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Get It Together

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpSo how did your tax preparation go this year? Personally, I only cursed twice. First when I dropped the file of medical receipts. Second when I learned that despite what my husband and I had spent on doctors, it wasn’t enough to be deductible. I discovered that after adding it all up on a recalcitrant calculator.

That’s when, inspired by Marie Kondo’s runaway bestseller, THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP, I shredded those useless receipts and resolved next year to keep only that which I truly need (in one pouch as she does). Emily Woo Zeller’s Earphones Award performance makes Kondo’s quirky, precise guide to living tidily endearing as well as helpful. (Watch Zeller’s delightful Behind the Mic chat about narrating the book – she too folds her shirts differently!)  Her friendly tone warms the exacting tea-ceremony aspect of Kondo’s approach and animates her appealing eccentricities, such as thanking her possessions. Then again, who’s calling whom eccentric?  I’ve always talked to my stuff.

Spark JoyAnd, as promised in Kondo’s charming sequel, SPARK JOY, which was given a Earphones Award narration by Sumalee Montano, saying thank you really did help me part with three faded sweaters bought on a happy trip Down Under. Her cheerful reading also helped me stick to Rule #1: Finish Discarding First (before tidying). My closets and file cabinets are lighter, and if not joyful, I am relieved.

But can I stick with it? A dental hygienist once told me that I could do anything for two weeks, such as start flossing for pity’s sake, and if I did, I’d floss forevermore. She was right.  But it took Charles Duhigg’s educational and entertaining THE POWER OF HABIT to help me understand that my new behavior wasn’t simply a desire to please. (Although, really, do as your hygienist tells you. Your gums will thank you.) In Mike Chamberlain’s lively narration, Duhigg’s exploration of the brain science behind breaking bad habits and making good habits is entertaining as well as enlightening. With Duhigg’s examples from businesses and private life as models, I know why my closets will probably remain unencumbered and why I’ll never take up jogging, even if it’s as good for me as flossing.

Gentle Art of Swedish Death CleaningNeither habit will keep me alive forever, which brings me to Margareta Magnusson’s jewel, THE GENTLE ART OF SWEDISH DEATH CLEANING. This short, engaging, ever so reasonable book about dealing with your stuff before someone else does is entrancingly read by Juliet Stevenson, whose seductive, lilting voice could convince me to do anything. I promise that you’ll feel better just for listening. You’ll understand why you should hear the books I’ve already mentioned. And your heirs won’t have to rent dumpsters after you die. Take it from me. My brother and I rented two.

The Little Book of LykkeSo, how to be happy in a life filled with good habits and no clutter? Meik Wiking’s smile-inducing THE LITTLE BOOK OF LYKKE draws from his studies at Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute to produce a simple yet not simplistic guide to what makes the world’s happiest people so cheerful. He reads the result in a clear, appealing voice with a light Danish accent.  And he has me convinced. So far, I’ve met and talked with my neighbors. I’ve eaten real food while sitting down. Next up? Foxtrot lessons. How about you? What are your secrets for order and happiness? What personal growth audiobooks have inspired change in your life?

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