Dr. DeClutter FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions of “Dr. DeClutter”
Providing Practical Ideas, Effective Resources
and Professional Advice on Organizing
— Bringing Chaos to Order —
In Your Entire Life
Why are you called “Dr. DeClutter?”
I’ve been called many things! My clients call me the “answer lady,” “Permission Queen,” “organizing wizard,” and “shaman.” Due to my background in social work (I have a Masters in Social Work) and helping move people from chaos to order — mentally and emotionally — I find that my work with material clutter isn’t much different. It tends to be an outward symbol of inner chaos and confusion.
After I started doing organizing in homes and offices I noticed patterns arising of how people deal and don’t deal with their frustrations with clutter and how disorganization looks. There are “symptoms” to stress and struggle that can be “diagnosed”. A room with a little, or a lot of chaos — piles, heaps and overflow –can be “diagnosed” quickly and reorganized to its best order and function. There are “remedies” and “prescriptions” that I offer to heal and cure confusion, to get and stay organized inside and out… just like a Doctor.
How is organizing the same for mental and emotional issues and material clutter?
I see clutter as falling into 3 very distinct and widely overlapping categories, or levels.
Inner, Outer and Other
1. Inner: Emotions, thoughts, opinions, beliefs and perceptions
2. Outer: Material stuff and things in our environment
3. Other: People and boundaries with them
They overlap. I find that if you start on one, the others will be affected positively or negatively. It’s like a ripple in a pond. My WARNING is this… sometimes it gets worse before it gets better!
How did you get started as a Professional Organizer?
Organizing comes very naturally to me. I was born with a “O” Gene! Organizing is all the same to me whether it’s stuff, space, time, schedules, ideas, people or events. I’ve been on many committees organizing time and events; as a supervisor, manager, director and leader, I have organized people, plans and projects a lot, and being very “visual” I can see space and shapes and how things look and work the best in an area quickly.
I had been traveling as a speaker for years and grew tired of sitting on airplanes in in hotels around the world. So, I decided to ground for awhile several years ago and use what comes natural to me, organizing things. Dr. DeClutter was born!
What other jobs have you had in relation to being a “stuff and things” organizer?
First, I come from a small Midwest town, which, on the records of its 170 people is still a “village!” It’s one of those corn field, cow fed towns where you are expected to help your neighbor, and expect to ask for help. Lifting, moving, rearranging and re-organizing things was pretty much a daily event.
I’ve also been an assistant manager of a Bed & Breakfast. That’s the kind of job where you are organizing and making everything “perfect” 24/7. I actually do enjoy that a lot. But that’s not realistic in one’s own home. So helping people create realistic space and form in their everyday lives is really fun, and can be positively challenging.
And, you’re an international speaker too?
Absolutely! I have been a professional speaker for over 28 years! I speak and lecture for all levels of organizing, stress, time, schedule, life management and stuff management. I speak to groups, clubs, corporations and associations. The Health Care Industry, Women in Government and women’s groups are target markets for me. I am also past President of the Colorado Chapter of the National Speakers Association.
Also, go to my Speaking Topics page to find out about my Keynotes, Seminars and Workshops on Stress, Change & Organizational Skills Programs.
What do you like the most about helping people get organized?
I love seeing, feeling and hearing people’s energy shift when they can see a light at the end of their tunnel. When they get the “Oh! I see!” look in their eyes! this is true for working with audiences as an educator and of course in “hands-on” decluttering and reorganizing in homes and offices. When just a few items find their “home” and they can see that their chaos and frustrations, stress and overwhelm is going to change, and change in just minutes, that’s great! I love bringing peace of mind to others.
Why have you been called the “Permission Queen?”
We all need “permission” once in a while. To start, stop, move, stay, love, cry, grieve… there are so many things we need permission for. I give people permission to change, to transition from one place to another. I get the joy of becoming a bridge for them to get from “here” to “there.” Watching someone release years of stored up fear, stress and negative energy when they are given permission to let go, get rid of something, put a picture away, throw something out, move or change even the smallest thing is so rewarding. Sometimes its about leaving a relationship or quiting a job or routine that is unhealthy. We all have something.
