This book is a work of genius. Sometimes I think I’ve read every organizing book ever published, and most of them are great, but they all tend to sound alike. Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD is actually full of original, contrarian ideas that suit the ADHD style. It even has copious amounts of illustrations. These are real rooms. Rather than a Pinterest palace, unattainable for 99% of us, these rooms designed by a professional organizer are feasible and practical. They’re even exciting!
The day I realized that I fit the criteria for ADHD was a wonderful day. I was in my late twenties, born a little too early to have a name for whatever I am. I was reading through a bulleted list of symptoms as a way of getting to know an acquaintance, and with each point, I felt a deepening sense of recognition. AHA! Suddenly, it wasn’t just me. I was just one of many, a type, a tribe member. I wasn’t even bothered by the idea that maybe there was something dysfunctional about me; heck, I already knew that. Rather, I was thrilled to see that along with the chronic disorganization came a lot of truly excellent qualities. Creativity, originality, curiosity, enthusiasm, hyper-focus, high physical and mental energy. Everything snapped into focus for me. If I could learn some practical ways to Get Organized, I could mitigate my weak points while amplifying my positive points.
It worked, too. Year by year, one issue after another, I finally did Get Organized, earn my degree, get on top of my finances, nail my nutrition and hydration, lose the weight, get fit, get rid of most of my stuff, learn to cook, and remarry. Getting my stuff and my information stream organized enabled me to start living the life of my dreams.
It would have happened a lot faster if I’d had this book!
Organizing Solutions recommends avoiding shopping in order to avoid impulse purchases. Agreed. It recommends limiting what you buy or keep to only the available storage. Agreed. It recommends taking your donation items straight out to the car where they will annoy you until you drop them off. Agreed. Get rid of excess stuff on a regular basis so there’s less to clean. Agreed. I had to figure all this stuff out for myself. In fact, the only thing I don’t agree with in this entire book is the thing about reusing towels and wearing clothes multiple times. That may be fine for most people, but I personally am very tough on clothes and our climate is too humid. Instead, we’ve started using hand towels rather than full-size bath towels, and they don’t get funky.
There’s some great advice in Organizing Solutions on how to make decisions about memorabilia, children’s artwork, toys, et cetera. There’s a discussion about how to confront the chilling prospect of identity theft and how that impacts the way we process papers. Susan Pinsky clearly understands her audience. I recognized myself all over this book, and I recognized my organizing clients even more.
As a group, we tend to prefer initiating things to finishing things. We’re more comfortable having tons of projects going on than we are winding any of them up, feeling like we’ve closed off options or that we’ve “finished” something before it reaches its apotheosis of perfection. It can be hard for us to feel like we know where to start, and we infinitely prefer research or planning or daydreaming to action. Take it from Susan Pinsky: start with your home and work from there.
“Inventory shouldn’t just conform to storage but should be less than storage, so that it never requires a multi-step dance to put things away.”
“...any well done organizing job should result in the re-acquisition of a few mistaken discards. It is proof that you applied the Brutal Purge sufficiently enough to make a difference.”
The 12 Week Year is a business productivity book that has seized my attention. In fact, I’m working on my first 12-week plan right now. The other night, I somehow convinced myself that Third Quarter 2017 was ending a month early and I started feeling frantic about my unmet goals for the year. It was a visceral confirmation that deadlines are more motivating than goals with vague time horizons. The fact that most people bail on their New Year’s Resolutions is a solid indicator that a 12-week “year” may be more effective. Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington, you’ve got me. I’m doing this.
The book claims that more than 60% of the time, the reason people don’t achieve their goals is due to lack of execution, but instead they tend to blame the plan. This is going to lead to either changing plans or giving up. I know this was true for me when I first tried to use a food log and I wasn’t losing weight. I asked my husband for help in analyzing my data, and, with some complicated math from the realm of astrophysics, he made a chart for me. I had to admit that I wasn’t being nearly as strict with my eating plan as I had convinced myself. Almost immediately I started to get results. This is an example that supports the concept of the 12-week scorecard. Rate yourself on your execution, not your results.
