Now it’s time for the before pictures. Get a camera or video and capture images of the area without a single change. Or you might draw a sketch, make a list of the contents, or do a funny audiotape like a broadcaster describing the layout of an old museum.

The goal of this activity is two-fold. First, it gives you a progress-marker to revisit later to see how far you’ve come. (You will probably forget how bad it was.) Second, as you do this in several areas of your environment, you may start to see clues to a repeating clutter profile. The clues can then suggest ideas for developing more productive patterns for the future.


Karen reports:

“I came to this exercise reluctantly, thinking it a waste of time. ‘Why not just get on with cleaning up?’ I thought. I even imagined I’d fling a few things around to make the clutter more dramatic, and therefore feel later that I’d accomplished more.

“I was laughing as I took pictures of my home office. I had gotten so good at denial that I didn’t realize I had overflowing boxes stacked under my desk where I pretended no one could see them. I had been bumping into those boxes for months and pretending they weren’t there. I also realized my desktop held a candy jar that offered way too many snacking temptations. It’s amazing what I was pretending not to see.

“I knew I’d need help with this step. I don’t seem to have the gift of being objective about my own setting. So I asked a close friend to help me.

She’s a gifted real estate agent, and she herself had recently moved and had done some remodeling. I asked her to come by for dinner one evening, walk through the whole house with me, and give me her best advice. ‘Pretend I’m a client listing my house with you, and I want it to sell quickly,’ I told her. ‘What are all the distractors I might get rid of to make the house show better?’ I knew I might get defensive at some of her comments, so I audiotaped her analysis as we walked through the house.

“She took to the task almost too eagerly. Maybe these were things she had been wanting to tell me for years. I thanked her for her help and listened to the tape two or three times in the car that week as I was driving. I agreed with almost everything she said.

“She complimented me later saying, ‘It makes me sad sometimes that so many people wait till they are ready to move to look closely at their setting. Then they finally make the changes that might have helped them enjoy their home more while they lived there.’

“I was glad I’d invited an outside expert observer, and glad also that I had taped her comments. The tape helped me absorb her advice over several days, and to be more neutral about what I was hearing.”

You just read a part of a chapter from the new 20th-Anniversary publication of my book, Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever, which my friend/colleague Maggie Bedrosian and I wrote together.

Get your own copy today at Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. -

Author's Bio: 

In 1978, Barbara took out a $7 ad in a New York City newspaper to advertise her professional organizer business. For 20 years, she focused her business on organizing paper and physical clutter for home offices and organizations. Then the Internet Age came about, and she utilized her principles and expertise to help clients with digital clutter.

Over the past 40+ years Barbara has helped 1000's of companies, and became an icon and top expert in the industry. She has been featured on national media platforms such as Good Morning America, The Today Show and CNN Nightly News. She has also been showcased in publications including USA Today, New York Times, Fast Company, Reader’s Digest, Real Simple and Guideposts.

Barbara and her team teach business owners a 9-step system to go from overwhelmed to optimized. Step 1 is a free Assessment that can be found at