfect and funny. Not all of her chapters work (I didn’t care for the poodles and wolves set up) but most are relatable and real (even though I’m not dating in New York–thank God! Where as she says, the schlubby guy you see at a party isn’t with someone who looks like ScarJo–she is ScarJo.) Jessi has been on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me and Ira Glass blurbed her book, so all you NPR nerds get out there and read her!

Styled, by Emily Henderson

Find in catalogI was excited to see the library bought this book; I’d heard Emily Henderson’s name in a few design blogs and podcasts. While she is undoubtably talented, I found myself disliking the super styled nature of the book. (I know, I know, that’s the title, so what did I expect?) At first I thought it was a great approach, learning how to style little vignettes around the house and tweak them for maximum attractiveness, but then it all got overwhelming (like you should do this in every room, and have little vignettes everywhere) and fake (buy this weird clown statute, not cause you love it, but for “interest”) and expensive seeming. I guess in the end, even though I already make vignettes around my house, these photos look nothing like my house, and so I couldn’t relate.