Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Notes: The Organized Heart: A Woman's Guide to Conquering Chaos, by Staci Eastin

This book caught my eye because it was advertised as a book about organization that wasn't about making lists and checking them off. Tomes with a few hundred pages detailing their particular author's favorite order for cleaning the living room I can pick up by the armful at my local library, but "The Organized Heart" promised to be something different. It didn't assume you didn't know how to be organized. Instead, it promised to tell you why you weren't doing what you know how to do.

I found that it lived up to its promise. Eastin's book is divided into four main categories, each of them a reason - she calls them "idols" - behind your disorganization. The fact that one of them ("leisure" out of the possible choices of "perfectionism", "busyness", "possessions", and "leisure") really hit home to me more than the others makes me think that she's probably on the right track in defining her categories.

In the "leisure" section, she observes:

. . . a habit of procrastination indicates a worship problem: an unwillingness to do the work that God has appointed for us, or an inability to discern what he has given us and what he has not.

And that sentence right there contains both what I loved about this book and what I hated about it.

What did I love? Well, look at the second half of the above-quoted sentence: it's brilliant. It's insightful. She's got it exactly right. Procrastination is either an unwillingness to do the work or an inability to discern what the work is. It's disobedience or it's ignorance. I'm still chewing on that.

But look at the first half of the sentence: it's exactly the sort of jargon that makes me grind my teeth when reading books by modern Calvinists. And this book is full of it.

Despite that, I recommend it. The define-my-terms-so-carefully-I'm-spending-more-time-defining-my-terms-than-using-them-in-normal-sentences style of writing really just is the style of a lot of modern Calvinists. Unless you're willing to ignore them completely (which would be sad, because they have good stuff to say), you'll have to put up with it. And I have a lot of sympathy for it; it's awful to be misunderstood, and it's tempting to hedge your sentences round with disaffirmations in order to avoid misunderstanding. But it makes for tedious reading.

Yet the kernel of goodness in this book is worth it, and many times Eastin's natural insight breaks free of what feels like a strong editorial harness and she goes striding beautifully through pages and pages of helpful prose before being reined back in.

How can you find a solution to your problem when you can't even state your problem? That's where I often find myself. And I think that "The Organized Heart" is worth its purchase price just for how well it states the problem. I haven't seen it done as well anywhere else. I think it'll help many readers towards a solution.

Jessica Snell

1 comment:

Willa said...

I just put the book on my wish list -- it does sound like she deals with an area that most books don't even acknowledge exists.