The 12 Week Year is fully loaded as an inspiring motivational handbook. The message is that we can achieve anything we want, if we are specific in our visions, strict in our execution, and rigorous with our consequences. It discusses “the mistaken notion that accountability is something that can and must be imposed; that’s not accountability, that’s consequences.” This is HUGE! If you’re not meeting your goals, it’s because you’re not worried about the consequences of failure. On the one hand, this is a sign of a nice easy life: the luxury of playing with pseudo-goals as a fun diversion. On the other hand, it’s a sign that nothing will ever change until your behaviors change.
The 12 Week Year has some great graphics, including a chart of “The Emotional Cycle of Change.” This alone makes the book a must-read. Another feature I really appreciated was the list of pitfalls for each section. So many goal-setting books are full of fluff about how amazing it will feel to achieve the goal, while including little or nothing about how to deal with the emotional and logistical issues that hold us back. “The Iceberg of Intentions” illustrates this beautifully, showing how easy it is to miss the hidden intentions that capsize our plans.
I have a “hidden” intention of never missing out on awesome edible treats. That’s why I struggle with my ostensible “real” intention to take care of myself and avoid predictable health issues.
My only issue with this book is the way the score-keeping system weights goals. Say I’m working on fitness, and my goals in that area are to get up at 6 AM, go to the gym and do the elliptical for an hour, and do my alternate weight-cutting food plan. I would get one point for each of those three goals, and if I blew one, my score in that area would be 66%. A D grade! I need to get up at 6 for my plan to work, but if all I do is get up early, I still get a point. Meanwhile, I know from experience that if I exercise at maximum capacity and eat vacation-style, I won’t lose weight, I’ll gain. For my personal practice, following the food plan needs to be weighted at about 10x more important than going to the gym. Either that, or I need to make my food plan its own goal and detach it from my physical training goals. Of course, all this means is that my home version of the 12 Week Year will be more personalized, not that there are any issues with rating progress on a 12-week timeframe rather than a calendar year.
For those who want to take this further, there is a website with a very glossy computer tracking system. It also has this PDF workbook, which I quite like. Messrs. Moran and Lennington, thank you for this.
“If you are unwilling to confront reality, then you will never be able to change it.”
The word “administrivia”
Just this Tuesday, we were fortunate enough to be able to see Gretchen Rubin give a talk on her new book, The Four Tendencies. One of the great advantages of living near Los Angeles is that almost every awesome person or band who goes on tour will make a stop here. Indeed, we also saw Gretchen when she was here in 2015 promoting Better Than Before. It’s hard to say which is more exciting, hearing her speak live or anticipating the new book. This is the one we’ve all been waiting for, a handy-dandy manual on the Four Tendencies.
Aaaaahhhhhh! I love this book so much!!!
Sorry, I had to get that out of my system.
The premise, if you don’t know already, is that one way to sort people is by whether we meet or resist inner and outer expectations. Learning to place people by where they fit in this system can be incredibly useful. I taught my husband about it, and it’s added a new dimension to our marriage. He uses it with his colleagues. I use it with my family. We’ve even sorted our pets. It was helpful to realize that our Questioner parrot needs more variety in her routine, and she’s not super-big on rules.
The book is structured with a separate section for each tendency. Upholders come first, naturally, since the author is an Upholder and in fact invented the concept. Within sections, there is an explanation of the tendency, its strengths and weaknesses, and variations within the type. For instance, my husband is an UPHOLDER/Questioner like Gretchen and I am a QUESTIONER/Upholder like her husband Jamie.
One of the best features of the book is that each tendency has a chapter on how to deal with people of that type. Oh my gosh, I wish this had been available when I first met my husband! It’s like a “care and feeding of” manual. We went on a vacation trip once with his Upholder mom and Upholder daughter, the three of them lined up, dressed, and ready to go every morning at 6:30 AM, naturally expecting that everyone in the world knows the Upholder Vacation Standards and Practices Guide backwards and forwards. Gee, doesn’t everyone arrive half an hour early and wait in the parking lot for attractions to open? At least they had the good sense to leave the event planning to the curious and novelty-seeking Questioner.
