The secret to faking a clean house

the secret to faking a clean houseI used to clean my house because I didn’t want other people to think I’m a slob. Now I’m past the point of caring whether or not friends think my house is clean when they come over. It’s a gift of the thirties, I think.

However, I’ve learned that I breathe easier in a space that’s clean and uncluttered. I’m kinder to my family; I think more clearly, I do better work.

“Outer order contributes to inner calm,” says Gretchen Rubin. I don’t know if it’s true for everyone; it’s certainly true for me.

Also: I would care very much if a friend slipped on a Lego and broke her leg (which seems like a real possibility, some days). This little tip eliminates the risk.

Our babysitter taught me how to fake a clean house (although she never called it that). Here’s the secret:

the secret to faking a clean house

A roomy, empty laundry basket (or a giant cardboard box, or Rubbermaid tote.


That’s it.

Now pick up all the stuff that isn’t where it belongs and dump it in the basket, then tuck the basket into a corner. (If you want to go all-out, put the basket in the closet.)

the secret to faking a clean house


Next, tidy up the surfaces. (This makes a huge difference in how a room feels. ) If you have too many piles to sort through just now, plop that stuff in the laundry basket.

the secret to faking a clean house


Straighten the pillows and blankets, push the ottoman back in place, put the books back on the shelf.

the secret to faking a clean house

When the basket is tucked away discreetly, you don’t notice the basket: you notice the clean, shiny floors and glorious empty surfaces.

And when the clutter is gone, our living room feels like a much better place to live (and work, and play, and dream, and chat, and anything else you can think of).

Do you remember my #1 Pinterest tip? That empty laundry basket will help you carry it out.

Do you breathe easier in an uncluttered space? What are your best tips for making it happen?

P.S. Highly sensitive people, and when I realized my own house was making me cranky. Also, this book is a wealth of information/inspiration on stopping the clutter before it eats your living room.


Twitterature (April 2014 edition)


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Welcome to the Twitterature link-up! For the lowdown, head over here, or try this Cliff Notes version: this is the place to share short, casual reviews of books you’ve been reading.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

I’ve been meaning to read this classic for a decade or two, and am glad to finally cross it off the list–which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. But oh my, that Heathcliff–I had no idea he was such a monster! I feel enlightened. #melodrama

Delancey: a Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage, Molly Wizenburg

I’ve been dying to read Molly Wizenburg’s newest (due out May 6) and was over-the-moon when a reader sent me her ARC. Loved the story, if a bit puzzled by the recipe selection. #readit

Parnassus on Wheels, Christopher Morley

This completely-and-utterly charming novella will appeal to book nerds everywhere–and Miss Pettigrew fans. I loved my pretty orange edition from Quarterly’s second Book Riot box. #fastandfun

The Vacationers: a Novel, Emma Straub

This was fine. Good characterization (and I loved the slow unfolding of secrets), but not particularly compelling. I would have happily axed some racy details that gave the book an ick factor I could have done without. (Wondering if this is an HSP thing?)

Possession, A. S. Byatt

A re-read. Dismayed to say I didn’t like this one as much the second time through. Not sure what that means. Still think it’s worth reading at least once, and would love to follow it with more from the author.

The Hypnotist’s Love Story, Liane Moriarty

An enjoyable yarn from Liane Moriarty, but I haven’t loved any of her books as much as her first, What Alice Forgot. #prioritizeaccordingly

Extraordinary Jane, Hannah Harrison

I’ve been in touch with the author/illustrator of this charming preschool-aged circus story, which means my kids and I got to enjoy it on two levels: the story, and the story-behind-the-story: what it takes to conceive of, create, design, and illustrate a real book. We enjoyed it on both levels. #adorable 

What have you been reading lately?

twitterature monthly reading linkup short reviews

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Let’s talk about your favorite airplane reads.

Let's talk about your favorite airplane reads. I flew to the Festival of Faith and Writing last week, and choosing great books for the plane was a high priority. I’m a nervous flyer (shocking, I know) and so I like to read fast-moving, plot-driven books on the plane. (Guilty pleasure books are also high on my list.) I love gorgeous, lyrical literary fiction, but not at 30,000 feet.

It’s also about time to make the final selections for this year’s summer reading guide, so my reading list is long–good timing for air travel.

For this trip, I loaded up my Kindle Fire with:

The Language of Flowers

Honeymoon in Paris (a prequel of sorts to The Girl You Left Behind)

Eve in Hollywood (a sequel of sorts to Rules of Civility)

For backup, I bumped these ebooks to the top of my queue:

Wives and Daughters (because I loved the movie)

Eat with Joy (because the author was speaking at FFW, and I bought it ages ago)

And in case I had to turn off my electronic devices during takeoff and landing (horrors!), I packed Snobs by Julian Fellowes in hardcover.

Tomorrow is twitterature, but on Wednesday I’ll tell you something Anne Lamott (who was amazing) said about the families we grow up in. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (Is there anything else you want to know about FFW?)

What do you consider good airplane reading? If you knew you’d be stuck on a plane for a few hours and could bring any book(s) you wanted–regardless of cost–what would you choose?

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27 books you can borrow for free from the Kindle lending library (with Amazon Prime)

27 books you can borrow for FREE from the Kindle lending library (with Amazon Prime)Like many of you, I’m an Amazon Prime member. In addition to free two-day shipping and tons of free movie rentals, I can borrow one book a month from the Kindle lending library. Score!

There are now more than 500,000 titles in the Kindle lending library. Having so many titles available sounds like a good thing, but in practice, I find it completely overwhelming. There’s no good way to sort through the half-million books to find what I actually want to read.

I’m not alone: I’ve heard the same complaint from many Prime members. Today, I’ve sorted through the excess to highlight 27 titles currently in the Kindle lending library that I’ve either already enjoyed or want to read for myself someday soon.

Let’s make this a great resource post: if you’ve borrowed a great book from the Kindle library, tell us about it in comments.


The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins
The Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling
Water for Elephants, Sarah Gruen
Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
Casino Royale (James Bond #1), Ian Fleming
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Compelling nonfiction

Moneyball, Michael Lewis
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond
The Big Short, Michael Lewis
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, Eric Schlosser
We Are All Weird, Seth Godin


Manage Your Day-to-Day, Jocelyn Glei, ed. (review here)
Maximize Your Potential, Jocelyn Glei, ed.
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
, Nir Eyal
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
How to Blog for Profit (Without Selling Your Soul), Ruth Soukup
The Spaghetti Shots: How to Take Better Photos of Your Kids in Everyday Life (more about that here)
How She Does It
, yours truly

Relationships and family

The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker
The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, Gary Chapman
What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel

Cookery and cookbooks

Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat, Melissa Joulwan
Well Fed 2: More Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat, Melissa Joulwan
The Busy Mom’s Make-Ahead Breakfast Cookbook
, Carrie Willard.
Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
Paleo Slow Cooker Meals, Patrick Smith
The Main Dish (a Kindle single), Michael Ruhlman

What have you read on this list, and what did you think? And please, let us know the other books you’ve read and enjoyed from the Kindle lending library in comments.