A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys
by Pesi Dinnerstein

Seal Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-580-05310-5.
Reviewed by Martha Meacham
Posted on 11/04/2011

Nonfiction: Memoir

A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity, and My Missing Keys by Pesi Dinnerstein is a memoir filled with motivating quotes and thought-provoking paradoxes. As the author explains, "Trying to simplify can be really complicated." Fortunately, we are offered a ray of hope as she eases us along with her on a journey through a life in disarray.

The topic, ordinarily a heavy burden for many of us, is lightened by Dinnerstein's humorous insight and honesty. From tables stored in the garage to the fitness equipment stored in the basement, she touches upon those areas where many of us conceal an abundance of unused items.

Clutter accumulates. Piles of unresolved problems loom over our heads. I know only too well these facts of life. Dinnerstein's blunt observations and confessions reveal certain truths that we all might acknowledge. The first of many words to resonate with me were these:

"My chronic struggle with clutter keeps me too preoccupied with the physical world to focus on anything that transcends it." She explains that clutter serves as her creative muse. Yet she muses that "...the abundance that stimulates my imagination also clutters my path..."

Numerous friends support her transition as she works through her dilemma—and through delay after delay. At one gathering of her friends, she confides her belief that if she could only free herself of clutter then "...the physical universe would be transformed into an unobstructed reflection of the spiritual". As if it were that simple.

I enjoyed the pithy words of wisdom that open each chapter and serve as inspiration. For example, this one, by Henry David Thoreau: "Simplify. Simplify. We are happy in proportion to the things we can live without." I resisted the urge to write each one of them on a Post-it Note to affix to my mirror for daily affirmations.

My only discomfort reading this story resulted from the author's prolonged procrastination and lack of progress toward her goals. By the final chapters I was eager to read of some resolutions that helped her along to some semblance of internal peace.

A reader who is feeling overwhelmed with clutter may discover some solace in this story where the author finds a way to include spiritual practice in every-day life.

Pesi Dinnerstein (aka Paulette Plonchak) is a writer who has contributed to textbooks, an anthology of short stories and written for the series Small Miracles during her career as a full-time language skills teacher at the City University of New York.

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