Generally, I think Questioners like myself have the easiest life. It’s just unfortunate that we sometimes make things difficult for others around us! I agree that I can easily do anything if it makes sense and I’m sold on the reasons for it. I’ve learned to battle my own tendency toward analysis-paralysis by adapting the engineering standard known as “low-side compliance.” Does what I’m doing meet the stated criteria, on schedule, with minimal cost and effort? Is the task relevant to the project? I’ve set up a minimalist system for running the household, our finances, my client schedule, and my fitness level, so I can get the optimal results with the least time commitment. That means I have the maximum time possible to write, research obsessively, and mess around doing whatever I want. My Upholder husband, who taught me the concept of low-side compliance, usually cooperates without comment, even when I keep tweaking the system.
Incidentally, there was another Questioner in the audience at the live event on Tuesday. He asked what I considered to be an archetypical Questioner question. Essentially, he wanted to know where the data came from, and he finished, “I don’t see a PhD after your name...” I thought this was so impertinent, a harsh startup that came across very aggressively. (I mean, do you yourself have an advanced degree? No?) How often must I sound like that to people when I ask curious questions?? He happened to be sitting directly behind me, so I was able to turn around and chat with him after the show. By “chat,” I mean, engage in Questioner debate. I shared that the data came from the hundreds of thousands of people who had taken the Tendencies quiz on Gretchen’s website, and that she has a Juris Doctor, which is basically equivalent to a PhD. His rejoinder was that that’s law, not social sciences. We quibbled back and forth for about ten minutes, with the result that we were last in line to get our books signed. Neither of us changed our minds.
My husband and I had a bit of a joke, imagining the room sorted into four groups by tendency. He said the Upholders would all nod at one another and then stand there, waiting for further instructions. I said the Obligers would be trading contact information within five minutes, and they’d all wind up hugging before they left. He said most of the Rebels would probably leave. I said the Questioners would immediately start quarreling non-stop. Then he did wind up meeting another Upholder and they traded nods... and I did get into a quarrel with another Questioner!
In practice, exploring the Four Tendencies tends to make us more accepting of other people’s quirks and foibles. Better than that, it helps us to realize that they have strengths we may have been taking for granted. Recently I’ve realized that my Rebel dad has a native genius for negotiating. I’m trying to absorb more of the Obliger gift for friendship. My husband is using what he knows about the tendencies to help mentor younger engineers. This book is going to be an invaluable resource for those who care to explore it. There’s definitely room in the world for more of this material. If the great Gretchen Rubin were to write companion volumes for the workplace, marriage, or parenting, I would be delighted to read them.
I was never an athlete until I turned 35, but The Champion's Mind is one of the most incredible books I have ever read. In a way, it almost makes me a little sad, because I feel like only people who are interested in team sports would be drawn to read it, and the majority of us will continue to have no idea how much we are missing. Think of it as a thinly veiled philosophy book or entrepreneurial motivational firehose. Jim Afremow writes keenly precise prose, and I think I bookmarked nearly every page.
I'm a distance runner. Although all of my experiences with team sports were uniformly awful, I found that 98% of the motivational material in The Champion's Mind felt deeply relevant to solo endurance sports as well. Those of us who are late to the game of physical culture can try out a bit of this collected wisdom. Would I think this way all the time if I had recognized my inner athlete decades earlier? Would I have been more receptive to coaching in my youth? (Probably not...)
One of the most useful concepts I took from The Champion's Mind was the idea of countering a Mental Error (ME) with a Mental Correction (MC). In my professional work with hoarding, squalor, and chronic disorganization, almost all of the work is in identifying and grappling with the extreme negative stories my clients tell about themselves. This made me think of my work as existing on the farthest possible end of the philosophical spectrum from athletic excellence. Sad to say, my people probably spend as much time accumulating and churning their physical possessions as Olympians do training and winning medals. Same twenty-four hours every single day.
Afremow recommends that athletes spend 30 minutes a day organizing and cleaning their personal space. Indeed. That's really about all it takes if you do it every single day. He also discusses social loafing, the phenomenon in which people on a team slack off because they believe their teammates will work hard enough to cover them. If this isn't relevant to family housekeeping, I don't know what is.
