Book Review: Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider
Most people I know, even those who have little in the way of financial resources, live lives of “too much.” Too much stuff, too many activities, too much stress. Our homes are cluttered with accumulated possessions that we don't have time to enjoy because our days are cluttered with so many appointments and activities, including all the time it takes to clean, maintain, or pay for all those possessions. We're distracted and worn out by all this clutter. We have more than any previous generation and enjoy it all less.
Tsh Oxenreider has written Organized Simplicity (about $12 on Amazon.com) to address this issue. This is not an ivy tower treatise on organization and time management that advocates a spartan lifestyle or carefully scheduled days. Organized Simplicity is written from the perspective of a mom who has to live in the real world. She starts by asking “What does it look like for a modern-day family to live simply while still participating in afterschool sports, errand running, and getting enough sleep to not go insane?” That is the $64,000 question, isn't it?
Subtitled “The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living,” the book starts with an explanation of her purpose: “I want to help you find that peaceful place, where your pocketbook, your home, and your weekly routine reflect your family's convictions and values.” She offers some background on the why of simple living and some thoughts about typical modern family stress, talking about the growth in average American home size in the last fifty or sixty years (and how we continue to fill that extra space with more stuff) and the overworked and overbooked nature of most Americans' lives, and makes a case for the benefits of simplifying life:
“Your living space needs to reflect how you want to live your life: at peace, with enough time and money for the things that matter and without things that just don't matter.”
Before digging into the activity part of the book, Oxenreider asks the reader — most likely a female “home manager” (whether or not employed outside the home, most women are responsible for managing their homes) — to think deeply about her family's values and purpose, to work with her family to create a family purpose statement that will serve as a touchstone during the process undertaken in the rest of the book: to declutter, reorganize, and simplify the reader's home and thereby her life.
After laying that foundation, Oxenreider uses the rest of the book to take the reader methodically through the family's finances, schedule, and home (room by room), with a simple, practical process of evaluating belongings and weeding them out so that the decluttered home actually reflects the interests, personality, and priorities of the family that lives there.
“A peaceful home requires a change of attitude, a habit of regular maintenance, and a lifelong commitment to place higher priority on relationships and events than on things.”
Organized Simplicity includes a nice mix of philosophical underpinnings and practical, down-to-earth, time-and-money-saving tips to help get your home in the shape you can actually relax and enjoy. Suggestions for tools and supplies (including recipes to make your own environmentally friendly cleaning solutions, in case you're so inclined) and helpful checklists are scattered throughout the book.
The last chapter is a Q&A in which Oxenreider offers some pros and cons on questions such as “Should I take time to clip coupons?” or “Should we have a landline phone in addition to cell phones, or cell phones only?” Rather than telling you how you should live, she offers information and ideas for you to consider in reaching your own conclusions.
At the end of the book, Oxenreider includes a fairly comprehensive list of resources — books, magazines, and websites — for the reader who wants to learn more about the various topics she touches on in the book, including financial health, green living, food and cooking, etc.
Organized Simplicity is a nicely written resource for the woman who's looking for some guidance in how to create a more peaceful, enjoyable life for her family. Oxenreider is not a professional organizer, but an obviously intelligent woman who writes from her own experience as a wife, mother, and homemaker. The book struck a chord with me at a time when I've already been pondering what can or should be done about my own family's tidy collection of too much stuff. One of my goals this year is to simplify our home and our life so that we can enjoy both more. The suggestions in this book will help. I recommend it.
Read more of Tsh Oxenreider's writings on intentional living on her blog; learn more about her at her website and at SimpleLivingMedia.com.*
*I bought my copy of Organized Simplicity online at Amazon. I do not know Tsh Oxenreider personally, have never communicated with her as of the date of this posting, and am not affiliated with Simple Living Media. I just liked this book and thought it was worth sharing.