Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Throw Out Fifty Things by Gail Blanke

Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life
By Gail Blanke
Copyright 2009
Springboard - Self-Help/Organization
263 pages

What led you to pick up this book? If you have to ask that question, you haven't set foot in my house and probably haven't read my whines about tripping over the clutter.

Describe the book without giving anything away. The subtitle says it all: "Clear the clutter, find your life." Throw Out Fifty Things is not, however, just about physical clutter removal. About half of the book is dedicated to removing mental clutter from your life -- tossing out negative thoughts and changing your attitude.

How did you feel about the real-life characters involved in this author's tale? The author is a motivational speaker and life coach. She's pretty much the only person involved, apart from references to her family and clients. I found her style breezy and upbeat. I think in person I'd like her and she'd have a lot to say to me if I hired her. "Stop telling yourself you're not a morning person!", for example. I do fall back on that excuse, quite a bit.

What did you like most about the book? I like her method of counting items thrown out. Whether you throw out one magazine or a thousand of them, you can still only count magazines as one item. 3 beauty products = 1 item. And, so forth. So, you can't just go toss out a pile of 50 magazines and say, "Okay, gosh darn it, I'm all done. But, my house is still cluttered! I don't get it."

Was there anything you didn't like about the book? This is not truly a book for people who are buried in clutter, as in obsessive-compulsives. It's really kind of light on the clutter removal, in my humble opinion, but it's a good starting point. I just plowed ahead and read the book without listing what I tossed out for starters because after a year of not doing much cleaning while I traveled back and forth between states to help out during my mother's final year (and then bringing home boxes of books and mementos from my childhood home -- eck, not helpful) there's an awful lot to go through in my house. I am, however, going to continue to use her method and reread this book repeatedly because what little I accomplished was positive and the reinforcement is needed.

Recommended? Absolutely. I'm not sure this is the best book if you're totally in over your head, but it's still worth reading and it's easy to quickly put her principles into practice. I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone who needs a little inspiration to work on removing both literal and mental junk from their lives.

Cover thoughts: I like the cover. It does mention that the book is both a guide to actual removal of objects and changing your attitude in the cover blurb on the back. When I sat down to read the book, I ignored the cover blurb but I think it's good to keep that in mind.

Coming up soon:

Seriously, someday I'm going to get around to the February Reads in Review. Just don't hold your breath. It might be a few days. Tomorrow, there will be a sneak peek into the book Outlaw Marshal with my brief thoughts at the end (I did not finish the book, but I think it would appeal to plenty of readers). Then, I plan to review a couple of children's books: Monkey, Monkey, Monkey and Otto Grows Down. Both are beautifully illustrated, fun books and I need to photograph a couple of page spreads to share, before I review them.

Skink chase:

Do you know what a skink is? I didn't, till about two years ago when we traveled to a swim meet in the Delta (about two hours' drive north of us) and spent some time walking around a park between events. There, I photographed a little striped lizard that turned out to be a skink. We have loads of anole lizards (like the little green guy in my sidebar) but I've never seen a skink around our home until this week . . . when one showed up in my utility room. This is one of the joys of life in Mississippi -- catching wild animals that somehow find their way indoors. He was in a big hurry to get away from me, but I caught the little guy using a plastic shoebox lid and handed the lid to the husband, who let him out the back door.

Do I have a fun life, or what?

Best news of the month:

The first car we purchased as a brand new vehicle was still on our driveway, two weeks ago. Six years after my husband decided it wasn't worth repairing, it sat covered in mold, the tires flat. The big dilemma was, "How on earth are we going to get rid of that thing?" Then, one day our delightful postal worker (who has a terrific sense of humor and frequently jokes about my books weighing down his truck) mentioned that he had a friend in desperate need of a vehicle. "He repairs cars," he said. "I'll bet he can get it to work." I told him the car has been dead for quite some time and I really just wanted to get it off my driveway. Send him over, if you think he's interested.

