Help Yourself!

self-help booksIt is never a good sign when I get the urge to buy self help books and an even worse one when I actually cross the line and purchase these types of books (I can never buy just one). But at the start of this Easter weekend I did. A couple of hours happy reading later I am positively buoyant with good intentions.

I am not only being enlightened by Dr. Brené Brown (Professor – and I a not making this up – in feelings of shame at the University of Houston) about ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’, I am simultaneously encouraged by Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo that I can transform my house (and head)  into an oasis of calm. I just need to tidy my house for the next six months, and then I never need to tidy again. In my life!

But back to buying these books and why I only buy them when I am feeling less than chipper. These books with their easy, step-by-step action plans, at first glance offer the perfect solution for when I am feeling low, stressed, exhausted and overwhelmed. Instead of some painful soul searching and facing up to the fact that I at times am my own worst enemy, I just need to sit down, drink wine and read a self help book to completely and painlessly transform my life.

As I at times can drive myself completely crazy by my constant perfectionism and fear to fail ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ (which of course can only ever work as a title when spelled in capitals) jumped out at me. Especially the subtitle ‘Letting Go of Who You Think You Should Be’, was music to my ears. As it turned out it proofed to be rather hard work to actually read it.

Not that I read more than the first two chapters, but even just these took a lot of wine. The book talks a lot about compassion, shame, the need to belong and the dark side. Especially Brené Browns’ dark side. Which turned out to be that years ago she gave this awful talk at a high school and that for the first time in her existence she didn’t bottle it up, but – Hallelujah – shared her misery with her sister with whom she, as a direct consequence of her new openness, now has this deep and meaningful bond. Really?

For some light relief I swiftly decided to give book number two a go. ‘Jinsei ga tokimeku katazuke no maho’, or ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’, straight away commands me to be perfect. Because if you do not strive to perfection when tidying you might as well not tidy at all. Which – I have to admit – sounds rather intriguing.

Author Marie Kondo orders me to start with sorting my clothes, by collecting all my clothes, shoes and coats from drawers, storage, laundry and putting them on the floor of a calm room, preferably at seven in the morning when I am still fresh and can concentrate on my ‘inner voice’. I need to one by one pick every single item up and if I don’t shiver with joy, I need to thank the T-shirt, trainers or dress for the service it has provide me and throw it away. No mercy.  If I have done my clothes, I can move on to more difficult possessions like furniture, books and finally photo’s.

Mmm. Not sure whether I can do all this keeping a straight face, while listening to my ‘inner voice’ (and visualising the Japanese author who lives in 40 square metre bed-sit).  But I am going to give it a damn good go,  Next time that I feel stressed and overwhelmed (and silly). Which won’t be any time soon I fear, as after the long and lazy Easter weekend filled with painting the 12yo’s bedroom, dining with friends, a real day trip with the family discovering more of the Netherlands and drinking quite a bit of wine, I feel more relaxed than I have felt in weeks (months?).

And If I try the ‘Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ method some time in the future (and I seriously doubt I will ever find a calm room in our house) I am already pretty positive that when I’ll pick up the ‘Gifts of Imperfection’ I won’t feel a shiver of joy. I will thank it for a wonderful Easter weekend before taking it to the nearest charity shop.



Besides being married to Mr. S, I am also the mum of a 13yo son and a 11yo daughter. For the past eight years we have lived in England, Italy and Switzerland. Our recent move back to the Netherlands, is posing some interesting questions for all of us. I write about the ups and downs of our repat life.

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