Book Review — “Eliminate Chaos”

Eliminate Chaos

My local NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) chapter has a book group that meets once a month, and Eliminate Chaos was this past month’s pick. I tend to buy my books secondhand, or borrow them from the library, but I needed this quickly, so I bought it new at a chain bookstore. No discount? Galling! Needless to say, it would have to be a pretty darned useful book for me not to be crabby about the cash layout.

Once I had it in my hands, I thought, “This is really nicely designed!” I looked at the front matter and realized that it had been published by a regional publisher for whom I had worked years ago (Sasquatch Books). Their designer Kate Basart is apparently still doing gorgeous work.

Still, was it useful? The author, Laura Leist, has a large, successful organizing business in the Pacific Northwest. That has given her ample practical experience to share with her readers. I appreciate the unique approach she takes here, in which she showcases examples of jobs she’s completed in various areas of clients’ homes. Most books stop with “before and after” photos and lists of what was accomplished, but she goes beyond that and specifies how much time individual steps took, and lists very specifically which organizing products were selected, and lists their sources and prices. Prices change over time, but these breakdowns will remain illuminating, because it can be hard to imagine what a project will actually end up involving/costing.

One useful point she makes is that any project will probably take two times as long as you think it will. Do you have a hard time making decisions? It can takes three times as long. If you let that wash over you, along with the fact that the office organization job featured here involved 39 hours of sorting and purging, it can make you feel less alone. Touching all that stuff just takes time. It’s okay. And it’s necessary to commit that time to get to a better place.

The actual skeleton of this book is a 10-step process for getting organized that she lays over each job as a template (step 8: shop for supplies. No shopping before then!). That can be useful for people doing this on their own. For people who have read a lot on organizing or done some already, it may seem a little basic. That said, I think the photos, supply lists, hourly breakdowns and strategies come together to make a useful resource. I recommend it, either as a library read or a purchase.


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