life Reading

5 on a Friday: Attention, Clutter, Books, Etc

May 31, 2024

1- One of my current favorite topics seems to be back in my podcast feed: ATTENTION. Very interesting Ezra Klein ep today entitled “Your Mind is Being Fracked.” Dramatic — yes. But interesting too.

2- Admittedly lately I have been vacillating regarding my own thoughts on the attention economy and Reddit in particular (still have no desire to touch Insta, FB, TikTok, etc). This week was filled with dance rehearsals (the show is on Saturday and both A & G are in two dances) and thus I was faced with a lot of chopped up time stuck in my car, sometimes with one kid with me and sometimes alone. Of course there was some chatting, and one day I did bring a book (I think that was the day I finished Piglet). But yesterday I just scrolled (intentionally! just kind of decided this was how I was going to pass the time), and I brought an iPad for G to scroll too from ~6:30 – 7:40 pm while A had her rehearsal (G’s was 4:30 – 6:20 and the venue was 20 min away so we were basically stuck there).

I am great at tuning out my surroundings but even I cannot seem to muster up much productive or creative energy in a parking lot. I pay a lot of attention to my screen time and it honestly DOES pain me to see ~4 hrs lost to my rectangular device but WOW – those bits of time are TOUGH. Maybe I should work on caring less . . .and then I hear podcast eps like the one above and feel kind of disappointed in myself.

3- I am reading this book and it is definitely lighting a decluttering fire. On the one hand, I feel very grateful that my house does not seem to be anything close to her pre-decluttering situation. On the other, I see the value in some of the gentler approaches she has, such as starting with visible clutter and NOT making big piles leading to the horrible feeling when you get stuck mid-declutter session and run out of steam to find a mess bigger than the one you started with. I notice that I often get stuck in all-or-nothing thinking around clutter, noticing all of the stuff that is NOT MINE and then feeling hopeless that if I can’t declutter everything then why even start, but I think I have to embrace the idea that just starting with small areas of stuff and sticking to things that are mine will still be worthwhile and maybe will start some overall momentum.

4- I just started this book — maybe not your TYPICAL summer reading pick, but I feel like I’m so overdue to read this! Does the qualify as a ‘cozy mystery’?

5- Weekend outlook! This will be the first Saturday in quite some time not to start off with double digit run (though I have started to do some easy shorter runs per my coach’s plan and am feeling good!). I plan to enjoy the extra rest, and then focus on the girls’ dance performance! I feel super lucky they both ended up in the same show (there are matinee + evening performances with multiple age groups in each, but “Mini” and “Preteen” ended up together. YESSS). IF I am permitted I will share some dance pix to come!


  • Reply Marianne May 31, 2024 at 11:38 am

    The person being discussed in the NYT article gave a talk at Seton Hal and it was fantastic. I want to read his book now!

    How is your marathon recovery going? Both mental and physical? Any post-race blues?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 31, 2024 at 12:03 pm

      Honestly I feel pretty darn good 🙂 My coach put 20 min running as an option starting on Tuesday, and I think that has helped immensely- just enough gentle movement to shake things up. I am excited for summer training to look a bit different (recovery ramp up, then more speed focused training and resuming strength next week) and then for hopefully JAX marathon in December.

      I want to read the book too!

  • Reply Lani Inlander May 31, 2024 at 11:45 am

    Thank you so much for the decluttering book rec! Anything to light that fire… also, I started the Louise Penny series at the end of last year. I had to pause in April because it was becoming an addiction! Definitely a cozy mystery. You will love them. Thank you for proving I am not the last person to read her books!

  • Reply Marianne May 31, 2024 at 12:19 pm

    I love Dana K. White’s content! The whole “pull everything out and decide right then” approach definitely does not work for me, and I find her tone strikes the right balance between being encouraging but gentle.

  • Reply Michele Toll May 31, 2024 at 1:15 pm

    I’m so glad you read Dana K. White! Her books have really helped me with my home’s clutter (although it is forever work in progress). I know you have at least one family member with ADHD, and when I was reading Decluttering at the Speed of Life, I couldn’t help but think that the author’s so-called “slob brain” reminds me of some of my adult-diagnosed ADHD traits including clutter blindness (slob vision) and becoming overwhelmed when there isn’t a clear next step.

    Her earlier book describes the decluttering process too, and it also includes more about dishes, laundry, tidying, etc. for people who struggle with those ongoing tasks too.

    It might be fun and helpful to model her five step process with ADHD and non-ADHD kids.

    • Reply Ames May 31, 2024 at 3:11 pm

      Also adult diagnosed ADHD and Dana’s approach really works for me!

  • Reply Lisa's Yarns May 31, 2024 at 2:48 pm

    Still Life definitely qualifies as a cozy mystery. That series gets better and better so even if you don’t LOVE the first book I would keep going and it is a series you need to read in order because there are plot lines that carry on from book to book.

