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Vancouver Sun: Shed Pounds, Put Your Home on a Diet

March 28, 2008

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by Irene Seiberling, Canwest News Service

Want to shed some unwanted clutter pounds? What you need is to put your home on a diet — the Clutter Diet — insists the creator of an online program designed to help people get organized.

“We’re modelling ourselves after Weight Watchers,” said Lorie Marrero, creator of ClutterDiet.com. “We have a weekly plan — kind of like a diet,” explained Marrero, who is also “chief executive organizer” and founder of LivingOrder, a Texas-based organizing service.

“We provide people with this little ‘menu’ metaphor,” she said. “Each week they get a ‘main dish’ assignment that’s about an hour of focus in a certain area. And they have two ‘side dish’ projects. They’re about 15 minutes each.

“They have a ‘sensible snack,’ which is about a five-minute little tip or task. And then they have ‘dessert,’ which is their reward for accomplishing their project for the week. And that’s very important because it’s good to reinforce your good behaviour with something to reward yourself.”

The popularity of her hands-on practice in Austin and San Antonio, which helps people get organized in their homes and in their offices, prompted Marrero to share her expertise online.

ClutterDiet.com provides an affordable option, Marrero said. A “virtual” team of professional organizers answer direct questions from subscribers. “They can upload a photo of their space, and show us what’s going on, and have us help them make a plan. And we directly consult with them,” she explained.

Membership costs $4.95 for the first month, and $14.95 a month after that, Marrero said, comparing it to the price of a pizza.

ClutterDiet.com’s weekly plans are designed to cover the entire home over a year’s time. And certain areas of the home are addressed repeatedly, as needed.

“We have a whole slew of ways that we can help them,” she pointed out. “We have over two hours of multimedia tutorials that give them some instructions on basic concepts of organizing.”

Staying motivated and sticking with a program seems to be a common problem, Marrero said. So is procrastination.

“It is so much like a diet, in that this is all about personal change,” she said. “So all the classic issues with dieting are very similar with the issues here.”

Just as crash dieting doesn’t work, neither does crash organizing, Marrero said. She warned against letting clutter build up and then taking an all-or-nothing approach to fixing it. Like losing weight, getting organized requires making lifestyle changes, and then maintaining those changes, she emphasized.

Marrero regards popular TV shows like Clean Sweep, which have brought the wonders of de-cluttering into the public eye, as “a double-edged sword”.

“They certainly highlight our industry and show people that we exist, and motivate people,” she said. “But they’re very unrealistic in that they show that they can get all this great stuff done in 30 minutes. And that’s not doable most of the time.”

To whet your appetite, Marrero offers a taste of the kind of helpful tips available on her website:

When dealing with paper that comes into your house, sort it and deal with it on a daily basis. “We teach them the acronym ART. That stands for Action, Reference, and Trash. So those are broadly the three things you can do with a piece of paper,” she said.

Action means that there is some action required — you have to pay the bill, you have to make the call, you have to fill out the form.

Reference means you don’t have to take action; you just need to keep it.

And then the trash, of course. Hopefully, there’s a lot of that.

“That really helps people because sometimes they feel really overwhelmed and every single piece of paper represents a decision that has to be made,” Marrero said. “So at least we can start with the word ART and sort of limit those decisions to three choices.”

When organizing a closet, focus on visibility. “You can’t wear it if you can’t see it,” Marrero stressed. “We counsel people to try to arrange their clothing by sleeve lengths — sleeveless, short sleeves, long-sleeved — and then within that, by colour. This helps people make better purchasing decisions. And it also helps people make an easier selection in the morning when they get ready for work.”

Marrero also tells people to try to put everything on the same kind of hanger.

“It really looks better, feels better, works better if they use the same hangers throughout,” she insisted.

Marrero also recommended a couple of specific closet-organizing tools:

Simple Division Closet Organizers, which are little plastic pieces that go on the rod to help “file” clothes; and valet rods, which telescope in and out, to help manage clothes.

Marrero has been passionate about helping people get organized for as long as she can remember.

“When I was in fourth grade, I saved up my allowance to buy a label maker.

And the teacher used to ask me to stay in from recess to help the children that had messy desks, so that they could get themselves back in order,” she recalled. “And I liked doing it!

“So I guess that’s just what I’ve been meant to do,” she said.


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