Read an Excerpt
The Clutter Diet
The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life
By Lorie Marrero
Copyright © 2009
All right reserved.
Chapter One How to Think Like an Organized Person The Clutter Diet
What does it even mean to "be organized?" Does it mean that you're on top of everything, that you never miss a beat, that your home looks like a magazine photo at all times? Does it mean that you're neat, regimented, perfect, and a minimalist? Does it mean that somehow magically you've gained the ability to "do it all?" Or does it mean that you are now (gasp) ... "PERFECT?"
Let's start this diet by setting our expectations appropriately. We have to know what success looks like in order to achieve it. Our definition of being organized is represented by the word "N.E.A.T.E.R."
Not perfect - good enough! Efficient - minimizing waste & effort Always improving - making laziness work for us True to your style - making it work for YOU Effective - doing what works Ready for anything - being prepared for life
Builders' model homes simultaneously attract and repel me, like a wax statue that you know is not real and yet you just can't help looking. They seem so lifelike ... yet, there is something missing ... oh, yes, it's people! Actual inhabitants and their actual stuff.
Home decorating magazines, advertisements, television show sets, and model homes have all given us an unrealistic ideal image of what our homes are supposed to be like. Your family's home is not going to look like a model home any more than you are going to magically look like Cindy Crawford.
Our ideal image of what our homes should look like is distorted by the popular media, in exactly the same way that women's body images have been distorted by airbrushed, unnaturally thin models. Rooms in magazine stories and advertisements are staged by teams of designers and stylists, just like models are made up by teams of makeup artists and hairstylists.
I am on a mission to make sure that homeowners everywhere do not think their homes are supposed to look like that! We live in our homes ... they are not museums. I have been featured in these magazines and work with their editors frequently, and I understand why they need to make their photos look this way. I am not saying at all that you shouldn't read these magazines; I simply want people to be educated about what has gone into preparation for these photos and see them with a trained eye.
"Good Enough" is good enough! Perfection is an unattainable goal ... an illusion. And perfectionism is one of the major causes of procrastination. "If I can't do it right, I don't want to do it at all." Doing it 80% right is better than doing 100% of nothing at all! Give up on "perfect" TODAY.
Being efficient means doing things with minimum waste of time and effort. Carpooling is one of the best examples of efficiency. You're already going there, and I am already going there, so let's go there together, saving time, energy, and money!
If you have several tasks to do, think first of the one that could be simultaneously running while others are being done. For example, you can start the laundry first before straightening the kitchen, since the washing machine and dryer can be running without you. You can put dinner in a slow cooker first while you go about your day.
Being efficient means you are continually conscious of your processes for doing things. And that leads us to our next point, about improving these processes ...
People often ask me how I find out about this-or-that resource. I am constantly and actively looking for ways to make things work better. Essentially, I am organized because I am LAZY! I don't want to do things over again, waste time looking for things, or go out when I don't need to leave my chair. Almost every shortcut or tip I have found is a result of a passionate desire to not do things "the hard way."
Relentlessly ask yourself these questions
How can I use my time better?
How will I remember this later?
How can I do this faster?
How can I not do this at all?
Let's put our laziness to work by exploring each of these questions briefly:
How can I use my time better?
Focus on one thing at a time whenever possible. You might think of an organized person as juggling many things at once, but actually it's been proven more efficient to handle things one at a time. A recent Wall Street Journal article discussed how managing two important mental tasks at once reduces the brainpower available for either task. So, while people think they are saving time by multitasking, they are actually doing both tasks ineffectively.
But it is also true that you can walk and chew gum at the same time. Sometimes your activities do not require much brainpower, and multitasking does make a lot of sense. Here are some examples of great "no-brainer" multitasking activities:
Talking on the phone while folding clothes or cleaning
Listening to an audio book while cleaning, driving, or exercising
Watching television while exercising
Sorting mail while on hold
Waiting is almost always wasted time, unless you are prepared. Try to prevent this wasted time by going to places when they are less busy, such as shopping at off-peak hours.
If you know you are going to wait somewhere, you can bring things with you to do while you wait. Even if all you do is bring your own reading material, it is so much better to read your own things instead of the two-year-old parenting magazines they have at the doctor's office.
How will I remember this later?
