Read of the Week

Unf*ck your Habitat: You’re better than your mess

Rachel Hoffman


Review: Chantel Erfort

If I had a rand for every person who said “oh that looks interesting” when they saw this book on my desk, I’d have… about R10. The point I’m trying to make – and I’m going to use another cliché – is that you should not judge a book by its cover.

When I picked this book from the review pile, I was reading extensively about the minimalist movement and somehow thought this was related to the topic. It’s not.

What it is, is a book full of things that should be common sense. I can’t imagine that anyone who has reached the level of independence that comes with living in your own space, does not already know the things Rachel Hoffman has turned into a book.

At best, I think most of what’s in Unf*ck your Habitat could be distilled into a blog post, or one – maybe two – of those lists that are so popular on social media.

The basis of the UfYH system is avoiding what Hoffman refers to as “marathon cleaning” – you know, when you set one whole day aside to clean everything and then collapse in an exhausted heap afterward. I have lived with a marathon cleaner, so I did find myself nodding in agreement when the writer outlined the merits of her 20/10 system. This essentially involves 20-minute bursts of cleaning, followed by 10 minutes of relaxing – and she strongly promotes cleaning and clearing regularly so that you avoid a situation which ultimately requires a marathon cleaning session.

Importantly, the writer recognises that cleaning and maintaining cleaning systems would be easy if we lived alone or if we had the same levels of physical ability. But many of us don’t. And so, I thought it was very insightful of Hoffman to include sections on dealing with other people in your space, the impact of mess on one’s mental health – and systems for people with physical disabilities. One piece of advice also struck me as being incredibly simple, yet very useful: don’t put things down, put them away.

I had really hoped the section on clearing up one’s digital habitat – because we all know what a mess an unattended inbox can become – would make a difference in my work life, but it didn’t.

UfYH also includes chapters on maintaining order when moving, decluttering small spaces as well as resources such as challenges and checklists. But do people really need a list that reminds them to “make your bed; wash up; put your clothes and shoes away…”?

I don’t think this book is worth buying. If you’re struggling to declutter your home, make better use of small spaces or find the best system for packing and unpacking when moving, I’m sure there are very useful resources online which you won’t have to pay for. Also, if you think you might be offended by the writer swearing at you, don’t buy this book.