    I thought of you when I saw the topic of the Ezra Klein podcast! I plan to listen at some point but my podcast queue is VERY LONG right now. I tend to listen to a lot of podcasts when traveling but haven’t traveled for 2 weeks so my queue is really building but there isn’t much that I want to delete – I guess it’s a good problem to have!

    I know you are a physical book person but if you want a non-scrolling option for bits of time, reading a book on the kindle ap could potentially help. I exclusively read kindle books so I will read a few pages of my book if I have downtime. But if you don’t have an issue with scrolling then you could just keep doing it for those snippets of time.

  • Reply Amanda May 31, 2024 at 3:22 pm

    Since having to adjust to living with small humans and their crap I’ve found a fair amount of satisfaction in very small areas of decluttering, like even just one drawer. I’ve also found that the advice to have a few places where your eye can rest to be helpful for my mental state, like in our bedroom I try really hard to keep my nightstand and one dresser top clear and nice looking, but the other nightstand and dresser might accumulate some stuff. Likewise having the dining table and entryway table (both in the same line of site) always clear helps me feel better on nights when the kitchen goes to bed more cluttered/messy than I’d prefer.

  • Reply Jessie May 31, 2024 at 3:29 pm

    I LOVE the entire Armand Gamache series! It truly gets better and better. Definitely a “cozy mystery” series!

  • Reply Kathy Johnson May 31, 2024 at 3:47 pm

    I also love Dana K. White’s book. It has been helpful to me in my own house and it was really comforting when I had to quickly empty my mom’s overstuffed house after she died. I had to make so many quick decisions, but I just tried to let go of any guilt and do my best.

    The Armand Gamache mysteries are wonderful–lots of delicious meals and cozy get-togethers and interesting people…along with the murders 🙂 One of my favorite series.

    I’m going to check out that podcast, thanks for the recommendation.

  • Reply jennystancampiano May 31, 2024 at 6:42 pm

    I’m glad Marianne asked about the marathon recovery. Glad you’re feeling so good, and I have to say- your coach really seems like a perfect fit for you. He (she?) has been doing a great job all along of knowing what your body needs and can tolerate.
    Enjoy the dance performance! It’s funny, this is a world I’m becoming more and more acquainted with from several of the blogs I read. My kids… let’s just say they’re not dancers, ha.
    I actually loved the earlier Louise Penny books and got bogged down as the series went on. I definitely enjoyed Still Life.

  • Reply Gwinne May 31, 2024 at 9:14 pm

    I also know Dana’s work and have taken the Take Your House Back course by way of clutterbug./ Cas Aarsen. Highly recommend.

  • Reply Elizabeth May 31, 2024 at 9:46 pm

    I think Still Life is a cozy mystery! I love the whole series but Still Life might still be my favorite. I go back to it every year in the early fall.

  • Reply Sophie June 1, 2024 at 8:21 am

    Hi Sarah. Looking at your time spent on the phone, I wonder if some of it is good time spent so maybe not something you need to feel bad about? I was very determined to cut down my screentime because the numbers were higher than I liked but when I actually considered what I was doing I didn’t feel so bad about it. Most notably, listening to podcasts or music as I go around the house – this is something that really adds value to my life so isn’t necessarily something I’d even want to cut down on. Neither is calling my friends or messaging. I’m moving towards trying to check my phone less often and trying to have more focused time at work, rather than cutting the numbers down. Looks like you spend a lot of time on ‘reading and information’ and not sure what this is classed as but maybe it’s not a bad thing?

  • Reply V June 1, 2024 at 11:24 am

    Another vote for Dana’s book!

  • Reply Meghan June 3, 2024 at 4:09 pm

    I’ve read all of the Gamache books, and they definitely get less “cozy” as they go. It is my favorite series of all time. Louise Penny just gets better and better. They are not typical cozies, though. Here is a quote from Louise from a couple years ago: “When I’ve heard “Gamache is Poirot or Murder She Wrote set here,” it makes me think they couldn’t possibly have read my books. These are psychological thrillers. They don’t have blood, but they’re about the marrow. And what is more terrifying than what we hold deep down, and what comes bubbling out? I’m shocked that after all this time, you could read A World of Curiosity, which is about darkness and blind spots and the non-limits of evil, and still think that’s cozy. That is facile, and it’s simply not true.”

  • Reply San June 7, 2024 at 5:17 pm

    I love how conscious you are about the time you spend on your phone now. I am honestly afraid to look (although I know at least some of the time on my phone is used productively, or at least I’d like to think so.)

    I am definitely a little late with the spring cleaning, but I’ve been doing some decluttering myself. I feel like it never stops but as long as we keep at it, we’re making progress (or something like that ;)).

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