Home Ec Sparknotes: Edition #1

I have a little addiction to “self-help” books. Whether it’s getting organized, becoming more productive, or eating healthier, I just have to know what this “expert” thinks I should know about becoming a better me. Thankfully, I’m not at all driven to read every word of each book or to implement all the ideas. I skim and then usually put the information I find into one of two categories.

Category #1: I already knew that. Doesn’t everybody?
Category #2: That’s a stupid idea. Why would I do that?

If you are a self-help writer, I’m sorry to make light of your work, but usually, these are the categories that most of the information in these books fall under. However, once in a while, I do file information under Category #3.

Category #3: That’s a really good idea. I wish I would have realized that earlier!

I don’t know if it’s pride or good judgement that keeps Category #3 sparse, but that’s the way it goes. I tend to do a lot of this skimming at a table in the library and leave books there that seem, upon further inspection, to have no hope of containing #3 information. The stack of books pictured above did not go through this pre-inspection before leaving the library. I thought I’d share my findings with you in case one of these books pops up in your catalog search at the ICPL.

Organizing Idea Book by John Loecke

This book contains some #2 with photos of “organized” spaces that still look cluttered to me. Or, more often, the organizational ideas were pricey and would work much better in a beautiful, well-designed mansion. I live in a duplex with shallow pantry shelves, so I did not find many of these ideas applicable. The pictures are fabulous and could probably get your imagination going on variations that would work for your home and budget.

Get Crafty by Jean Railla

I appreciated the “quiz” at the front of this book that helps you decide what kind of crafting to get into. Because I said I like to read books in a sitting, it recommended I do short-term projects like cooking. Lots of the questions pointed to cooking, which might suggest that the quiz paints a precise picture and gives good suggestions. However, because I like math and being dirty, it suggested gardening. If you saw my garden last summer, you would know that this is not an area in which I will likely experience success. This had a few cute ideas, but more commentary than I appreciate.

Organizing for the Creative Person by Lehmkuhl and Lamping

I checked out this book for Dexter, who resists all organization projects relating to his desk. I hesitate to call it a work area, because the other day I couldn’t find his keyboard under all the crap (his and mine) on the desk. I was disappointed with the content. The key message was, “You’re creative! That’s great! Maybe you’re disorganized. That’s just part of your right-brainedness and it’s okay. But if it’s screwing you up, here’s stuff that organized left-brained people do to keep it together.” So, I didn’t find any great creative-person-specific tips within.

Don’t Throw It Out: Recycle, Renew, Reuse to Make Things Last by

If I owned my own home, this would be a great reference book. It includes information on how to clean things or fix things that you might think were broken or inefficient. I didn’t find anything that pertained to me currently, but I kept running across things where I thought, “I’m never going to remember this, but I bet I’ll want to know that someday.” This might be a good reference book to check out when something goes wrong with an appliance or you’re doing spring cleaning. Or, maybe it would be good to buy to have around for reference.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

The table of contents was not very conducive to skimming. I think this book is geared toward “reading” and possibly even tries to make skimming impossible. There are subject headings and chapter titles, but all I could read was “positivity, goals, blah, blah, stuff, blah.” Maybe I need to try again when I grow up a little?

Totally Organized by Bonnie McCullough

Skim-friendly! It only took me about half an hour to get through this one, and although she didn’t give any specific advice that I applied, I did think of a new way to organize my files while I was reading it. It’s also more family-oriented than it is poor-recent-graduates-with-no-kids-oriented, so you might find more things applicable. It was also written in the 80s, so it could use a revision. Maybe replace phone-time-management with inbox-clutter-control?

Feed Your Family for $12.00 a Day by Rhonda Barfield

Barfield offers meals that seem fairly balanced and buys plenty of fresh fruit and veggies. She also makes deals with local produce salesman to buy boxes full of slighly damaged produce for $2. Some of the things she does just aren’t practical unless you are willing to be a little obnoxious about finding a good deal, but she does have a big recipe section where I’ve marked several pages. I would have liked it even better if I still ate meat.

The Starving Artist’s Way by Nava Lubelski

I had a bad attitude about this book before I opened it up. If you’re truly living like a “starving artist,” sacrificing your self for your art in a desperate yet arrogant way, isn’t it selling out to write a book about how to do cool starving artist stuff? Either way, I was pleasantly surprised. Did you know that some grocery stores sell canned octopus? Well, if you need a recipe to use some up, you can find it here. It has a great table of contents, so it’s good for skimming. It’s got sections for recipes, home decor, wearables, cosmetics, events, and gifts. Some of the ideas are kind of stupid and tacky or probably too expensive for a “starving” person to pull off, but some of the ideas are cute, creative, and unique. It could use a few more pictures for partly-arty people like me who have a really hard time picturing how to do things or how things look from descriptions. There are also lots of references to famous artists in the book–one for every project I think–so if you want to have some good art trivia and to obtain it in a way that’s more fun than an art history book, this may be your source.


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