And, why have you been called “shaman?” That’s a powerful designation!
I worked around the mental health and health care industries on many levels for years. I always find it amazing that in this day in age the “house call” is still so defunct. I have organizing clients who have me on retainer. I go to their house “after” they come back from the psychiatrist or psychologist and get their medications and therapy. I get the same feedback time and time again, “You’re being in my house, being with me and in my “stuff” helping me “move it and change” is more helpful than all the money I spend on therapy!”
Going into someone’s home, into their life to the very corners of their frustrations, literally into buried secrets and memories, grief and fears is a very therapeutic process. That’s what shamans do. Helping them “literally” get-in-touch-with and plow through their struggles and fears while making decisions about them – as they move them out and into the light – is more than a metaphor when you’re cleaning out, sorting and reorganizing someone’s closet, drawers, basement, attic, etc. It is wellness and spiritual work at it’s best!
By the way, earlier I noted that I have a Masters degree in Social Work. I minored in Theology and have also been a stand-up comedienne! Organizing and the clutter humans create, keep and collect is quite funny! As a speaker I use humor and storytelling to help people lighten up and to see the humor in everything, no matter how stressed out they are.
You’ve mentioned grief a couple of times, do you find organizing and people grieving go hand-in-hand?
Yes, there are many times that the reason for chaos, heaps, piles, stress and depression are directly connected to loss and grief. It is then connected to an mental and emotional paralysis and turning away from clearing out the stuff that belonged to the one who left (by death, divorce or otherwise), from parents, spouses, children, friends and even pets.
I have worked with clients who could literally not go into a room in their home because it was filled with the belongings of someone who had died and they couldn’t handle dealing with it. I can go in and change the space, move and clear out or store the belongings because I have no connection to it. It’s a blessing to be able to do this for people and give them their space, home, energy and life back.
Are people motivated to want to clean out loss and pain?
Sometimes, but not always. Digging up bones, the past and emotions is not easy for most people. I have clients who, after picking up one picture or object with significant memories for them sat and wept for most of our appointment. To me this is more important work, “inner decluttering, cleaning out the emotional closets” that must be done over the physical movement of stuff in their space.
Do you have happy clients?
Absolutely! Reorganizing a childs room; helping people move into a new house; moving someone out of a home for all the right reasons. There are many happy clients too!
Do you do Feng Shui?
I’m asked that once in a while, my answer is “No. I come from the farm. I do Func(tional)Way!”
That’s certainly tongue-in-cheek, but I’ve been hired many times and while cleaning out overflowing closets found colored papers taped to the back wall of the closet and chimes buried under the clothes and trash in the corners of rooms. When they see it they are reminded that it was from a Feng Shui appointment. Many topical ointments cannot work if you don’t get to the root of the dis-ease. So, though I know some Feng Shui professionals do the decluttering first, not decluttering or organizing first isn’t going to make any amount of crystals, rocks, flowers, wood, or colored paper work.
What I offer is functional, grounded, get-in-there-with-your-shovel-and-do-the-work, work. If other methods can be added to enhance and open up energy, great!
What do you enjoy organizing the most, outer or inner clutter?
It depends on my mood! As I said earlier, they do overlap, but I have days that I need to do the physical, material organizing, it’s very objective and tangible. No brain cells needed! You know you moved something and can feel good about it. Other days I need to help organize through realigning thoughts, ideas, emotions and perceptions. Not as tangible, but the “aha’s” and “Oh! Shift’s!” I get from people are worth every moment!
The bottom line for me is that I love weeding out distractions, creating clarity, realigning and bringing back to center and to balance peoples’ energy. If that’s done through organizing and decluttering stuff and things, great. If it’s through discussion to change thoughts, beliefs and ideas, great. It’s all about creating clarity and effective order.
Is there something that happens when you’re organizing for or with a client that makes your day?
