Flanagan's Smart Home

Flanagan's Smart Home

Sarah Han
Nov 24, 2008

Pack rats beware, Barbara Flanagan is out to change your ways! Her book, Flanagan's Smart Home, offers eco-savvy, practical, and thoughtful reasons for why we should declutter our homes. Paring our living spaces down to 98 essential items, she goes room by room explaining how and why we should only own items that we need that are "well-engineered, gimmick-free products that are built to last."

We liked that the book is not only practical, but a very well-written and fun read. We've always been a fan of knowing the origin of things, and Flanagan doesn't disappoint, offering interesting histories behind household objects (Did you know that the first known bed dates back to 3500 B.C. Egypt?). And for those who have too short of an attention span to read the whole book, at the end of each chapter, Flanagan offers a "Smart List" that breaks each room down to its essential items, where to buy them, and how much they cost.

Some interesting suggestions from the book include:
• Consider a compact headlamp, instead of a handheld flashlight, in your bedside table. Not only do headlamps allow for you to use your hands for other purposes (carrying things in an emergency situation, perhaps?), but the newest ones are lightweight and use LEDs that give off high-intensity light while using very few batteries.

• Try a pillow made from shredded natural latex, which offers both comfort and cervical support (that is, the neck area, not the female cervical area!). This type of pillow, which you can get from a natural bedding store, conforms to your sleep positions without getting out of shape and will stay free from mold, mildew, and dust mites.

• Choose sofa upholstery made from synthetic fibers, or synthetic blended with natural fibers, rather than 100% cotton fabrics. The reason? Cotton wears quickly, wrinkles, pills, holds stains, and resists cleaning. Your best bet is all-synthetic microfiber.

• Use recycled retail VIC (Voluntary Interindustry Standards)-compliant dress hangers, rather than expensive wooden hangers. Yep, she's talking about those clear plastic hangers with swiveling metal hooks, slots for straps, and clips for pants/skirts that you commonly see at department stores. Flanagan's argument for these is mostly economical and environmental, but she does have a point that those wooden hangers are closet space-hoggers. Of course, if you were going to be paring down your stuff anyway, maybe you'd have less clothes to hang...

• Buy linen, not cotton, sheets. Linen lasts forever and can withstand hot wash cycles and endless trips through the dryer. It's also lightweight and surrounds the body without sticking to it or constricting it, for a more comfortable sleep (night sweats be gone!).

We're not sure we can only have 98 items in our home, but Flanagan's Smart Home has inspired us to be mindful of the things we do bring into our home.

Photo: Fernando Ariza/The New York Times

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