Book Review: Breathing Room


Breathing Room -
Breathing Room:

Open Your Heart by decluttering your home
By Lauren Rosenfeld and Dr. Melva Green

The American public clearly has a problem with clutter. Book-selling titan Amazon lists over 2,000 titles that contain the word “clutter.” The vast majority of these books offer a nearly endless array of strategies and ideas to survive this tidal wave of possessions that we do not have room for.

An obvious symptom of this problem is the self-storage industry. With consumers spending over $20 billion dollars a year in self-storage, this industry has become the subject of articles from the New York Times and Forbes, to the Orange County Register. There are over 50,000 self-storage locations in the U.S., more than all McDonald’s, Subway, and Jack in the Box restaurants. The entire population could stand inside the millions of self-storage units across the country and we spend the most money on consumer goods in the world! Is it any wonder we don’t know where to put all that stuff?

As I said, the American public has a problem with clutter.

There has even been an on-going slate of TV shows all about clutter in one context or another: Hoarders (in which Dr. Melva Green appeared as a psychiatrist and advice expert), Clean House, Storage War$, Extreme Clutter, Mission: Organization, Clean Sweep, and Neat . . . . to name a few. Since our clutter problem shows no signs of being solved any time soon, Lauren Rosenfeld and Dr. Melva Green have co-authored Breathing Room: Open Your Heart by decluttering your home.

At first, I felt a bit defensive. The authors define themselves as “soul sisters,” on “wondrous life paths, stepping with mindful gratitude” in their work while managing wildly successful careers, and sharing all this with lovely and talented families. How could I possibly achieve these evolutionary heights from my lowly and anonymous place as just another American consumer?

The thought also crossed my mind, that personal clutter is pretty much a first-world problem. If you have too many material possessions, I can tell you what to do in one sentence. Sell them, donate them to a charity, or throw them out. It’s not that complicated. Or is it? Do I really need to read a book, create a decluttering journal, and not only examine and sort through my physical home clutter, but clutter in my life roles and responsibilities, my relationships, and my heart? The authors assert an ambitious agenda with Ten Principles of Spiritual Decluttering, each requiring four exercises to complete.

Despite my initial misgivings, I feel the authors are correct to assert that decluttering is an on-going process, not simply a one time event. I also agree that for most of us, physical clutter in our homes cannot be permanently solved by simply selling, donating or throwing objects out. This problem is more complex than it may initially appear.

A spiritual, holistic method of decluttering is described by the acronym SLICE (Stop and Listen. Intend. Clear the Energy.) Look at your clutter objectively, calmly, without judgement. It symbolizes and represents our emotional clutter. We must explore our emotions and how they relate to our clutter. As you observe each room and space in your home, take the time to decide what the true intention is for that specific space. What objects help with those intentions, and which objects prevent these true intentions from clearly happening?

The authors’ have specific suggestions to help readers find the connections between physical and internal environments and how both interrelate and affect each other. As we examine objects in our home, ask ourselves: “Is it true to my intentions? Do I use it? Is it kind to my heart and spirit?” Honest answers to these questions quickly clarify what to do with each object, and also what to do with our internal clutter as well!

Breathing Room is a substantial book for a substantial problem.  It asks a lot of a reader, especially one who will participate fully in the exercises and self-examination that is necessary to change ingrained habits of cluttering. There is a cheerful, positive and supportive tone, but the authors can also be blunt: “There’s no easy way to do this, folks.” I find this refreshingly honest. After all, we alone are ultimately responsible for our clutter. Let’s get to work!

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