I'm going to keep coming back to this book again and again. Some of the mantras are going on the lock screen of my phone. Think It, Then Ink It! Own Your Zone! Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Gold In, Gold Out. Sustained Obsession. If these sorts of thinking tools have helped professional athletes to overcome major injuries, surgeries, and personal trauma, they can certainly help an ordinary person like me to get through the day.
Favorite quote: "The present is always the present, and it's all that ever is; the past and future exist only in your imagination."
Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder is the real thing. Corinne Grant is an Australian stand-up comic who has had a successful television career. You’d never know that from her book, though. She scarcely mentions her work, which may be due to tall-poppy modesty, or maybe because she’s just that well known to the Australian audience. Either way, it’s a testament to the power of her story. Hoarding makes life difficult no matter how well everything else might be going. What could have been a depressing story turns into a laugh riot, as Grant examines her emotional relationship with her stuff with humor and self-compassion.
Anyone who is ambivalent about keepsakes, memorabilia, souvenirs, and other emotional minefields will relate to this book. Grant has powerful emotional ties to almost every last thing she owns. She’s unable to get rid of a single item without agonizing over it, including the dried-out stems of an old bouquet, which she photographs for posterity. There are scenes of her weeping, arguing with friends who try to help her move, hiding stuff she wants to keep, and rescuing things she had planned to donate. Like I said, this book is the real thing.
It’s Grant’s ability to laugh at herself that saves her. While it doesn’t make the process any easier, she’s able to recognize when she is being irrational. She enlists the support of a friend who also hoards, and the progress really gets going when they start telling each other the truth about their fraught ties to their possessions. This is where the title comes in. These really are Lessons in Letting Go. How exactly do I convince myself to let go of a sentimental old t-shirt or a broken appliance? She shares her emotional homework, explaining the back story of specific objects, such as an unsent childhood love letter to Bruce Springsteen, and how she talked herself through the decision to let each one go.
The work proceeds gradually, in fits and starts. She’s able to make breakthroughs after some major life events, including a trip to Bali and a visit to a refugee camp in Jordan. At one point, she asks a group of refugees what it was hardest to lose, thinking they’ll say something like their photo albums or baby shoes. They all say “stability” - and she suddenly sees her personal memorabilia in a new context. Each time she comes home, she’s able to process another layer of her stuff.
Lessons in Letting Go is full of happy endings. One of the biggest surprises for me was that Grant is able to tally up all her stuff at the end of the book. She’s kept 24 boxes and gotten rid of enough to fill 20. I feel the need to say that an American hoarder with this level of emotional entanglement would have had far, far more stuff than this! I’ve talked to professional movers who have pulled 100 boxes out of a single bedroom. My husband and I moved six months ago, into a one-bedroom, 680-square-foot apartment with a single closet, and we had 64 boxes between us. That includes one box of my husband’s memorabilia that I made him keep (trophies, medals, Scouting stuff) while Grant claims she’s saved a few boxes of her own school memories. I suspect we just have more housewares, because at least a third of our boxes consist of kitchen hardware and appliances. I only had two boxes of books. You know what? I’d pay to see a catalog of those remaining 24 boxes and what was in them!
I laughed out loud at several places in this book. Lessons in Letting Go felt true to me. Grant is hysterical, ribald, and honest about her struggles in a way that’s entirely relatable. I kept laughing as I put the book down, culled a sack of clothes and a bag of books, and carried them out the door to donate.
“Nothing meant anything if I kept it all.”
“I was a hoarder, I dreamed of living unhaunted.”
“It struck me that the difference between a hoarder and a non-hoarder was not how much of their lives they had failed at, but how many reminders they kept of those failures.”
Guess what? Chris Guillebeau has a new book coming out! I got an advance copy for attending World Domination Summit this year, which was quite gracious. It’s called Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days. If you’re a fan like I am, you already know that Chris started a daily podcast this year called Side Hustle School. While the podcast features brief profiles of successful side hustlers, the book is more of a handbook on how it’s done.
What I like best about the Guillebeau approach is that he focuses on the practical rather than the merely motivational. People are doing this, they’re doing it every single day, and it’s easier than we think. We just need to implement our ideas. “Inspiration is good, but inspiration with action is so much better.”
