Earlier this week I featured a guest post by the Declutter Dude, Lars Thurjfell. We got such a great response to his story that I wanted to know more about his journey from the tech industry to owning his very own organization and declutter service.
Alessandra Wall: Your post makes it sound like there was a natural transition for you from your previous life to becoming the declutter dude, but what made you decide to make the professional transition?
Lars Thurjfell: There were a couple of things. First, I started not liking my job. I mean, I loved the money, but there was no deep connection to my values. I like helping people more than I like closing a big deal. I mean, I still like sales, and making money, but now I’m selling something I believe in 100%. I’m directly solving a problem and improving people’s lives immediately.
AW: Were you scared of making such a big change? If so how did you manage that fear?
LT: I was definitely scared, and I’m still a bit nervous everyday. I managed it by setting certain goals every day, and working my way through them.
AW: What was the hardest part of this process for you?
LT: The hardest part is staying motivated, I spend a lot of my time reaching out to leads, and just about when I get discouraged I’ll hear back from someone who wants to work with me. Knowing that a lot of hard work upfront will pay future dividends keeps me motivated.
AW: What was the most difficult item to get rid of?
LT: I was a huge collector of comic books in my younger years. I honestly thought I would get a lot of money from them one day. I held off for the longest time, then I went to the comic book store to sell them. He went through all 500 of them in about two minutes, pulled out the 10 that were actually worth something, and offered me $100 for the whole thing. I just laughed and said fine, take it. I was a bit upset at first, but then I realized I’d never have to haul them around again when moving. The hardest part is realizing the value I assigned to them did not reflect reality. Once I got over that, it gets easier.
LT: That is a great question. One, I’m somewhat required to maintain it by living in a small apartment that is almost one fourth the size of my house that I’m renting out. But more importantly, I focus on whether anything I add to my life, buy, or spend time on, will it truly benefit me? Is it aligned with my desired life style? Something as simple as buying clothes, will this go with what I have already, or will I need to upgrade my whole wardrobe to work? I try to think of the spillover costs or benefits of anything I do or buy. I do not spend time or money on something that will add complexity, but no benefit in my life.
AW: To someone who is considering doing this, what is a first step they could take to get them started on creating breathing room in their life?
LT: I highly recommend they contact a professional organizer to project manage it for them, and take the heavy lifting off their shoulders and unburden their mind.
If they are going to do it on their own, start by doing something simple that they can tackle right away, and getting the quick, easy win. Most of my clients us the word “overwhelmed” before working with me. I understand. With clutter-filled homes and hectic lives, it’s hard to decide where to begin. This exercise will help them with where to begin.
First step is to turn off all distractions, turn off the TVs (I don’t have one myself), and especially get them out of the bedroom, but that’s a different story.
Then step back and visualize how they come home every day. If it’s like what I’ve seen it’s something like “Park in driveway as the garage has no room. Come in the front door, take of a jacket and jam it in the overstuffed closet. Put away the groceries, rearranging the fridge to make room. Move stuff around the counters so they can put the bags down, pile stuff in the cabinets” You get the idea.
This exercise will help figure out various problem areas in the house so they know where to begin. In this case, it’s the garage, the closet, kitchen. Now they can narrow down to which one would be easiest to fix. The closet and the kitchen.
Once they fix one problem area, the concept of simplifying and minimizing really takes hold, and it tends to snowball from there. IE, “OK, I fixed the closet, now let’s declutter the kitchen. Then I’ll be ready to tackle the garage next weekend.” It’s a huge motivator to find success quickly and easily, then move on to the bigger problem areas. You can also do the thought exercise on morning routines, the “typical getting ready for the day” experience. A lot of people struggle here due to no organization or a well thought out routine.
LT: It isn’t easy, but once you rip the bandage off it gets easier. Re-examine why you have it? Is it a family member’s favorite heirloom? Think about this, heirlooms were once something new when originally purchased or made, and somehow they achieved exalted “heirloom” status. It only became an heirloom because someone said it was. Also, I found that items I irrationally held onto were based on fear of others judging me. “How could you get rid of that? It’s been in your family for years,” or in my case “Dude, that’s a collectors item!” I changed my mindset to “Look at what I’m capable of getting rid of.” Also what’s more important, the actual item or the memory? Getting rid of something doesn’t get rid of the memory. I’ve read that you can take a picture of the item, and write a note about what it reminds you of, but I don’t know anyone that actually does that. Finally, a lot of people internalize the emotions associated with an item. I remember telling my mom I was getting rid of something she gave me and I thought she would be bothered. All she said was “Great!” So let someone know and they’ll probably say it’s ok to say bye to it.
AW: How do you know when you’re done?
LT: When you feel great to be in your home. It differs for everyone I work with. They’ll say “I just want to be able to open my pantry door,” or “not have this messy closet.” Usually those statements are emblematic of their overall situation. For me, I thought I was done, but then I continually re-examine what I have, and in the past year I’ve made at least ten trips to donate unused stuff. A long time ago my goal was to be able to pack everything I need in an hour and be on the road. I’m there now, but always tweaking my home environment.
AW: If someone were wondering what the advantage of working with you would be, what would you say?
LT: Easy, I remove the overwhelm of where to begin, and I speed up the process to three times faster than on your own. It isn’t easy letting someone into your own home, and being vulnerable with the clutter problem. I am very non-judgemental and I make it as fun a possible. This can be an exhausting process so I coordinate and handle everything so my clients can just focus on deciding what to keep.
AW: How can people reach you? Will you only work in the Bay Area or will you travel/video conference a session?
Regarding travel, I was on a road trip earlier this year and helped a few friends when I stayed with them. I loved combining my passions for travel and decluttering. I am harboring an idea of “Decluttering America” and driving around the country helping people along way, just crazy enough to work.
AW: When you next make it down to San Diego I have a garage that could use some help as well as my husband’s t-shirt collection, you up for it?
I am available for video conferencing, and schedule permitting, travel as well.