When you know you'll need prompting on something at a later time, cue yourself in ways you can't miss, such as the way some people put their keys in the refrigerator with their lunch so they can't possibly forget to bring their lunch again! Try to outsmart yourself.
Don't reinvent the wheel. If you do something once, chances are you may need to do it again. Write it down and leave yourself a "crumb trail." Capture it into a trusted system, such as your computer, your calendar, or your filing system, so you can let that information go from your own brain and move on to other things. Here are some examples of capturing information:
Keep driving directions to someone's house in your filing system or save them to a folder on your hard drive. You may want to drive there again.
Open a word processing document or take out a legal pad to capture steps as you learn them, such as how to run a backup, how to download pictures from your camera, or how to set a clock on your electronic equipment.
Write down birthdays in a "perpetual" birthday calendar as soon as you find out about them. (Get a free birthday calendar spreadsheet on our Free Tips page on our website at http://www.clutterdiet.com/ freetips. Click on "Greeting Card Calendar Tool.")
Make a note of phone numbers if you look them up even once. You can even make a label to stick on right where you need a specific phone number, such as putting the cable company's number right on your cable box for next time you have reception problems.
Capture passwords and account numbers in one secure location.
If you modify a recipe, write in pencil the changes you made to amounts or other instructions, so if the dish turns out better, you'll know what you did!
How can I do this faster?
Focus on saving steps. For example, if you are going upstairs, bring something up there that you already needed to put away. Busboys in restaurants save steps by using a plastic tub to gather dishes and take them to be washed. If you are going to run one errand, stop and think if there are others on your route you could do at the same time. Make sure you have everything you need with you, and ask everyone in the family if they need anything else before you leave.
How can I not do this at all?
Cross tasks off your list with these four techniques:
Prevent: stop tasks before they start. Don't buy things that require a lot of upkeep or will be delicate to handle. Remember, everything you own is something you need to maintain. Buy more dark-colored clothing for children to camouflage stains, and don't buy white furniture or carpet.
Eliminate: just stop doing it, if possible. What is the worst that will happen if you don't? Are you doing this task for perfectionist reasons? Are your standards too high? Do you really need to make the pie from scratch, or could you just buy one?
Delegate: assign someone to do it for you. Enlist family members to help with things like house cleaning, lunch packing, dishes, grocery shopping, gift purchasing, and laundry. If you don't ask for help, it's not likely to appear.
Outsource: pay someone to do it for you, as it makes sense for your budget. Don't forget to consider the cost of your own time in the calculation. Tasks like oil changes, housekeeping, and lawn care are time-consuming things that many people can afford to outsource. Hiring your friendly neighborhood teenager is one way to get these things done even more affordably.
True to your style
Release yourself from the trap of comparing yourself to how others' homes look and how other people think. Create your home environment around what you like, how your brain works, and how you are comfortable living.
Some people are really creative, and others are very logical. Some people like to see things out and around them, others like everything put away inside cabinets. Some are abstract thinkers, able to remember and envision a file tucked away in a drawer. Some are concrete thinkers, and that same file would disappear from consciousness and be "out of sight, out of mind." If you are an artist, your home is not going to look and feel like the home of someone who is an accountant. Honor yourself and your preferences, because that is the only way to create systems that work long term!
We've got to do what works. If your child goes into a phase of wanting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every single day, it may be best to go with it, at least for the short-term, and simplify things for yourself. Why fight it? If something you do to stay organized works for you and your family, and everyone is still happy and healthy as a result, by all means, keep doing that. Don't let something you read here or in a magazine change what is effective for you.
I once spoke to a single man who lived in a small apartment with minimal kitchen cabinet space. He simply stored all of his everyday dishes in the dishwasher and ran it every night, clean or dirty! He fixed the storage problem and also kept himself from having to put all of the dishes away after washing. It was a very "bachelor" kind of solution, but it worked. Do whatever produces the intended effect!
Ready for anything
Being organized means being prepared for whatever life throws your way. Need a fire extinguisher? Got one right here, step aside! Kids ready for school the next day? Backpacks are at the door. Cut your finger? Get the first aid kit!
When you have anticipated and planned, and you have systems that support you in reminding you of tasks and purchases, you arm yourself against running out of things and being unprepared. Being organized means that you and your family have what they need when they need it.