Side gigs are everywhere these days. Recently, I’ve paid side hustlers to drive me through Lyft, let me sleep at their house through AirBnB, and deliver my groceries through Instacart. We were just in Jackson, Wyoming, where we used a shuttle service run by a group of young Ukrainian guys who like to ski. It’s a double-edged sword; in one sense, it’s scary to think how little some of these gigs must pay, but in another sense, it’s also exciting to think how low the bar is for someone to just wake up one morning and decide to start bringing in more money. What Side Hustle can do is to teach someone to think of more and better ways to bring in more and better money.
I started babysitting when I was ten, and it didn’t occur to me that I could quit until I was in my mid-thirties. While I was in college, I also cleaned houses, took in mending from other students, edited papers (for trade), house-sat, took notes for a deaf student, did transcriptions, dealt in consignment clothes and used books, and of course I had a work-study job on top of my regular quarter-time job. I used to say I had five streams of income in school, and I just realized it was actually more! When you’re in the hustle mindset, you just step up and act on whatever money-making propositions cross your mind.
When you’re rich, they call it “multiple streams of income.” When you’re poor, it’s just your reality. I’ve learned that middle-class people are the only people who rely on one single job. That always felt precarious and threatening to me, the thought that if I got laid off, I wouldn’t be able to make my rent. Side hustles, as Chris frequently emphasizes, are a way to spread that risk and generate independence and security.
This is an approachable, straightforward, well-tested book. Every step has an example of a real person or couple who did it, what the side business is, and how much money it made. There are examples ranging from a few hundred dollars a year to a hundred thousand or more. Side Hustle has something for everyone, and for those of us who want more, there’s the Side Hustle School podcast as a companion.
Side Hustle launches on September 19.
“Yeah, but we have kids.” So many parents believe that their children limit what they can do that I’m always super-excited to be able to share examples of other parents whose kids are thriving while they do whatever it is. Tsh Oxenreider gives us an epic vision of alternative parenting in which kids can be At Home in the World.
The Oxenreiders decided to take off and travel the world for nine months, an entire school year. At the time, their kids were 9, 6, and 4. One of them is on the autism spectrum. If you can think of a more compelling case for the contention that “if they can do it, anyone can,” I’d love to hear about it! While this poetic travelogue includes plenty of gory details about the kids complaining, leaving their stuff behind on like every possible mode of transportation, and inconveniently barfing, overall it seems nearly as manageable as any local road trip. Kids adjust. That was the point of the trip: to teach the kids about the world. The earlier they could learn to travel and adapt to changing circumstances, the more interesting their lives would be.
How did they do it? They SOLD THEIR HOUSE and put their stuff in a storage locker. During this round-the-world trip, the Oxenreiders were technically homeless, which was sort of the point. They had to try to find internet in some pretty obscure places in order to run their business affairs. They home-schooled the kids, who had to try to do their homework anywhere and everywhere. They stayed on a strict budget, often staying with internet friends. They walked a lot and ate as frugally as they could manage. There is enough budget detail here to make it plausible that families of limited means could still pull off a feat like this. The technical details are present, yet not the main focus of the story.
A memorable detail for me was the story of the Westbrook Effect. A family demonstrates intense hospitality to the Oxenreiders, picking them up from the airport and rolling out the red carpet for them in every way they can. The Oxenreiders are overwhelmed, protesting that they shouldn’t go to so much trouble. They explain that they are paying forward hospitality they themselves received, and that after experiencing the Westbrook Effect, they determined to do it themselves whenever they had guests. This is an idea that deserves to be spread, and it’s a fine argument in itself for reading At Home in the World.
Oxenreider writes beautifully. Her glory is in the fine, quotidian details of what makes each city unique. There is a stillness in the flurry. Reading her accounts of the homes where her family roosts so briefly makes it feel impossible not to travel, not to throw caution to the winds and book the tickets tomorrow. At Home in the World is a meditation on how to balance a sense of home with an unquenchable wanderlust. As such, it has much to offer both homebodies and inveterate wanderers.
