The original version of this review appeared in Mix Tapes & Scribbles on May 20, 2012.
If you struggle to maintain (or create) order in your home, Unclutter Your Life in One Week is a must-read. Author Erin Doland gives readers a comprehensive decluttering strategy backed by solid values.
Mind you, you won’t complete this process in one week. You won’t even complete it in one month. Maybe some highly motivated individuals can clear their calendars and stick to Doland’s timeline, but I haven’t met any of them.
ADHD readers should proceed with caution and set reasonable, attainable goals that won’t max out your energy reserves. I recommend using this book as a general guide and discarding the schedule Doland suggests. Trying to accomplish so much in so little time can lead to a demoralizing collapse of productive energy.
Unclutter Your Life in One Week presents effective organizing strategies rooted in the belief that we all deserve a remarkable life. ADHD’ers who shy away from structure and rules may find that philosophy helpful as they create new habits. Just like some smokers quit by displaying a photo of the prize they’ll buy with their cigarette money, we need a meaningful foundation for our efforts. Once you begin to see your extraneous stuff as a barrier between you and that remarkable life, you’re on your way to success.
ADHD’ers may benefit especially from Doland’s suggestion to prioritize the “firsts” in your life: the first place you see when you wake up in the morning, when you arrive at work, when you arrive home after work, etc. Ensuring these daily first impressions are good ones will provide immediate gratification and positive reinforcement.
The key to making this book work for ADHD adults is breaking these projects down into manageable pieces. ADHD’ers risk beginning a project like this with great gusto, only to lose steam and leave behind a bigger mess than when we started. I recommend breaking each project down into 30-to-60-minute chunks, factoring in time spent gathering materials, completing the task, and cleaning up.
Also, Doland suggests sorting items into bags for Goodwill and putting them in the garage to take later. She doesn’t mention a strategy to make sure these things actually leave the house. I cannot tell you how many times we’ve had bags piled in the basement for months waiting to be taken to the electronics recycling center or the donation bins. ADHD’ers should have a plan for this before accumulating boxes and bags of donation items. If you live in a major city, many charities have regular pickup routes — it’s just a matter of finding out when the truck will be in your neighborhood.
My only big disappointment came in the chapter addressing leisure activities. Doland suggests letting go of a hobby if you don’t spend at least an hour a month on it, claiming “if it were really important to you, you would pursue it.” For ADHD adults who are struggling and failing to do what they know they want to do, statements like it must not mean that much to you are judgmental and damaging. I will never forget how it feels to be told “lazy is as lazy does” by a loved one, and I would never imply that how ADHD adults spend their time directly reflects the values in their hearts.
I acknowledge this book doesn’t target ADHD adults, but many chronically disorganized people have ADHD. Doland’s failure to address that directly in the book is an unfortunate omission, especially paired with assumptions and judgements like those mentioned above.
Overall, I still recommend Unclutter Your Life in One Week to anyone struggling with clutter. Doland hits the nail on the head when she says you cannot possibly live your best life when you’re drowning in clutter and distractions.
For some continued pre- or post-reading, check out the companion website at www.unclutterer.com.