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« 10 Clutter Solutions | 7 Tips for Reducing Clutter »

Ask the Expert: Lorie Marrero

Lorie Marrero, Clutter DietThe excitement continues with our recently launched “Ask the Expert” feature on The Other Side of Organized blog.  In the past few months, we talked about change with John Ryan of The Life Change Network, next steps with Yota Schneider of Open for Success, and letting go with Geralin Thomas of Metropolitan Organizing. This month, I’m thrilled to introduce you to the energetic author and organizing expert, Lorie Marrero to share her wisdom about clutter.

Lorie is wonderful colleague and industry dynamo. I remember a conversation we had together many years ago at a NAPO conference when she was about to launch her unique Clutter Diet concept. It’s incredible to see how much she’s accomplished and given to the professional organizing industry in such a short time. My appreciation and thanks goes to her for taking the time to join us. Before we begin, here’s some background about Lorie.

Lorie Marrero is the author of The Clutter Diet book and the creator of, an innovative program allowing anyone to get expert help at an affordable price. Lorie serves as the spokesperson for Goodwill Industries International, and she is a sought-after expert for national media. She writes regularly as an organizing expert for and lives in Austin, TX with her dog, two sons, and spouse and her 30,000 bee daughters. You can connect with Lorie on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blog or website.


Linda:  You’re an expert on helping others manage their clutter. What are your favorite clutter management tips?

Lorie:  When you’re creating an organizing system, whether a closet or pantry or garage, assume that laziness is the norm. Nobody wants to take extra steps, use more than one hand, or take a long time to put something away. Make things as visible, easy, and obvious as possible so that other people can help maintain the space. Labeling and grouping really help, and products like hooks and open baskets are easier and work with our “lazy” tendencies.

Just like weight loss, getting organized is really about Prevention (cutting the clutter calories coming into the house), Reduction (working off the accumulation you already have), and Maintenance (creating a pattern of habits to maintain your good work). Most people focus on the Reduction part, meaning doing projects like organizing their closets or garages, but they forget to think about Prevention and Maintenance, so their spaces soon revert back to being cluttered.

We have lots of resources at, including our popular Clutter Prevention Wallet Reminder Sleeves, which you can print out and use to store your favorite credit or debit card. On them are the five questions you should ask before buying anything!


Linda:  Why are we so clutter obsessed?

Lorie:  In North America we have innovated and worked hard as a culture to raise our standards of living, and we’ve reached an unprecedented level of abundance. We are faced daily with hundreds of advertising messages that insist we still don’t have enough, or that what we have is no longer in fashion, so we keep acquiring.


Linda:  Is there such a thing as “good clutter?”

Lorie:  If you realize your clutter is a result of your fortunate abundance, you can look at it as a great problem to have. I would rather have this problem than having no clean water or war in the streets, which is what many in the world live with each day. Also, one person’s clutter is another person’s treasure, so perspective is everything!


Linda:  Do you have a philosophy about clutter?

Lorie:  One of my personal missions is to remind people that this “problem” of clutter is a result of our abundant lives. I believe we should activate our gratitude for this abundance by being responsible donors. Donating household goods IS philanthropy, so always be aware of how your donations will be used. Latest numbers from Goodwill® show that 82% of your donations’ collective revenue goes directly to their mission of helping people find work. This message is very important to me! It’s why I am the ambassador of Goodwill’s Donate Movement, and it’s also why at the end of my YouTube videos, I always say, “May you always be happy and grateful for having more than enough.”


Linda:  What has been your biggest personal clutter challenge?

Lorie:  My kids! Definitely. I have two teenage boys, and they are naturally not as conscious of keeping their parents’ house as tidy as they probably will be with their own homes.  In various ages and stages we’ve had different challenges with different kinds of toys. Right now it’s clothing and school papers that are their biggest clutter problems.


Linda:  Is there anything you’d like to share about clutter that I haven’t asked?

