a bookshelf of organising books

Recommendations from the APDO Book Club bookshelf

APDO’s Book Club was launched in the summer of 2020. Whilst the book club is for APDO members, we wanted to share our thoughts on the books that we have read with a wider audience, in the hope that some of these titles might find their way onto your reading list too. In this post, APDO Book Club co-ordinator Sarah Howley of Organising Solutions reviews some of the books that have made it onto the APDO Book Club bookshelves so far. Over to Sarah…

Headshot of APDO member Sarah Howley

APDO Book Club

When I heard that APDO Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers wanted to introduce a book club, and that they wanted me to be involved in running it, I was overjoyed. As a librarian and life-long book enthusiast, I was thrilled to be given such a golden opportunity to immerse myself in industry literature. This was a chance to expand my reading list, identify new favourites and get together with other organisers to seek out the most interesting finds – I couldn’t volunteer quickly enough! Working alongside Mel Carruthers of More Organised, a plan was formed and before we knew it, the first meeting arrived.

With one book per month taking the spotlight, it’s been difficult to choose between all the amazing books we’d like to feature on our reading list. However, in the spirit of professional development and acknowledging key industry themes, Mel and I aim to curate a diverse and interesting selection for our fellow APDO members to enjoy. You can find a brief review of the first six APDO Book Club choices below.

“Making Space” by Sarah Tierney

This debut novel by Derbyshire writer Sarah Tierney explores themes of mental health. Miriam is fed up with her lacklustre life and purges her belongings in hopes of a fresh start. A chance assignment introduces her to Erik, a troubled artist with hoarding disorder. Their story demonstrates how emotional wellbeing and trauma can affect our attitudes to clutter and decluttering. APDO members were impressed with the author’s handling of the subject matter and found Lisa, the fictional professional organiser, to be a relatable character. Find out more by reading our interview with the author.

The book "Making Space" by Sarah Tierney on a white background

“Dostadning:  The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” by Margareta Magnusson

Margareta Magnusson, a Swedish-born artist, offers this practical handbook on getting things in order before you die. Having death cleaned for many people, she pulls together her most useful anecdotes, interlaced with the dry humour of an elderly matriarch who has seen it all. At times, the author seems to eschew sentimentality, yet at others her words are resoundingly beautiful. During the book club meeting, we acknowledged that we all know at least one client, friend or family member who could benefit from this best-selling introduction to the concept of death cleaning.

“The Trauma Cleaner” by Sarah Krasnostein

Sarah Krasnostein’s telling of Sandra Pankhurst’s story is shocking, funny and compelling in equal parts. The author reveres her subject, and you can’t help being a little in awe yourself as you discover more. A terminally ill transgender woman with a tumultuous and often traumatic past, Pankhurst is dedicated to spending her remaining time helping others clean away their own pain. The group discussed how organisers often find themselves in the role of confidante, and shared techniques for dealing with sensitive conversations.

“Atomic Habits” by James Clear

Packed full of exercises, explanations and examples, James Clear makes a convincing argument for swapping big goals for small steps. He emphasises the importance of building good habits and presents us with four laws: make it obvious; make it attractive; make it easy; make it satisfying. Prior to our meeting, several book club members had even felt inspired to create their own good habits! We reflected on the effects of internal and external influences on habit creation and considered how Clear compares to other writers on the same topic, such as Gretchen Rubin (author of Better Than Before).

The book "Atomic Habits" and a notebook and pen on a desk

“The House We Grew Up In” by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell has long been a household name associated with best-selling fiction. In this novel, the children of a woman with hoarding disorder revisit the family home to clear it after her death. Multiple timelines and voices reveal a charmed beginning threaded with moments of unease. A shock event blows the family apart and this is compounded by Lorelai’s attempt to hold tightly on to everything and everyone she can. APDO members often witness how hoarding disorder impacts the loved ones of those who live with it, and in many cases it can be impossible to maintain a close relationship. Together, we considered minimalism and hoarding behaviours on a spectrum, where the level of compulsion can be strong in both extremes.

“Calm Christmas and a Happy New” Year by Beth Kempton

In this festive treat, Beth Kempton combines charming narrative with checklists, cherished memories and contemplative exercises. The book is split into three sections: anticipation (before Christmas), celebration (during Christmas) and manifestation (after Christmas). While religion is mentioned, it is not central to the guidance given. Our book club members were lucky enough to receive a short video from the author, in which she advised on applying Calm Christmas concepts amid a pandemic and entering 2021 with a positive mindset.

What’s next?

Look out for another blog post this summer, featuring a review of our next six books:

  • Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonnenschein
  • Introduction to Coaching Skills by Christian Van Nieuwerburgh
  • Death & Decluttering by Nancy McGovern
  • Decluttering at The Speed of Life by Dana K. White
  • Two more great choices which are soon to be announced.


The APDO Book Club is one of the many benefits of joining APDO! You can find out more about becoming a member here!

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