The Life Changing Magic of Getting Your Sh%t Together

I won’t lie: I’m trying to get my stuff together. Let’s talk about it a little bit.

There are two things that happen to you when you get graduate degrees in creative writing and library science. First, your weakness for books grows like kudzu. You have an impossibly long wish list of books on Amazon, haunt your library’s used booksale, and are always out of space for books in the house. Your nightstand may start to resemble a Leaning Tower of Pisa constructed entirely out of paperbacks. Secondly, you probably have a good amount of graduate school debt and want to pay it off. Which is way less fun than recreating European landmarks out of your favorite mystery novels.

I’m not alone. Some people are even calling this generation’s grad school debt Loan-agedon. Since I graduated, I’ve been thinking a lot about debt, happiness, and priorities. While my own debt has never reached the apocalyptic levels of Slate articles, I’ve developed a soft spot for books that talk about eliminating debt and living more simply. Are you living in an impossibly tiny house? Paid off a lot of debt? Then I want to read your book, visit your blog, or listen to your podcast.

Some of my favorites:

The 100 Thing Challenge by David Bruno

Regular guy Dave attempts to limit himself to exactly 100 personal possessions, including toothpaste. I reviewed this book for the Where Is My Guru radio show back in 2013. Since Jessica, Heather and the rest of the WIMG gang are currently remodeling the site (I’m excited to see what’s next for WIMG!) my initial blog post about The 100 Thing Challenge has disappeared into the ether.  The best moment in the book, for me, is a moment where Dave talks about the emotional connections in his spending on projects–he realizes that he doesn’t care so much about the activity itself, he’s trying to recreate the feeling of childhood holidays and working with his dad. It’s a powerful insight.

You Can Buy Happiness (And It’s Cheap!) by Tammy Strobel

This is probably my favorite voluntary simplicity book. Strobel, who blogs at RowdyKittens, radically changed her life priorities by paying down her debt and thinking about what she really needed, rather than focusing on her wants. In You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap!), she documents her shift from wanting the typical lifestyle–two cars, a house with a big mortgage, a bigger engagement ring–to moving into a series of smaller homes and thinking about her possessions differently. I really related to Strobel as a narrator; I could totally imagine hanging out with her and maybe splitting an eco-friendly boxed wine.

The Happiness Project and Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

The first time I tried to read The Happiness Projectit was a disaster. I attribute this to Rubin’s opening chapters on closet organization. I’m an awful organizer. Closets are not my thing. But now I’m practically a Rubin acolyte: I bought her second book, had my first-year seminar students do some of her exercises, and eagerly await her next book on changing habits.

The Myths of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky

Lyubomirksy is a leading scholar on happiness. Yup, happiness studies exist! This is probably the most scientific book on my list. She discusses concepts like “hedonic adaptation,” also called the “hedonic treadmill.” It’s the idea that we need more and more exciting things–a shiny new car, a bigger house–to get the same level of satisfaction out of possessions.

Books I want to read:

Stuffocation by James Wellman.

That is a great title, right?

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo is hot right now: #kondo and #kondoing are trending on Twitter. In related news, I’m number 30 on the waiting list for this book at my public library.

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