Lorie:  Fear is a huge factor in this topic of clutter and organizing that I feel needs addressing. I hear a lot of fear out there:  fear of waste, fear of loss, fear of offending someone, fear of not doing it perfectly right, and fear of missing out or not keeping up.  Fear is there to keep us safe, certainly, but it’s also there to challenge us, and its presence makes our victories sweeter. We have to push past it confidently to get clutter out of way so we can do the important things that really matter!

What inspiring thoughts, Lorie! I’m grateful that you shared your insightful, clear ideas about clutter, fear and abundance with us. I invite all of you to join Lorie and me as we continue the conversation. What are your clutter challenges, successes and stories? 

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Reader Comments (15)

I agree with Lorie - it can be hard to ignore the constant barrage of advertising messages to buy more (ask me how many gadgets I have!).

And, even when we do buy, we know that in just a few months, there will be a better, updated version of what we just bought. The ideal thing would be to use the "one in, one out "rule, but for some reason, we think we "might need it some day."

Love your interview series, Linda. Thanks! =)

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeb Lee

Thanks for sharing your interview with Lorie Marrero. I always learn something new from other organizers. I really believe that Lorie nailed it when she spoke about 'fear'. I have clients that are always afraid of taking back their own house from others for fear of alienating them. We need to empower our clients to understand that taking care of themselves means getting rid of other people's stuff, which ultimately means, happiness and peace of mind for themselves.

Your post has me so intrigued, I'm going to read the other interviews! Thank again!

Margarita Ibbott
Downshifting - Professional Organizing Solutions

@Deb- You bring up an interesting point that with advertisers constantly asking us to acquire more and more, it becomes even more challenging to keep clutter in check. It's always a matter of balance between space, clarity, needs and desires. The "one in, one out" rule is brilliant. And perhaps the idea of being ok with "less" is something to consider too. I appreciate that you joined the conversation. So glad you're enjoying the interview series. Am loving the conversations and varied perspectives.

@Margarita- I too found it fascinating that Lorie mentioned "fear" as a big part of clutter and organizational challenges. I'm sure it's also tied into the fear of change. Even if we aren't happy with how things are, we have a level of familiarity that is comfortable. Trying something new also suggests having to let go. Fear can prevent us from moving forward. Getting support around that from friends, family, or professionals can be a great way to get unstuck. It's wonderful having you join us. I'm glad to know that you'll check out the other "Ask the Expert" interviews. The experts been generous with their words of advice and wisdom. I've got additional exciting interviews planned in the months ahead.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Hi Linda and Lorie,

Thank you for sharing this interview! I agree on everything - as a placement designer (feng shui), I often come across dealing with clutter in my clients' homes. It is often "emotional" clutter that makes it the hardest for people to let go of, which usually has an unhealthy emotion, such as holding on to something out of guilt, fear (like you mentioned, Lorie), and grief.
How would you help a client move through their emotions and let go of things they know they do not need to hold onto, but can't seem to?

I also agree that the retail industry does not help in reducing the "stuff" that gets sold in stores, which in turn gets marked down or sent to outlets if not can be overwhelming getting bombarded by having to have the latest new thing, when we really don't need least not for a while! I know some stores fill their shelves with quality items, rather than quantity, and I applaud those stores!

Do you work with retailers on the issue of clutter as well?


May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElisa Cashiola

Elisa- The "emotional clutter" you talk about is very real. Or more specifically, the challenge we sometimes have parting with objects we are emotionally attached. I'm sure Lorie will have some great thoughts on this and clutter with retailers, but here are a few of my thoughts about emotional attachments:

- Take photos or videos talking about actual objects & then release the physical possessions. This honors and preserves the memories, making it easier to let go.
- When sorting, have another person physically handle the objects to show to the decision-maker. For some, touching of the objects creates an even stronger emotional attachment known as "kinesthetic sympathy," so having another person as the "handler" can help the letting go process.
- Think about "safe passage." Passing or donating the treasured possessions to someone else that can use or enjoy them, makes the letting go easier.

Wonderful that you joined us and enriched our conversation.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Those suggestions are great, Linda! I will definitely keep them in mind when helping clients with letting go of objects to make it easier for them. Especially the picture idea. Thank you!

Looking forward to reading more on this subject!