Being N.E.A.T.E.R. means that you have your act together, but you don't live in a perfect model home dollhouse! It's a realistic definition of a goal we can work toward.
Clutter Fitness Exercises
If you have not already downloaded the free companion Clutter Fitness Workbook, print it out from www.clutterdiet.com/book.
To reinforce them in your mind, copy down in your workbook the four questions that organized people ask themselves:
* How can I use my time better?
* How will I remember this later?
* How can I do this faster?
* How can I not do this at all?
Additional thoughts to explore:
What is your own personal definition of what it means to be organized? What does being organized "look like" to you?
What are 3 tasks you can cross off your list right now, whether from delegating them, outsourcing them, or eliminating them?
What is one process you could improve in your house right now to save steps and other inefficiencies?
What is one set of information you could capture that would save you having to "reinvent the wheel?"
I am convinced that a calm, quiet and harmonious interior can be as beneficial to health as a sensible diet and regular exercise. -Kelly Hoppen, British interior designer and author
Chapter Two Getting Motivated Is About YOU
Now that we have more clearly defined what getting organized really means, and you've started to change the way you look at the processes in your home, let's talk about where your motivation will come from to accomplish your goals.
Everyone is looking for a quick fix ... the diet industry is rich with examples. Take this pill! Drink green tea! Get this surgery! I want to be honest about what I have seen as a consultant for these many years. What follows are some truths about this process that can be difficult to hear, but understanding them is necessary to make lasting personal change.
Truth #1: You've always had the power!
After her long adventure, when Dorothy finally learns how to go home at the end of The Wizard of Oz, she is told that she has always had the power to go back to Kansas. All she had to do was just click her heels together! Getting organized might not be as easy as clicking your heels, but you have always had the power to get it done. And while you can certainly utilize them as tools, no book, expert, or plan can get you organized in a permanent way-it's about making personal change in yourself and recognizing that the power to change resides within you right now.
Books and plans and experts like me are all external authorities, which are extremely helpful, but your own internal authority is where the real power lies. Trust yourself to know what is right for you.
Truth #2: The state of your home is a reflection of your inner self.
If your home is in a state of disarray, this particular truth may be difficult to hear. Your state of mind is reflected in the condition of your home, and you can consider it a mirror that gives you a lot of information about yourself.
Some of our clients have suffered from depression. When depressed, people tend to let go of things that don't seem to matter. Laundry and dishes may pile up, mail may go unsorted and unread, and bills may go unpaid. It becomes a chicken and egg question: Did the depression cause the clutter, or did the clutter cause the depression? We believe that each contributes to the other.
We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us. -Winston Churchill
There's only one way to solve this: Lose the clutter and reduce your stress. Find out what kind of person you can become by aligning your home to the life you want to have!
We firmly believe in getting support to make personal change, and we offer that support in our online member community. You can also create your own support network, and we will be guiding you in how to do that. But you may need more support than that ... you may find that you need to visit a counselor in addition to following our plans if there are other related issues that are causing you to neglect your surroundings.
Truth #3: You'll make personal changes in your life only if something is important to you.
Your reasons for making changes must be compelling, but they may not be logical. Consider the smoker who knows the medical reasons for quitting, but he actually quits because his sweetie doesn't want to kiss him anymore. His reason is emotional, but it works for him.
Here are some common compelling reasons for getting organized:
You need to reduce your stress. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state unequivocally that 80% of our medical expenditures are now stress related. You realize that the stress of your disorganization is something that must change.
You're embarrassed about the clutter. Your biggest nightmare is someone dropping by unexpectedly. You don't feel comfortable having guests, and maybe your kids don't want to have friends over.
You want more time with your family. The time you're wasting looking for lost items and catching up with wild goose chases is taking time away from the things that really matter to you.
You want to teach good habits and skills to your children. You understand that you are a living role model whom your children are observing every day. For their sakes, you want to show them what good habits and systems look like.
You have a deadline. You are imminently facing a big change like a move, a new baby, or a promotion which means you need to get things in shape quickly.
The clutter is holding you back from your goals. You want to go back to school, change careers, or move, but your home environment does not support your being able to undertake the new challenges.
Excerpted from The Clutter Diet by Lorie Marrero Copyright © 2009 by Lorie Marrero. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.