Hallie Ephron: Careful What You Wish For

How lucky are we on the Miss Demeanors blog to have Hallie Ephron join us to talk about her new book, “Careful What You Wish For.” Hallie was my first writing teacher and I still take her classes whenever I can. Look how she comes up with inspiration and runs with it. No wonder she is my inspiration!

HALLIE EPHRON: As I type this, it’s Saturday morning and my husband is revving up to go yard sale-ing. He’s scoured the Internet for anything local, printed out the sales, and prioritized them. At the top: any sale with old books. Any estate sales that look as if they’re not using professional sellers. He carries around a wish list that our daughters have given him, and he almost always scores whatever they want within a few outings.

Yard sales are just the tip of the iceberg. He’s a saver. Twist ties (we might run out.) Uncancelled stamps that he’s soaked off envelopes (free postage!) Old electric fans (so handsome.)

He was my inspiration for writing CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR (a professional organizer who’s married to a man who can’t pass a yard sale without stopping.) I admit, I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In no time she had me folding my socks. That’s how my book opens, with my protagonist folding her socks. The opening line: “Emily Harlow wasn’t convinced thatcher sock drawer spared joy.”

As I wrote the book, which is about three ‘mixed marriages’ (one spouse is a collector, the other not), I researched the range of dynamics between people and their STUFF. Here are some of the reasons people feel compelled to save:

– I might need it

– It’s beautiful

– It’s unique

– It completes my collection

– I can always sell it

– It reminds me of someone I’ve loved and lost

– It reminds me of a ME I’ve loved and lost

What I learned is that you cannot Konmarie your spouse. You can try to “fold” him but he won’t stay folded… and it’s disrespectful to try. I love Marie Kondo’s question: Does he spark joy? My answer: He does. So I’m keeping him.

Do you live with someone who has different priorities from your own about what sparks joy?


Starred review in Publisher’s Weekly: ““This outstanding standalone from bestseller Ephron (You’ll Never Know, Dear) may be the first domestic thriller to weave in Marie Kondo’s decluttering theory about discarding things that don’t spark joy.”

Jamie Lee Curtis review in TIME magazine: “Careful What You Wish For is not scary–it’s thrilling and suspenseful. … And I found a compelling companion to Emily, a modern-day grown-up Nancy Drew in a sh-tty car and a ponytail, as she searches for her own purpose while hunting down the perpetrator of the emerging crime. She is a friend we would all want to keep–messes included.”

HALLIE EPHRON (https://hallieephron.com)

New York Times bestselling author Hallie Ephron, Edgar Award finalist and five-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, writes books she hopes readers can’t put down. She can be found every day blogging on Jungle Red Writers (https://www.jungleredwriters.com)




  1. Thank you so much for joining us, Hallie. I spend my summers working at my church Attic Sale, in the toy department. People drop off huge black trash bags filled with junk and treasures. One day I was reflecting on some odd item someone had dropped off and my minister said, Our job is to help people let go. That’s always given me a sense of purpose (though I must confess I have hung on to several of my children’s favorite toys. I guess that falls under the category of: It reminds me of a happy time.)

  2. We downsized from a ten-room house with thirty-three years of “stuff” to a tiny tindominium (a mobile home that is no longer mobile). Naturally, we needed a storage place to act as our faux cellar and attic. Now, nearly four years later, the husband says we need to get rid of some of that junk in the storage unit. Translation: You need to get rid of that stuff of yours you haven’t needed, but my rusty tools and hardware remain precious and worthy. HA! In the immortal words of Sonny and Cher, “And the beat goes on.”

  3. Folding socks made me laugh. I am NOT a hyper organizer and I’m certainly a collector of many things and yet I fold socks. Maybe there is hope for me after all. Now my husband is also a collector (actually a collector of collections) and he is super neat and organized. I confess that the collections give us both joy – the memories of where we purchased them, and the objects themselves – so we won’t be on the Marie Kondo bandwagon anytime soon. Can’t wait to read your latest book!

  4. I LOVE that you wove this domestic need of ours in with a thriller. Isn’t that what makes good thrillers REALLY good? The little ways that we’re reminded that it could happen… Living in NYC in a small apartment, I learned pretty quickly how to get rid of things I don’t need. I’d still love to one day have a closet that I can open and retrieve things without getting bopped in the head by a Swiffer handle.

    1. Stuff does expand to fill space- and yes I like to write situations that feel utterly realistic 😀

  5. This story was made for me! My father never missed a sale, and he never entered the house without something in his hands. Both my parents were pack rats, so I have a need for order and space. My husband could live cheerfully in a motel room.

  6. I’d get along well with your husband. I’m a saver/collector. I save because I hate to throw away something that *might* be useful some day and I collect because beautiful things “spark joy”. (Take that, Marie Kondo.) How intriguing to think the collector vs tidier (tidy upper?) battle could lead to domestic suspense

  7. I am interested to read how the different psychologies of the “collector” and the minimalist will lead to a conflagration. Cool concept!

  8. Hello Hallie,I’m so glad my friend Michele Dorsey directed me to this blog! The timing couldn’t be more perfect, as my hoarder husband of 44 years and I going through this too. Can’t wait to read it!

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