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElisa

@Elisha, thanks for asking about retailers. The Donate Movement is actively looking for more manufacturers to join our partner, Levi's, in looking at their own responsibility toward longer product lifecycles. The Donate Movement launched the international symbol of donation in June 2010, which is now on Levi's care tags indicating a highly donatable item.

Thanks, everyone, for the great comments! These messages are very important to me and it means a lot that they are resonating with others. And thank YOU, Linda, for the forum to discuss them.

- Lorie

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLorie Marrero

How much I appreciate this conversation about clutter, gratitude and abundance. It is truly about ACTIVATION that makes a difference for those with clutter. Tapping into what a client is most passionate about helps them get started and get moving with their clutter.

Thanks for sharing the Donate Movement so that others will be involved too!

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

It's great to see retailers getting on board with donations. There have been a few times I've come across brand new items with the tags still intact while shopping at Goodwill, and it's so great to see that.

May 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

@Lorie- Thank you again for being here with us. How wonderful that manufacturers like Levi's are joining the Donate Movement. It's great to read the passionate thoughts everyone has about clutter, fear, abundance, gratitude, donation and more.

@Ellen- You clued into the word "passion" for helping our clients move beyond the clutter. Helping them find what they DO want so that they can let go of what they don't want is key. Always appreciate hearing your voice.

@Janet- Donating can be an essential part of clutter maintenance. It's great that you've seen first hand how retailers are supporting this. Thank you for stopping by to share with us.

May 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Hello Linda and Lorie,

Thank you for another insightful conversation about clutter.
How wise to remind us all of how clutter and abundance can be the two sides of the same coin with fear as the catalyst.

As I read Lorie's answers and everyone's comments, I remembered something I read in Hearing Voices by Brian Andreas. It goes like this . . .

"Everything changed the day he figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in his life."

If we could only see how what we have is enough. If we could accept ourselves and believe that we are enough. Imagine that! To live free from the anxiety of not good enough.

May 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYota

Hi Linda and Lorie,

I love Lorie's 'Clutter Diet' metaphor. I'm sure there isn't a person alive in America that doesn't understand dieting - another example of our 'abundance,' right? That's why "The Clutter Diet" metaphor makes it so much easier to relate to the concept of what clutter truly is and what we need to do to eliminate it, control it, and ensure that it doesn't rebound! Gosh, just think how great it would be if I could eliminate my 'body clutter' as quickly as I could eliminate my 'things' clutter...would start my crash diet ASAP!! Still, eliminating the 'things' clutter would have similar health benefits...starting with 'less stress!' Thanks so much for this discussion Ladies...would love to hear more!

May 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSheila Delson

@Yota- You're Brian Andreas quote and comment went right to my heart. I'm going to hold onto the thought that "we ARE enough." Thank you for that. Needed the reminder and I'm sure others will appreciate what you shared too. You always enrich our conversations.

@Sheila- It's wonderful to "hear" your voice. I've never thought about "body clutter" in that way. Love your phrase! Lorie definitely came up with a brilliant concept with her "Clutter Diet" metaphor. You mentioned about how easy it is to release your physical clutter, but more challenging with the "body clutter." You've brought up an important point. We all are challenged in certain areas of our lives. For those that are challenged with the physical clutter, it's great to know there are many resources out there to help including wonderful organizers (many of whom have joined our conversation,) websites like Lorie's, books, seminars and more. We are here for one another.

May 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Most insightful - Lorie's comments about fear and its presence in the world of what people consider clutter in their lives, the physical and other kinds of clutter. The fear factor is worth a lot more thought and discussion with our clients. And Linda, your following post on the ways to limit different types of clutter fits right in this discussion, too.

May 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue West

Hi Sue! Wonderful to hear your voice in our continuing conversation. Fear is definitely worth more discussion as it can be a blocker to moving forward. I know you offer your clients coaching as part of your organizing work. That is a fantastic way to help them think through and move beyond some of those fears. Thanks also for your positive feedback on the latest post, "10 Clutter Solutions." Let the dialogue continue there...

May 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

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