Two days later, a man and his wife showed up at our house. He was limping dramatically and wore a back brace. "Broke my back," he said. "The wife needs a car and I'm on unemployment, so I can't give you much, but I'm a mechanic and I can probably fix it if it's not too bad. Can I look at your little white car?" He looked it over, handed me $50 and came back with a truck, a rope and a pump to fill the tires . . . and dragged it away. The next week, my postman said, "He fixed it and they're driving it around. They had a borrowed car and were really desperate." Hours later, my husband and I saw our little Nissan up ahead of us on a road bordering our neighborhood. I cannot even begin to tell you how excited we were to see that car working and in use by someone who truly needed it. What a terrific feeling.

Should I count the car as one item removed? Yes, I do believe I will.

Happy, positive, clutter-free thoughts!

Bookfool, lightening the load


  1. That is such wonderful news about your old car! It sounds like it has found a fantastic new home.

  2. Kathy,

    Isn't that wonderful? We were so thrilled to see the car on the road and it's especially nice knowing that the folks who ended up with it really were in need.

  3. Anonymous3:37 PM

    My husband could probably use this book - between our home office clutter and the fact that he is so busy at work he could probably benefit from a book like this. Thanks for the review!

  4. Stephanie,

    We have a bad case of home-office clutter, too. It's a great book. I hope your husband enjoys it!

  5. I think if I just quit buying tupperware the kitchen might be okay. :) The other parts of the house is not all me. I even joined paperback swap. I have gotten rid of 13 books to new homes this week. Now next month when some more start coming is a different story. For now I will just enjoy the feeling of something being gone and feeling a little lighter. lol

  6. Brittanie,

    We just recently discovered how many plastic food containers were clogging our utility room, when the pantry shelves collapsed. We hauled it all out, stacked it up and wondered aloud how anyone could possibly accumulate that many pieces of Tupperware. Pretty wild, isn't it?

    PaperbackSwap is awesome. But, yes, the problem is that you can trade those credits for more books. It kind of defeats the purpose, if you're after clutter removal. It's a wonderful way to acquire books, though.

  7. That story about the car is awesome. I just gave you a blog award. Come over and see!

  8. Jeane,

    Isn't it? Thank you!!

  9. Sounds like a book I need. Your car story is one of those feel-good stories I like to hear.

  10. Lord don't I need this book! The clutter over here is just ridiculous, lol. I tend to be a pack rat...I save every little tiny thing and attach sentiment to everything that comes my way...I'm a nerd :p

    And Way to Go on getting rid of the car!! I remember you mentioning that...isn't it great when you can do something that benefits both parties?

  11. I'm generally not much of a self-help book reader, but I WANT THIS BOOK! Will definitely be looking for it at the bookstore tonight. I've already made a good deal of progress on this front, but could use some motivation to move forward. My biggest problem is that I've got a couple of hoarders living with me.

    Can I just say that I'm a bit jealous of your skink? When we lived in east TN, we had five-lined skinks all over. I could count on seeing one most every day, because there was one who lived under our porch and loved to come out and sun himself on the sidewalk. They're just so cute!

    What a wonderful story about the car! And continued luck with the decluttering!

  12. I definitely need an attitude adjustment about clutter! There are books everywhere, and I'm in the process of trying to go through the "stuff" in my new sewing room!

    I have a bad habit of putting things away that should by thrown out.

  13. Booklogged,

    I liked it so much that even though the point is to throw things out, I'm keeping it. I hope that's not counterproductive! I'm excited that so many people understand how great it is that our car is back in use. Isn't that an upper?


    I'm a packrat, too. The problem is that I really like my stuff. And, like you, I feel sentimental about a lot of little things. This author has a really great approach to the clingy mentality, though -- kind of a reminder that you can't take it with you, so why bog yourself down with things.

    Isn't that great about the car? Yeah, we'd been fussing about what to do with it for ages. We ended up with the best possible outcome, IMHO.


    I should probably warn you that she says you shouldn't touch other folks' stuff -- they should deal with their own clutter. I have a deal with my husband. I don't have to ask him about anything -- just toss it if I think it has no value. But, I'm the one who tends to be sentimental about Stuff.

