Eve Schaub is a serial memoirist with two bachelor’s degrees and an MFA. She has written about giving up added sugar—for which her family probably did not thank her—and her newest book, Year of No Clutter, is about her attempt to fight back against a lifetime habit of keeping things.
Eve Schaub is a “clutter-gatherer.” She keeps stuff. Lots of stuff. She’s not a hoarder…but she’s close enough to see the shadows caused by the towering piles of junk. Her guilty secret is the “Hell Room;” 567 square feet of upstairs space overflowing with…stuff. Of course, she keeps it hidden away like the dirty secret it is. Eve is bad with decisions, but she decides she’s finally—finally—going to get rid of all the stuff clogging the Hell Room so her family can actually use the space.
Does she really need to save her fifth-grade report card? No. Who does that? What Eve discovers is that she’s not really keeping stuff—she’s keeping memories. If she gets rids of the things that trigger her memories, will she lose the memories themselves? From the dead mouse to the pile of family photos, Eve must go through it all, learning what’s truly important, and what is just…clutter.
I recognize Eve’s self-description of being a “clutter-gatherer.” (Not to mention her family history of hoarding. I’m looking at you, Dad. Not to mention my grandmother, who kept every plastic butter tub ever.) This is a tendency I’ve fought for years, and for the same reasons: What if I need that someday? It has sentimental value! I can’t throw it away, it’s perfectly good! So, yes, I sympathize with Eve. Last year, when I moved, I cleaned out a storage building I’d had for years, and got rid of a lot of stuff. Including 33 boxes of books. (Yes, that hurt my heart, too. But they went to Half-Price Books at least, with a shot at a new life.)
I was expecting this book to be dry to be dry and boring (I don’t know why). Instead, I found wry wit and laugh-out-loud humor as the author delves into her memories while coming to terms with the truth about stuff…and her tendency to keep it.
(Galley provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley.)