“Yet, for all their virtues, tables have created an ongoing challenge in my life. My dining room table in particular, presented a daily temptation not to be lightly dismissed. Every day, that long sleek expanse of emptiness would spread itself irresistibly before me – and, like Mother Nature herself, I was seized with an uncontrollable urge to fill the vacuum.” (Page 54)
Pesi is a college professor and avid writer. She wonders if all the clutter is the creative force behind her writing after the first and last time she de-cluttered. She finally cleans the entire house but is then overcome by writer’s block. The clutter returns with a vengeance.
Is it my personal challenges with clutter, my love of writing or my appreciation for the quirks each individual writer possesses that made this book so enjoyable? Or is it the combination of all three wrapped within the same book? I don’t know the answer to these questions but I can honestly tell you this was a hysterically funny book.
As Pesi details the extent of her clutter to include her home, office, and car I found myself smiling but when she describes her Volvo, “…overflowing as it typically was, with piles of portable clutter en route to their next destination…” (Page 18) I nearly wet my pants in laughter. Instantly I could visualize my van, full of “…clutter en route…” oh my gosh. This is the story of my life. In order to keep my house clutter free I make sure anything in need of a new home goes to the car. Maybe this is how Pesi started? I might be in trouble.
What sparked her sudden recognition and determination to remove the clutter? An annoying colleague of the past and a toddler poking fun at her while sitting at a stop light are the motivators. This was only magnified by her 50th birthday the following day. This realization sparks such momentum through the involvement of her “Holy Sisters”; her husband Yankel spends most of the book in the background or hiding in his basement office with the exception of the “exercise equipment” fiasco.
Pesi finally devotes an entire day to remove the clutter from one corner of the basement. She starts with the exercise equipment since there is NO emotional attachment or desire to keep any of it. By the time Yankel returns home she has hauled all the unwanted equipment, boxes, and anything else to the front corridor and porch. Pesi is feeling accomplished and about to do the victory dance when Yankel starts to rummage through the boxes.
First he keeps his ice skates and then sees another item that can’t possibly go. By the time her beloved husband is finished “looking” through the boxes, everything is returned to back down stairs. Although in neater piles, the clutter was reorganized. You heard me girls, he undid all she had accomplished. I was yelling at him so much my husband came in to make sure I was okay.
In addition to life lessons on ways to remove your clutter or use it to ignite a writing frenzy, Pesi’s ultimate search, is for God. God is interchanged with “Master Creator Himself” or “Higher Power”. Her desire to “find” God is so great she and Yankel travel to Israel. While there she meets and Kabbalahan spiritual advisor, Tova. Tova is the one to finally provide Pesi with a satisfactory reason for her clutter. “Well,” Tova said, hesitating for a moment, “I would have to say that the underlying problem, as I see it, is the absence of God in your thoughts.” (Page 289)
Pesi and I may not share our faith yet our love of clutter is there. Pesi shares ways to clear your clutter in a real and “too” honest way. I felt guilty laughing at her piles and obsession with the clutter yet it is written in a way that provokes such response. I highly recommend Pesi Dinnerstein’s A Cluttered Life: My Search For God, Serenity And My Missing Keys. If you want to laugh, yell, and cry over a cup of coffee with Pesi’s “Holy Sisters” as they discuss her bizarre clutter and the process to remove it then this is the book for you.
Pesi Dinnerstein (a.k.a. Paulette Plonchak) has written selections for the best-selling series Small Miracles, by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal, and has contributed to several textbooks and an anthology of short stories.
Dinnerstein recently retired as a full-time faculty member of the City University of New York, where she taught language skills for close to thirty years. She has been an aspiring author and self-acknowledged clutterer for many years, and has spent the better part of her life trying to get organized and out from under. Despite heroic efforts, she has not yet succeeded; but she continues to push onward, and hopes that her journey will inspire others to keep trying as well.
www.aclutteredlife.com or www.sealpress.com
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Insightful, unsettling, and wildly funny, A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys (Seal Press) is the story of Pesi Dinnerstein’s quest to create a simple and orderly life—only to discover that simplicity is not so simple and what constitutes clutter is not always perfectly clear. When a chance encounter with an old acquaintance reveals the extent to which disorder has crept into every corner of her existence, Pesi determines to free herself, once and for all, of the excess baggage she carries with her. Along the way—with the help of devoted friends, a twelve-step recovery program, and a bit of Kabbalistic wisdom—her battle with chaos is transformed into an unexpected journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening.
I any compensation from the Seal Press or Pesi Dinnerstein for this review, only a PDF version of the book for review puposes.