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1. When a perspective client calls, how do they describe their clutter situation?

Clutter comes with specific language. When clients call they often use words like:

  • I feel buried under all this stuff
  • I’m suffocating in this room
  • I’m paralyzed to begin uncovering this mess.

Clutter robs and steals all life from a room and those who occupy it.

2. How do you re-define a client’s relationship to his or her stuff?

In the beginning, I ask my clients to visualize themselves with their stuff. They usually respond that they are in the middle and the clutter is around them. Then, I then ask them to visually shift from having the clutter in a circle around them to the clutter on either side of them, like a road. I tell them while eyes still closed that the clutter is part of their journey. They can either decide to keep the stuff with them, tying them down, or that they can begin to lighten their load on their path.

When they begin to see that they have a choice on their life’s journey, they are more wiling to understand their true relationship with stuff. It forces one to look not at the quantity at one’s stuff but at the quality of one’s relationship and one’s life. For me, that is the goal I want my clients to chase and for me that is true organization.

3. How does enabling a person to understand that “it’s not about the stuff” transform his or her life?

Stuff has power and the stuff we own has power- power for good or power for ill. It’s up to us to decide how we use the stuff we own. What is the life you want? Our stuff defines our life. We can either advance the kind of life we want or we become self-absorbed with our stuff.

When organizers take our clients out of the context of the stuff and put them into the context of their life; all of a sudden instead of making decisions about the stuff based on the price, the availability etc, we help people to make decisions about the stuff based on the life they want.

The word organization and organic have the same root meaning, that is whole, complete, one. I teach that organizing is not about our possessions, but the effect our possessions have on our life, and as I stated before, they can be used to benefit or to do it ill.

4. Clients often struggle to get rid of items, especially those with sentimental value. How do you help clients realize that they can preserve the memory of an item without keeping the item itself?

As an organizer, you have to deal with the power of the object rather than the object itself. When objects hold a tremendous amount of power over someone, then I have discovered that people lose the ability to choose what items are important. EVERYTHING becomes important, and if this is the case, then nothing is important.

If all has equal value… for example, if all of the baby clothes are important, and all of the art drawings are important or if all of the craft supplies are important, what usually happens is a feeling of a lack of honor or respect for any of it. If stuff is packed away in a box to deteriorate wether by age, or mold or animals, then giving honor to those items is meaningless.

I start by getting my clients to tell the story of the object. For example, if among your prized positions is a an old hat worn by your father, his watch, pictures and letters, I will suggest to my client that we get a shadow box and arrange those items in it and display it in a room that will allow them to see and remember Dad. This allows the client to let go of the rest of the items, while keeping the fond memories alive. 

5. How do you help your client’s make their clutter transformations permanent, rather than just temporary fixes?

By taking the land or the space little by little. Slow and consistent steps make for lasting changes; by keeping my sessions limited but frequent in hours, I help my clients change the way they think. What you think determines your actions. By changing the mindset of my clients through an understanding of what is important in their life, they will be able to modify thier actions and thus make long lasting changes. Clients witness the results, and that helps them to believe that what they are doing is benficial. 

Organization is not something you do, it’s the way you live your life. It’s about making mindful decisions about your life. Each decision they make now, going forward will either push or pull them closer or further from the life they want. Teaching clients to ask questions in their decision making process will them make permanent change.

One of the most thought provoking questions that I pose to my clients is: “What is the vision you have for your life?”

6. As an environmentally aware organizer, you teach your clients that they are also responsible for their consumption patterns. How can your clients not only have an impact in homes, but also for the planet?

I believe that in the future, organizers will be at the forefront of questioning the role that consumption plays in our society. Currently, organizers tend to be very involved at the back end. After the damage is done, people call us in. In the future, I think we will have an increasing role at the front end talking about what makes sense about our consumption patterns.

Currently, I teach my clients the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - in almost every job I’m called into.

7. How have you been able to help low-income clients who would not ordinarily be able to afford the services of a professional organizer?

By incorporating “Virtual” organizing as a specialty in my business, I can keep my sessions at a reduced rate. I have been able to help clients not only because it is much more affordable, but there maybe time restrictions in thier schedule. 

8. What is Virtual Organizing? 

Virtual Organizing is a cutting edge process through the use of video chat. While I may not be physicaly in their space, the work is accomplished, because I can see in real time the organizing needs of each client. For further information please see Virtual Organizing

"It has been a year since I first heard you speak at my Church Mothers Group.

I instantly knew you could help me get out from under the paper prison I was in! I knew I needed extra help, so I attended your paper clutter seminar and armed with your easy to implement solutions, I went to work.

I now have a system that I still depend on a year later. I am moving in a month and so many times in these past months I have said "I know exactly where that is" and there it was. Receipts, appliance warranty's, the house deed, you showed me how to create place for everything.

Thank You for sharing your gift with the rest of us! I look forward to having your expertise as we set up my new home."


- Marybeth Ermmarino