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Living Organized

Living Organized: proven steps for a clutter-free and beautiful home. Sandra Felton.
Revell, A Division of Baker Book House Co. Originally published, 1987, as The Messies Superguide. Revised, May, 2004. 221 pages.

Sandra Felton calls herself "The Organizer Lady" ™.  But as this book so cleverly illustrates, there is more to Home Making than mere organization.  Building on the systems she outlined in The New Messies Manual, Felton now focuses on beauty: the ultimate reward for cleaning up and throwing out.  Along the way, she shares interior design tips and inspiring stories from "the organizing trenches", plus advice on coping with a messy spouse or child.

The cover art-work sets the tone: cheery pastel lettering, neatly folded towels, pink and lilac storage boxes.  This book is an inspiration for squalorees who want more than mere survival.  Yes, we can have it all.  Beauty!  Grace!  Charm!  Through some clever tools and exercises, Felton proves that you too can be a designer.  Her "magic room" project is a light-hearted and deadly-serious exploration of personal taste.  In witty forthright style, she shares some of her own lapses: "When I finally began to clear away the clutter in my house and mind, I noticed a remarkable thing -- my house really was ugly" (page 136).  Felton learns to spend money, trust her instincts, turn to professionals for help: all because she opens herself up to the possibility for change and beauty.

The 20 easy-to-read chapters touch on various aspects of home renewal.  Messies, Creativity, and the Inner Child analyzes some of the (many) reasons why home-making does not come easily to everyone.  I read with great interest her challenge to become "my own decorator": for I definitely suffer from "failure of the imagination", an affliction common to many current and former messies (page167).  Felton is most inspirational when describing her own steps to recovery: "Things I did when sanity began to return" (page 126).  For me, reading this small but important book was like listening to a friend--a big sister, a favourite aunt -- who shares her thoughts and feelings about turning her home into "a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of everyday life."  Common sense solutions abound: I finally bought an over-the-door hook for my night clothes thanks to one suggestion on effective use of storage areas (page 129).

Sandra Felton is also a realist.  Part 2: The Real World of the Messie contains challenging material on the problems of Home Making in western society.  She bluntly acknowledges The Stress of Modern Technology.  How often do we try to understand the hows and whys of the burdens that many women carry?  As she says, "Working women today are stretched way beyond the comfortable level of time use." (page 63)  Her first piece of advice on making changes in your family: "remove the rose-colored glasses" (page 64).  Honesty is thus the best policy for anyone needing long-term life-style solutions.

This book includes suggestions for further reading and some mail order sources.  One small complaint: there are various letters and testimonials from readers and fans, all very interesting and inspiring.  Alas, they are set in a script-like type which is a little tiresome to decipher.

I have read and re-read this book, during the search for my own 'inner decorator'.  As the cover hints, "Who knows?  The house of your dreams could be right under your nose."  Just what I need to hear.  Yes!


When I finally began to clear away the clutter in my house and mind, I noticed a remarkable thing -- my house really was ugly ~ Sandra Felton, Living Organized