Here are three things to buy that will help you either redeem or get rid of a hundred others. This trio of spirited, pragmatic books exemplify the deceptively simple principle that less is more. What’s more (and therefore less!), they offer a sound set of tools to help you take back your living space, whether you’re clearing out your clutter, becoming more thrifty with your resources or reusing what you’ve already got.

62 Projects To Make With a Dead Computer is filled with fun and surprises, and an almost puritanical zeal for the redemption of “lost souls”—otherwise known as discarded electronics. Digital cameras, keyboards, PDAs, MP3 players, earbuds and drives are, to author Randy Sarafan, raw material ripe for creative repurposing. Most of us have at least a few obsolete bits lying about—a bundle of mystery cords and a cell phone or two—as well as the basic skills to transform them into something else entirely: a mouse pencil-sharpener, a scanner side table, a cable coaster. Some projects call for tricky work involving voltage and solder, but even if you don’t “do” electricity beyond changing a bulb and you can’t begin to pronounce solder (sod’- er), many creations can be managed with a glue gun and basic hand tools. The Floppy Disk Wall Frame, for example, is super easy and really quite spectacular. The circuit panel memo board with keyboard key magnets is simple, too, and just as gorgeous. Projects range from fun to practical, with category-defying wonders like the flat-screen ant farm and the iMac terrarium. Whether weird or wonderful (or both), each aims at nothing less than the intersection of art, technology and ecology.

A penny saved
Anxious to distinguish thrifty from cheap, Be Thrifty: How to Live Better with Less, edited by Pia Catton and Califia Suntree, begins with the lesson that “thrift” and “to thrive” are cognates. Thus, thrift should radiate positive associations, not miserly ones. To be thrifty is to thrive, to flourish. The editors present seven categories in which to flourish: home, garden/pet, food, family, personal care, leisure and financial stability. Each offers more than enough information to tweak or outright overhaul even the most profligate of habits. In the first chapter, we learn to clean and maintain our home and car more greenly, reducing utility and repair bills and generating less waste. Need to know about furnace filters, clogged toilets, tire inflation or gutters? You’ll find the big picture and the little details. The same goes for every other facet of everyday life—even the faucets. This jam-packed omnibus encourages an old-fashioned, no, timeless self-sufficiency, while keeping an eye on how our choices affect not just our ability to thrive, but the planet’s as well.

Clean and clear
What’s a Disorganized Person To Do? by Stacey Platt answers its titular question with its subtitle: “317 Ideas, Tips, Projects, and Lists to Unclutter Your Home and Streamline Your Life.” As if to underline my own need for such a guide, when I type the word “unclutter,” my word processor underlines it in red: The term is unknown to it and to me. But if all I have to do is consult this fat little book full of numbered, logically sequenced bits of clarity, packed with smart photos and arranged with color-coded tabs printed on the fore-edge, I am set. Clarity is a key term: The author, a successful professional organizer, says “clarity is the foundation for a joyous and accomplished life.” (I’ll have what she’s having, please.) The message couldn’t be clearer: Reducing clutter—not just finding cute ways to store it—sets us free. Even the most overwhelmed among us can jump right in, thanks to quick tips taming every room in the house. Learn what papers to save for taxes and for how long, where to put the newspapers, when to throw away cosmetics, how to organize a closet and why you should defragment your hard drive—plus 312 other things. The format is a pleasure to browse, but it is also wisely designed to answer targeted questions on demand. Pare down, wise up. Less, again, proves to be much more.

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