I’m always a bit skeptical when someone writes a self-help book that’s supposedly for me. You see, I’ve been drowning for such a long time it’s become what I expect, and I am aware that most people writing these books have a much larger support system and much more resources than me. Also, I’m a bit difficult when it comes to mental health sort of things because I’ve been there, done that, been told that, and learned that, and so frankly, it’s very rare that I read something that’s completely new or 100% helpful to me. And while this is true to some extent for this book, I really felt like the author at least tried to understand me and my situation, and I appreciated that.

The book clearly doesn’t address all the causes of why someone might not be able to keep house and I felt as if it had some glaring blind spots, but what it does address it does so with compassion, empathy, and kindness. So let me talk about what I enjoyed first.

I am fully on board and fully resonate with the book’s advice to be kind to yourself, to change the way you think about keeping house, and it acknowledges that a great many of us have trauma around keeping house. It’s for this reason why I finally picked up the book, as I tackled not just the house issue, but also the great pile of shame that came from the memories of my aunts marching into my mother’s house (mom worked multiple jobs and was neurodivergent as well), hauling me out of there and then going in to “clean up” which mostly consisted of throwing stuff out. This cycle continued multiple times while I was growing up, and even now, decades later, I’m not sure my aunts truly understand what was going on there, especially since other members of my family showed similar traits. When you grow up thinking “love equals stuff” because the love was always conditional, well, there’s a lot of trauma there.

I appreciated reading something I’d understood–that it was okay to use paper plates, or even throw things out if they didn’t get cleaned for the recycling. I’d taken to using children’s toothpaste, which the author suggested, and boy it was a game changer for me, so I was thrilled to read this advice. (If I have any good memory of the dentist, it was the Styrofoam trays filled with bubble gum flavored fluoride. So allow me my joy in my bubble gum flavored toothpaste. My inner child thanks me.)

On page 70 the author writes it’s not waste if you use something to function. And I would add to that, as individuals, the best we can do environmentally will never replace bad corporate actors, nor will our worst outweigh them. So while it’s important that we be aware of the environment and do what we can within our means, limits, and abilities — guilt and shame shouldn’t be involved here. You’re doing the best you can. I’m sure of it! There are big systems at play designed to keep us from fully realizing our climate goals. (For example as someone who lives rural, I have to drive my recycling into town. Now I combine trips and only do that once or twice a month, but still…I admit it feels “odd” to DRIVE my recycling somewhere.)

There’s even a section about division of labor and trying to determine “work” vs “rest” and an equitable division of rest. For this reason, I suggested to my spouse that he read the book since I know he also grew up with “stuff” around cleaning, and I look forward to conversations.

So I will say there was one topic that wasn’t addressed in the book. And I get it. The author is not just trying to promote her own platform and classes, though there isn’t any mention of those until you get to the “About the Author” platform, but also, it’s complex, and that is why some of us have so much stuff.

For me, it’s because not only do I live in a family where stuff=love, but this was taken to absurd extremes when both my aunt and my grandma moved into assisted living and eventually a nursing home. And guess what? Most of their stuff was given to me. And I’m still sorting through it and trying to figure out what to do with it all. Some of it, like grandma’s recipes, I’m thrilled to have. Other, like that new pan my aunt bought and thought someone needed to use, well that got donated.

Or the other issue which wasn’t discussed, but what if you work two, or three jobs, and maybe go to college, and don’t have time to do “care chores” as she calls them. I mean if you’re not even hitting subsistence level income, then learning to breathe underwater as you clean your house to get back to the surface is only a fraction of your problems and a functional space doesn’t pay the bills.

So I enjoyed this book, but I think it’s important, as I suspected going into it, that it’s limited and it comes from a place where many of us simply don’t exist. I know many people who read and appreciated this book and who got a lot of out of it, so I want to recommend it if you’re just stepping into this space. I read it because of my focus on shame, and I’m not upset I did. But I think it’s also important to know that “teaching someone how to breathe underwater” really isn’t addressing why they’re drowning in the first place, and that’s a socioeconomic conversation that most people in the mental health field, of which the author is a part, aren’t willing to have.