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Sidetracked Home Executives

Sidetracked Home Executives: From Pigpen to Paradise. Pam Young and Peggy Jones.
Warner Books, 2001. 165 pages.

Once upon a time there were two desperate women: The Slob Sisters, stay-at-home mothers with young families. They both lived in chaos: "the hall was a crazy house of pop bottles, library books.old toys, chocolate chips, and a choo-choo train of cardboard boxes." After one especially disastrous experience, they decided to change. How?

"A person with energy and desire but no DIRECTION is like lightning in a thunderstorm—devastating." These misguided sidetracked sisters changed the course of their homemaking career (finding DIRECTION) by developing a card system to cover all household chores. Once they established order in their lives, they started teaching their method to others. Sidetracked Home Executives is the record of their personal transformation and an outline of their highly detailed system.

I was curious about this famous book: "the classic guide, updated and revised". Pam and Peggy have helped "over half a million people" to take "the first step out of the Pigpen." The much-heralded FlyLady system is a continuation and simplification of their work. From Pigpen to Paradise was first published in 1977, a very long time ago for a self-help mass-market paperback. Alas, I was somewhat disappointed by what I read. Why?

First of all, I don't belong to Pam and Peggy's target audience: youngish stay-at-home married women with ordinary kids in regular schools, a vanishing breed today. The authors appear to live in a world of stable traditional families (they feel obliged to include 8 pages justifying Pam's divorce!) Nothing wrong with tradition of course, but what about the rest of us—working mothers, childless couples, single parent families, women living alone? Never mind the men!

Then there's the card system ("25 yellow, 25 blue, 25 pink cards; 100 white cards..4 or more blank dividers..31 dividers...26 dividers.."). Yikes! There are 20 separate steps required to set up the card file.

Pam and Peggy claim to be easily distracted and developed their system in order to identify every imaginable household task ("clean furnace vents") and then assign it a formal place in a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly timetable ("wash mattress pad: every other month"). If you are looking for a very detailed list of every imaginable household task, you have come to the right place!

Although this book claims to be "updated and revised", it had a stale shopworn look to it. I was especially disappointed by the photos. Not photos of mess and clutter: the "befores and afters" that pack such emotional punch. No, family snapshots of the Slob Families—does anyone but the most dedicated fan care? Furthermore, the book looks like the worst of 1970s suburban life: boring cartoons, boring in-jokes, boring poems: page after page of text-heavy, poorly edited, badly organized material. And the famous card system? This could be more effectively explained through the use of clever tables, bullets, varied fonts, side-bars, shading: the ordinary tools of modern desk-top publishing! I struggled to plow through much of this material ("boring").

In summary, if you work best with a structured system which outlines what to do every single day of the year, this book will definitely help you. If you are easily overwhelmed by lists and charts, maybe you should give this book a pass.


Never leave the house before you've done all the morning's daily chores in your card file. ~ Pam Young and Peggy Jones, Sidetracked Home Executives

More reviews

I am sorry to see that Script disliked Pam and Peggy's book so much. I have to tell you that reading their book when it first came out back in the 80's helped to keep me going until Squalor Survivors came along. I found their book to be a light-hearted and refreshing change from all the other housekeeping books that were available at the time. I felt like everyone else in the world was BO ( born organized ) except for me; so, when these two ladies came along to say, essentially, "hey; we weren't all born with housekeeping genes!" it was a great relief to me. While I didn't follow their plan exactly, I followed it enough to never get worse than 2nd degree squalor. I'm not sure that I could have done that well without their pithy advice.

What's more, it is Pam and Peggy's plan that got Flylady started. Her whole system is based on their work, and she is quick to give them credit where credit is due.

Just because PIGPEN TO PARADISE wasn't Script's "cup of tea" doesn't mean that it isn't for everyone. I found it and their numerous other books to be highly entertaining and motivational.

Reviewer: Arid