Book review: One Year to an Organized Life

When Regina Leeds’ publicist contacted me about doing a review of One Year to an Organized Life, I hesitated. I knew that an advanced copy of Peter Walsh’s new book was already in the mail to me to review for the site, and I didn’t want to be overwhelmed with books in such a short period of time. Leeds is a master of home and office organization, however, so I ended up agreeing to read the book.

In hindsight, I’m very glad I decided to read it.

Leeds knows home organization. She has been a professional organizer for more than 20 years, and this book is the most realistic book on organization I have encountered. She is methodical in her presentation, and her book touches on every aspect of a person’s home. The book is broken into 52 weeks of organization activities, grouped into monthly themes (kitchen is January, bedroom is February, etc.), and is based on the idea that sustaining organization doesn’t happen overnight.

That being said, I’m not certain this book is for everyone. She includes monthly touchy-feely personal affirmations that were a bit much for my taste. Additionally, I don’t agree with the need for journaling and creating a “dream board” collage to envision organization goals. The majority of the book, though, is grounded and full of practical advice. Plus, I’m certain there are many readers who will benefit from the journaling and collage making.

Here are my thoughts, in no particular order, on the book:

  • I fear that people may not pick up the book because the title suggests a year-long commitment to getting your life organized. For people already overwhelmed by stuff in their life, the title may seem overwhelming. This perception is a shame because the book can be used as a resource even if the yearly program isn’t followed. Also, her year-long method is exactly how not to be overwhelmed by the process.
  • I like that she makes suggestions for activities that can become chores for children. Her advice is good for helping to teach children how to be responsible for their belongings and to the family.
  • There is a terrific resource section at the end of the book. I am already researching more about these organizations.
  • The month of May has too many rooms/areas assigned to it (attic, basement, garage, guest room, and laundry room) for the average reader. In my experience, these spaces are often the most cluttered areas of a home. If following her system, I would make this a two-month theme.
  • Many of her tips include options for people who rent their homes, which is rare in home organization books. I was glad to see the inclusion of this advice.
  • She acknowledges a lack of caring as a reason for disorganization. Many self-help authors attribute disorganization only to jarring life events, time management problems, etc., and overlook a simple lack of caring as a possible cause. Not only does she say that a general lack of caring can be a cause, she offers advice on how to overcome it.
  • Her advice is filled with concrete examples that show how different people may interpret the same information. The real-world strategies will appeal greatly to pragmatic readers.

My favorite piece of advice comes in the first section of the book. In this dialog, she frankly discusses reasons why you shouldn’t hold onto random items just because you inherited them from someone who has passed away. This piece of writing is also a good sample of her advice-wielding style:

“Consider tossing grandma’s ancient potato peeler. If she were alive today, she’d have a new one. She’d also wonder what the heck was wrong with you for saving that rusty old antique.”

If you’re in the market for a comprehensive, concrete, methodical guide to home organization, Leeds’ book One Year to an Organized Life is an excellent place to start.