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Book Review: Degunking Your Home by Joli Ballew

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Four years ago, we moved into my wife’s grandparents’ house. It had been sitting for a while, and my mother-in-law was glad to have someone in the house again. But there was a problem: The house was already full of stuff. And we brought a big ol’ truck full of our own stuff. There just wasn’t enough room for everything.

It’s hard to get organized in a situation like that – it took us years to finally feel like we were home. If Degunking Your Home had been around back then, we’d have done it in a lot less time.

Degunking Your Home is a 12-step program for the chronically disorganized. Ballew takes you from the classic “Admit you have a problem” stage (Understand what gunk is and why it builds up, chapters 1 and 2) all the way to “Practice these principles in daily life” (maintain your organized home, chapter 14). If you go through this program, it is assumed, you will be empowered to keep your home free of gunk and clutter with minimal effort.

Of course, that minimal effort comes after a lot of hard work. Degunking Your Home bases your degunking success on the “four box method.” One box for trash, one for giveaways/selling, one to move to another room, and one to keep in that room and organize. Everything in every room of your house should fit into one of these four categories – the trick is getting it all categorized, and getting rid of the trash and the giveaways.

Ballew has specific tips for each room of the house, including the office (my own personal center of gunkiness), and junk drawers (we all have them!). She even goes over proper procedures to use in dealing with “cleaning emergencies” (chapter 13).

I’m not an organized person, so I learned a lot from this book. Actually, it’s not so much that I learned a lot (most of this stuff I knew already) as that I was inspired to actually act on what I know. The most valuable part of this book is in the very beginning, when degunking is broken down into different time periods, based on how much time you have to do it – weekend degunks (degunk the kitchen or garage, for example) all the way down to ten-minute degunks (take out the trash, throw away old leftovers, etc.). This gives even the most time-pressed degunker the ability to accomplish something. There’s even a list of “Twenty Useful Degunking Tasks” that will show you some priority jobs that will get you on your way to a gunk-free home.

The book is written in a very friendly style, which is important to a book that is essentially telling you that you’re a slob and need to get organized! It never lectures; it convinces, it supports, and encourages. It makes you want to get the gunk out, which is the point, after all.

I disagreed with Ballew on a few things, most notably her inclination to throw away old magazines and even books. I have subscriptions to several magazines that I keep for research purposes (and yes, I have actually used them for research!) that I wouldn’t dream of throwing away, and I dare anyone to try and pitch any of my books. But I have put some of my books up on Half.com, and have sold several.

I just took books I really didn’t want to read again (are there really people who only read books once?) and priced them to move. I wasn’t as interested in making money as I was in getting them out of the house. The magazines are in boxes (you can get magazine archive boxes at most big office supply stores). My wife and I have also been selling things on eBay. (Books seem to go better on Half, though.) The gunk likes to try to hang around, but it’s leaving.

There’s light at the end of the gunk tunnel, folks. Degunking Your Home will help you to get there faster. Paraglyph has published many Degunking books which were focused on computers – many writen by Joli Ballew. This book will help you get through the mess in your office so that you can actually find the computer.

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About Warren Kelly

  • Orchid

    One side benefit of making the effort to clear out all the unnecessary detritus in your home is that you find yourself reluctant to re-clutter it after going to the effort of de-cluttering. This saves you money and the future effort of repeating the process.

  • This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States. Nice work!