I saw Jeff Goins live in an academy at World Domination Summit, and he gave out copies of Real Artists Don’t Starve to all of the attendees. The list price of the hardcover was almost as much as the ticket price for the academy, making this an act of radical generosity. Either that, or it was a savvy marketing tool, as the book includes a flyer for… wait, what?? What was I just saying? I just looked at the website for Goins’s Tribe Conference and when I saw the lineup of speakers, I sort of lost my mind. Some of my totally favorite writers and artists will be there. Ryan Holiday, Leo Babauta, Marsha Shandur, Jon Acuff, Jonathan Fields, Tsh Oxenreider, I have the worst case of FoMO ever right now. I’m cross-scheduled or I would definitely be finagling to go to this event. Anyway, I started out with a review of Real Artists Don’t Starve, and that’s no time to be distracted thinking of all the successful, prosperous artists whose work I enjoy so much.
One of the main points of this book is that we don’t make art to make money, we make money to make art. The Starving Artist rejects money with a passionate hostility. (In fact, this doesn’t apply only to artists, but to most people with a scarcity mindset). The Thriving Artist understands that money allows for the creation of larger-scale projects. Pause for a moment and think of your favorite musicians, actors, writers, cartoonists, and other artists whom you admire. If they’re financially successful, why are they still working? Obviously it’s because making their art is the most interesting thing they can possibly think of to do with their time. The money means better equipment, higher quality supplies, bigger venues, more elaborate costumes, better sound systems, and the ability to reach a larger audience. We’re fans. This is what we want from our most beloved artists, right? Then why would we deny it to ourselves? We have to accept that it’s fair to bring in money in proportion to the value that we put out in the world.
Art is love. This is why we’re transfixed by it. It’s an outpouring of talent and skill and passion that could never be duplicated by anyone else. It is well and just that the creators of masterpieces, those who have dedicated their lives to their art, should accept as much as we want to give them. For some reason, though, we hesitate to think of ourselves in this context. Oh, sure, my favorite musician should be rich so she can go on tour and come to my city. But me? Sell out? Never.
My husband is an aerospace engineer. We’ve learned from each other that engineering and writing have everything in common: the continual urge to create, the equal need to edit and edit again, the frustration of hovering right at the edge of an insight and having no idea exactly when the missing thought wave will arrive. There are two differences. One, engineers actively seek out extremely critical peer review. Two, nobody ever asks an engineer to do anything for free. We’re pretty sure it never even crosses people’s minds. “Will you design this motor drive for me? It would be good exposure!”
Why isn’t it absurd to ask artists to work for free? Why?
Real Artists Don’t Starve. This is a terrific book by a man who knows whereof he speaks. If he gets his way, we’ll all start respecting our own work, thereby bringing dignity to the profession of working artist. I can’t recommend it enough. Now I need to go back to fantasizing about being at the Tribe Conference… sigh…
Those of us who are awkward salute you, Vanessa Van Edwards, as our new queen. We have needed this book so much, but we never knew it. Ours is the tribe that openly claims to “lack social skills.” Why didn’t anyone tell us that this stuff could be learned? Captivate is the “missing manual” to that legacy of frustrating, disappointing, awkward, and humiliating social failures. That sounds awful. Let me start over. Captivate is a fun, entertaining guide to behavior hacking that can help anyone figure out how to actually enjoy social interactions.
I had the pleasure of hearing Vanessa speak at World Domination Summit this year. She is tremendous. It’s really hard to believe that she ever felt awkward, because she is so beautiful and funny and polished and engaging. Then she reveals that she owes it all to Spanx. Ugh, it’s not fair. How can she be all that and be so likable?
There’s this saying that “if you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” We have to take it on faith that Vanessa Van Edwards really was ever anywhere near as awkward as she claims. If that’s true, then her public persona and success at teaching people skills are proof that this stuff works. We can ask ourselves, “If it worked for her, will it work for me? Maybe even 1%?”
I think Captivate would even work for my autistic friends, because it includes extremely specific details, photographs, diagrams, and explanations of why people react the way they do. It has sample scripts of things to say in conversation. This is stuff that can be studied and memorized and tested.
