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I was already on my journey to better cleaning habits, but I wasn’t done consulting books that were recommended to me online, and also available at my local library. The two I have chosen to tell you about are connected. Cassandra Aaarssen was actually inspired on her organizing journey by Peter Walsh, so it is fitting that I look at their books together. Walsh has a holistic view of tackling clutter and watching your weight, whereas Aarssen focuses on organization and the strategies she has put together over time.


Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat by Peter Walsh

One thing notably absent from Walsh’s book are the lists, the cleaner recipes, and the specific strategies that I had gotten used to as I read other books and scanned articles online and on Pinterest. He wasn’t interested in the how-to. No, he wanted to peer into the depths of your soul and find the true cause of your inability to control your clutter and your weight. Here is how he begins.


  1. He connects clutter with emotional issues. You need to find the underlying need the clutter is meeting.
  2. Since your home reflects your life, clutter may also be connected to weight, jobs, responsibilities ,etc.
  3. Clutter and Fat are not so different. Clutter in the home and clutter in the body. There can also be underlying emotional issues for both


In his first chapter you get to take a quiz, which I love. I basically passed, I guess you would call it. I am not actually fat. I don’t consider myself skinny, but I don’t have a weight problem, so I am not ashamed of my body, nor do I have issues with eating too much. I have weighed too much in the past and been on many diets and eating plans. I even dabbled in an eating disorder for a bit, but I have worked hard to make limits that work for me. I have educated myself in good eating habits. Really, just quiz me. I am a veritable cornucopia of diet knowledge. So much so, that when I drink soda I go ahead and admit to my kids that, “You know there is just no way to twist this around and imagine this might be good for me. Coffee, sure, you can find a health excuse for that, even dark chocolate, but this soda I’m drinking is just crap and there is no way around it.” Then I went and got myself addicted to running. Just ask my kids how excited I get when I buy myself new running shoes. I still find myself sitting and admiring the sleek black Mizunos I got months ago.  It could be the case that, to many readers of this book I am the enemy. I have found in the past that if I admit to people I had to work hard to get the body I have, they sometimes hate me more for it. Hopefully that is not the case with you.


So based on my physical situation I did not do the next thing in the chapter and just admit I was fat, but I can sympathize with Walsh’s desire to help people face their true situation. I also bypassed the naked jumping jacks. I’m good.


Moving on in the book I could definitely get into imagining the life I wanted to live. As a matter of fact I just recently made a list of things I wanted to imagine being part of my future. I am not really a full believer that the universe will give me what I want, but I do believe in self-fulfilling prophecies, so I at least want to encourage a positive outlook.


Another piece of advice from Walsh is to cut out TV. Ok, here is the catch for me. I watch maybe two hours in a day and during those hours I am working, meaning I am on call to assist a lovely older couple. I also use it as time to have a snack, and do exercises. There is rarely a time when I am just watching TV, and when I have a choice I typically don’t do it unless I just need a break, or I’m spending quality time with hubby at the end of the day. Maybe that is one reason weight is not an issue for me. I’m rarely sitting still, and rarely concentrating on one thing at a time. Even now, I’m working AND blogging, And visioning my ideal life. Not bad.


Oops, the next thing he wants to talk about is not multitasking. Now I have something to work on.


Walsh then spends a chapter talking about emotional eating and helping people find their triggers.  He suggests a list of healthy substitutions for triggers – hey that sounds like the habit change cycle. Find your trigger, replace your reward. I actually looked into how that works here.


Starting in the kitchen Walsh asks you what you want to have happen there. Then he recommends clearing out things that don’t contribute to that purpose. He does the same with the food you eat. He wants to have good options available and plan ahead so you don’t get stuck in a situation where you are tempted to grab something you shouldn’t. He wants you to be present and enjoy your food. Then exercise. He asks habits you have now and how you could introduce  a healthier alternative?


I think this book could really be encouraging for those who are really hopeless and feel buried under lots of clutter and weight. It appears that the more buried you are the more you may get out of this book. I can’t argue with his suggestions. They seem sound. They just don’t particularly address issues I am facing. I absolutely wish the best to you out there who find comfort in this book and have the courage to get up and do those naked jumping jacks. More power to ya’.


Real Life Organizing by Cassandra Aarssen


For being a disciple of Walsh, Aarssen really spoke to my situation so much better. To start off, the pictures of her house and kids included in the book were really beautiful and satisfied my OCD tendencies. I mean her entire house is just symmetrical in every way. It’s truly amazing. Not only that, but she, as Walsh, started her book with a quiz. One that pigeon holed me, and somehow I find these holes comforting. She categorized her readers as different insects for some reason, and I am a cricket. Based on her description I think it is probably true that my tendencies fall more or less in that category. You could be a butterfly, a ladybug, or even a bee, if you don’t fall neatly in my box.


Her book focuses on organization. She isn’t interested as much in cleaner recipes or techniques as she is in organizing your home so that maintenance is kept at a minimum. She recommends allotting 15 minutes a day to organize, and she even provides cute printables to help you know what to use that time for. I got pretty excited about the printables and got as far as downloading and printing my favorites, but, unfortunately I have been so focused on trying to get in my 10 minute cleaning that I haven’t made time for 15 minutes of organization.


She suggests the acronym SPACE to help you know what to do as you are going through you things. It stands for.


S sort – put things in piles of like items

P purge – throw things away or donate them

A assign – find a place for the things you will keep

C contain – buy cute containers and label them

E evaluate – see if the new system works and adjust accordingly


Most of the book contains loads of tips. These are things she has done in her home and things she has learned while being a professional organizer for others. I really loved some of them. Here are some of my favorites.


Purging tips

  1. Garbage bag therapy, take a garbage bag around and fill it with garbage
  2. 21-item toss, they can be donated or recycled
  3. 4 sort method, labeled 1. Donate, 2. Trash, 3. Keep, 4. Does not belong
  4. Time Capsule, Pack a box with items you don’t know if you want to keep or not. Label it with “If not opened by ____ donate”
  5. One in/one out rule, for birthday or christmas, if you know you are getting new things, get rid of some ahead of time.
  6. Get rid of empty boxes
  7. Get started today


I love how she talks about looking around your home for piles of things and then putting a sorting system for those things, not where you think it should be, but right there where the pile is. She says the the pile is there because the place where it is being stored isn’t working. She talks about listening to your home.

She also mentions that the cabinets, especially in the kitchen. The ones that are easiest to reach are some of the most valuable real estate in your home. Those should contain things you use every day.

I was especially gratified to know that some of her most magical tips for dealing with toys and child clutter are ones I am already using. It is true that I don’t have the fancy printed labels she does, but I do have seperate bins for specific categories of toys in the living room, and I have bins of things in the attic that I only get out on special days when we are stuck at home or someone makes a special request, like the hotwheels track and the wooden train set. It is nice to know I am on my way in that department.

Aarssen inspired me in a number of ways I haven’t quite gotten around to acting on yet, and helped me rethink some of the areas in my home that just aren’t working quite right. This was one of my favorite reads of my cleaning adventure, and I can’t wait to put some of my printables into practice.


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