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If you were asked to guess what I do for a living on the basis of the messages I get on my answering machine, you might think I am a plumber, a locksmith, a doctor, or some other sort of emergency care worker. "My husband is in trouble, please call me as soon as you get in." "I just lost my job. Can you come over this afternoon?" "I was just booted out of my office space and moved my business home. Now what do I do?" "Hi, I'm calling from Boston, but my daughter just graduated from college in New York. She needs your help, and I'm willing to pay. Please call." "I'm standing on the corner of Sixty-eighth Street and Second Avenue and I can't get into my apartment.It's urgent.Here's my number."
Many of the calls and letters I get are not from just down the block. There was the letter from the mother in Florida whose teenage daughters were getting out of hand, and one from a woman in Arizona asking for advice about what to do about her aging mother. There was a call from a reporter from a popular magazine in Japan who thought a chat with me might help her fellow countrymen. There was also a call from a teenager in Connecticut whose family was moving to a smaller house; not only did he not know what to do about it, he also wanted help with his study habits. Then there was the woman from the Yukon Territory who heard about me from someone in Indiana. Do you know where the Yukon Territory is? It is practically at the end of the earth.
But clutter knows no boundaries, and clutter is my specialty. I am a clutter consultant, a profession I stumbled upon, but one to which I seem to have been called. My journeythrough life has been guided by a thirst to examine what I wanted my experience of being alive to be and by exploring ways to manifest it in the world. I became a serious studentworking with many great teachers on issues of humanity, relationship, business, and spiritualityin my quest to have my inner and outer worlds be one. Every time I took a quantum leap in my growth, I noticed that I would clean physical clutter. Every time I clarified my thoughts and emotions or specified my desires, I would find myself creating filing systems and a wardrobe that corresponded to my interests and goals. I thought it was curious that I responded in this way to personal expansion, so I decided at one point to conduct an experiment to see whether if I reversed the process and cleaned clutter first as a way to foster growth if it would work. It did! And, it was fun. I began to make a game of exploring the relationship among oneness with myself, harmony in the world, and my physical environment.
In the early 1990s, I was winding down a twenty-year career as a public relations consultant, turning forty, and traumatized by the sudden loss of my father and the unexpected death of my brother, all within six months. In the midst of my upheaval, two friends independently called to ask me to help them with theirs. They asked me to help them clean their clutter to facilitate moving to new homes. This became an opportunity to share with them all that I had learned about clutter. I helped one friend clean closets on Monday, another friend clean up her clutter on Saturday, and by Thursday I started my business Lighten Up! Free Yourself from Clutter.
Since that time, all kinds of people have called. They were from many geographic territories, educational backgrounds, economic levels, professions, and circumstances and of all ages. They were men, women, and even children. They had a single-minded quest in common: They wanted to know how to clean up all those papers, clothes, and other paraphernalia heaped all over their living rooms, bedrooms, basements, attics, bathrooms, and offices. They seemed to have had a moment of awakening when all their stuff had reached such monumental proportions that they were thrown into a panic and their need to do something about it could not wait a minute longer. I taught them what I had learned: The future is bright without clutter in the way.
As I continued to share my outlook about clutter in private consultations and seminars in my hometown of New York City (the place I affectionately call The Clutter Capital of the World) and throughout the country, what I discovered to be effective in cleaning clutter grew and my understanding about the mysteries of the physical universe deepened. My approach focuses on getting rid of the most basic forms of clutter in the physical environment as a path toward cleaning whatever is in the way of fulfillment anywhere.
If what you are looking for is a method to file papers, a way to get your closets in better shape, and suggestions on other rooms, various kinds of clutter, and situations in which clutter can be found, you will find it here. You'll also find practical suggestions about what to do with the daily mail, nagging catalogs, an avalanche of books, and a garage that is an embarrassment to the neighborhood. I also give you information on managing time and keeping a date book so you have less stress in a day, and more.
I do not provide a set of quick fixes or easy answers, however. I have not found that quick fixes work to give people what they really want from cleaning cluttera lasting change in their relationship to their physical environment that leads to greater effectiveness, productivity, spontaneity, creativity, fulfillment, and peace of mind in their lives. I offer a way you can transform your ways with clutter so your environment can nurture and support you on an ongoing basis. Any kind of transformation takes work, but it is an investment that leads to an enriched experience of being alive, so it is worth it. It can make a difference in your life, the lives of those around you, and ultimately in the world.
To help you define and achieve your objectives, I borrow goal-setting, strategy-building and planning techniques from business to help you structure your clutter-cleaning endeavors so that things actually get done and you can see results. This approach is as practical as it is motivating. I suggest that you put yourself on a clutter-cleaning "diet" of sorts. In other words, I recommend that you specify a time in which you will work on a designated area of clutter and use the techniques that I suggest to clean it. Doing so will give you practice with the principles of cleaning clutter that I outline.As most of us have come to learn, however, diets don't work.If you want to be healthy and stay in shape, you eventually have to find a way of eating and exercising that uniquely works for you and that you can integrate into your lifestyle. Likewise, once you have read this book and the clutter-
cleaning diet is over, I urge you not to feel forced to follow the Lighten Up! Free Yourself from Clutter approach as if it is a set of rules. Instead, pull from it whatever you have found from your experience works and incorporate it into your own clutter-cleaning program.