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Book Club - Organizing From the Inside Out

Organizing from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System For Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life

Julie Morgenstern


The NAPO-NY book club met on Saturday, January 16 to discuss Julie Morgenstern’s “Organizing from the Inside Out.” This classic organizing text was first published in 1998, and though the photos of personal computers inside have changed, the essential text remains very much the same - and overall, book club attendees agreed it contains a wealth of knowledge.

Morgenstern’s “inside out” approach dictates that before you even begin to organize, you need to examine the issues that led you down the path to disorganization. These issues may be “technical errors,” such as inconvenient storage or too much stuff in the space; “external realities,” such as a messy housemate; or “psychological obstacles,” such as a need for abundance or fear of failure. As professional organizers, we should be competent in recognizing our clients’ physical limitations and offering solutions for organizational issues caused by lack of space or confusing systems. But how deeply are we expected to dig into our clients’ psyches? Members agreed that for the most part, we do “surface work” - we’re not psychologists, and we’re not qualified to dig deeper into the issues behind our clients’ clutter. As one member said, clients are more interested in just getting the clutter out of their houses!

All book club attendees had also read Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and we fell into a discussion about the differences between the two prominent organizers’ methods. One attendee noted that the books were published nearly 20 years apart, and 20 years ago, we weren’t inundated with so much stuff. This could account for the major difference between the two methods: Morgenstern focuses on storing items, and often suggests off-site storage as an option; whereas Kondo’s mantra seems to be “when in doubt, toss it out!” This difference is also seen in the two organizers’ guidelines for deciding what to discard: Kondo famously directs her followers to only keep objects that “spark joy;” while Morgenstern tells us to first toss “no-brainers” (broken or obsolete items), and then take stock of what’s left, and analyze how many items you really need. Several attendees thought this advice might be too vague for truly disorganized people.

So, would we recommend this book to our clients? Most of the organizers present said yes. We felt that “Organizing from the Inside Out” presented a straightforward system that most people could learn from. However, one attendee said she wasn’t sure - she felt that the book was so detailed, it might be too much information for a very disorganized person. She cited the often-mentioned fact that organizers frequently find stacks of organizing books in their clients’ messy homes!