I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum, as an empath. I always struggled with something that I never knew had a name. People would make microexpressions, which I find clearly visible, and then quickly, deliberately obscure those instantaneous reactions with something else. Part of my awkwardness was in wanting to talk openly about things that other people wanted to avoid. I didn’t understand why there needed to be this secret, hidden layer to people’s reactions and interactions. Too personal, too intimate, too quickly. Especially when I was young, I had to have social dynamics painstakingly explained to me. What a magical gift this book would have been for a weird little kid like me!
Something really struck me while reading this book, and it was the section on primary values. Everyone is in search of a primary value in every interaction. That’s going to be either love, service, status, money, goods, or information. My primary value is information, with a secondary value of service, while my husband says his is love followed by service. Aha. Can you tell me more about this need to feel accepted and liked by others? Because I’d really like to know! What struck me about this was that Goods are on the list right up there with Love and Status. THIS IS SO TRUE. This explains every last little thing that I wasn’t yet understanding about my work with hoarders! They actually think that Goods matter for some reason! Ahem. I mean. They have this trait in common with artists, museum curators, and archaeologists? *whistles, puts hands in pockets*
I was captivated by Captivate, and also captivated by Vanessa Van Edwards herself. This is a truly, truly remarkable book. For myself, I don’t even feel like one reading was enough; it feels like the more time I spend studying it, the easier my life will be. The same will probably be true for you.
What would you do if you knew you only had twenty-four hours to live? This question is right up there with “What would you do if you won the lottery?” and “If you could only bring one thing to a deserted island, what would it be?” What we should probably be asking are the opposites: “What would you do if you knew you would never have any money you didn’t earn at work?” and “If you could be happy with only one thing on a deserted island, why do you have so much stuff?” And, of course, “What would you do if you realized you were going to live to be at least 95-100 years old?” Suddenly the questions about money and possessions start to look less frivolous and more literally relevant. The 100-Year Life makes the extremely provocative case that human longevity has been stealthily increasing on us, and that we need to reckon on it in our future plans.
People do not want to believe that they will live to be very elderly. This seems surprising. We always complain that we don’t have enough time to do what we want. Yet my clients are all convinced that they’ll die young. They resist any suggestion to the contrary, refuting it by proclaiming the ages their various relatives were when they died. As The 100-Year Life makes abundantly clear, this is irrelevant. Lifespans are increasing across the board. An example of this is that in only the past decade, the number of UK citizens living to their 100th birthday increased 70%.
Oh, no no no. Surely this doesn’t apply to me. Why should I care? I am absolutely stone-cold certain that I’m not going to live past… Um… past… ?
We have to care about our extended lifespans because we have to plan on how we’re going to take care of ourselves when we’re too old to work. Generally people roll their eyes in resignation and “joke” that they’ll just have to keep working, but in reality, 55% of Americans quit working sooner than planned. Either our health collapses, or we aren’t able to find work. We pin our mental “retirement” age at 65, but if we actually live to be 95, that’s THIRTY YEARS of retirement we’ll need to fund. Surely we don’t think we’ll still have jobs at 90? If we hate what we do for income now, how much more are we going to like it after being in the workforce for seventy years or more?
The picture of advanced aging presented in The 100-Year Life is only bleak for those who have zero intention of either preserving their health and fitness or of saving money. (That’s what procrastination is for; the two most commonly procrastinated goals are saving money and getting healthier). A cool feature of the book is that it offers three separate models of aging, one for Boomers, one for GenXers, and one for Millennials. These models show a few pitfalls, yes; mostly, they envision lives with more time. Time for education, time for leisure, time for more interesting career arcs, time for more involved intergenerational family models.
The average 40-year-old has a 50/50 chance of living to be 95. I just turned 42 this summer, and I believe it would be foolhardy to assume I’m in the bottom half of that distribution. Sure, maybe I die later today, and that’s why I do my best to tell people I love them and avoid leaving loose ends in my life. The bigger risk is to outlive my expectations, my teeth, my health, and my money. Assuming we’ll live to be 100 isn’t optimistic (if anything, it might be pessimistic!). It’s simply an objective part of our baseline reality now.
This book is an incredible, fascinating, even mind-bending read. I really kind of want everyone I know to drop everything and read it as fast as possible, so we can start having a prolonged conversation about it.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.