More than a year after its release, Marie Kondo’s decluttering handbook, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Ten Speed, 2014), remains one of the bestselling books in the country. Aspiring minimalists buy at least 15,000 print copies each week, per Nielsen BookScan, with more than 1.5 million print copies sold to date. Her follow-up, Spark Joy, has sold 169,000 print copies since it pubbed in January.
In the wake of Kondo’s success, the coming months bring a wave of home organization titles vying for space on readers’ soon-to-be-decluttered shelves.
Sprucing Things Up
Though Kondo may have widely popularized decluttering, she didn’t invent it. In 1998, for example, Holt published Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern, which took a self-help-style approach to space management. Together with a 2004 update, which is still in print, Inside Out has sold 440,000 print copies per BookScan.
Similarly themed books followed, among them Houseworks by Cynthia Townley Ewer (DK, 2006), a step-by-step guide to food storage, wardrobe planning, and beyond, which sold 21,000 print copies over two editions. DK has updated the book and in April is releasing it with a new title, Cut the Clutter. “Once you remove the references to CD storage and other outmoded technology, Cut the Clutter is as relevant today,” says Mary-Clare Jerram, DK publishing director. Not surprisingly, Kondo’s success inspired the release of the new edition, Jerram says.
In 2010, Francine Jay self-published the minimalist lifestyle guide The Joy of Less, which has sold almost 25,000 copies in paperback. The book has found a home with Chronicle, which is publishing a hardcover edition in April featuring new material. “Given the growing interest in minimalism and simplifying, we saw this as the perfect time to update her book,” says Laura Lee Mattingly, the book’s editor.
Like many decluttering proponents, Jay is fond of acronyms and advocates the STREAMLINE approach: start over; trash/treasure/transfer; reason for each item; everything in its place; all surfaces clear; modules; limits; if one comes in, one goes out; narrow it down; and everyday maintenance. New for the Chronicle edition is a five-step program called “the clutter-free family,” which addresses readers at various stages of life, from a newly cohabitating couple to a household that includes teenagers.
In order to stand out in the cluttered marketplace, it helps to offer readers a unique way in. For Kondo, it’s the question, does this spark joy? Journalist Dan Charnas, in Work Clean (Rodale, May), uses the concept of “mise-en-place” (put in place), a term that describes how culinary professionals keep their workspaces in order. The book expands on a segment Charnas did for NPR and features Eric Ripert, Michael Ruhlman, Marcus Samuelsson, and a host of other big and behind-the-scenes names in the world of cooking.
“Chefs are some of the most driven, well-organized people around,” says Jennifer Levesque, editorial director at Rodale, and the principles of mise-en-place that chefs use in the kitchen—including “preparation is prime” and “clean as you go”—can apply throughout one’s life.
Professional organizer Amanda Sullivan, in Organized Enough (Da Capo Lifelong, Feb. 2017), proposes seven essential habits for taming clutter, chief among them FLOW: forgive yourself, let stuff go, organize what’s left, weed constantly. Sullivan believes that striving for perfection can be paralyzing, says executive editor Renée Sedliar, so the book’s relaxed approach allows for the reality of imperfection while aiming for a home that’s free of excess. “You don’t need a perfect sock drawer with every sock in its own little cubby,” Sedliar says of the book’s lenient attitude.
Some guides rely heavily on graphic elements, including Home Decor Cheat Sheets (Ulysses, Apr.) and Home Organization Tear Outs for the Whole Family (Page Street, Dec.). Cheat Sheets grew out of author Jessica Probus’s 2015 home organization-themed BuzzFeed article, which has garnered 2.8 million views. The article culled simple diagrams and illustrations from various websites and blogs; the book includes 300 original illustrations by Alice Mongkongllite, covering types of doors, tile patterns, and much more. “One glance, and you will know what size rug you need, how many dining chairs you should buy, creative ways to hang your art, or simply what to call that headboard shape you love,” says Casie Vogel, acquisitions editor at Ulysses.
Tear Outs, by graphic designer and blogger Kristi Dominguez, includes grocery lists, pantry labels, budget guidelines, chore charts, and more, on 100 detachable sheets. “I was looking for a modern home-organization guide that would help simplify the process of decluttering your home and keeping it that way,” says Elizabeth Seise, assistant editor at Page Street.
A key audience for the book, Seise says, will be military families, who move frequently and often rely on a home binder to stay organized. Dominquez, a self-described military brat, blogs at “I Should Be Mopping the Floor” (44,000 Facebook “likes”) and lives in Killeen, Tex., site of Fort Hood.
Decluttering the Soul
Because get-organized books fall somewhere on a continuum between home improvement and self-help, it’s not surprising that several religion houses have titles that draw an overt connection between decluttering and spirituality.
“We find freedom in the journey to declutter our minds and souls from all that distracts us from deepening our relationship with God,” says Carolyn McCready, executive director at Zondervan. In April, the publisher is releasing Unstuffed by Ruth Soukop, whose Living Well, Spending Less (Zondervan, 2015) has sold 54,000 print copies per BookScan.
The new book emphasizes the spiritual benefits of minimalism, using personal stories, Biblical references, and practical advice to guide readers to a tidier home. “Our closets, our offices, our bedrooms—all are connected to the way we live and navigate our spiritual lives,” says McCready. “Ruth is helping readers see how these two areas are connected.”
In May, Waterbrook Press is publishing The More of Less by pastor Joshua Becker, whose Becoming Minimalist website has 377,000 Facebook likes. Initially drawn to Becker’s online following, editor Susan Tjaden says she soon realized the author was offering readers more than a cleaner house. “It’s not just about owning less,” she says. “It’s also about learning how to want less, and discovering unparalleled satisfaction in the life that’s no longer buried under everything you own.” Becker’s book aims to rescue readers from, as one chapter title puts it, “the fog of consumerism.”
Melissa Michaels’s “The Inspired Room” blog has 119,000 Facebook likes and was the Better Homes and Gardens readers’ choice decorating blog in 2014 and 2015. In Make Room for What You Love (Harvest House, May), Michaels, who is married to a pastor, encourages readers to set goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time limited) in order to create a home sanctuary that best serves the family.
Originally published in 2011 as the e-book 31 Days to Clean, Christian blogger Sarah Mae’s Having a Martha Home the Mary Way (Tyndale Momentum, Mar.) relies heavily on scripture, posing cleaning challenges that aim to help readers tame the chaos of daily life. Though the title refers to two biblical sisters with different temperaments, their names resonate in another way, recalling the piousness of Jesus’s mother and the famed housekeeping prowess of Martha Stewart.
Jennifer McCartney is the author of The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place (Countryman, May).
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