Yes there is. It never fails to please me that 5 to 20 minutes into a job, moving stuff and things, sorting into boxes for rerouting, picking up a sometimes very wide assortment of items for decision making I’ll hear it. It rings like a bell. It makes the whole session take on a new energy, like a ray of light through stained glass. It’s a short sentence that makes time stand still. It is, “Oh, that’s where that is!”
You are an author too?
Yes. My workbook, Letting Go With All Your Might is a great resource for anyone needing to let go of what doesn’t work any longer, or how to deal with change, large or small.
How far do you travel to do hands on organizing?
I live in Longmont, Colorado, so most of my physical organizing jobs are in a 100 miles radius of Boulder County. However, I’ve organized offices and homes in West Virginia, Jackson Hole, WY, Baltimore, MD and in Nebraska as well. When I travel for speaking or book tours I let my newsletter list know I’m coming to their area and they can set up appointments ahead of time. Some just hire me outright as they are ready and it’s time.
What is your newsletter, and do you have articles and tips on organizing?
My newsletter/ezine is “Dr. DeClutter’s Organizing Tips and Tools” that is sent out monthly to my list. I offer specials on products and services and other creative information there, with links to my blogs. People can sign up any time. (click here)
If people can’t attend your lectures and speaking presentations, do you have any other way they can learn how to get organized?
Yes, two ways: 1) They can go to my blog, and when they sign up for my newsletter they will get more ideas each month plus the blog, and my book, BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN! And other organizing tips and tools from Dr. DeClutter, will be out Fall of 2008. It’s fast paced and funny, perfect for that person wondering where and how to start organizing and how to get it done. People can find out about it from my newsletter or returning here.
Where would you tell someone to start when they are overwhelmed with outer clutter?
Start with what is current and coming in. That means the mail and all paper! The work involves creating a system. (Mail and paper sitting in piles on the kitchen counter or table is not a system.) Create a system that streamlines your mail from picking it up to the recycle bin, trash, filing, bill paying, etc. Create a routine of doing this and so that it’s done when it’s done.
It seems like everyone is plagued with too much stuff and not knowing what to do with it. Why do we have clutter in the first place?
Simple, because we can! I’ll speak for Americans here. Our “freedom” that we hold precious and dear is the same blessing and freedom that affords us space, homes, land, income, time, leisure and buying power. We’re called “consumers” for a reason! We hunt and gather, collect and keep, pack and hoard. We have closets. Did you know that some people in other countries live in homes that don’t have closets? Oh, and, don’t have floors, walls or roofs.
That’s not good or bad, it just is.
So what do you tell people about what to do about their over-consuming?
Simple. 90% of life is maintenance. Choose what you want to maintain. More stuff creates more time and energy needed to take care of it. This creates more stress about not having enough time to do it and space to keep it. It’s a big ripple in our personal ponds. Everything you bring into your home, your life, you have to maintain. From material items to children. It’s really about being more conscious and mindful of our lives. It’s a big picture.
Wow, that’s right to the point! Is clutter and having stuff and things bad?
Whatever we have or do in life is not good or bad. It is only to be redecided upon when it affects us negatively. I know people with really messy offices, but they are great producers of what they do. Their “clutter” and “disorganization” doesn’t affect what they do. Other can be very affected by clutter and being disorganized resulting in procrastination, lost time, lost energy, lost income, self-loathing, embarrassment, etc. It’s a personal decision. I also know people who have tidy and organized offices and homes. They are no more efficient than others with less organization. It’s a very individual thing.
So, what is a bottom-line definition for organizing that you use?
Two answers will go to the heart of organizing.
1) Being organized doesn’t mean knowing where you put something, it means knowing where to find it when you need it.
2) Organizing is about designing your space so that if reflects who you are and what’s important to you and arranging things logically and efficiently so that staying organized will be easy for you. This from organizing guru Julie Morgenstern. (Why improve on a great definition?)
I understand that you love quotes, can you give me a good one about organizing?
Yes. This one from a man who couldn’t count change, couldn’t remember where he was often enough and was not terribly organized!
“Out of clutter, find simplicity;
from discord, find harmony;
and realize that in the middle of difficulty,
~ Albert Einstein’s three rules of work