Organizational fiends beware. Just when you thought you could not possibly plan more, save more or do more, authors Mary Jo Rulnick and Judith Burnett Schneider have penned The Frantic Woman’s Guide to Life. In it, even the most meticulous among us is likely to find a valuable idea or shortcut designed to achieve optimal organizational success. Even though I would hardly consider myself disorganized, I found myself doggy-earring pages and grabbing for post-it notes throughout this hearty read.
The book is divided into three parts although the first and third merely serve as book ends for the guide’s central theme of organizing one’s life a month at a time. The first part, “Year Round,” sets the groundwork for the initial stages of an organizing plan by seeking to downplay any existing level of disorganization. These introductory remarks successfully characterize organization as an attainable goal. The third and final section of the book, “A Wee Bit More,” is a collection of miscellaneous tidbits that do not conveniently fit into the monthly themes that come together to create the mainstay of this guide.
As the title suggests, the bulk of this book is dedicated to offering a month-by-month organization plan. In short, the guide is the ultimate personal organizer. Its clever method of presentation effectively organizes the organization process. Each chapter, dedicated to one month of the year, focuses on tasks that should be accomplished within it. Each project is further broken down into manageable components. For example, rather than directing the organizationally-challenged to clean up the papers sitting on a desk, the guide suggests tackling the project one mound at a time. Although such advice seems so simple, when hidden within a few pages of text and anecdotal information the message becomes much more profound.
Some chores are linked to certain months for practical reasons such as the fact that holidays are celebrated in the same month each year. Other ideas center around remaining organized throughout the entire year which, in the long run, result in significant savings in the amount of time, money and energy expended. For example, readers are not only instructed to put things in their proper place but, at the same time, are reminded of the importance of doing it a manner that will offer future efficiency. For example, by taking a few extra minutes to inventory your holiday decorations, pack them neatly, and throw away those that are unsalvageable, you will save yourself time the following year when you can quickly assess what needs to be purchased. This filing system also offers a financial benefit since it will minimize the money you spend on duplicative supplies. In addition, knowing exactly what to purchase and doing so in advance will serve the dual purpose of eliminating the stress of buying under a tight deadline and offering ample opportunities to eliminate emergency purchases and locate the best bargains.
One benefit of this book is that most of the ideas are incredibly simple and can be implemented with virtually no effort. For example, the book suggests that whenever you cook a meal, you make enough to feed your family for two nights --freezing one serving for a later date. Similarly, you can make an additional portion for your neighbors with the understanding that s/he will reciprocate later in the week freeing up your time for other tasks.
The book contains such a wealth of information that reading straight through it is likely to be overwhelming. Even the authors recognize the sheer volume of information presented and seek to minimize this result. First, at the very onset of the book, they advise against a straight read-through of the guide. Instead, they suggest it should be consulted in the same manner as one would utilize any other reference materials. In addition, they conclude each chapter with an incredibly valuable check-list that provides added structure to the monthly assignments.
The book seeks to organize the disorganized and even semi-organized among us, and it does so with some keen insight and humor. For some finding a useful tip may be comparable to finding a needle in a haystack, but once its located, you will likely reap valuable rewards.