Book reviews: Good books to celebrate Single Working Women’s Week

Last week was Single Working Women’s Week. In addition to helping out a favorite single mom, this SWWAN was tightly scheduled, what with birthdays and all. Including also reading a new book I agreed to review: Everyday Healing by Janette Hillis-Jaffe. The subtitle is Stand up, Take Charge, and Get Your Health Back…One Day at a Time.

If we substitute “Groove” for “Health,” that sounds like a good prescription for life, too. And one that fits single women to a T. Not everybody has to stand up and take charge quite as vigorously as single women do. But stand up, we do. And take charge, we must. This book chronicles the struggles the author went through to conquer a six-year-long mystery illness that had her severely debilitated and depressed. Despite valiant efforts, doctors weren’t helping her.

Nearly half of Americans struggle with illness—heart disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia, arthritis, cancer and chronic pain, to name a few. One-third of our population is obese. In her book, Hillis-Jaffe provides daily action steps to help eliminate undesirable habits and substitute new paths to health. You get practical tips on a bunch of topics—from how to organize your kitchen to help you cook healthier meals, having tough conversations with an unsupportive friend or lover, to how to fire your doctor—and a plethora of encouraging words on building your confidence that you can recover your health…and your life’s direction if it’s not going where you want it to go.

She recommends doing as much research as you can about your condition, and make it an ongoing project. She talks a lot about getting support from other people—something many of us are not good at. Asking for help is a foreign concept for many single women especially (though most men have a rough time at that, too). She talks about why it’s important and how to do it. And she talks about ways in which these steps have proven their power to change lives. If you’re struggling with an illness or obesity or other persistent health challenge, this book offers food for thought—and ideas for action.

Another book I highly recommend that might well change your life for the better is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. The author is a tidying consultant who has helped hundreds of people transform their homes and offices from places of hidden (or obvious) clutter to peaceful, clutter-free environments that promote calmness and clarity. She says that her clients always succeed in staying clutter-free if they follow her plan. She suggests doing it all in one time period, as short as possible, as the only way to make the new way of living stick. One of her most amazing tips is to store everything vertically—no piles of clothes, papers or stuff allowed anywhere. Even clothes and socks, she says, should be folded and stored standing up. I haven’t yet undertaken her whole program, but I used this simple trick to transform my sock drawer—a drawer that had been driving me crazy for months because it was so packed and I didn’t know what all was in there. Now it’s neatly organized, and I know exactly how many (don’t ask!) pairs of trouser socks and gym socks I actually have.

If you’re someone who buys more of a thing because you don’t really know how many you have, only to find you’ve duplicated your purchase (again), you will be amazed at Kondo’s simple plans. And remember her strong advice: don’t start storing until you’ve gone through every piece in a category and ruthlessly discarded anything that does not spark joy. Read the book. It’s fun and it’s enlightening.


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