It’s wonderful to be able to watch an expert organize a closet
or office and work side by side with them to learn the system, but
it is a luxury not many can afford. If a professional organizer is
not in your budget, inspiration and guidance can be found in a
well-written book on organizing. I’ve read scores of books on the
subject, and the following five stand out as books that are
motivating and actually give clear direction on various methods to
achieve a high degree of order.

“Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui,” by Karen

Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese art of balancing the energy
(chi) and elements of a space. When it became trendy in the West in
the 1990s, I was highly skeptical, but I kept noticing this little
book for sale when I stood on line at Jamba Juice waiting for my
Protein Berry smoothie and one day I finally bought it. Today it is
my all-time favorite organizing book and I am convinced feng shui

Kingston spells out why clutter is so draining — it represents
“stuck” energy. She gives the reader insight into how and why we
get stuck and direction on how to identify and clear clutter and
maintain a clutter-free home. She explains basic feng shui
principles and why they make sense. This is a wonderful read for
those ready to bring consciousness and energy to every corner of
the home — including under the kitchen sink. You can’t hide from
the chi!

“It’s All Too Much,” by Peter Walsh

Walsh is the psychologist-organizer from the tv show Clean Sweep
that ran on TNT a few years ago. He appears on Oprah regularly. In
this book, he digs into the psychology of Stuff (capital S) and how
to make letting go of clutter less painful. This is for you
sentimental types! If nostalgia keeps you from tossing Grandma’s
moldy table linens that have been in the attic for 12 years, this
is the book for you. Also good for those of us who have stored our
“thin” clothes from high school in the garage, hoping to fit back
into them some day.

“The Beverly Hills Organizer’s Organizing Bible,” by
Linda Koopersmith

Everything from folding your underpants to why color-coded
filing systems never end up working, complete with lots of pictures
and diagrams. She uses too many cheap plastic organizing gadgets
for my taste, but it is a great place to start learning the basics
of organizing your space and keeping it tidy.

“Getting Things Done,” by David Allen

This one is mainly for the office and paper management, but it
also delves deeply into what causes procrastination and project
roadblocks. I took my first seminar with David Allen in 1998 and it
was life changing. I continue to take his seminars whenever I can
and always learn new tricks to better organization and time
management. For more information go to But read
the book — it’s a new classic on the order of Stephen Covey’s “The
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” (but for me, Allen’s is
more useful.)

Tied for fifth: A book from each end of the organizing

“It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your
Keys,” by Marilyn Paul

Paul’s book is for those who can’t find their way through the
clutter to accomplish what they’d like to in life on a material
and/or spiritual level. Her focus is on identifying one’s purpose
behind getting organized and visualizing success.

“How to Organize Everything,” by Peter

A sort of encyclopedia of organizing — tips for organizing
anything from a date to a wedding, a garden shed to a barn, an
exercise regimen to hiking Everest.

Copperfield’s in Napa or Calistoga would be happy to order books
for you or try to find new or used copies.