Book Review ~ Give it up

Give It Up! ~ A year of learning to live better with less

by Mary Carlomagno

Unlike the title might suggest, this book isn’t about decluttering the material things in our lives so isn’t particularly in keeping with the subject matter of my blog. It does however does draw a parallel, as it is about decluttering life in general of excesses that aren’t particularly conducive to a healthy, stress-free, balanced lifestyle.

The book is about how Mary sets herself the task of voluntarily abstaining each month from a different “vice” that she uses in an attempt to keep life “manageable” and perhaps bearable in some cases. Coffee, chocolate, alcohol, multitasking and television are some of the vices she tackles, that if taken in moderation are harmless enough but overdosing on them can have a detrimental effect like any other substance abuse.

It’s a short, lighthearted read, amusing at times but carries some great insight about how we get ourselves into these habits, why we should get out or them and the difficulties Mary faced going cold turkey on a new vice each month.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter for December where in the mids of juggling her end of year work commitments, the festive season celebrations and Christmas gift buying she insanely chooses multitasking as the vice to abstain from. I got the feeling that

Mary Carlomagno

she may have learned more in that month than any of the others.

One thing I did have trouble reconciling was the photo of Mary in the back of the book. This picture (at the right here) to me shows a person for which butter wouldn’t melt in her month and the only thing she might do excessively is attend church. As it turned out she wasn’t as innocent as the photo makes her out to be.

I am tempted to add in a few quotes that Mary chose to include amidst the kaos but then you wouldn’t have the joy of stumbling across them yourself as you read the book. And besides I have already decluttered the book back to the Library.

Today’s Declutter Item

No matter how small the item it is still one more burden of possession if it isn”t being used.

Hubby's Unused Watch

Something I Am Grateful For Today

No matter how good of a time I have when I am away from home I am always grateful to return home again. To be in my own uncluttered home, to sleep in my own bed and to enjoy the peace of being in control of my day. And as is often the case, to be back with my husband again.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. From your grateful statement: “…the peace of being in control of my day”…ahhh, yes, indeed …well said, Colleen.

  2. I read the book and found it to be gimmicky and not very sincere. But that’s just my opinion.

    I really liked your remark about an item being a burden of possession if it isn’t being used. A little light bulb went on for me. I’ve been on my own decluttering mission through out my home and I think I will go back and reconsider some items from this perspective. Thanks!

    • Hi Dee,
      I have to confess that book wasn’t what I thought it was going to be when I first picked it up at the library. I enjoyed it nevertheless because of the insight she gained from some of the things she gave up. It is great that you can give up something physical and gain something intellectually or spiritually in the process. I will now have to read some of her other books that followed that one to see if the process had a permanent influence on her life.

      It was driven home to me while I was away for the last two weeks on how possessions can have a very negative impact on life. The example of this that I gleaned was how much of a burden of maintenance they become as you get older and frailer. I am constantly going back over the things I own and reconsidering my attachement to them of the necessity to keep them. There will always be those aesthetic objects that we keep for no other reason but they are good to look at and make our house more homely and interesting but they will always be kept to a minimum from now on. Everything else needs to have a use or it will soon be finding a new home elsewhere.

  3. That’s so funny–I just a few days ago happened upon this book, along with a simplicity journal the author wrote, in the “simple living” section of my library while searching for something else! I brought it home, but just couldn’t get into it after reading the first chapter about giving up alcohol. Her lifestyle just didn’t pull me in–maybe it was because I had several other books that I wanted to read more?! Anyway, I returned it to the library but maybe I’ll give it another try after I finish “Lighten Up” by Peter Walsh.

    • Hi Mama Minou,
      that is the same way I felt when I started reading the first chapter and even thought the rest of the book wasn’t overall very riveting she did have some good insights at times about the effects, the realities and the realisations about each vice. It was a lighthearted, easy read that was enjoyable in its simplicity. I thought of it like a recipe book that was worth the effort of looking through so long as I found one or two good recipes in it. That being said, two weeks later I couldn’t give you an example of the passages I enjoyed off the top of my head. I feel though that for each of these kinds of books I read my mind is opened a little more to all the possibilities and opposing attitudes and beliefs out there in the world. The more perspectives introduced to my mind the easier it is to find a solution to daily and life long decisions when they present themselves. I think I will go right now to my on-line library catalogue and order the book you are reading at the moment after all Peter Walsh is one of my countrymen and I used to enjoy the declutter show he did on American TV. He deals with the emotional side behind the clutter and not just the physical side and that is important.

  4. Oh, that is so wonderful how in your grateful paragraph you mention, “…to be back with my husband…”. I love that! 🙂 I fully agree, and your comment makes me truly smile!!!

    • Hi Annabelle,
      he is a good man and only gets better with age. Sometimes I think I rely on his strength a little too much but that’s what he’s there for right.