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The Messies Manual

The Messies Manual: The Procrastinator's Guide to Good Housekeeping. Sandra Felton.
Baker Books, October 1983, 155 pages.

Sandra Felton wrote The Messies Manual: The Procrastinator's Guide to Good Housekeeping to reach out and help a group of people hiding a secret shame behind their front door - their messy house.

Felton calls these people Messies, and she herself is a reformed Messie who knows only too well what it feels like to be overwhelmed by the state of your house.

She identifies different types of Messies, and also describes a few Cleanies (for those of us unfamiliar with the concept.) Some of the reasons for Messies being messy (poor memory, distractability, disorganized thinking, visual tune-out, and slow movement) are explained, along with attitudes Messies may be adopting that will hinder their progress.There is some very useful information on how to set goals for your housekeeping.

Sandra Felton's method for taking control of your house is called the Mount Vernon method, named after the cleaning method used at George Washington's estate. Basically, this involves starting at the front door of your house and moving in a clockwise direction around the room, organizing the first piece of furniture you come to. After you have finished with that piece, you move on to the next piece, and so on.

Sandra also has suggestions for tools for organizing the information in your life, and specific recommendations for closets and the kitchen. There are tips for saving time and getting your family to co-operate.

What makes this book different from other organizing books is that Sandra Felton has great insight into the lives of the chronically disorganized. This is not a book written for those who want to have Martha Stewart over for a visit - it is for those who would like to be able to let their family and friends inside the house. If you follow the advice in this book, you will no longer fear the knock at the door, but instead be able to welcome people into your house!

The tone of this book is wise and compassionate. Sandra Felton writes very well, communicating her ideas with clarity and good humor. The Messies Manual is a very practical, useful book.

This is the book I used for support when I cleaned up my house and I highly recommend it.


The most important thing about the Mount Vernon Method is that you pace yourself and not overdo. The temptation is to work like a crazy woman because of the frustration you feel. Don't start out too fast. You will not be able to accomplish the method in a single day (it took me three and a half months to "Mount Vernonize" my home). ~ Sandra Felton, The Messies Manual