    Aren't skinks cute? The kind you had is what we saw in the Delta. I'm wondering if they get their stripes later in life because ours had none, but he was shaped a little different than the anoles and he had pretty silvery-coppery coloring. He was definitely not an anole.

    Thank you!


    I do that, too. Sometimes, it helps to pull out the little plastic organizing doohickeys and say, "Okay, I haven't touched this stuff for 4 years. It might be pristine, but I'm obviously not using it," before you begin going through all those things that should have been tossed but were organized, instead. Not always, but . . . worth a try. :)

  14. I have this one to review too. It sounds more involved than I expected.

    I love that someone who needed a car got one, good on you.

  15. Lisa,

    It's only involved if you decide to go ahead and stop to follow the directions. I read it pretty quickly and chose to skip putting the book into action. That's not unusual for me. I often like to read a book with exercises or instructions through and then take my time going back to follow the plan. I'd suggest you tackle it that way.

    Thank you! I think that was the most exciting thing that could possibly have happened to our old car. I thought we were going to end up paying someone to haul it away for scrap.

  16. 50 things doesn't include 50 of one thing? Boo! The problem that I have is that I'm afraid if I throw something out I'm going to regret it later. Maybe one day I will fit into those pants! Maybe one day I will want to re-read that letter. Maybe one day I will look back at my grad school class notes. Maybe one day I will fill those empty shoe boxes with stuff. Wait..what? I hold on to empty shoe boxes so that one day I can fill it with crap? Hmmm--think I just had a moment of clarity.

  17. Trish,

    You're so funny. I guess you just need to give yourself permission to throw out those shoeboxes, first, then you can move on to the other things. Grad school class notes -- umm, yeah, I still have some of mine. I haven't gotten an advanced degree, but I always think I'll need those notes if and when I got back. Silly, but true.

  18. Anonymous6:39 PM

    I like that Trish's life is filled w/possibility.

    The book sounds good! I've gotten better at clutter, as long as said clutter does not include books or yarn.

  19. I don't like a lot of clutter around me, but, that said, I am a clutter hider. My drawers and closets are quite cluttered. Sometimes to the point of fearing for my life if I need to open one. Okay, so maybe it's not that bad. But it could be. :-)

    What a wonderful story about your old car! Someone's junk is another man's treasure. I'm glad he and his wife are able to get some use out of it.

  20. Carrie,

    Books don't count, of course. Which means my house is empty. I don't know what on earth I've been prattling about. Yarn . . . can't say. Don't own any of that, really.


    I don't like clutter, either, but I like my things, if that makes sense. I used to do the same. We reached saturation point, though, and it began to spill out of all my lovely hiding spaces. Pity.

    I'm very happy about the car. I wish I could capture that joyful feeling as we watched the car disappear over the hill and bottle it.

  21. What a great happy ending for your car! I've been bit by the spring-cleaning bug myself. Went through my husband's closet the other day and wound up with 5 bags of clothes to donate to Goodwill!

    One closet at a time. :)

  22. A little clutter goes a long way. I think I'm almost too far the other extreme: I get rid of stuff I wish I wouldn't have later on. Mostly this holds true for books. I think, "Why do I have a copy of X laying around, still?" Then, when I want to read it again, I buy it again. How idiotic is that? Still, I think it's better to be clutter free than clutter full, and I really liked your point about getting rid of mental clutter. I'm not so great at that.

  23. Les,

    5 bags! Good for you!! I've got one in my trunk and one in progress, plus a box of misc. stuff to take to the rescue mission. One step at a time is great. One car at a time, too. LOL


    I think part of the reason I tend to be clingy with things is that my mother had the Depression-era mentality: If you're not using it regularly, get rid of it. She went about it wrong, though -- things would simply disappear from my closet and when I went to look for them, I was told, "Oh, I sold that." Ack! It was horrible. The worst thing ever was the sale of my big burlap bag full of beautiful, painted wooden blocks. Even my mother regretted that one.

    Having said that, I've done the same -- gotten rid of a book or even a series of books and then ended up buying them, again, for a reread. Nutty.


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